The Motivations of Female Villains

We all know I think that motivation is the most important part of a character. And we’ve just addressed the lack of female villains. I mentioned one reason there may be less female villains (and characters in general) is because people feel less confident in writing females – and I think if we all understood female motivations better, we’d be able to write them better as most or all of what a person says and does stems from his or her motivations – how exactly they act is personality, yes, but female personality shouldn’t be hard because female personalities are really not so different from male personalities in the broad sweeps. A totally alien creature should generally be more different in personality from a man than a woman should be, for example.

But guess what? The same goes for motivation – and not just in the broad sweeps.

Consider common desires of men:

Companionship/sex
Success
Lucre
Power/control
Recognition/respect
Happiness
Security/Justice

Do you think women are so different? Even in the fine details, often they’re not. Women want all the same things. Take companionship for example. Society would have us believe women want some Prince Charming to sweep us off our feet and take care of our every need and call us beautiful and wonderful and put us on a pedestal of worship – despite society’s best efforts, most woman don’t actually really want to be a Pygmalion. The stereotype also goes that we want commitment, and probably babies. So many babies. Four hundred babies. Contrariwise, men want to have sex with a woman, avoid commitment if he can, and babies are bane.

I know more than one woman who is not super interested in commitment and loathes the thought of having her own babies. I know more than one man who wants four hundred babies and hopes to find/is rather enjoying his committed relationship in which he and wife strive together to build a happy home (and I’m not even counting my own husband, although I could). Most people, I find, who want a relationship – a real relationship, real companionship – just want someone who likes them most the time and will tolerate them when they’re being intolerable. Man or woman. And I know plenty of guys who want real companionship. Do they want to have sex with their companion? Yes, but that is not the point of the companionship. And guess what? Women who want companionship – for the sake of companionship – usually do also hope to have sex with their companion. Men and women do actually tend to want the same things. Why they might want those things may differ, how they go about getting them – motivations don’t tend to be hugely different. We’re all human. (If your character isn’t human, their motivation deviation is due to race, now, isn’t it? Not so much gender. And maybe your non-humans still want a lot of the same things.)

Women too want power, and even the same kind of power, as men. You think women don’t want to be in charge of things, rule things? Have you even interacted with many women?  Ever work with micromanaging elder relatives? Women could have a world domination motivation just as easily as a man. As an evil overlord, that’s my motivation.

A woman who wants to be in charge of things – no comment on alignment, good or evil.

What about the crazy psychopath anarchist villains who just want to see the world burn? True, far more men than women are diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder,  but that doesn’t mean there aren’t sadistic women who enjoy the suffering of others.  Here, it is important to remember women, as scientifically shown, do tend towards emotional warfare, which includes relational attacks and psychological attacks. But that certainly doesn’t mean women won’t be physically violent as well.

I may not much like Harry or Voldemort, but I do love this psychopath.

Lucre may well show great deviation in the execution, but riches and money is enticing to men and women alike. Men and women both like money, plain old money that can buy anything. Women may have a higher desire for jewelry, or else may be more likely to keep taken jewelry than a man who would take it for its value to sell. Men, I think from my own experience, may tend a little more towards entertainment than women –  the big TV and fancy game systems, for example. However, if I had the money for it, I’d totally buy a PS4; there are men who like their pretty shinies, though oft of a different style than women. Clearly these stereotypes are not something you ought to stick to in any strictness. Men and women both like fancy clothes and fancy cars, quality living spaces and quality food. Having money means having things and it seems sentient beings like to have things regardless of other factors, like gender. What things vary from personality to race to culture to gender, but we all like to have things, generally speaking.

Did she have other motivations? Sure, but you can’t argue she wasn’t ever motivated strongly by loot.

