Recurring Villain: Death – Psych!

Deciding to kill off a recurring villain is a pretty big decision. After all, they might well have been a major part of the story and a device you use to spur the plot onward.

I have just one request of you if you’re going to kill a recurring villain: don’t bring them back.


Someone who keeps showing up, completely ignoring things like death, are easy to take for granted – that’s a bit of the challenge of writing a recurring villain. But it also cheapens death. And it makes it increasingly difficult to take death and the villain seriously.

It’s already a bad enough trope that if you don’t see the death, it didn’t happen.


“I presume they died in the elly-vator!”*

Combine that with the trope of “these guys always show up” and just of course the recurring villain is immortal. And that makes them that much more of a joke.

I mean, sure, there are totally ways that you could have an immortal recurring villain. Maybe it’s a scary robot or something and it defies all the tropes and it would be weird if the thing didn’t recover from death. But hey, if you’re an experienced writer, you know when and how to break the rules. That said, let me challenge you with a rule and you’ll procure all sorts of cool “exception” ideas, so it’s never a bad idea to put up good boundaries before you try to pass them.

*I love this scene though because CLU is like, “You presume?” and for once, for once, the villain didn’t say, “Oh, they fell to their deaths? Okay. No need to double check or anything.”

I guess what I’m saying is take your recurring villains seriously unless there’s a very good reason not to (like you’re writing a comedy) and take character death seriously. Maybe if you want to bring a character back, killing them or pretending to wasn’t the right move. Or maybe you just need to re-structure the death so that it’s all the more shocking that they came back because it’s conceivable that they could, just not necessarily probable. And not in the same old, didn’t see it, didn’t happen way, perhaps?

About Rii the Wordsmith

An aspiring author, artist, avid consumer of storytelling medium, gamer, psychologist (insomuch as one with her bachelor's is a psychologist), wife, mother, DM, Christian, a friend to many, and, most importantly, an evil overlord.
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