Maybe I have a secret dark side, but I really like creating villains, writing about them, and especially writing from the villain’s point of view (POV). It’s just a bonus (whipped cream, nuts and cherry on top) if there’s more than one villain.
In many ways, I find villains more interesting than protagonists, and this may go back to my warped childhood, when I found Skeletor far hotter than He-Man, and evilwith a goatee was just TDS (too d*mn sexy). And let’s not even get started on Rutger Hauer in his original bad boy roles, in Highlander or Ares in Xena…whew!
In Emerald Prince, there is more than one villain, and they all do their utmost to keep the main characters apart for different reasons and in different ways. One of these villains was a special blast to build and to act out. I’ll get to him in a minute.
Part of the challenge with creating villains in your stories is making them characters, not caricatures. Although many books and movies have one-dimensional villains, in some cases they would have been more intriguing to the readers/viewers if they had more balanced natures.
Little in life is truly black-and-white (purely evil or purely good), and hey, even psychologists pan what’s called “.” So when you’re creating a villain (I call both males and females villains, that whole ‘villainess’ thing is too unwieldly), consider giving them a touch of humanity, even if it’s only one drop—or even if they aren’t human.
The perfect example of this comes to mind with Quintin de Lacy, one of the key villains in Emerald Prince. I remember when Darby, my writing partner, came up with the idea to have de Lacy constantly carry a memento of the heroine on his person, in this case a scented handkerchief. He smells it, strokes it, sometimes crushes it in his fist, but this frail scrap of fabric is like a ghost of humanity still evident in the man.
Darby’s idea was a stroke of pure genius. Suddenly Quintin was not a simple cardboard character anymore, and this reader’s knee-jerk dislike of the man was tempered by empathy or even…sympathy. And when I learned his obsession over the heroine was spawned not by physical beauty alone, but rather witnessing her kindness and devotion and wanting to experience it firsthand himself, it almost choked me up. Wait, I think it did.
So while I may have dressed Quintin in his velvet surcoats and jeweled crossbands, Darby dressed him with humanity. He became, in the span of a few sentences, a profoundly more interesting and complex character.
There’s no need to overdo it when you give your villain a human foible or frailty. Think of these traits like strong spices…a little sprinkle goes a long way.