Justice – When one’s friend or father or child is slain, men and women both will feel grief over the loss. They will both be moved to tears, even if the man is conditioned not to cry, and they will both want some sort of justice, and may well be moved to find revenge. Again the relational side of women may cause major deviations in how vengeance is sought. Perhaps she will look for everyone to know what a horrible person the killer is, make sure he or she can have no relationships. Perhaps she will try to destroy the killer with the killer’s own guilt. But there’s nothing to say she won’t chase across the world guns and eyes blazing like any other action hero, either. What might trigger the desire for justice can vary – but generally, men and women both feel strong attachments to people, animals, and objects.

Dad loves this object. Mom…not so much. Mom is motivated by her attachment to the turkey, later in the film – something to which Dad was also attached.

So what are the motivations of a female villain? Drum roll please – the same motivations as a male villain. They’re not different. Execution may be different but the motivations are the same. You know why? Men and women are still both humans and humans want things that are the same things. Men and women are very similar. They really are. Are they different? Yes. But we cajole that the one is an alien species to the other – and while there are definitely very critical differences beyond genitalia between men and women – but in general, they’re similar, sometimes the same even. Remember at the beginning of the post when I said it shouldn’t be so hard to write female personalities because they’re not going to be dramatically different from male personalities? Figuring out female motivations should be even easier than that, because they are no different than male motivations.

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What is a Wordsmith, Anyway?

Rii the Wordsmith. I always thought it had a nice ring to it. But what is a wordsmith, anyway?

A smith, dictionary defined, is one who works with metals. A blacksmith would be the guy who makes stuff out of iron and steel and whatnot. And then there’s the goldsmith, who works in gold, usually artful sorts of things. There’s not really such a thing as a leathersmith, or a silksmith, or a plasticsmith. I suppose, if you play Kingdom of Loathing, there’s meatsmithing, but otherwise that’s nonsense. Smithing seems limited to metal.

So why wordsmith?

Words aren’t so different from ore and metal bars. Language can be raw, or it can be refined. One could argue that language is more useful when it’s refined, since it can better express what is desired. Certainly, language is far prettier when refined. And words are weapons, or tools, or protection, or glamor. Words cut as well as any sword. Words can defend against such attacks as plate mail defends against the sword. Words build up others, build up nations, inspire others to action, and destroy.

Language is malleable. The meanings of words are, too, as words are bent into puns and double entendres.

And language is a craft.

Picking just the right word to complete a sentence is like picking just the right jewel to affix into the gold piece, the necklace or crown or earring. Such skill takes knowledge and an eye for beauty…or maybe an ear, in the case of words.

Why wordsmith? Because when I write, I pound out words into sentences. When I polish up, I grind off unneeded words that fly away like little metal shavings. When I put in the finishing touches, I take care with my word choice.  And when I’m done, I’m exhausted.

My first draft, and even my second draft, may not be perfect in prose. But then, if a smith were to provide his own ore, the first step would be to procure said ore, unrefined and ugly. That’s the first draft. The second step would be to refine the ore – but a gold bar is not a beautiful work of art; it’s still, in effect, a raw resource. That’s the second draft. Subsequent drafts, those are the art: pulling the gold into wire, shaping the wire, melding the wire into something of beauty, setting in gems…wordsmithing is an editing skill, primarily.

So what is a Wordsmith? Perhaps not one from whom words flow perfectly on the first try…but by the finished copy, there are no words out of place.

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Why Are There Less Female Villains?

The answer to this one is actually really simple and comes about in two parts:

The first part is that ‘male’ is the default gender for characters.

The second is that no one wants to condone violence against women. No one who isn’t a huge douchebag, anyway. Additionally, it “doesn’t make sense” for a woman to overpower a man, which the protagonist may well be, especially in contests of strength.

