The Three Dimensional Villian


@positively-pan asked: “How do you write a good villain? I don’t want her to be two dimensional but I’m not sure how to prevent it.”

So, we’ve talked about redeeming your villains or whether a villain can be just 100% evil or whatever, but really, that’s not what I’m interested in today. Today is about dimension. How can you make a character feel like a living, breathing person?

First, why are they the villain? What do they want want? Why are they antagonizing the protagonist? These are important things to know. Answer these questions first. That’s just the basics. Once you’ve got that, you have a basic outline of how they’re engaging with your plot but really not much more than that. 

The next thing to know – what more to them is there? Why is this conflict significant to them? What larger things are happening in their life has directed them into this conflict with the protagonist? What are other sources of conflict in their lives? This might mean looking into their family relationships, their friendships, the other people in their lives, job positions, and so on. 

The villain might lash out evilly against almost everyone in his life. That’s not the point. Even in doing the wrong thing, maybe he’s mourning the loss of a sibling or struggling with his own mental health. This isn’t about making the villain look less evil, but showing who they are as a person and sometimes when you make a villain look human, evil or not, you are going to make them in some small way sympathetic. They become a believable person with real emotions.

I’m not arguing that we need to know every dirty detail of your villain’s life. (There are things about Voldemort from The Cursed Child I’d rather not have known.) It’s a matter of convincing yourself that they are a real person. It might be a flash of a conscience before doing something terrible – it’s something that shows they aren’t just simply evil incarnate, there’s more to them than that. 

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