GoldieS

How to build a dreaded antagonist

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(edited)

(Hopefully this is the correct place to ask such a question)

 

I was wondering if anyone had any tips in creating a truly villainous villain, one that people dread the protagonist running into rather than just another obstacle. Might anyone have any tips on achieving such a character?

Edited by GoldieS

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1 make them relatable.

2 show us why they are to be feared.

3 make their evil realistic to the universe they inhabit.

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6 minutes ago, Film Reel said:

1 make them relatable.

2 show us why they are to be feared.

3 make their evil realistic to the universe they inhabit.

I suppose, but my problem is this: After creating a villain, I feel as though the more they pop up, the less omnipresence and 'looming specter' they become. They just end up becoming another random character instead of the big bad villain they're supposed to be. Not sure if that makes sense at all. 

 

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omnipresence first of all that would be accomplished with the villain showing up everywhere or everywhere in fear of his presence as that is what omnipresence being everywhere at once. the problem your having is a development of character problem not them showing up too much if you develop right they will be that looming spectre if not they will just be that character 43920 that shows up.

Look at the joker I will throw my hands down the best villain ever. his personality is evil does not care who he kills and his evil is grounded for the universe he is in he's not too out there and not under powered so it's a good balance for the dark knight and he's omnipresence cause he's inside the batmans psychic, under his skin and all that. so you can use the character as much or as little as you need and you'll still have a good joker story.

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Not gonna lie, awesome example XD I guess it's just one of those things I have to tweak until I figure it out then...

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I think the most important part of a villain is why why do what they do, and a good reason at that. For example, when Sombra attacked and enslaved the crystal ponies, he did it just beacause. Same with Tirek. On the other hoof, Starlight Glimmer was alone and with no friends because of a cutie mark, so she tried to get rid of them so ponies could have good friends. (Warning, I'll be using Starlight as an example a lot.)

Also, some of the best villains and heros don't have some strong, crazy power. Batman (and yes, I know he's a hero) is one of the only heros to not have a superpower. He's just smart. Starlight, while pretty good with magic, uses her wit and cunning to lead her village. This makes your characters much more interesting, as they don't just have some power to fall back on. Another example of this is one of my OCs, Día Rosetta. She's not a villain, but she's more interested in her own desires than other ponies. 

Hope this helped!

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Make them relatable with the viewers and give them motives, or make them funny.

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To add on to these good ideas, have your villain WIN the majority of the conflicts that he/she brings upon the protagonist. Make the protagonist feel seemingly helpless the moment the villain's plan goes in motion. In order to make your villain intimidating, you need to make him/her smart and victorious, but you also need to try not to write yourself into a corner by making them too powerful.

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An alternative way to way to have a good villain is to start with them being the winner, base your story or whatever in a world where the villain has succeeded with his terrible plan, it's a good way to make him omnipotent by having him being not incredibly powerful but by having what he controls give him power, it then creates good story points of your protagonist having to go through all these things to reach the villain.

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(edited)

Hot dog! Lot's of good advice, thanks guys! Plenty of stuff to go on now. If I knew how to individually call out people I would, but sadly I'm still a bit new here XD

Edited by GoldieS

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One method to improve villain to have them attack the hero on an "ideological" level.  It's why Discord was such a popular villain, he didn't just fight the mane 6 physically like Chrysalis, he went after the core of who they really were.  This ties the character's internal conflicts into the external ones and increases the threat, without increasing the villain's actual objective power.

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This is very specific to a certain type of villain (mainly tyrants and the like) but if people are always scared of the villain that builds them up. And I don't mean that their scared because the villains powerful, no I mean they're scared because the villain could be anywhere and hear everything. They're scared ti say anything against the villain because the last person who did disappeared. They might even be scared to say the villains name. The villain hears everything and that is terrifying.

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I'll say it right now, and I've mentioned this on other sites.  But my favorite kinds of villains are the ones that genuinely think they're doing the right thing.

One of the big things about villains is they always have some sort of goal that they'll go to almost any lengths in order to accomplish (whether it's to take over the world, cause a crisis, or just acquire wealth), regardless of whether or not it's ethical.  However, equally important is establishing WHY they want to achieve this goal.  Why do they feel the need to do this?  What drove them to it?

There can be more than one reason.  And if you write the villain with the mindset that they think they're doing the right thing, you could come up with a reason that the reader would consider to be a valid argument, regardless of what kind of world the villain is written for.

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On 8/21/2017 at 11:47 AM, GoldieS said:

I suppose, but my problem is this: After creating a villain, I feel as though the more they pop up, the less omnipresence and 'looming specter' they become. They just end up becoming another random character instead of the big bad villain they're supposed to be. Not sure if that makes sense at all. 

 

You can still make a villain scary even if they appear somewhat often. The key there is making each scene they appear in seem more threatening than it was before they showed up. Make the characters uncomfortable to think about them and on edge when in their presence. Of course, you have to make that fear justified. A villain who shows up to be scary and do nothing else, looses that effect. It's not how much we see them, it's WHAT we see of them.

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A true villain believes that what they are doing is right and the hero can sympathize with him/her. For an example, look at the villain in the Black Panther movie. His point of view was believable and relatable. Have the villain challenge the hero’s system of beliefs. 

Dont make a final fantasy villain that wants to destroy everything because he’s tired of living or everyone is suffering. Also, don’t make your villain be goofy. The reader won’t take him/seriously.