The thing about the Final Boss type character is that the audience needs satisfaction and in many cases, satisfaction means poignant death. And poignant may mean ‘horrible’ or ‘brutal’ or ‘violent’. Audiences also like to see the bad guy, if truly terrible, thrashed. Think about your favorite fight scenes between hero and villain, swapping sword blows, punches, bullets…Now imagine that the hero is a man and the villain is a woman. And you see one major problem. A man cannot stab, punch, or shoot a woman, no matter how evil and vicious she is! It’s just…wrong! Especially in the light of actual domestic abuse, which is a real thing, and actual murder of women, which is a real thing, and actual shootings of women – and those things we all agree are very not okay and here is this story with its female villain where the woman is stabbed, punched, shot, and it is okay and even good? That can’t happen. (And obviously violence against females is the worst kind, worse than violence against males and violence against children just doesn’t exist because it’s too horrible.)

Villains often need to be cruel and awful, horrible people. Consider what a hard time people have with separating a single character from their entire group – race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc. This is true in real life as in fiction. One Muslim is a terrorist, bam, we think all Muslims are out for American blood (despite the fact that their religion generally does not actually condone violence).  Pearl Harbor? Better put all the Japanese into our own concentration camps of sorts. Consider also that people have a hard time separating a character’s views and behaviors from the authors – if the hero is a gigantic homophobe, people will generally assume the author must also be homophobic. Authors and books have been picked apart for their social messages in what the book/writer is saying by what they hold as ‘good’ as embodied by their protagonist and protagonist’s growth and what they label as ‘evil’. If you have a woman villain, the hyena critics will wonder if you did that because you think all women are evil, all women are heartless and cruel. You’ll find people wonder if the villain stabbing the hero is symbolic of an ex-girlfriend or a traitorous female friend.

Funny story – as far as I know, this is based on an actual event where an English teacher had an author’s daughter in her class and when the teacher insisted the curtains were symbolic, the actual author could say no, that – well, just what the meme says.

This sort of analysis of your story will happen anyway. But do you really want people criticizing your view of women, especially in today’s heat of the subject? Where there are “feminists” who will find you like a laser-guided missile and beat you into oblivion? No. You don’t want to do that. Better stay on the safe side and just pick a male villain.

Is that just today’s society? I remember learning the actual story of Hercules in fifth grade and becoming very irate to learn that, once again, Disney had outright LIED to me about a story. (I still kind of hate Disney for miss-telling stories…but I do like anything original by them. I even like Tangled, as it seems to me more a presentation of their version of the story th- getting sidetracked, sorry). I asked my mom why they did that, why they felt like they had to make Hades the villain when Hades is actually a perfectly nice guy except for that part where he kidnapped Persephone and does not actually show up in the story of Hercules at all. No, don’t argue with me – Cerberus and Charon do but Hades DOES NOT.

Look at me and my happy marriage with Zeus, there is NOTHING WRONG here with our HAPPY FAMILY.

My mom said that it was probably because Disney did not want to portray a woman as a villain.

Now as an adult, I think it’s because Disney didn’t want to tell a story about a godly fellow who cheated on his wife and his wife spent the rest of the child’s life trying to ruin it. Why make Hades the bad guy instead? Because he’s the god of death and the underworld, CLEARLY he’s totes evil (even though it wasn’t his choice to be such, he lost in drawing straws with Zeus and Poseidon).

But my mom’s answer is curious, don’t you think? Because Disney TOTALLY avoids all female villains COMPLETELY.

Whoops I accidentally the female villain

Hahaha whoops?

No, I’m still claiming it’s an accident.

Rescuers? Emperor’s New Groove? Snow White? Cinderella? What’s the difference between them and Hera?

Well, nothing – I think my mom just got the answer wrong but didn’t want to bring up the whole adultery thing with me as a fifth grader even though I clearly knew about it. But what’s the difference between these women and others? In a fairy tale’s case, there’s two big points. One, the protagonist is female. So it’s all good, women can totally fight other women. No male domination there! And no worries about any inadvertent messages about women: look, the girl lead right there shows we don’t think all women are evil! Two, these women villains don’t tend to be…women. They’re evil witch-fairy-whatevers. I mean, you don’t really think so much about a boy dragon being a boy; you think about it as being a dragon. Yes, witch-fairy-whatevers are humanoid lending to think more easily of them as being a woman, but really, when you see the evil crone bent over her staff with a flapping raven, do you really think of her as a woman? They’re all female, so it’s more like a racial trait than an additional trait.

