Let’s be honest. Bad guys can have friends too. You don’t see it very often though. We like to believe that villains are incapable of having a positive relationship. They always have to backstab, betray, and connive against those that are close to them. Is that really the way to succeed as a villain? I beg to differ. So, what are some things to consider when it comes to making two villains be genuine friends?
- Give the characters something in common besides being evil. If that’s all you have to go on then it’s doomed to end in betrayal. Sure, you can go that route for comedic effect, but that’s really about it. Maybe the villains enjoy the same movie or the same food. Perhaps they both have an interest in restoring stained glass windows. The sky is the limit for what can spark a friendship.
- Write scenes for your villains that do not revolve entirely around them being villains. I know this is difficult because the point of view usually follows the heroes. That’s why they get the better relationships. You can always have things start with discussing the plans or whatever they’re doing that connects to the plot. Yet, you can slip in a mention of doing something later or end the scene with them discussing a personal thing. Maybe one of them has a crush on another character and needs advice. This is character building basics that even villains deserve.
- When working with friends, you need to have them react accordingly to other having a victory or failure. Show that they care instead of having them go through the motions or ignore the situation entirely. Honestly, there really isn’t a rule that villains can’t cry. It isn’t like they know the audience is watching them, so they don’t have to keep their guard up all the time. If they do that then you really have to wonder if they suffer from severe paranoia and are worth fearing as a villain in the first place.
- These relationships are difficult to do with a main baddie. They tend to be solitary to some extent, so a friendship might work better with the subordinates. After all, those characters are in it together and know that they might be seen as expendable by their leader. Strength can be taken in the knowledge that they are in the same boat. For example, they can help each other on missions and one may come to the other’s defense in the case of failure. Much like heroes bond over fighting side-by-side, the field agents of villainy can do the same.
- Never overlook the role of adviser when it comes to villains. They seem to always be conniving, greedy worms that can only say ‘yes’, but that doesn’t do anything to help the characters. It’s fairly empty in terms of story roles. Create a bond of trust where the adviser can be honest without fear of punishment. Over the course of a long series, you can have this person show genuine care for the main villain’s mental state and future. They believe in this person, so they want them to succeed with falling into self-destruction. It brings a fairly human side to things.
- Villains who laugh together can be friends. Laughter is a very powerful force. Even if it is maniacal and eerie.
- Unless you’re working with a robot or the undead, your villain has a heart. It might be in a different location, shape, or be called something different, but . . . well, we’re not really talking about the organ. Villains may be evil, but they still have emotions. We tend to think of them as beings of fear, rage, greed, and the other negatives because that prevents us from seeing them as ‘human’. Yet, this isn’t always the case and you can make a deeper bad guy if you add a true friendship. It proves that they are merely people who chose a dark path and they can possibly find redemption because there is this one glint of goodness. This is why the friendship should be made to be genuine with interactions that show the bond of trust, loyalty, and respect. You don’t need it to be as stretched out as the heroes, but you can hit these points simply by how they react to each other in conversations. For many villains, these exist before the story even begins.