7 Tips to Writing Villain Friendships

Team Rocket from Pokemon

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Villains who laugh together can be friends.  Laughter is a very powerful force.  Even if it is maniacal and eerie.
  7. 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.

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.
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39 Responses to 7 Tips to Writing Villain Friendships

  1. L. Marie says:

    Great tips~ Glad you showed Team Rocket. 😀 I’ve been watching some of the Pokemon anime (namely Pokemon Advanced and Pokemon X and Y). There have been some surprisingly poignant episodes involving Team Rocket which fit the tips you list here. Even they have earned the loyalty of their Pokemon.

    You’ve shown Queen Trinity’s regard for her people and their loyalty toward her.

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  2. Go Team Rocket! I really enjoyed this post, enough to add it to the Curated Content post friday at Story Empire. Giving villains a bit of depth is always a good idea. I hope to do this in my next novel project. He may be doing the wrong things, but he has a good reason for it. Maybe you can write someone who is the opposite of Ichabod, but still has the same motivations behind it all.

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    • Awww, now I’m blushing. Glad you enjoyed it. The ‘evil’ Ichabod is an interesting one, but I don’t know how friendly that type would be. Sounds like the type that would betray a friend to save his family’s skin. I mean, it would have to be a guy who does evil to put food on the table, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is a comic that has the superhero girl having a fling with one of the evil minions. I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s starting to fade lately. I’m thinking of someone exactly like Ichabod, but with less desirable options available. He may have to do things to provide for them. My next one is going to have a bad guy with some of Mr. Freeze’s deeper motivations behind him.

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      • You’re talking about ‘Empowered’, right? I thought Thug Boy wasn’t a minion anymore since he’s with her officially. Think I get the Ichabod one. Though, I don’t know what you mean by less desirable options available. You mean like they take darker jobs?

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      • Empowered is wearing a little thin these days, but yes. Maybe Ichabod has better job options based upon his location and history. This character also has a family, but may have to rob, steal, and kill to keep them healthy and happy. Kind of like being in the mafia.

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      • I actually haven’t read it all summer. Figured I would get back to it after enough pages had built up. I can see what I can come up with for an anti-Ichabod. Honestly, it’s been hinted that his wife does the rob, steal, and kill stuff for money. Not sure if that would be the same thing.

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      • You have to listen to your Muse. It was just for discussion. The idea of good or bad being more of a viewpoint could make a great novel too.

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      • My muse is focused on the vampires now. I think a lot of it comes down to how one perceives Ichabod too. We might see him and his motivations just different enough that we come up with differing mirror images.

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      • It’s a cool concept. We’ve all read books or seen movies where we cheered for the bad guy. Bruce Campbell said it best: Good, bad, I’m the guy with the gun.

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      • True. Though I always preferred the chainsaw kills.

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  3. N. N. Light says:

    I also really enjoyed this, Charles. As a rule, my villains don’t play nice together so it’s a refreshing change to see some of them are friends.

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  4. Your stories have a great opportunity for villains to become friends. Great points too.

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  5. Good one. I think it’s important to remember Socrates’ axiom: no one is knowingly evil. Most villains are only villains because we consider them as such. In their minds, they’re just normal guys caught up in a bad situation, doing what they have to do.

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    • I actually wish to disagree with that optimistic axiom. Most people aren’t knowingly evil, but you do have a few who are. I do prefer the more humane villain who either thinks they’re the hero or feels justified, but using one that revels in evil still has a touch of realism. Maybe I’m just too cynical about the human condition to believe people can’t fall completely into the abyss. Then again, I doubt anyone is born evil. They can be made that way.

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  6. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here are some great tips from author Charles Yallowitz on writing villain friendships from his blog. Be sure to check out this and his other great posts and his new book.

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  7. Pingback: Curated Content for 09/22/17 | Story Empire

  8. Pingback: Blog Round Up: September 2017 – Rachel Poli

  9. “Perhaps they both have an interest in restoring stained glass windows.” Just gave me the greatest story idea (epiphany!) ever! Thank you!

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  10. Daedalus Lex says:

    Quentin Tarantino is very good at this “villains with friends” thing 🙂

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