The villain can also be a dark reflection of the hero like with Batman and the Joker. 

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Well, for me there are a few things that are important to think about. 

The biggest factor here is to ask yourself what kind of villain that you are trying to make.

Are you trying to make a villain that you feel really sorry for? Or are you trying to make a villain that you are scared of?

After that, the single most important part of any villain to get right is their backstory and motivation.

We need to understand why a villain do the evil things that they do in order to get invested in them. Their backstory is what forms their motivation so I am putting both into the same category. 

If you are going for a legitimately intimidating/scary villain, I personally think that it is really important to not make them too sympathetic. Off course, a good villain needs some form of humanity (or whatever the pony-equivalent is) in order for us to relate to them. But it is kind of hard to be afraid of someone while also feeling sorry for them at the same time. A little bit of sympathy is always necessary but a tearjerking backstory distracts for the fear that you are supposed to feel from the villain. 

Also, remember that a villain does need some positive character-traits. If they are comprised of nothing but negativity then they stop being interesting to follow. 

I would also give the advice to let them be a challenge of both the physical plane and the psychological plane. Have them really get into the hero's brain and make them question what is truly right and wrong or if they even are a hero at all. Maybe it is just my fascination with psychology but I always thought that a villain who can get into your head without having to lift a finger is far more intimidating than any superpower, that is part of the reason why I like the Scarecrow so much. One of the hardest fights to win is a fight against your own psyche. 

Don't make them goofy or annoying, that not only sucks out all the intimidation that they could have had (Dolores Umbridge could have been incredibly intimidating if it wasn't for how annoying she was) but it makes it hard for us as readers to take them seriously. 

Happy writing!

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Now if you want the villain to be scary and intimidating as opposed to a character that believes they're doing the right thing (or if you want both), I do have two pieces of advice that would make them more effective in the intimidation category. 

First, don't have them show up right away.  I know that might sound weird, especially if you're trying to make a recurring villain.  But have their henchmen doing things in the world for awhile, and only mention the main villain by name on occasion.  This gives some buildup to their inevitable reveal.  Mention the main villain by name a few times (but not too frequently), and have the henchmen gradually talk about how terrifying the villain is.

Second, when you're ready to reveal the main villain, have them do something catastrophic to illustrate how terrifying and dangerous they are.  Ideas might include killing off a character (if you have one to spare), or destroying an entire city with little effort.  This way, you not only show how dangerous this villain is, but also how important it is for the heroes to stop them.

A good example of how this is done effectively is with the main villain in Dragon Quest XI.  For the first thirty hours of the game, you hear of a big bad that's pulling the strings from behind the scenes.  And then you finally get a name for the villain about 15 to 20 hours in.  And once you get to the halfway point of the main story, the villain reveals himself and does some horrible things, which not only show how terrifying he is, but also kicks the party's rear into figuring out a way to stop him.

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A little late to this thread, but here's my two cents, and I can boil it down to one single piece of advice:

MAKE THEM SUCCESSFUL

I cannot stress this first piece of advice enough.  A really interesting concept for a villain can be destroyed by simply forgetting, or being unwilling, to throw them a bone every once in a while. 

An example of when a writer disregards this for me is Director Krennic from the Star Wars story, Rogue One.  In the opening scene, we are shown that he clearly has power not only because he has a squad of death troopers who obey his every command without question, but he's also the director for the Death Star project!  Amazing, right?  Throughout the rest of the movie, however, you're left wondering how someone so utterly incompetent was even put in charge of something so prestigious and important.  Not only is his security on the project lax enough that his lead engineer can conspire to leak its existence, but he's only able to stamp his feet and cry when Grand Moff Tarkin yoinks command of the Death Star from him, which is then followed up with his inability to capture and execute the aforementioned lead engineer on his own terms because he spent too long monologuing, which is finally capped with his utter incompetence at directing the defense of the imperial base on Scarif.  The only time Krennic wasn't utterly incompetent was in the first scene of the film, when he killed Jyn's mother and took her father into custody, but even that scene was marred by the fact that his death troopers hesitated long enough after his initial order to shoot her mother that she was able to shoot him in the shoulder.

If you want an example of what I think a villain done right is, then look no further than Handsome Jack from Borderlands 2.  Not only does he always seem to be one step ahead of you, but every successful strike against him is returned with multiple successful strikes back at you.  Angel's betrayal, Roland's death, Lilith's capture, Bloodwing's mutation, all serve as reminders of the stakes you're up against.  This person you're fighting exploited his own daughter, killed your boss, murdered your friend's pet, and if you don't stop him, it's not hard to believe that the same fate would befall all of Pandora.

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Also, make the villain smart. If he has the biggest army in the world, then maybe he does not need to spend disproportionate amount of resources in trying to build a super weapon or something to take over the world (which leads the heroes to destroy that weapon and defeat him because he has no plan B ). He probably can do it the conventional way.

Also, someone like that would not capture and then release the heroes unless he has tricked them into doing his bidding (like Handsome Jack). Think about real life people who are considered evil - like Stalin. If you were enough of a nuisance to him to get noticed, you would end up disappearing - no second chances, no monologues trying to justify himself, nothing. 

By the way, what made Handsome Jack lose - over reliance on a super weapon and the fact that he left the heroes alive for too long when he could have killed them rather easily by sending lots and lots of robots.

Also, the government described in "1984" - how do you even begin to fight against that?

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