Did That Monster Come Out of You?

Batman Villains

Batman Villains

Authors talk a lot about their heroes and how they came about.  You don’t hear as much about the villains until after that villain becomes popular.  Even then, there are many antagonists that don’t fall into the full evil category.  Darth Vader redeemed himself and I’m still lost on the most evil thing he did outside of the prequels.  Force choked his own men?  I have to admit that I never got the monster vibe from Darth Vader.  Maybe because a lot of my favorite villains are those that can be redeemed.  I’m not really here to talk about those because this is more about the writing of villains.  Specifically, the horrific, irredeemable, blight on humanity monster type.

In The Compass Key, I introduced one of my newer villains.  This baddie was going to be suave and confident.  I hit the second one more than the first, but something else came out as I wrote him.  This monster had no redeemable qualities.  He was terrifying to write and he’s a ‘great’ character, but there is no sign that he has any goodness in him.  The other villains show hints of compassion and humanity.  This guy revels in pain, death, manipulation, and control.  Within the first book he’s in, this villain has tortured, betrayed, and (here’s the worst one) attempted to rape.  That last one forced me to stop writing for an hour.  I saw where it was going and I couldn’t turn away from it because he is that level of evil.  It’s an act that solidifies him as more of a monster than the Lich and Trinity.

So that’s the scary part about some villain writing.  Somebody comes up with these creatures of pure evil.  I wonder how common it is for an author to create a character that they can’t wait to kill.  Not because it’s a badly written character, annoying, or the fans hate it.  They want that character to die because that type of monster should not be allowed to roam free.  Seriously, I want this character dead for what he’s done and I can’t do it for a few books because I need him to push the heroes.

Typically, I give some tips on how to design a character like this, but he came out of nowhere.  Maybe the other villains were too nice and he filled a niche. If anything, it requires a different mindset for the heroes when they handle him. That might be the main point with a monster villain.  It’s a type that cannot be turned, reasoned with, or contained for very long.  A hero has to face the abyss and risk crossing a line to put a monster down since there’s no other way.  Easy for a violent, kill my enemies hero, but difficult for one who doesn’t kill.  So like many bad guys, this type could be more about the effect on the protagonists than anything else.

So, have you ever created a villain so repulsive and evil that you stopped to wonder where it came from?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

40 Responses to Did That Monster Come Out of You?

  1. I’ve never written that kind of a villain, I’d say, but spooky!!! I do have one villain who rapes and I hate him but he’s definitely human (which kind of makes him worse, I think). That kind of bad guy always intrigues me, though.

    Like

    • The character is human in form and species, but he’s simply monstrous in action. I think it’s the way he does it so casually. Remorse, rationale, or hesitation in a villain does something to reduce the vile. This guy simply enjoys being evil.

      Like

  2. tjtherien says:

    I find the writing of villains very emotionally draining… maybe because my writing seems to center more on emotion to drive a story and my avoidance of dialogue…in my stories I am less concerned with what my characters might say and place the emphasis on their thoughts and feelings so villains tend to take me to a dark place…I limit my villain writing now to very short spurts of no more than half an hour now… any longer and I just feel void inside when I’m done…

    Like

    • I use a lot of dialogue, so I go for a while on villains. They typically aren’t draining because they have sense of humors or some humanity. This guy doesn’t so I need constant breaks from him.

      Like

  3. Wanderer says:

    I’m working on some pretty nasty villains…but they haven’t yet reached their full potential. They too are completely “human” which I think can be the worst kind of monster.

    It is scary sometimes to realize you just wrote something horrific–but if the bad things cease to horrify and dismay us, how long until we, too become monsters? Oops, may have paraphrased Nietzsche.

    Like

  4. L. Marie says:

    It’s scary, but I know what I’m capable of (which is even scarier). I do find that writing scenes with my antagonist is like tjtherien said–an emotionally draining task. I have to switch to something else after writing a chapter with him. In fact, I haven’t yet returned to his perspective (one of three in the novel). I have to gear up to writing his story.

    Like

  5. twixie13 says:

    I have a couple of villains that’ve made me wonder just where in the hell they came from. One is known as Crazy Yuri. Created him almost a year ago and I still have no clue what brought him about. All I know is that he’s essentially a living Russian embodiment of brutality. Though the one I see as a complete monster is my serial killer Jesse. She’s mostly human, save for some genetic experimentation that’d left her stronger than average. I’d worked out a list of her known victims. It’s somewhere in the high 40s/low 50s. A number of them were children, as well. And when she’d finally been taken to court to answer for her crimes, she had three little words to explain why she did all that she’d done: “It was fun.” Most of her her crimes were kidnapping/murder, but there’s also at least one count of rape. While writing a few of her kills, I’d found myself stepping back and asking just what I’d done. Both characters sort of disturb me, come to think of it.

