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RockyMtn Gal

The Best Villain-Opinions Please

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Ok, this is a little research project. 

 

I had an idea for a villain in my novel.

 

If you've been reading my installments in the critique forum, you have met her already-Fuamnach (Fum-na).

 

*spoiler* She's a clinical narcissist who is driven by jealousy to do some very "mean" things to one of my mcs.

 

However, after doing some research (long before I came to Christian Writers), I thought that maybe she would make a great antagonist, but not a good villain.

So, I created another, henchmen and all. This villain is more of a problem for the other mc. He's not about "world" domination, but does want to rule over a very specific island west of Britain...anything to regain his long lost throne, stolen from him by an mc's grandmother.

 

The thing is, I'm not sure that my villain is convincing enough. I've watched too many movies, and read too many books, where the villain is on a world domination spree (often in a cliché way), but fails to inspire anything more than a yawn...I'm looking at you Malekith!

 

So, I would like your opinions please, and any advice you have to offer, on "good" villains.

I would like a list of some book/movie villains that did their job and frightened you (no more than 5 please). 

 

Next to each villain, explain why you found them/their plan convincing and/or scary. If it's because they hit on a phobia of yours, add a little more explanation as to why.

In other words, please don't say something like "Pennywise: because I'm scared of clowns".

I'm looking for more detail. I.e.: "Pennywise-I'm afraid of clowns, and the fact that this one eats kids terrifies me."

 

I'll start the list just to give you an idea of what I'm looking for:

 

In no particular order:

1. Maleficent (animated): She's a smooth sorceress that can turn into a dragon. She's not above theatrics, but she's deadly serious too. Also, she's downright evil. No sob story mussing the background. Imo, sometime it's ok for a villain to just be evil.

2. Darth Vader: All in all, he's not a real villain (IMO), but his costume, his breathing, and his presence is enough to convey that one would be stupid to mess with him. His cool response to force choking an imperial, "I find your lack of faith disturbing", adds to it. He doesn't even have to touch people to kill them!

3. Nazgul: They are single minded, ghostly, mysterious...and downright terrifying.

4. The One Ring: This gets me every time I watch/read lotr. The ring has a lot of similarities with sin--tempting (especially with the lie that the bearer has control), corrupting  even the best of men, seemingly insignificant, powerful, death dealing, not an entity that can be reasoned with, but an unstoppable force, and the key that unlocks greater evil. I always feel bad for Sméagol when he jumps to his death to take it. He was unable to break free. A terrible thought!

 

 

Thanks in advance for your help! The floor is yours!

 

 

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I don't recall names well enough for your request. I suppose that a good villain could be less than his own ideal and then find hope of being equal or better than that ideal and then scheme to make a name for himself as the ideal, but an external test, maybe even his own scheme, proves the internal deadly potential. E.g., something similar to Man in the Garden.

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1. Hans Gruber (Die Hard). I enjoy smart, formidable villains - especially when they are played by Alan Rickman (in his first major movie role!). 

 

2. Hannibal Lecter.  The stuff of nightmares. Brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins.

 

3. The Terminator(s). The first two movies only (Arnold Schwarzenegger & Robert Patrick).  The character of Kyle Reese put it best: "It (the terminator) can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop... ever, until you are dead!"

 

4. Gordon Gekko (Wall Street). Heartless corporate raider. "I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it. You've got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you."

 

5. Thanos. Just a guy trying to get back to a peaceful life by snapping half the universe out of existence. 

 

There are many more, but these come to mind.

 

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What makes a good villain is their "why" - the thing driving them to do what they do.

 

1. Eric. Also known as "Opera Ghost". He's almost human in the musical, which makes him less terrifying than the book. Why he's scary is his mental state, birthed from his being rejected because of his physical appearance. What makes him terrifying (in the book, that is) is the fact that he has the skills to annihilate life, and that he does it in the most torturous ways imaginable. You definitely get the feeling that Raul and Christine won't succeed against him.