So how do we fix this problem? (Honestly I don’t think it’s a problem but clearly people want to see more female everythings so let’s address it.) First, we do have to remember to separate author from character from group – just because a man writes an evil, devilish, manipulating woman does not mean he thinks all women are like that – and neither does the book. Next, you’re just going to have to get over the violence against evil women thing. Although really, it does come back to the violence against men and children – the ‘against women’ part isn’t the problem, it’s the ‘violence’ part. If violence against a female villain bothers you, reevaluate how your characters handle ALL violence. Maybe you should pull an Asimov – “violence is the last refuge of the incompetent” – and have your heroes fight the villain some other way. ‘Cause you know what? In real life, violence against anyone is inappropriate, although against an assailant sometimes necessary to some degree for survival, even a female assailant – that should be the same in our books.

Here’s the most important way to fix the problem, though – male characters are generic characters in part because of androcentrism…and in part because I think most people, especially male writers, find them easier to write. Practice writing good female characters, real women characters, and you can make one evil just as well as heroic.

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Villain Sue to Come

Greetings, minions! This is to be a short post with a few short notes.

One, I will be trying to write and schedule posts ahead of time, but in case I’m not able to, I may miss a few upcoming weeks due to giving birth and then having a brand new baby. Next week won’t be a problem, but the weeks after…so just a heads-up.

Two, I’ve realized I’ve not been using my WordPress stats to their fullest use – namely in search terms. Hopefully I should be writing more about things what you all are interested in rather than just bits about which I think to write. If there ever are specific topics or questions you’d like to have addressed, I would be thrilled to do so, by the by. There are many ways to contact me – in addition to using WordPress capabilities, I have contact information under “About” if you’ll hover. There’s Facebook, Twitter, Gmail. (On the Contact page, I mention I would like to hear about topics that have to do with writing – but you can also drop me a friendly line, I would appreciate that just as much).

Three, I will be participating in NaNo this year. It’ll probably be my last year of doing so, but I have no idea what that will do to my blog posts. It will not be an excuse not to post, I would be foolish not to post for a whole month anyway. I just have a feeling it’ll mean more general writing advice and less villain specific advice.

Four, Villian Sue test – I mentioned above about search terms. One of the most common search terms was about a Mary-Sue test for villains – searches with various wording for such a test showed up many times. I am aware that there are a few villain Sue tests, and I’m aware they’re not very comprehensive and sometimes also of poor quality. I’ve been wanting to make a Villain Sue test for a very long time, long before I even considered making a blog, but I haven’t attempted it yet because a comprehensive test would be difficult to make – there’s many types of villains to consider, and many genres. But seeing as how apparently there are far more people than I would have guessed who would like a good Villain Sue test, I’m going to take my desire to craft one out of the “One Day” box and put it on a back burner. As a proper procrastinator, this means I’ll work on it a lot more than most people will work on a back burner object. It probably won’t be done quickly, but I hope to be able to work on it a lot once I do have a small human being that will require a lot of holding and humming/singing. I’ll have to be thinking of something interesting while I do so.  I have high hopes I can at least put up a skeleton by the end of October (for you people reading this, disappointed that this is just a post about how I’m going to make a test and not an actual test. Sorry.)

I make no pretense that I will be able to craft a perfect Villain Sue test.  I hope that you’ll all be willing to provide positive feedback once I get a good draft of it up. Together we can make that comprehensive test for which we’ve all (apparently) been looking.

Happy upcoming October to you all!

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Overlord’s Best Friend

How many of you have seen this Pintrest meme floating around?

