Isn’t anyone tired of the simple “to rule the world” excuse? Don’t villains want anything else?

As characters, the villain isn’t as developed as the hero because the story revolves around the hero. Because of this villains won’t typically have a character arc or experience character development, and are described to having the same malicious nature as every other villain. This is why there aren’t many villain archetypes concerning the villain’s origins.

In general a villain exists prior to the hero’s birth or his crossing the threshold. When the hero crosses he learns more about the villain or is finally made aware of the villain’s existence. Think of the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Besides her greed and tyrannical rule which enforces a permanent winter upon Narnia, readers don’t learn much else about her. They get a vague description of her appearance and a full description of her abilities, but do they really learn anything  personal about the Witch?

Who were her parents? How did she become a witch? Why does she only have control over snow and ice? What prompted her to be evil? The Pevensie children don’t learn any of this, so these questions remain unanswered.

Authors often focus their attention on the heroes, transforming the villain of their story from a three dimensional character into a story tool. In return, the villain becomes atypical and unsurprising, which can leave the story feeling undone or summarized at certain points.

“The figure of the tyrant-monster is known to the mythologies, folk traditions, legends, and even nightmares, of the world; and his characteristics are everywhere essentially the same. He is the hoarder of the general benefit. He is the monster avid for the greedy rights of “my and mine.” …The inflated ego of the tyrant is a curse to himself and his world – no matter how his affairs may seem to prosper.” –  Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces

Remember these elements as you write

Occupation and Network: An occupation explains how the villain spends most of his day and how he supports his criminal ventures. It also reveals who he interacts with on a day to day basis, and maybe how far his criminal empire or resources goes. Realistically, few villains and thieves can afford being criminals every day. Where would their expensive gadgets or laser beams come from? Again, consider the network. Maybe this villain has an all access pass to high end laboratories or is colleagues with an evil scientist that bargains for weapons. If the story is a mystery, the villain works behind the scenes and uses his network as a proxy, establishing his presence without physically being there. In other words, sometimes the villain is like Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes books, a mastermind who remains safely off stage until his curtain call.

Objective: A villain’s objective clashes with a hero’s goal. Villains usually initiate the hero to journey through some kind of archetypal event

Viewpoint: Make readers see the villain as a person, not a tool to push the story farther. You don’t need to make readers understand or condone the villain’s views or motivation, but it should still play a part in the villain’s decisions.

Abilities: Establish the villain’s abilities and capabilities. If they have superpowers, what role do they play in the villain’s life outside of battle? Does this power help him keep a position of power or respect in the criminal community? Remember, your villain needs to be as smart and capable as the hero; although well rounded characters aren’t evenly matched.

“So, to heighten tension throughout the story, your antagonist needs to be your hero’s equal, or superior to your hero, at least in some arenas. Consider giving the antagonist complementary traits (he’s calm and detail-oriented if your heroine is impulsive; she’s a great team-builder or motivator if the hero is a loner).” – Laura DiSilverio

A common villain archetype has the villain commit some act that creates a link between the villain and hero, ultimately motivating the final confrontation between villain and hero. The act is usually of little consequence to the villain, but immeasurably transforming to the hero. Look at the Harry Potter series, in which Voldemort’s first interaction with Harry is after he kills Mr and Mrs. Potter. Voldemort unknowingly makes Harry a horcrux, which is the key to his defeat years later. Another less obvious example occurs in Star Wars. By making Anakin Skywalker into his apprentice Darth Vadar, the Sith Lord unknowingly orchestrates his own death years in the future. Seconds before his death the Sith Lord lowers his guard near Vadar, assuming his apprentice is too brainwashed to challenge him. Vadar takes advantage of this and kills his Sith master. All the same, the Sith Lord’s choice to make Anakin his apprentice leads to Vadar’s opportunity kill.

Want to learn more about villains? Read the articles linked below to have a better understanding of villains and create unique antagonists for the plot.

6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys by Laura DiSilveria
7 Tips for Creating Unforgettable Villains by John August
Basic Tips To Write Better & More Despicable Villains by
Villainous motivations by roleplaybits