Revisiting the Concept of True Villains

ONCE UPON A TIME

I wanted to talk about true villains again.  Yet, I noticed I did it once . . . twice . . . kind of a third . . .  and I’m sure those aren’t the only ones.  I seem to remember a few more times because the concept of a true villain continues to gain my attention.  Why is that?

  1. More often, you see villains who have some noble traits.  It may be distorted or twisted, but they have a sense of honor or something that one can respect.  In other times, they are villains who think they are heroes.  This time I’m talking about villains who know they are and enjoy the evil.
  2. Considering that someone can be fully and proudly evil causes one to look into his or her own psyche.  How can one turn into what others would call a monster?  Is it possible for anyone to fall into that abyss?  What would it take for me to transform into such a thing?  This level of curiosity might be unique to me.
  3. There is a big obsession with villains turning into heroes later on in a story.  This means they are either not fully evil at the start, influenced by another, or will be met with a bizarre level of forgiveness.  Don’t get me wrong.  I like to see characters earn redemption as long as it is worked for, but then you get the sense that the villain wasn’t full evil.
  4. Nearly every time I talk about villains, people bring up those that either get redeemed or demonstrate a noble side.  For every Azula mentioned, I seem to receive around 5 Prince Zukos.  That would be one utter psycho for every 5 villain-turned-hero types, which makes me wonder if the truly evil characters are rarer than I realize.  Do authors simply not like creating that kind of character?

Those a really the big four reasons I keep wandering back to this topic.  Don’t think I’ll ever get over it completely.  To me, a villain is what drives action and evolution in a story more than the hero.  You may have these calm side stories that involve romance and personal growth, but the villain is who keeps the main story going.  Once they bow out, the hero loses almost all resistance to their own path.  It’s a cornerstone to many types of fiction, which is why we may remember the villain before the hero.

So, does anyone else find themselves wondering about truly evil villains?  I’m sure I’ve asked this before.

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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19 Responses to Revisiting the Concept of True Villains

  1. L. Marie says:

    The Fire Lord in Avatar fits this category as does Admiral Zhao. Zhao was so prideful he didn’t even want to be helped to save his own life.
    I worked on a book with an antagonist who remained that way for the whole book. He had a goal and there was no turning back for him. He was no antihero.
    I also think of Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs (versus Hannibal Lecter, who was helpful though unrepentant in some ways).

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I like the idea of true evil in a villain. It is what keeps things rolling. Too much good in a villain and questions start being asked as to why the villain is behaving the way they are. Pure evil gets pure evil behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m not a fan of redeeming villains, but haven’t written all that many who are villains. Sometimes mine are opposing viewpoints rather than evil. I never felt like Darth Vader earned redemption and would have preferred his remaining evil.

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    • The thing with Darth Vader is that he never came across as totally evil either. He was doing his job and you saw that he was following orders. By ‘Empire Strikes Back’, he’s trying to recruit Luke instead of outright killing him. This can be seen as him having the capacity of love to some extent. His final act is to choose his son over the orders he had been following the whole time. It’s really his first act of independence.

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  4. I think one of the dividing lines is Point of View. If you want your villain to be really evil and not redeemed (the traditional dies-at-the-end villain) then you can never tell it from their POV. Once we get into a character’s POV, they either become more understandable and thus not truly evil, or become a grotesque caricature and lose effectiveness.

    One of my real pet peeves is a swaggering, blustering, arrogant villain where that’s all there is to them. They never show the fire power to back up their bravado. (Shooting random minions doesn’t count.)

    Sometimes there’s stuff going on in the villain’s camp that the readers need to know. You still shouldn’t show it directly from the villain’s POV. Put in an aide or camp follower who still regards them as terrifying and evil. That keeps your characterization consistent and effective.

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    • The blustering villain you describe tends to be fairly cowardly and weak. They rule entirely through fear, but cower once they are on their own. It’s a rather common archetype in reality too.

      As far as villain POV, I think it can be done with a truly evil character. It simply comes off as them enjoying the pain they are inflicting. It’s difficult to do because we may fear unleashing such a darkness and discover that it lives somewhere in us as well. People shy away from harsh realities all the time, so we don’t delve too deep into the horrible. It’s easier to keep them out of the POV arena and not try to demonstrate that a person can be truly, entirely evil.

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  5. interesting post! it certainly does depend on the view point. thanks for sharing, have a great day☺️

    follow @everythingtips for tips and recommendations if interested☺️It would mean a lot to me!🥺🤍

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