 

In general, I'm less afraid of the villains that use bombs and force to achieve their goals. The ones I'm truly frightened of are the ones who wear nice suits, with clean, white cuffs and manicured nails. The ones who rule through intelligence and the manipulation of those beneath them. Like Screwtape. Or the White Witch. Sauron. Morgoth. Saruman. In many ways, they aren't being driven by a force that makes them do what they do - they are the ones driving the force, controlling it, manipulating and bending others to their will. Those are the ones I'm most afraid of, because they could be hiding in plain sight...

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Posted (edited)

I think the best villains are the ones that show readers their human side along with their depravity. How they relate to us and our own struggles. I can appreciate an antagonist who isn’t dangerous, but when they are capable and motivated to destroy something important to the MC and the writer makes us feel that, then they become a great villain.

 

15 hours ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

Next to each villain, explain why you found them/their plan convincing and/or scary. If it's because they hit on a phobia of yours, add a little more explanation as to why.

Mr. Macy of Jessica Dotta’s “Price of Priviledge” series. He planned to convince the world and the main character of his love for her in order to secure his wealth and property through marriage and take revenge on another character. What made him scary was his mastery of manipulation and seduction. He was such a charismatic character, I ended up liking him more than the hero, despite the fact that he was a ruthless killer! The scene that really got to me: the main character is fleeing from a dangerous man, bleeding from cuts and burned. She runs straight to Mr. Macy, knowing he’ll defend her care for her. He cares for her in a very loving manner, and sends his henchmen to kill her attacker in a brutal way. That’s what raised the hair at the back of my neck—this guy seemed like the perfect guy, loving, powerful. And the heroine knew she could run to him for safety.

Edited by Dramedy Writer80
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12 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

How about a villain who has no rationale for doing they things they do?  They're just evil.

Those are few and far between anymore sadly.

Those that are tend not to be any good. Everyone is told that all villains must have a good sob-story to be believable. Thus, no one knows how to write a villain who is just downright evil.

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5 hours ago, Accord64 said:

. Hannibal Lecter.  The stuff of nightmares. Brilliantly played by Anthony Hopkins.

I've never watched it, but Hannibal's reputation precedes him.

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20 minutes ago, Dramedy Writer80 said:

He was such a charismatic character, I ended up liking him more than the hero

You're channeling some John Milton here.

I don't think it was his intention (he was a staunch Puritan), but he made his characterization of Satan relatable to the point that he got fussed at for it-and thus the antihero was born.

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1 hour ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

Everyone is told that all villains must have a good sob-story to be believable

Have you seen the movie "Ever After"? I wouldn't call the strip mother's backstory a sob story. I think what readers want to see is that something formed and shaped the antagonist to be what they've become. They want to know that there's a reason for why they're the way the are. As people, we like to know that there's a reason for the things that happen. Having a believable back story for your antagonist gives a reason, and therefore satisfies the reader. 

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1 hour ago, Claire Tucker said:

Have you seen the movie "Ever After"? I wouldn't call the strip mother's backstory a sob story

I have indeed. Rodmilla was my favorite character, and the good news is they didn't spend a lot of time on her backstory. Otherwise, they would have ruined her.

 

2 hours ago, Claire Tucker said:

They want to know that there's a reason for why they're the way the are.

Very true! People do tend to project, especially on pets for some reason.

 

Please note that I've emphasized the "sob story" part. I'm not necessarily arguing against backstory.

 

There's a trend that readers have to sympathize with the villain somehow, and I don't necessarily agree with that.

 

It can be done extremely well, but most of the time it falls flat imo.

 

So, that was a long-winded way of saying I mostly agree.

 

Also, awesome to find someone who, I assume, likes Ever After.

 

 

 

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Ever After is great!!!

