Villains/Antagonists Are People Too7:00 AM
A quick note before we jump right into it: Villains and antagonists are different things. This post goes in-depth on the differences, but I'll sum it up here. Villains are out to get everyone. There is very little good left in them. They are out for destruction no matter what, and they will always oppose the hero. Antagonists are a little different. They're the 'bad guy' in the story; their goals are often the opposite of what the protagonist wants at that current moment, but they aren't always bad. They just have goals that conflict with the 'right' side of things. Make sense? Let's go.
The Dark Lord.
I don't know who came to mind when I said that, but I can guarantee that not everyone thought of the exact same person. 'The Dark Lord' is a staple in most fantasy stories; where would you be without a clear villain like that? The Dark Lord is the big baddie. He has armies and minions at his command. He wears black because c'mon, that's basically Evil Overlord 101.
Most of the time, he also has no motivation, and no personality outside, you know, destroying stuff and killing innocent teenage boys with unrealistic expectations.
He is the dark force that screws up everything for your heroic characters and shows up at the end on a black horse for some dramatic battle. You've all seen him. But why is he bad? Because reasons. Because destruction. What good is a Dark Lord if he has a past you can sympathize with, or a love for puppies, or a fondness for the color orange because it looks good with his eyes?
|This is, of course, the ultimate Dark Lord.|
What I'm about to say applies to both antagonists and villains alike.
They are people too.
"Gasp!" you say, and your eyes go wide. "But Aimee," you say, "He's the Dark Lord, not just another human being."
Unless your 'bad guy' character is, in fact, a dragon, or a ghost, or an alien, he/she is probably a human being. And no matter how twisted and corrupted they are, human beings are, well, human. Pretty much all of us have feelings, to some extent.
I'm of the opinion that you should treat villains and antagonists exactly how you would treat any other character. In fact, you should probably be giving them special treatment! This is probably the person driving your story. It all comes down to motivation, motivation, motivation. Just like you want to know why your hero does what he does, you need to know why your villain/antagonist does what he/she does. Why do they want the hero destroyed?
'I had a troubled past and the woman I loved died years ago' is the kind of backstory we should get rid of, though. I'm not sure I can take another one of those.
Also: Villains and antagonists are allowed to have personalities, hobbies, quirks, and so on aside from being obsessed with defeating the hero.
I mean, what the heck was your villain/antagonist doing before he/she wanted to take over the world? Who says your antagonist can't like puppies? In fact, giving them human, innocent qualities makes them not only better-developed, but scarier. This is true. I'm a lot more scared of a guy who has a loving girlfriend and also wants to take over the world than a guy who is obsessed with taking over the world because reasons.
Let's look at Khan from Star Trek: Into Darkness, for example. (Possible very mild spoilers ahead.)
Khan is a villain. He was created for war and destruction and he will always be against the heroes no matter what. He's a terrorist and a murderer who has no regard for human life in the slightest. But there's an element to him that makes us feel almost sorry for him. Not like he's justified, but we feel for him emotionally, because Khan wants to take care of the people he loves. When us puny humans threaten those people, and, in fact, try to use them against him or to threaten him into submission, he lashes out. He would kill people regardless, but this is his driving force. We feel it when he talks about 'his crew' and gets all teary. People have reasons for doing this. Ideally, villains and antagonists have reasons for doing things too.
Give your villains and antagonists personality.
Make them human.
How do you go about writing your villains or antagonists? Do you think they should be more human, or do you like your Dark Lords? Comment away.