Repost: The Villain Test

Last week, fellow blogger Susan Kaye Quinn, author of Life, Liberty and Pursuit, cranked up her Way-Back Machine when she needed to take a break from the blogosphere.

With Spring Break here, I’m gonna have to scale back my time in the blogosphere so progress on my writing won’t suffer. Since I have so many great new followers, I’d like to hear your thoughts on previous post. Thanks!

The Villain Test (Original post 9/27/10)

A strong villain creates a wake of tension and conflict for the hero. They lie, steal, cheat, kidnap, backstab, hijack, blow up things…the list is endless. So, what makes a memorable villain?

Here’s a quick test.

1).  Does the villain have a believable, clear goal?
In the movie Unbreakable –love Bruce Willis & Samuel L. Jackson– the villain wants to find his exact opposite. The villain gives what he thinks is a reasonable explanation to justify the extreme measures he employs to find the hero. The goal is lofty and difficult to achieve. Marked, by P.C. Cast + Kristin Cast has a villan with a lofty goal, as well. Even though the reader doesn’t know who the villain is right away, the antagonist’s goal is revealed in a way that sounds reachable and difficult to prevent.

2.) Does the villain’s goal stand in direct contrast with hero’s goal?
Tension stems from the interaction between the hero and villain. If they stand on opposite sides, it heightens conflict. Maria V. Snyder’s Inside Out has powerful villain who is determined to accomplish a goal and makes it extremely difficult for the hero to reach hers. The goal of the villain(s) in the movie AVP is clear: feed on hero. The goal of the hero: survive.

3.) Does the villain have redeeming quality?
No one is perfect. The same thing applies to villains whose role is to antagonize the hero. By definition villains are evil, but they shouldn’t be perfectly evil. Think of Dr. Evil from the movie Austin Powers who has a soft spot for Mini Me, Mr. Bigglesworth and sometimes Scott. It’s important to have a dynamic villain who serves as a real threat to the hero’s goal, otherwise what’s the point.

4.) Is the villain as powerful or more powerful than hero?
In L.A. Bank’s Minion, the villain is by far more powerful than the heroine, or so it seems. The heroine is young and struggles against an older, more experienced adversary. At times, it feels like there is no way she can win. I loved it, couldn’t put the book down. A powerful villain has that effect. They keep readers engaged.

If you answered “yes” to all of the questions, congratulations! Sounds like you have a solid foundation for your villain. If you answer “no” to any of them, your villan may need more work.  Are there any other qualities you consider when crafting a villain? Any books or movies you think demonstrate certain aspects of a villain well?

Do you have any additional tips? Does your villain pass the test?

10 comments on “Repost: The Villain Test

  1. Good post on villains. In my current book, the villain is in the back until my heroine comes face to face with him. In the next book, a WIP at the moment, the villain is forced against his internal beliefs to be evil. He is overtaken by another, stronger force. We see this struggle inside him from the beginning.
    N. R. Williams, The Treasures of Carmelidrium, Special .99 through April 30

  2. lbdiamond says:

    Have a great break! 😀

    • Natasha Hanova says:

      Unfortunately I won’t be breaking. The twins are home from school which significantly cuts into my free time. You talked about juggling on your blog today. Taking a step back from active blogging will help lower my stress until school resumes.

  3. There never seems to be a total “time off” once you get to be an adult, does there? Thanks for visiting my interview with Jodi Henry today. Come visit me and Nancy R. Williams tomorrow.

    You did a great thought-provoking post on how to craft your villain. My 13 year old hero in THE LEGEND OF VICTOR STANDISH finds that all of his many enemies each think themselves justified and “heroic” in their labors to accomplish their goals. Since one of their goals is his slow, ugly death, Victor agrees to disagree with them!

  4. Crystal says:

    I love villains who flop on you. You know, the ones you have completely pinned for the bad guy who is suddenly the hero?

  5. Thanks so much for stopping by. Yes, it is easier to communicate with the written word. I am now a follower.

  6. Yay for the way-back machine! And I love your villain break-down. I’m getting set to craft a villain, so I’ve copied your checklist! Thank you! 🙂

  7. @Roland – your villains sound interesting.
    @Crystal – Villians who flop are fun.
    @Debra – Thanks!
    @Susan – Loving the Way-Back Machine. It’s relieving so much stress. Thank you!

  8. Great list! I’ll have to save this–I’m currently revising my novel, and the “villain” (who is less of a single person and more of an organization) needs work.

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