Hello, readers! In case you missed it, this is one in five posts – the last one, to be exact. If you missed the previous posts, Motive, Evil Deeds, Independence, and Antagonists, it’s best if you go back and read them first, because the points build on each other.
You’ve read the previous posts? Great! Thank you so much for sticking with me! Read on:
A villain can be any shape, size, race, or gender.
This one is obvious but sometimes people forget. You see a lot of different types of villains in Bravely Default, a game released just recently – this February. There’s the fat, unpleasant man, the tall, slender man, the oversized, burly men, the wizened old man, the sadistic woman, the insane youth, the small, feral girl, the tiny, psychotic child, the vampire. Race is sort of…monochromatic in Bravely Default, but shape, size, and gender is well covered there. Not every villain is or should be unpleasantly thin or unpleasantly fat, or perhaps perfectly proportioned or burly. If you make a female villain, please do something other than the Sexy Evil Lady with her tiny hourglass form and her supple breasts and perfect height for whom she has to seduce. It’s okay to choose a different hair color than black or red. Same for the eyes. Villains are people; there isn’t some Villain Mint where you pour in the Secret Villain Formula, bake it, and peel it out.
Remember this for henchmen and lesser villains, too. Are all of the henchmen big, slavering brutes? Stop it. Is your overlord’s one female spy a Femme Fatale? Stop it! Is that thief or traitor a ratty little man with shifty eyes? Knock it off!
Yes, these character tropes and cliches are not inherently bad. There’s never anything inherently bad with a cliche and a well-placed cliche is wonderful. Sometimes you just need a villain with red eyes. But the problem is when you don’t, and you do it anyway. Every time. Think deeper before you write in a Femme Fatale with three brutes who are as dumb as bricks. Is that absolutely necessary? Do you have to have a Fatale, or can you have a huge b- as your female villain? Might make things more interesting if your woman was more than some fighting skills with boobs. Do her hangers-on/bodyguards need to be huge and stupid? There are certainly a lot of huge and stupid people, but there’s a lot of skinny and stupid and fat and stupid and short and stupid people, too. There’s a lot of people who aren’t bulging muscles who are strong and can pack a punch. Huge and stupid as bodyguards is not the only option; none of those things immediately mean the other. Even if they’re a tertiary character, they deserve more than your mindless writing them in. Give them a shred of attention. They’re a person, too, even if they’re just going to show up, fall down, and leave.
Diversify your villains; Evil is an equal opportunity employer.