So I’m finally getting around to talking about villains. See what you just did? You just pictured a villain in your mind! That’s the great thing about villains–they always stick with us.
A hero is only as good as his villain. Would Harry Potter have ever risen to fame or even have certain gifts (Parseltongue) if Voldemort hadn’t inadvertently given them to him? Beyond the direct link of the Horcrux, Voldemort made Harry who he was. Harry rose to meet the greatest evil of his century. Voldemort, being dark and twisted, defined Harry as a shining example of all that is good. If not for Voldemort, Harry Potter would have just been another mischievous kid at Hogwarts.
Villains always define a hero. A poorly written villain is single-minded in how he approaches everything. That doesn’t mean that he isn’t a villain worthy of dread. In Return of the Jedi, Emperor Palpatine had almost no backstory except that we knew he overthrew the Senate and became the Emperor. Still, his cold, calculating persona and forks of Force Lightning made him a foe to be reckoned with. Even our hero, Luke Skywalker, was no match against the might of the evil Master of the Dark Side. It was another villain, Darth Vader, who had to rise and destroy the Emperor. His final sacrifice was giving his life for his son and changed the way we saw him. No longer was Darth Vader a violent killer, but he had a humanity that was there when it counted. (Let’s not get into the prequels which most people think could have portrayed his fall to the Dark Side better.)
Make your villains complex. Make more than one of them. Make ones we love to hate, then turn it around on us like Darth Vader.
As I said in my last post, villains don’t become villains in an instant. It is a gradual process–a series of choices. Who knows what the galaxy would have been like if Anakin Skywalker had stopped being selfish, piling up murder upon murder?
So write your villains and make us hate them. In the midst of their villainy, give them a tiny sliver of humanity and suddenly they aren’t defined by their evil actions completely. They are just like you and me but made a lot of shitty choices. The darkest parts of us wish evil on our enemies, pain on those that wrong us and shame on those that don’t give a shit about hurting others. Villains can get away with punishing those people because of their nature.
Aren’t we all a mix of hero and villain? Just let the hero win. Humanity, Earth and the galaxy as a whole will thank you.