Why Are Villains So Fun To Write?

The hero of any story is the hero for one simple reason — they triumph over evil. A hero (for all intents and purposes) fights the good fight and does everything they can within the limits of their own conscience to vanquish the men and women attempting to harm good, innocent people. They are strong and they are mighty and everyone cheers for them to win. So why is it, then, that the villain of the story is much more fun to write? It’s simple.

Villains are, for the most part, more complex than any other character and the majority of them represent the id lurking in the shadows of us all, waiting to be released.

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Villains so bad, they’re good!

As an artist, it’s easy to get caught up in the whims of a villain because they allow us all to let loose a little and represent the darker side, to do things we know we could never do in real life. But beyond that, writing a villain takes more than the simple act of malevolence. Portraying a character as 100% evil is boring. Even if the reader doesn’t ever see the nuances, or understand why a villain does what he does, the writer must know those reasons and utilize them in the character’s portrayal. After all, just as there are rules for a hero, there must also be rules for a villain to keep them from becoming generic fodder.

Villains usually seek power and strength

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Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) (Return of the Jedi)

One of the most common villains to write is the one that seeks nothing but power. They are on a mission to take over the world in some way, and will do whatever it takes to acquire it. This type of villain is usually more political in nature, as they must kill, manipulate or blackmail certain people to get what they want. And they have a lot of fun doing it. It doesn’t matter who they destroy so long as it gets them to the next level of power.

Villains are often maniacs and psychopaths

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The Joker (Heath Ledger) (The Dark Knight)

In all honesty, this type of villain may just be the funnest type to write because there are no rules. At least their aren’t any on the surface. Underneath all of the chaos is a deeper type of pain or anguish that the even the villain can’t understand (or doesn’t want to). They can’t be insane just to be insane; there has to be an underlying reason. But once you understand that pain, that history, that illness, you can unleash them like a wild dog ready to give the entire world rabies. This type of character will murder and rape without remorse, steal and kidnap for the fun of it, and wreck havoc onto the unsuspecting public. They will also be more comical in nature, quippy and self-deprecating. You know it’s wrong; but it’s a fun ride nonetheless.

Villains can have a code of ethics

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Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) (The Godfather)

Villains aren’t all maniacs and psychopaths. Sometimes they’re simply someone who has a misplaced set of morals. They believe in something in a different way than the majority of people. What makes a good villain is the idea that he (or she; or it) wants what’s best for everyone, even if that may not be what everyone else wants. But more importantly, they cling to a code of honor. There is order within the chaos, even if chaos is all we see. These types of villains live on loyalty, and no matter what they do, if you are loyal to them, they will always have your back.

Villains may have good intentions

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Garcia Flynn (Goran Visnjic) (Timeless)

That’s right, I said it. Some of the best villains have the best of intentions, they just go about achieving their goals in the wrong way. The way they see things isn’t necessarily wrong, it’s just different, and to try and understand why can lead to a lot of interesting ideas. These are villains that fight for a cause. They may be on the wrong side of the cause, but they fight under the impression that they are doing the right thing, able and willing to justify their actions when asked to do so.

Are antiheroes villains?

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Riddick (Vin Diesel) (Riddick)

An antihero is a mixed bag. One one hand, they’re portrayed as the hero, but in order to be the hero, they must do villainous things. It’s why antiheroes have become popular — their moral compass has become a bit corrupted, yet they will always find a way to do the right thing in the end. They are conflicted about what’s right and what’s wrong, and will never see the world as black and white. They are flawed human beings, and as a writer, it’s fun to play with the concept of being in the gray, to explore what a person might do in the situations that may mean they must do something villainous in order to the right thing.

Where a hero may tend to be one size fits all (they must always follow a moral compass and do the right thing in the right way — except if they’re an antihero!), villains not only allow us to explore the worst in human nature, but allow us to provide a comeuppance for that vileness. The villain will almost always be caught, so why not have a little fun until they do?

What do you think? Do you have more fun writing villains than heroes? Who is your favorite villain of all time?

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