Discussion: Villains

For me, a good villain is practically a necessity in most books.  I really do love great villains but I realize that not everyone’s definition of a ‘great villain’ is the same.  So here’s a brief explanation of mine:

Villains have to have believable backstories to explain why they’re so terrible.  It could be that they’re more morally ambiguous than most people and fought their way to the top, losing their morals all the way.  Or it could be that they thought the world had done an injustice to them and wanted to strike back.  But what I hate the most is villains that are evil for no reason other than they’re crazy or just want to watch the world burn.

Even with the best authors, villains are hard to pull off because it’s so easy to stray into the realm of cliché with them.  They should have doubts about what they’re doing but not too many doubts or they risk becoming a hero.  They should commit atrocities, but too many and it just looks like the author is aiming for senseless violence.

Some of my personal favourite villains (from all sorts of mediums) include: Baron Scarpia from Puccini’s Tosca, The Governor from The Walking Dead, Tbubui from Scroll of Saqqara, Niccoló Machiavelli from The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel and Satan from Paradise Lost.

But what I want to know is: who are your favourite villains?  What makes a ‘good’ villain?  What villain clichés do you absolutely hate?


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  2. Pat

    This is a great topic for discussion! I’m often more interested in the villain than the hero. I don’t know why, but I really like them. Sadly, most villains are badly written. I think most authors don’t recognise how important they are, sometimes even more important than the hero. If you don’t have a great villain, there’s no challenge, no real obstacle to overcome.
    Despite all you said, I also think that to be a good villain he/she also needs to have a brain I’ll fall in love with, not matter how dark and twisted it may be.
    And now I’m curious about your villains! I think I’ll add the books to my list just because of them. I think my favourite villain, at least the one I remember right now, is Melisande Sharizai, from Kushiel’s fantasy series. She is incredibly well written.

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