What makes a villain villainous?

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I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of reasons:

1) Fiction. I am making an evil RP character, and want to make him both genuinely evil but also capable of working with a group. I’ve also been trying to write for NaNoWriMo, and all good stories have a true conflict. And what makes for better conflict than a villain you love to hate?

2) I’ve been discussing the economy with people and am amazed by how varied the reactions are to Wall Street, Occupy Wall Street, and Oakland police. Some of the descriptions seem to not even attain the ranking of caricature, but seem to be caricatures of caricatures.

I’ll be considering this and writing further – but please respond below.

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2 Responses to “What makes a villain villainous?”

  1. coconnor1017 Says:

    I’d say that what makes a villain villainous is an unbridled ambition, fueled through the lens of a preferred outcome, activated to an obsessive degree.

    The characters I think of who fit the description are Richard III and Lucifer from Milton’s Paradise Lost. The latter’s psychology was influenced by the characterization created by Shakespeare in the former.

    When Richard III states in his prologue that “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this Son of York” he does so in an ironic way to frame how he is “not made” for peaceful times and desires to create conflict so his identity might be fulfilled.

    He exhibits a discontent with peace because it does not conform to his sense of ambition. He fails to see how life on its own terms might provide options for his happiness, and instead will go to any lengths to have his happiness become the terms by which people live.

    Lucifer has the same attitude towards his condition when, prior to his rebellion, he claims that it is “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven.”

    The danger in creating a villain is to define them by a negative quality rather than understanding the positive incentives they seek. A villain is a hero in their own mind and often, if interviewed, would consider themselves a persecuted saint.

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