Why Your Villain is More Important than Your Protagonist.
February 15, 2016
After last week’s blog about character diamonds I spent a couple of days thinking about what I was going to do for this week’s entry. I couldn’t get to it right away due to some other writing assignments that I had to complete but when I did get to it, the topic seemed like a natural follow up to what I wrote about in the previous blog.
It’s been said that a hero is only as good as good as their villain. It’s a statement that at first blush seems odd but with some introspection is a valid statement. Moriarty, Lex Luthor, Goldfinger, The Joker, Darth Vader and Dr. Doom are just a few on a long list of stellar antagonists that not only stand on their own merits but have their own legion of fans. When one of the aforementioned villains makes an appearance in a book or on screen their arrival is met with as much excitement as when the hero makes an appearance.
So what makes a good villain? Well, crafting one that has a sizeable ego is a good place to start. How that ego manifests itself depends on you, the writer, but the options are endless. Some of the best villains are stoic and quiet (Darth Vader, Goldfinger) while others are bombastic and over the top (The Joker). What makes all of these villains worthy opponents to our favourite heroes is that they are forceful, powerful figures who are able to match wits with them and in some cases are their superiors. There’s nothing like an insurmountable challenge to raise the stakes in a story.
Another angle to remember is that villains don’t see themselves as the villains most of the time. This was hammered home last night when I was watching an episode of AMC’s Comic Book Men. Stan Lee was a guest and he was explaining his thoughts behind the main antagonist of the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom. During one segment Stan Lee explained that Dr. Doom’s main goal is world domination. That in itself, Lee continued, isn’t a crime. You can’t be arrested for wanting to take over the world. The problem that arises is the schemes Doom uses to achieve that goal. It’s those actions that put him in direct conflict with the Fantastic Four.
As I continue to write the next installment of the Chronokari Alpha books, I’m having a lot of fun with the villains. I didn’t really focus on the main antagonists in the first book but this time around they will be featured more prominently.
Lastly, remember this: a great hero is vital to any good story but their adversaries, the ones that bring out the best in our protagonists, are the true engines of an entertaining narrative.