But He’s the Bad Guy!

Okay, truth time. We all have our pet peeves about writing (some of us more than one— *raises hand*) and we all have our different topics that invariably trigger long, vehement rants that could go on for hours, if not days.
You may think I’m going to offer you a solution to those raving obsessions… but you’d be wrong.
I’m unashamedly going to make it worse. You’re welcome.
Because one of my favorite of those topics is… wait for it… villains.
*ear-shattering evil music*

Oh come on now, stop diving for your bomb shelters. You totally signed up for this.

I was originally going to do this in true professional blog-post style, but because I’m just a lazy dragon I obtained permission from one of my friends/colleagues (who shall remain mysteriously nameless) to simply post an email chain of ours a while back, in which we discuss this very topic.
Without further ado…

Helloooo… I think I need a bit of help.

I’m running into a problem with VILLAIN [who shall also remain mysteriously nameless], and my brain is hindering me from thinking my way out of it. I need a second opinion. I’ve come to the lesson in TM [Theme Mastery— fantastic writing course] about villains, and I’m supposed to defend VILLAIN’S worldview, but… what in his worldview could convince someone (or even the reader) that it’s the right way to go? What could possibly sway one to even consider his reasoning?

As vague a question as that is. *sigh*

Sometimes I wish I weren’t so logical…it’s very hard to ponder an idea objectively when I already know it’s wrong.

And my reply: (WARNING: I am much less professional in my personal email than I am on this blog. Proceed at your own risk.)

*dashes into the room and slides to a screeching halt, leaving claw marks slashed over the wall*




*coughs**plops into a chair and sheathes her claws* Yes. Ahem. The question here seems to be, how is any villain not a complete idiot for being a villain and believing what he does?

Okay. Let me explain. Th— no. There is too much. Let me sum up. 😛

The Three Points of Villainous Ideology

Er… no.

Why a Villain is Not Really a Villain Except to Other Villains

Um… that doesn’t work either.


Better. 😉

One thing first and foremost. The instant you see your villain as an evil idiot is the instant you have lost your ability to portray him effectively.
For a writer, there are no villains. Only mistaken heroes.

(Unless you get into the villains driven by very base passions such as lust, greed, gluttony, etc, but we’re talking about ideological villains here.)

In VILLAIN’S case specifically, I believe he has fallen prey to a very common villainous ailment. Oversimplification of the truth.

You’ve labeled him as evil and left it at that.

Bad move.

See, truth is not black and white. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something. *snickers*

Pure evil villains are almost a myth. Most villains don’t even consider themselves villains, but hatred and hurt and lack of compassion can so, so very easily take anyone to the far extreme of a belief to the exclusion of all others. They will probably view themselves as devout disciples committed to a holy purpose, and even be proud of their close-mindedness as they believe it shows devotion and loyalty and steadiness of purpose.
Even in this they will be duplicitous— don’t think they don’t know, deep down, that they are dancing a dangerous game with darkness and that they lost their way a long time ago. But the idealogue will win out. Because above all, fallen man must believe he is right. Fear demands it, if nothing else.

As for how to make the reader see this and empathize with it, no reader empathizes with the logic of a worldview, hero or villain. It’s the character’s emotional commitment to the worldview that makes it believable.

Think of real-life villains, like Hitler for instance. HOW WOULD ANYONE BELIEVE HIM IN A NOVEL??? He’s just too evil.
And yet… he was real. Take a moment to look at things from his point of view. (Sickening though that may be. Blech). He did not view himself as a mass murderer. He viewed himself as the prophet of a crusade to purify the world of impure blood and make men gods. And while hopefully none of us empathize with Hitler, at least we believe he was real. 😛

So. Yes. Anything I missed? Any questions still? Did I completely swing wide of the mark?

And now her reply because it’s priceless…

BLESS YOU. This is glorious. I forgot villains are one of your favorite topics. XD

So really, I guess I just need to stop thinking of VILLAIN as an evil idiot *snickers* and develop him as a person, and the rest will follow. (Hopefully.)


And there you have it. Whew, blog posts get long when you’re not trying to be professional! 😛

This being of my very favoritest of topics ever, I promise you have not heard the last of it. But unfortunately all the millions of other facets of it must be covered one post at a time.
*exaggerated curtsy* Thank you for your patience.
*exits to creepy skin-shivering villainous music*


22 thoughts on “But He’s the Bad Guy!

  1. I would certainly like to know who that colleague/friend is. Great post! It’s hard to think of villains as something other than completely evil, but, when you come down to it, you are completely correct. I don’t think that most people do evil things just ’cause they like to be evil. Thanks for the advice!


  2. I LOVE THIS!!!
    Villains are a pet peeve or mine as well, though before today I couldn’t have explained it as well as you did. So thank you! 😀
    I look forward to your next villainous post. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is AWESOME, Kate! I agree 110%. The villain is never a villain in his own mind. Unfortunately, Hitler’s a good example.

    Thanks for publishing this (and for those handy Princess Bride quotes).


  4. Your own villains must feel so happy that you know this. I mean…maybe. It gives them more of a chance for the readers to feel for them, but also more to despise them deeper. *fatalistic shrug* It’s sad.


    1. Please do! No seriously I mean that— it’s kind of a part of my reputation and I might (okay, I do) find it more than a little flattering. XD


  5. Villains are among the most fascinating (and I do agree, among the most stereotyped) characters in a story. I think this is fabulous advice to “dimensionalize” a villian and his motives. I would love to write a story like that one day…
    GREAT advice! Thanks a lot!! 😀 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Oh wow, this IS very helpful! Thanks for deciding to expose your informal email self (XP) and share this with us. I shall be sure to return here for more writing advice in the future. XD

    Also despite the sickening-ness of it, you’re right. Hitler’s a perfect example of a villain. Ugh. I need to go read something to get that example out of my head now…


    1. Hey, I’m glad it was helpful! Mission accomplished. 😛
      Yeah… it was too good of an example to pass up though. 😉 Welcome to my blog.


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