A lot of us have pets. A lot of us are also allergic to pets, but even then one could still own a fish, reptile, or perhaps a bird. Even if you don’t own a pet, most of you would probably have to admit that you’d like to. There’s just something about an animal companion that’s just…wonderful.

Heroes, side-kicks, and other common protagonist types very often have some sort of pet or familiar. The faithful dog. A horse of uncommon intelligence. What’s that on the gold-hearted thief’s shoulder? A ferret, or a small monkey perhaps? Let’s not forget wolves and cats. Steampunk? Bring in the octopi and hedgehogs! Aquatic? So many fish friends.

What about the evil guy? Where’s his pet? Voldemort had a snake, and Ursula had her eels. Maleficent had a raven. Many evil types have had growling Dobermans.  And then, of course, there’s the dragon mounts.

Hold on, I’m sensing a theme here – the heroic types can have basically whatever pet they want, even if they tend towards certain types, and those types are wide in selection. These pets are for aesthetics, transportation, special magical bonds, companionship. Evil types get snake-y things, symbols of death and doom, and things that could rip your throat out. These are for intimidation aesthetics, protection, battle, transportation. Hm.

Sometimes you do see the evil mastermind petting his cat as he slowly wheels around in his chair.

Vivicat

Any plots that my dear husband could be cooking would not be nearly as devilishly evil as whatever Vivi’s thinking of doing instead of being held.

But I’m pretty sure those evil masterminds only own a cat for the sole purpose of wheeling around in their chair while petting one. I don’t even know for certain those are real cats, I mean, Vivi already didn’t want to be held for even a picture’s length and our other cat, Minwu, wouldn’t either (although he’s not really evil cat material, he’s too much of a big derp). Maybe our flatmate’s cat might have tolerated sitting on someone’s lap on their schedule, as she doesn’t mind her owner scooping her up to snuggle like our two cats. Persians are really fussy cats, you know – at least the ones I’ve ever met – and cats in general don’t want to be held extensively on a human’s timeline so the cats overlords have are probably some sort of fake robot cat anyway. That’s my headcanon theory. In any case, the mastermind is not covered in cat fur, nor is anything else around him, nor are there angry red lines anywhere on his body from cat scratches, nor are there food or water bowls or litter boxes or scratching posts anywhere in his domicile, let alone his office where one can only presume his cat lives since that’s the only place we see it. That’s not a pet. That’s an aesthetic, a decoration just like the dim lights in the room.

There’s usually not a whole lot of affection from evil person to animal, either. Sometimes, you might see the villain pet his or her snake or bird, and on a particularly affectionate day possibly feeding the animal, but you don’t really see them playing fetch or really rubbing down their Doberman. There’s no “Whose a gooboy? WHooosa gooboy?” and no “Roll over! Shake! Have a treat.” There’s no finding solace in the animal when things go badly, not for a villain. And do you ever hear a villain screaming, “Fluffykins!” when they discover their throne has been torn up by the cat, or maybe said cat left any of the assortment of presents cats leave around atop the throne? Okay, granted, you don’t normally see much of this with heroes, either. I personally think it’s because people who write the animal companions have never had that animal as a companion. I don’t think I could write anyone owning a cat without having the cat knock over and break something vitally important at least once. Maybe the Ultimate MacGuffin. But inasmuch as the heroes don’t often deal with the downside of pets, the villains never seem to, or any other aspect of the pet aside from it’s obvious use.

