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"Tips for writing villains? ", 22nd Feb 2014, 4:03 PM #1
Faith

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Here's an odd one that suddenly hit me like a wet fish to the face, amongst my many weaknesses as a writing its just hit me that I have no idea how to write a villain, I have written a villain for my story BUT after a re-reading it seems very weak and one note at times, so basically I would like to know, if you guys have any tips for writing a villain?

How did you go about creating your own villains in your comic? (Assuming you have a comic/your comic has a "villain")
What are some good ways to keep you villain active without just having them being evil for the sake of being evil? (I dislike having a villain that you never see)
Does anyone have any resources to help with this sort of thing? I am always looking to improve my writing but the amount of resources online can be quite overwhelming a lot of them are not very good or not very well written ironically.

Anyway if nothing else I would be very interested to hear your opinions on this subject and the way you tackle this type of character.

Thanks for reading.
22nd Feb 2014, 4:06 PM #2
Jarvi
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http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Villains - this should help, that site presents (as far as I know) different types of things you can see in stories. Also villains :)
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22nd Feb 2014, 4:34 PM #3
danielthecreator

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The best villains are sympathetic. Their evil is more effective when you see their point of view.


That's not always true though, a pure evil who is evil for unknown reasons like Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men can also be effective.
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22nd Feb 2014, 4:41 PM #4
killersteak
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What are some good ways to keep you villain active without just having them being evil for the sake of being evil? (I dislike having a villain that you never see)


Namedropping. Have other people talk about their experiences with him, flashbacks, what they've heard about him.

Small appearances. Maybe they could show up in some untouchable form and taunt/test the hero a little.

Think about the villains in the stories you like and think about what makes them effective. (Usually it's the groovy flappy cape.)
22nd Feb 2014, 4:44 PM #5
Magravan
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One of the most enjoyable books I ever read on the subject was the 2nd edition D&D Book of Villains... It's about fleshing your villains out, giving them attributes that make them more realistic, and giving explanation as to why they are like that...

One example I remember is a warlord who eats dogs, because when he was a child he had a particularly bad illness and a cruel priest told them that he had to eat his cherished dog as part of the cure.

There are things about your villains (and other characters!) that readers might never learn, but they help you to understand how and why they will react in certain situation. If it is a major villain, you should treat them like the primary character they are, and make efforts to understand them as well as you do your progtagonists.
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22nd Feb 2014, 4:48 PM #6
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I think the biggest tip is to simply spend time with them. The audience will feel more strongly about characters they spend time with.

Talking them up, making them compelling, and designing them to have a striking appearance is all valuable, but in the end they have to appear in your comic.

Take a look at Vader. He appears quite a lot, over and over. Sometimes he does evil things, sometimes it's just a hallucination of him, and sometimes he just twiddles his life support. He appears a LOT. And, as such, he became popular long before anyone realized he was complex.

It's not sexy advice, but just giving the villain screen time is a huge, overlooked part of doing villains right.
22nd Feb 2014, 4:51 PM #7
Agent0Gecko
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Well, try thinking of them as a person, just like any of your other characters. What is their personality: are they flamboyant with a taste for drama, or do they prefer to be more understated (etc.)? What are their values? What are their goals/dreams, and why? What is it about them that makes them a villain, or why did they end up on this villainous path?

Depending on your comic you probably don't need to get too in depth, but it still might be a good idea to jot down some notes.

For example: Marvolio is afraid of dogs because one bit him when he was a child. As a way to feel in control of his fear, he kicks puppies, because they're too little to hurt him back.

I am not totally sure what you mean by keeping a villain active. Going based off of your comment of "a villain that you never see", you could occasionally dedicate a page or few to what's going on with the villain, his side of the story (Feywinds is an example of a comic that does this).

I am by no means an expert on villains or anything, these are just some thoughts of mine.

EDIT: Oh gosh, a lot of people beat me to this. Whoops.
22nd Feb 2014, 4:52 PM #8
Magravan
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To contrast the Vader example though, look at the Alien in Alien.. You rarely see it, you more often just see the results of its coming.