 

I think you all have hit upon the key. A villain, whether they are "human" or not - ie Saruman or Thanos - must be human. This is not human as in "sympathetic," but rather "human" as in recognizable, understandable, and complex. There is a reason, I expect, why the One Ring is such a powerful storytelling device. As @RockyMtn Gal said, it's a metaphor for sin. Something everyone struggles with and recognizes in themselves. 

 

Darth Vader, as another example, is everything a one-dimensional villain should be: scary looking, intimidating, powerful. Like Darth Maul (let's ignore the TV shows where he came back for the sake of example). But I would argue that Vader is remembered as an exemplary villain (or antagonist, depending on how you look at it) because this was combined with some very recognizable, human aspects to his character - finding out he has a son (which completely upends him), believing it is "too late" for he, himself, to be redeemed, and sacrificing himself for his son. 

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12 hours ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

Those are few and far between anymore sadly.

Those that are tend not to be any good. Everyone is told that all villains must have a good sob-story to be believable. Thus, no one knows how to write a villain who is just downright evil.

 

Joker from the Dark Night series.

 

The key is to provide either no backstory, or a conflicting backstory.

 

I've always like elitists as villains.  I hate pretense.  Plus there is a lot there to mine when the world comes crashing down for the villain.  Their inability to adapt when they are no longer on top, pulling the strings any more.

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19 hours ago, Jeff Potts said:

Joker from the Dark Night series.

Yes, a character well scripted and well portrayed.

 

 

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I actually think the Joker from the  Dark Night is so powerful a villain because he's unhinged, which means he's capable of anything, and you can't predict what he might do. 

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Count Fosco, from The Woman In White, 1859. The heroine is just about his equal in intelligence, although she is immediately deceived by him. But it becomes clearer and clearer that he is actually the evil behind the immediate antagonist as he is exploiting the antagonist. Also, Collins chose to portray Count Fosco as very obese and cultured instead of as a lean rough villain which was the usual villain at the time apparently.

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8 hours ago, Carolyn W said:

Count Fosco as very obese and cultured instead of as a lean rough villain which was the usual villain at the time apparently.

 

A mental over a physical threat.

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Or an obscuring of the real threat so that the heroine's energy of fear and strategy was placed toward the face of antagonism instead of its real power and that resulted in a significant loss for the heroine.

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Truby says in "Anatomy of Story" that your villain and your hero have to want the exact same thing. They've got to be in conflict over it and both be striving to get it for themselves. Now, if you've built your hero and their arc (change) over the course of the story to match your view of what is good and right in the world, what you need to do for your villain is make them the opposite of your hero.

 

I actually think Etain and Fuamnach have the potential to be an absolutely great hero-villain pair. Both want control over Etain's fate (Etain wants to be free, and Fuamnach wants to control everything). But, Etain is caring and humble, wants to help others, etc. So far, Fuamnach has been shown to be pretty much the opposite of that.

 

Your villain should also be on stage very early and interact with your hero a great deal because they are perfect foils for each other. If they're constructed correctly, they'll have lots of revealing conflict. Some genres don't work quite that way, like Mystery where the villain's identity is often secret, but even there the protagonist is dealing with the villain's handiwork and interacting with them in a way. 

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On 5/28/2020 at 12:50 PM, Thomas Davidsmeier said:

actually think Etain and Fuamnach have the potential to be an absolutely great hero-villain pair

That was the original plan, and it follows the myth better.

 

I was reading something that narcissists tend not to make good villains, which is why I decided to switch her to an antagonist. Afterwards though, i felt like I was trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. 

 

I'll give it another go.

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Posted (edited)
12 hours ago, RockyMtn Gal said:

i felt like I was trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. 

Have you asked the character which she wants to be?

 

Personally, I think narcissists are good villains. I can think of several people who are so full of themselves that I can easily consider bad guys, and it's because of that.

Edited by carolinamtne
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11 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

Personally, I think narcissists are good villains.

Yeah, I did a little more research. Turns out quite a few good villains are narcissist.

 

Guess I was too quick to jump to conclusions.

 

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