Here’s a search term I’ve seen cropping up a bit. I’ve been thinking how to address that question because it bothers me someone might come across my blog with a specific question and not have that question answered.
But as much as I’ve thought about how to answer “what is the best build for a villain”, I’ve circled around the same questions.
What are you doing?
What role does this villain fill?
What type of villain?
I worked my mind to answer the original question despite the specifics. Maybe I could do a general best build on the generic types of villains? But even then, it would be a very loose bit of advice. The best build for your villain is tailored to your book’s specific situation. Every time, that’s what I conclude, what any advice I could give boils down to.
I mean, think about other characters: What’s the best build for a hero? Über attractive prince or handmaid? Maybe if you’re writing a fairytale. Unless you’re trying to break the conventions of fairy tales which you should totally do. Unless you’re trying to be classic, in which case don’t do that. Or maybe you’re trying to do classic but with a twist. Maybe a badace who is a crack shot and has great street fighting skills, then? Oh, weren’t you writing an urban action story where that sort of Mary Sue is more acceptable due to the contrast of all the other badace dudes the MC is fighting? Okay, how about some scrawny kid? I guess that means we’re probably writing YA now. Even the scrawny kid is pretty ambiguous. Is he just a plain ole scrawny kid with no particularly special talents, or does he say, have magic powers and a scar on his forehead?
What’s the best build for a sidekick? A Robin? A Shakespearean jester? A busty yet “strong” lass? Mentor doomed to later death? Marketable animal? Turncoat of some sort? A Jane (like, Firefly Jane)?
Here’s the deal: when you’re asking for the “best build”, it sounds to me like you’re asking for a villain mold.
And when you ask for a villain mold, you forget one very important detail: YOUR VILLAIN IS A PERSON.
When building your villain, take the time to consider him! Take as much time to get to know him as you would your hero. The effort is worth it – your hero will be so much better for it. Take into consideration what role your villain will fill, but remember that your villain is a person, not a plot device. He should have aspired to fill that role rather than be crammed in to do so. As soon as you forget that your villain was (probably) not always a villain, as soon as you’re just trying to set up pins for your hero to knock down, your entire story suffers. If you ever find yourself saying, “My villain has to X”, always ask afterward how your villain got to X.
Bottom line is, the best build for a villain is a carefully tailored build.