It depends on what kind of story you are writing and what you want out of your villain. Vader is a special case villain because you have to know enough about him to appreciate his fall and redemption.
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22nd Feb 2014, 4:55 PM #9
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Magravan:To contrast the Vader example though, look at the Alien in Alien.. You rarely see it, you more often just see the results of its coming.

It depends on what kind of story you are writing and what you want out of your villain. Vader is a special case villain because you have to know enough about him to appreciate his fall and redemption.


But the Alien spends an IMMENSE amount of time on screen, arguably more than any character besides Ripley herself.

It also spends a lot of time making noise and making things dangerous without actually being present, which I would argue is the same kind of thing.
22nd Feb 2014, 4:57 PM #10
gary cramer

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Make it personal.
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22nd Feb 2014, 5:15 PM #11
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I'm super gamer nerdy, so I used the D&D alignment system to help me work out the details of my "villain". Yes, they use "good" and "evil" but it's more about differences of values, strategies, and goals. It's also very useful for writing lines/keeping characters consistent.

Here's a helpful site for the alignment system:

http://www.easydamus.com/alignment.html

And I agree with some of the sentiment above, I like sympathetic villains.
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22nd Feb 2014, 5:24 PM #12
Magravan
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Magravan:To contrast the Vader example though, look at the Alien in Alien.. You rarely see it, you more often just see the results of its coming.

It depends on what kind of story you are writing and what you want out of your villain. Vader is a special case villain because you have to know enough about him to appreciate his fall and redemption.


But the Alien spends an IMMENSE amount of time on screen, arguably more than any character besides Ripley herself.

It also spends a lot of time making noise and making things dangerous without actually being present, which I would argue is the same kind of thing.


'Scott chose not to show the Alien in full through most of the film, showing only pieces of it while keeping most of its body in shadow in order to heighten the sense of terror and suspense. The audience could thus project their own fears into imagining what the rest of the creature might look like:[36] "Every movement is going to be very slow, very graceful, and the Alien will alter shape so you never really know exactly what he looks like."'

Sorry, this is what I was referring to, it's been a long while since I've seen the movie. I recall that it was never on the screen long enough for my preferences.

I agree with you about the noises and making things dangerous without actually being present as being as good as being directly on screen. Perhaps even moreso. They threaten the well being of the protagonists without making themselves vulnerable.
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22nd Feb 2014, 5:29 PM #13
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Agent0Gecko:Well, try thinking of them as a person, just like any of your other characters. What is their personality: are they flamboyant with a taste for drama, or do they prefer to be more understated (etc.)? What are their values? What are their goals/dreams, and why? What is it about them that makes them a villain, or why did they end up on this villainous path?

Depending on your comic you probably don't need to get too in depth, but it still might be a good idea to jot down some notes.

For example: Marvolio is afraid of dogs because one bit him when he was a child. As a way to feel in control of his fear, he kicks puppies, because they're too little to hurt him back.

I am not totally sure what you mean by keeping a villain active. Going based off of your comment of "a villain that you never see", you could occasionally dedicate a page or few to what's going on with the villain, his side of the story (Feywinds is an example of a comic that does this).

I am by no means an expert on villains or anything, these are just some thoughts of mine.

EDIT: Oh gosh, a lot of people beat me to this. Whoops.


Alot of the villains who will show up in my story are both sympathetic and really evil, but none of themhave shown up very much yet so I suppose you'll all have to wait and see how that pans out.

For writing villains, I dunno I think I'm pretty good at it, but I'm not sure how to give tips on it beyond what everyone else already said on the matter.

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22nd Feb 2014, 5:35 PM #14
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The Alien in Alien really wasn't shown often. And even when it was, it was a quick shot of it attacking. You don't really see it very well until the end.

Also, Alien was basically just a new spin on the slasher villain. Just sort of a one-track evil that separates and kills one at a time.

The design (well, Giger's designs as a whole) are a strange balance of organic and mechanic in nature, while steeped in very heavy sexual imagery. The Xenomorphs were meant to meant to look kind of human, but not really, and their design was meant to make them blend right in with the gritty, grimy, industrialized visuals of the movie. I always felt that the design was meant to make it seem like the ship itself was actually out get them. Like the ship was also sort of antagonizing them (well, in a way, it kind of was anyway) but I mean the fact that they never knew where the alien was, and it would slink out of the shadows and off someone.

