A few months ago something happened that made me seriously worried about my little sister’s dating life.
She devours books and I’d given her the first draft of my novel to read asking for her thoughts (a safe bet as she tends to love everything I write regardless of quality).
Imagine my shock when she told me that her favorite character was my villain! No other character even came close, she was raving about this guy! Couldn’t she see how bad he was?
In addition to taking a hard look at my protagonist, I started thinking about why people love certain villains. What is it that makes them so compelling despite being utter jerks or even pure evil?
I think there are two elements that play major roles in creating these lovely devils.
The first element is passion. People love passion in all of its forms.
Let’s imagine a character. Her name is Susan and she’s stapling papers together.
Pretty dull right?
Now imagine that stapling is EVERYTHING to Susan, that she lives and breathes the art of the staple, that she attends stapling conferences and legally changed her name to Susan Staples.
It’s the same character, but passion makes her intriguing. Passion makes us want to watch.
We’re hooked by passionate characters because passion is inherently relatable. Can you imagine having your greatest passion also be your job?
So what if it’s evil?
The second element is inhibition. Inside every good person is a bad person and a bunch of social pressure.
I was in my favorite coffee shop the other day, and a couple in their late twenties took a table near mine. The guy had obviously never matured past his teenage years and proceeded to complain about his wife to the girl he’d dragged along. After two straight hours of this I wanted nothing more than to leap to my feet, grab him by the lapels and give him a thorough character evaluation.
And if I’d been a villain I would have! And it would have been glorious!
Villains get to move through life unencumbered by the social pressure that weighs the rest of us down because they don’t care what the regular people think.
The villain from my novel is practically a prince and a celebrity. He can say or do anything he wants and heaven help anyone who gets in the way of the things he’s passionate about. I’m still a little worried about my sister, but at least I can see the appeal now.
What about you? Can you see your villain’s passion? Can you see their drive? Do they love every waking moment of every day?
They’ll get what’s coming to them in the end (hopefully) whether that’s redemption or the long fall, but they better have some fun along the way.
What do you think? Did I miss any key ingredients? Let me know in the comments below!
Guest post by Wesley O’Bryan