A series on the subject of antagonists, villains, ruffians, and sheer evilness begins here, at the beginning, where it should start. Part I.
Now antagonists and plots are about my two favorite things in any story. I find that antagonists often end up as my favorite characters.
It isn't because I'm some bloodthirsty maniac. It isn't because I enjoy being evil. It isn't because I want to grow up to be some villain myself.
No, I'm interested in villains largely for one reason. Their motive (that and a good villain is really enjoyable to read...). And how they play out their actions to complete their goals. Brian Jacques's villains are superb, no one could say Cluny the Scourge is boring. No one could say Badrang of Marshank is bland. The Joker, from The Dark Knight, he too ranks up in some of my favorite villains. Why is this? Because he's brilliant. They're all brilliant. Insane, yes, but brilliant. And a villain who just lays elaborate plans so he himself can end up losing is just ridiculous - but that's what the villains are. Ridiculous. A few villains are really and truly smart. The rest? They don't give any meaning to the story. They should be scrapped.
So, let's create a villain. Right here, right now.
First, we need, just like every other character, two attributes (or good traits) and one flaw. We'll build on this later, but first you need to remember a villain is not an evil person, but a person who is doing evil things and being corrupted by evil. (Unless you're going with a Sauron style villain, which at them moment I advise you not to do. More on this later.)
Second, we need a dastardly evil thing he does. You already have something good if you used my character plot form a post back. But if you're completely out of ideas, start from the beginning. What's something really evil someone could do to hurt your main character? Think about it.
Now what can he do to hurt the world?
And finally (most importantly), what's his motive? Revenge is the most common. Try something new, but don't go for the old cliche 'just pure evil', unless you can pull that off really well and you know it. The Joker was a perfect example of insanity and pure evil. But I advise you to come up with something else. You could try the villain who honestly thinks he's helping the world (though I advise you to be wary of this one as well, more about this in the next part), or maybe he feels guilty (there are quite a few promising ideas for this one), or maybe it's in an effort to redeem himself, or save his oppressed people (using evil methods, granted). There are endless reasons.
But whatever the reason, make sure the motive is something realistic. Give your hero and your villain the same motive for a toss up. The key thing is to show how the antagonist reacts to things differently - in a twisted, evil way. For good reason - maybe his parents were massacred by the ruling government - but what he does must be evil.
So what do we have? An evil act, two traits and one flaw, and a motive. Excellent start. In the next post we will be going much more in depth with the antagonist motives, and briefly also touch on his past.
~R. A. H. Thacker