Its basically perfect, because it looks really human, but at the same time, it doesn't look human at all. It is taking something we're all familiar with, and making it...well....completely alien.
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22nd Feb 2014, 5:42 PM #15
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HolyLancer:The Alien in Alien really wasn't shown often. And even when it was, it was a quick shot of it attacking. You don't really see it very well until the end.


Except that you saw it as eggs, as facehugger, as chestburster - it's a villain with multiple forms. Even in its final form, you see it in the shadows or just around the corner dozens of times, which counts as on-screen action even if the alien isn't actually on display like a museum piece.

Also, the Alien series really hit popularity with the Aliens movie, in which the aliens were far, far more visible. Similarly, many villains from breakout series such as Star Wars became more popular when they were shown in greater detail in expanded stories, such as everyone's favorite bounty hunter.

The real challenge is showing the villain (or their traces) without derailing the story and pacing.
22nd Feb 2014, 5:47 PM #16
HolyLancer

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Except that you saw it as eggs, as facehugger, as chestburster - it's a villain with multiple forms. Even in its final form, you see it in the shadows or just around the corner dozens of times, which counts as on-screen action even if the alien isn't actually on display like a museum piece.

Also, the Alien series really hit popularity with the Aliens movie, in which the aliens were far, far more visible. Similarly, many villains from breakout series such as Star Wars became more popular when they were shown in greater detail in expanded stories, such as everyone's favorite bounty hunter.

The real challenge is showing the villain (or their traces) without derailing the story and pacing.


You see it in various stages, yes, but that's part of what makes it a great creature, and what the whole "Xenomorph" moniker comes from. However, it isn't the same as hiding the end result, and showing it in lower lighting, or from a manipulated angle. The multiple forms just keep you guessing as to what it is going to look like next/"how much more dangerous is it now?"

And really, my initial post was more about the first movie. Aliens is a totally different genre, to begin with. Alien is a slower movie, that keeps you in suspense. It's a Sci-fi horror/suspense. Aliens basically just a big action movie, as a result of needing to up the anti, and do something totally different, because there was basically no way to top Alien by doing the exact same thing (see: Alien 3).
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22nd Feb 2014, 6:02 PM #17
Magravan
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Oh good, I'm glad I wasn't completely faulty in my memory. I was referring specifically to Alien as well, rather than Aliens or anything after that.

In Alien, they play heavily on the mystery of the character. If you're going for a villain that you aren't explaining other than 'pure evil' or 'merciless killer', a lot of times more screen time will take something away from them. Not understanding exactly how they work, or their limitations, allow the imagination to run wild and put the worst possible spin on things.

These kind of villains can work in certain stories, and actually suffer from a lot of things that make for good villains in other stories.

I guess in this case, know your villains and what part they play in your story. The more that you understand what you want from them, the easier to determine which techniques are best going to play to that concept.
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22nd Feb 2014, 6:03 PM #18
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HolyLancer:You see it in various stages, yes, but that's part of what makes it a great creature, and what the whole "Xenomorph" moniker comes from. However, it isn't the same as hiding the end result, and showing it in lower lighting, or from a manipulated angle. The multiple forms just keep you guessing as to what it is going to look like next/"how much more dangerous is it now?"


We're talking at cross-purposes - I agree with you, and I also think that putting the alien on screen in its various stages, in the shadows or partly hidden, was important to making the audience pay attention.

22nd Feb 2014, 6:03 PM #19
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gary cramer:Make it personal.


This, I'd say yes yes definitely. A really personal hatred of the hero or someone the hero loves or something they stand for, then you know the villain is never going to quit. Like the hero, they have to have strong motivations.

Also, I think (again depending on the villain and especially if it's personal) having a villain who the hero wants to redeem can be very effective. Someone who the hero is willing to forgive and reconcile with (think Loki) has an edge over them that a villain who the hero hates doesn't have. (This can get old, of course.)
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22nd Feb 2014, 6:07 PM #20
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We're talking at cross-purposes - I agree with you, and I also think that putting the alien on screen in its various stages, in the shadows or partly hidden, was important to making the audience pay attention.



Yes, I definitely agree with that.
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