The other aspect missing from a real master-pet relationship, like most us normal folk have, is the drive to provide toys for the animal – to buy tubes for a rodent to crawl around in, or little wooden houses for them to lay in and gnaw; cat condos for cats to play around on, lasers to drive them wild; mirrors and bells and stands for birds, pretty shiny things for them to grab for a nest; a toy that squeaks and rattles for your dog; heated rocks, coves, tunnels for reptiles; decor for fish. Your villain is a person, too, and the charms of an animal are difficult to resist, especially when given toys. Imagine your heroes bursting in on the villain as he tosses a ball across the long meeting room, his powerful dog racing across to bring it back, tail wagging, growling slightly at the heroes – he treats with them all the while still throwing the ball. Or the same scene, but all the while doodling a spiraling laser pointer’s laser on the floor with a cat madly pawing at it. That could be comical or it could be even more intimidating because the villain is acting like a normal pet owner and is not even perturbed by the presence of the heroes.

There are other aspects of being a pet owner that are overlooked. Pet care is oft boring and acceptable to skip; if you mention fresh bedding, it’s implied someone changes it. But there are some aspects that can add to your aesthetics while adding to the image your villain cares about this pets. Feeding crickets to a lizard or toad – feeding anything to a pet – has been used as an intimidation tactic and is great if not used badly, in my opinion. And then, snake skin – Do you know how awesome it is when your snake sheds its skin? It’s so cool. The snake gets all opaque a few days before, and then its eyes fog over and you know it’ll shed soon, and then it just…wiggles out, leaving a ghost version of itself behind. And then that skin – to take it and do something with it, feel it like a crisp dry leaf, and yet still scaly like your reptilian friend…why are shed snake skins from an evil pet just used as a creepy omen for the heroes? If I owned a giant snake I’d be figuring out all sorts of awesome crafts with that much snake skin. I’ve ever only been sister to the owner of a corn snake, and those cute guys are tiny so there’s not much you can do with their skins. Feathers could likewise be used.

I’m not going to tell you to use snakes or Dobermans, or not. I think it’d be cool to see a villain with a chinchilla on his shoulder or a ferret on a leash, but there’s nothing wrong with owning a raven. I’m just wondering if maybe villains couldn’t have more of a connection with their animals and familiars, too. Just because a person is cold and uncaring about others doesn’t mean they have to be so with animals, too – and in fact, I think, normally, they’re not. How many people do you know who hate other people but love their dog?

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Recurring Villain: Timing

WHO COULD HAVE FORESEEN THE RETURN OF THE RECURRING VILLAIN!

As I did say it’d come back eventually, it can’t be too surprising, right? But maybe you forgot about it? What better time, then, for the recurring villain to come back.

The most unexpected or inconvenient time is not the only time that’s good for a recurring villain to appear, however: the best time is the most poignant time. Sometimes it would be a huge disappointment for the recurring villain not to appear, and it may be pertinent not to disappoint. Usually, in writing, it is prudent of the writer not to disappoint.

However, I believe generally speaking, the recurring villain should appear at the worst possible time.

FFFFF- I’m not in the mood to fight you, Gary! (at least it was near a pokecenter this time – I always forget he shows up on the SS Anne and in Sylph, when my team is badly worn from fighting sailors or rockets.)

So what are some poignant times? There’s no good from a recurring villain showing up unexpectedly if their unexpected visit has no emotional impact or…any impact, really, on the story.

There are, as I see it, two ways you can approach this. The recurring can either be the sole trial, with all the focus on him/her, or else the recurring can be the final straw.

For example, say the heroes are questing for a MacGuffin. The Dungeon to the MacGuffin is not too hard, and it seems like victory is well within the heroes’ grasp when they get to the Final Chamber only to find a recurring villain having an Yzma moment – “Looking for this?” If the heroes certainly have victory in their grasp only to have the recurring snatch it from them at the last moment, ensure that the recurring DOES snatch it completely. Otherwise you weaken your recurring badly. The final stand-off where the hero(es) finally beat the recurring should not involve the recurring failing to snatch victory from the heroes since that just makes the recurring look incompetent, rather than the heroes becoming strong enough to finally defeat the recurring. They could, however, turn the tables and snatch victory from the recurring.