    Like

    • Those types of villains are always the scariest to write for me. That ‘I enjoy being evil’ type feels so dark and slimy that I need a shower after writing them. I managed to pull some humanity into most of my villains and thought I would do the same with this guy. Then he gleefully broke a victim’s arm to see how loud she would scream and I walked away. Heck, even The Lich is calling him a monster and that guy is an undead lord of zombies.

      Like

      • twixie13 says:

        Yeah, you know a guy’s bad news when The Lich finds him deplorable. Most of my villain’s actions are, at first, driven by enjoyment, with money being a nice little perk. But then she becomes a bit more focused on a particular target and it just becomes about revenge (and some amount of fun) for her. On the one hand, writing her is sort of fascinating. But on the other hand, it can be sort of freaky. Especially a part with a highly corrosive material and two small children.

        Like

      • It’s interesting that you mention a serial killer. A lot of people are saying how they don’t write monsters or that such a thing is possible. I would list Bundy, Gacey, Manson, and some of the recent shooters as monsters. So I’m not sure why such a villain is avoided unless I’m missing something on those guys.

        Like

      • twixie13 says:

        I recall watching a lot of true crime stuff while writing stuff with this character. Quite often, while watching, the phrase “He showed no remorse” or some variant thereof has come up. Taking that into consideration… yep, I’d probably agree that some people don’t acknowledge that such monsters have existed.

        Like

      • I think this guy just came from the fact that the other villains had redeemable qualities and he needed to stand out. He was supposed to grow into a monster, but he just started there. Man, it’s going to be messy when I hit the point where he’s driven insane by an accident.

        Like

  6. MishaBurnett says:

    I’m a little unclear on the whole hero/villain distinction. In my books, the narrator probably has the highest actual body count, but there are other characters who do worse things. In fact, one of the basic themes of my work (and my personal philosophy) is that we are all capable of truly horrible actions, but most of us choose not to do them.

    Like

    • Working in fantasy, there is typically a clearer difference between hero and villain. You do make a good point that everyone is capable of doing horrible things and a few choose to do them. I think the villain archetype differs in fantasy/sci-fi because it isn’t reality. Necromancers, demons, and all sorts of things that don’t happen in the real world open up new levels of evil that one can see no redemption in. So, it becomes clearer who the good guy and who the bad guy is from early on.

      Like

  7. Seán Cooke says:

    I’m yet to write an irredeemable villain but that’s mostly because in my writing I like to have my characters struggle with their actions and even their justifications for those actions. At times in life we must all play the villain to some extent, so I use my fiction to explore that.

    As others have said, we are capable of our darkest thoughts. The only thing that keeps us from going through with those thoughts is our morality and all the other factors: culture, social, personal ties, law and many more. I think all villains, even those too far in the deep to save, are a part of us.

    If they weren’t a part of us in some regards, how else could we write them convincingly?

    Like

    • I think if you go for a group of villains that it does pay to have one irredeemable villain. That one that makes even the other villains cringe and hate to be associated with him. That character that you love to hate because you know he or she is never going to do a good deed, so karma will brutally destroy them in the end.

      Maybe I’ll use the question of redeemable villains next week. I mean, if every villain in a book is redeemable and on the fence then does that make them less interesting as a group. A solitary villain it makes sense for, but an entire group of redeemables sound like it would be missing something to contrast with. Hence, the use of the irredeemable.

      Like

      • Seán Cooke says:

        My favourite moments in reading are certainly when the villain looks like he’s turning a corner and then WHAMMO! He’s still evil and never had a hope of changing.

        I’d imagine most of my villains actually come across as irredeemable to the reader, since they have a goal and they push for it without emotional falter. In the context of the story they’re irredeemable, but in the author’s extended world they carry the capacity for change, even if they never will.

        Like

      • That’s still different than the monster. I can get behind a villain with a goal because the heroes are the same way. Just their goals are that of good. I wonder more about the villains that have the goal of death, destruction, and evil. People always say they’re lame, but I think there is something behind using them. Even if it’s just that feeling of relief when the hero destroys someone that is nothing more than a plague on the planet.

        I get the feeling that we’re turning more toward noble villains and ‘will he turn good’ villains, so the monsters are getting left behind. Not saying they should take the forefront, but there’s a use for every character type.

        Like

      • Seán Cooke says:

        I suppose it really comes down to the author’s style and intentions. 🙂

        Personally, I’d never go for an out and out monster because my writing is ultimately a look at people, society and different aspects about that. Even though I’m writing fantasy, I fill it with characters of human capabilities. Y’know, when you remove all the magic and wings and stuff…

        For me, a through and through monster isn’t possible and that’s probably why I steer clear of having them. To each their own. 🙂

        Like

      • Good point. I do believe a through and through monster is possible. That human with no sense of morality and no regret about doing heinous acts. Even their rationale is deranged and makes no amount of sense. I like at anyone who does a mass shooting or defends an act of murder as a monster.