An exception to this is with the Goldfish Poop Gang, but to follow through with the scene, the Main Villain or some sort needs to succeed where the GPG failed: when the GPG utterly fails to get the MacGuffin, the Main Villain needs to swoop in and grab it while the heroes are distracted dealing with the GPG, for example.

The recurring could also show up at an “almost there” moment – remember in the Wizard of Oz when they’ve finally gotten out of the forest and they just have to go through a field to get to Oz? That moment of “Oh, hooray! Look, we just have this one easy thing and then we win!” should pretty much always be interrupted by something, and a recurring villain is just as good if not better than most things. Like poppies. Which even in the book was a little lame – why on earth would the witch choose something to which two of the group members are immune!? or maybe the poppies were just there in the book, it’s been a while since I read it…anyway that moment is a great time for a recurring to show up.

Likewise, when the heroes are in bad need of a sanctuary, and are just crawling to one, so close, no more obstacles – what could possibly be worse than a recurring to show up right then? The best part about this is that a sanctuary can be anything – it doesn’t even have to be about physical wounds, like Red crawling to a pokecenter when Blue shows up grinning like the huge jerk he is. This could be prime time for an Unpleasant Associate – when the protagonist has been destroyed by the events of the day, and is seeking out comfort, what better way to induce crying or breakdowns than sticking the Unpleasant Associate just between the hero and the exit?

Even the GPG can be effective here. There’s no better way to complete the exhaustion than to add one more thorn.

This idea leads right into final straw moments – but different from crawling to a sanctuary, final straw moments have not and do not indicate any breathers, not recently, not any time soon. And just when everything has been going wrong, and everything’s been too hard, and nothing could possibly get worse, the recurring proves the diagnosis wrong. The GPG can become dangerous in situations like these, too, as there’s so much else happening that perhaps the heroes cannot even focus properly on the GPG. The struggling student can forget to eat breakfast, run late to her first class, have a fall-out with her bestie, find she’s on the brink of break-up with her boy, realize she didn’t make the team, and then realize she forgot to turn in her homework to the Unpleasant Teacher Associate – for him to smile down at her when she’s five minutes late from the due date and say “No, I will not accept this.” Friggun Gary can show up with his stupid fresh team of pokemon after I’ve just battled up my way through an entire building full of poisonous, exploding koffings and hatred-induci-er, confusion-inducing zubats and Rocket’s other stupid teams wanting to battle. The traveling band can have just barely escaped death from The Dangerous Forest or Mountain into the cover-less Plains, broken and bruised and out of food and still pursued by Evil Beasties and in a sour mood towards each other when The Pursuit shows up – or perhaps The Pursuit shows up after a huge fall-out when the protagonist just wants to be alone and no one will be looking for him quite yet while he blows off steam.

What are some examples of non-inconvenient or not necessarily unexpected shows? Right after it seems the recurring’s been permanently removed from play, perhaps they show up later on a camera or TV or some other long-distance device, showing they’re not dead. Perhaps you’ve been building up to an ultimate show-down – it’s expected they show, then, and they almost had better. And perhaps there’s just a comical run-in at the grocery store. Maybe they’re a cashier. Or maybe the protagonist is when the recurring is shopping.

The important thing is to wait for the poignant times because the recurring can’t show up too often. Remember the difference between a main villain and a recurring is how present the recurring is on the forefront of both reader and protagonist’s mind. If we don’t forget about them shortly after they leave, they’re slipping into main villain territory. Show them around too often, and we won’t forget.

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What If My Villain Is a Complete Monster?

Greetings, Minions! In this late hour, I wanted to address the Complete Monster and its craft (this TvTrope page is short and has precious few links so relatively safe from getting you trapped in a wikiwalk).