        With my stories, I did set out to make every villain have a redeemable quality. It was a goal and I thought I would hit it. Even the overall villain has a sense of compassion and loyalty. This other guy just didn’t come out that way. I can’t even change him back because it works. For the first few books, the heroes have dealt with villains that have some level of humanity. Something that makes them relatable to some extent. Maybe part of me simply wanted them to be faced with an enemy that you can only fight and try to hold out against. No reasoning or negotiation can be done because he’s in it for death and evil. It brings up a question of how a person can even face something like that.

        Like

      • Seán Cooke says:

        When it works, it works! Hey, you haven’t even finished the series yet. For all you know he might surprise you with an inner secret. And considering your views on people like mass shooters, your writing is true to you and that’s what matters. I would disagree on that front with you, but if I read a book which delivered a monstrous villain well (I’m assuming yours does since you believe in it), I wouldn’t knock it.

        At the end of the day, it’s the strength of the writing that counts. 🙂

        Like

      • Unfortunately, I know what this guy is going to do. He was slated to get worse as he progresses. Mass killings, murders, raping, enslavement, etc. he was to be the biggest threat before his master. Plus side is I think I can kill him twice.

        Like

      • Seán Cooke says:

        Nothing puts evil in its place like a good ol’ fashion double tap!

        Like

      • Technically, a triple I think. Maybe even a quadruple because I have him slated for a prequel book where he dies and comes back. People are going to get a kick out of who gets the final death on him.

        Like

      • I should clarify that it’s not all mass shooters I think of as monsters. Some have issues that should have been handled. Though I look at someone like Charles Manson and think monster. Then again, monsters would have major issues.

        Like

  8. Bastet says:

    hmmmm…this was a very interesting read for me. I’ve read lots of books with lots of villans, never written either, not even in a short story. I’ve always wondered how authors create their villians. One is told that characters are created from our experience and from what we read…reading what you’ve and others have written here that doesn’t seem quite the way it works. The energy draining, the revulsion for the character is intriguing. Thanks for this peep inside, I may never want to write about monsters I think. How are you doing health wise…hope better…you seem to somatomize a lot whenyou publish!

    Like

    • I’m holding up. It’s more than just the publishing though. A lot of stressful things going on. As for writing what you know, it gets into an odd situation with fantasy writing. One ‘knows’ the world and magic, but it’s only because we made it up.

      Like

  9. Jae says:

    Not yet. Well, maybe. I haven’t gotten to them yet storywise in what I’ve written. But I do love a good villain. One of my favs, which I’ve probably said 100 times already, is Scorpius from Farscape. I like a villain that loves messing with the hero’s head. I like a villain that in turn messes with the reader’s head too. Like the villain on Seven… ooooh…. so well done.

    Fun fact your pic reminded me of. Did you know Bob Kane got the idea for the Joker after watching a movie called “The Man Who Laughs”? It’s a great old flick and quite disturbing, especially for its time.

    Like

    • I think I heard that once before. Friends with so many comic fans that the stories blend.

      The mind messers are a lot of fun and really tough to write. I don’t think I’ve mastered that yet. I got the monster, charmer, minion, and tortured villains down.

      Like

      • Jae says:

        I think a key to a mind messer is to find ways to make them seem like a good guy. Like if they could just go about things the right way they would be. And just when you’re thinking maybe they’re not that bad after all, you show them doing something awful. Easier said than done I’m sure.

        Like

      • Definitely. Mind messers tend to be complicated in terms of personality and backstory.

        Like

  10. 1WriteWay says:

    That sort of happened with me recently. I didn’t intend to create such an evil man. I’m trying to find some humanity in him. I’ve given him some backstory to make him a bit sympathetic, but the crimes he commits are too awful. Nothing can excuse his evil. So I have him torn apart by wolves at the end 🙂

    Like

  11. cnmill says:

    I’ve had many a time of being . . . put-off (I suppose would be a way to put it) by the villains I’ve written. You kind of have to be, I think. But I still love them, usually. I finally wrote one that I literally felt nothing but the deepest hate for, which was another new experience.

    I think they kind of make the best villains though – when there is absolutely NO shred of humanity inside of them (unless they’re pretending it’s there for their own benefit, of course).

    I guess I just spend so much time trying to figure out who could be classified as a ‘villain’ in my books. Everybody always seems to do bad or have done really bad at some point or another. I guess we’re all villainous in our own ways at some point or another in life. Ah, the hills and valleys of humanity.
    Those make the most interesting characters, I think. But I just love me a good villain who has absolutely nothing redeemable about them whatsoever. Good stuff.

    If this made no sense at all, I apologize. I’m pretty tired. 😛

    Like

    • I try not to think too much about it. I list them as a villain and see where they go. I already know of a few villains in my various series that are going to go hero and others that will sink deeper in evil.

      Good point that everyone does something bad at some point.

      Like

  12. Pingback: Mythic Villains: Bring on the Big Bads | Lara S. Chase

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s