The Complete Monster is an appealing villain I think because as much as we all love badace heroes who are just so kickbutt and awesome and valiant, we also love terrifying, dreadful villains that are so awful and horrendous that their very existence makes us all a little worse. The idea of True Evil is an interesting one – it’s linked to black and white morality, which we all know is a farce but it’s a romantic idea to us anyway. Black and white morality makes things easy and there’s nothing like an enemy that is just bad – “at least we know for certain that he needs to be destroyed”.

So I’ve spent a lot of time declaring that villains are people too, but how does this reconcile with the Complete Monster? The CM has absolutely no concept of love or any sort of empathy. He lacks humanity – so he’s not really a ‘person’. He IS a monster. Does this mean I don’t think you should make a CM?

There are precious few rules in writing that a writer can’t break and have it work. I should hope that if I said, never make a CM, many of you would disobey me. But I’m not going to give that directive, instead I’m going to caution. CMs are quite difficult to pull off well. A large portion of the difficulty is alleviated if you are familiar with and practiced in executing my five main points of villainy, particularly that a villain does evil things because he is evil, not the other way around. Even with that mastered, however, a proper CM that not just your characters but that your reader will properly fear and despise is still a hard sell because for something so soulless as a CM, without the ability to truly relate to the character, the CM comes off as a movie monster. Terrifying, sure, but fake. And yet, the whole point of a CM is that it’s beyond redemption, beyond immoral. Beyond evil. The reader should not, cannot, relate to this thing.

And that’s where villains being people, too, come in. My best advice is that, even if it’s pre-book, you develop your CM. He, or she, needs to have been a person at some point in time. No one is born a complete monster, even if they are well pre-disposed to become one, in either nature or nurture. If a villain does come directly into existence as a CM, I think what you have more is a primordial evil and not so much a complete monster and you’re going to have the hardest of times selling it otherwise. Is it possible? Yes. But I wouldn’t try it unless your story needs it – your story cries for it, your story wants it, not just you. So come up with the character’s past. You don’t even need to necessarily tell the readers that past, allude to it, hint at it – you just need to know it. Like so much else,that hidden background for your use only, never to present itself in the story, will make your writing better. It will help you shape his motives, which he still needs to have, and adequately else he fall into mindless monster territory. It will help you with his personality – which again, he still needs to have. A CM isn’t a creature that must be destroyed, it’s a person that must be destroyed (or sequestered or whatever) – and people have personalities. It’s the qualities you need to watch for, the redeemable qualities.

Hannibal: Complete Monster? I would probably label him as such. And yet, in a way, he is relateable in the way he is abhorrent.

A possible requirement for a psychopath is glibness. What that means for you is that your CM could, potentially, even be appealing in personality. That doesn’t necessarily have to be a redeeming quality – it just has to be a slippery lie. There’s a huge difference between a silver-tongued killer and a silver-tongued entertainer, and someone who is just genuinely flattering and kind. When the appeal of personality is just a farce, meant to draw in to death, that’s just like a sweet scent on a carnivorous plant. It’s not a redeeming quality, it’s not “a good thing” about the plant, it’s a evil that’s all a part of the trap.

But your CM doesn’t have to have a pleasant personality, either. He just has to have some personality. You drift too far from what makes a human a human, and you fall into completely alien territory, a monster that is just a monster. Yes, a CM lacks humanity in that he lacks any sort of morality, any goodness – but he’s still, technically, a human.

And that’s what makes him so terrifying. Humans aren’t supposed to be able to get that far. Even in our romanticized black and white morality, the bad guy is never that bad. He has something. And of course a real person has more than that, because morality is grey within each of us. Each of us do things that are good and evil, some more good than evil, some more evil than good, but no one is pure evil. Humans don’t do that. And when they do, they’re not human anymore.

And that’s your key to making a CM that is truly bone-chilling. He reaches the threshold of “not human anymore” and continues to be a human. And that’s where “villains are people, too” comes into play with the Complete Monster. Your labors have put your reader squarely in the same race, same species as that utterly despicable villain.

Complete Monsters are people, too – and that’s a terrifying thought.

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