A common piece of advice given to authors regarding their villains is as follows: write a villain who believes he or she is the protagonist of the story. What does this mean? That a villain isn’t simply “the plot device that keeps the main character from achieving his goals instantly.” Instead, a believable villain has his or her own goals, desires, and frustrations beyond the fact that the hero constantly foils his/her diabolical plans. In other words, you could tell a story from the villain’s point of view and it would actually be interesting. This week’s Savvy Saturday gives three examples of this. Are you ready? Let’s dive in!
To get you started, here’s an awesome video from a very creative YouTube channel that tells the woes of Disney villains – in their own words.
Next, check out this brief piece of flash fiction (less than 150 words). The point-of-view character would be the antagonist if this story were written. However, you can also tell that she has issues that she’s dealing with – she isn’t just being mean for the sake of being mean. Take a look:
“It’s for your own good, you know.” Marina folded the twenty and slid it into her jeans pocket, ignoring Billy’s wide eyes and the red blotches forming on his seven-year-old cheeks. He stared at his clenched fist, as if he expected the bill to reappear in it at any second. “Mom never gave me money when I was your age,” Marina said, her tone purposefully light. “She said it spoils kids rotten.”
“But Aunt Jenny said it’s mine!”
“Aunt Jenny doesn’t care whether you become a spoiled brat.” That was true. All Jennifer cared about was her next check from the foster agency. “You want to be a big boy, the way Momma would want you to?”
Billy’s lip trembled, but he nodded.
“Then forget about the money and do your homework.” Marina watched Billy walk away, shoulders drooping. She kept her smile well hidden until he was gone.
Finally, my novel, The Quest of the Unaligned, features several characters who work against the main character Alaric, but have their own goals and struggles as well. First is Lord Ruahkini. The old nobleman honestly believes that he’s helping Alaric. He is simply so self-centered, proud, and convinced of his noble superiority that he just happens to nearly destroy the kingdom. Second, King Kethel and Queen Tathilya also want to do what’s best for Cadaeren and for Alaric…as long as it doesn’t interfere with what they want for themselves. They want to enjoy the privileges of being unaligned without the responsibilities that come with it – and when anyone tries to get them to change, they are (understandably) annoyed. These three characters are not quite as complex and interesting, however, as the mysterious Gaithim. This is the only individual in the book purposefully trying to destroy Alaric. However, his goal isn’t to kill the prince simply to gain power or to show how evil he is. Instead, he is attempting to prove his self-worth to everyone who has looked down on him all his life. More personally, he is taking revenge on his brother, who has treated him like scum and kept him locked away from society like a monster. He has valid and multifaceted reasons for everything that he does, so that if a novel was told from his point of view, it would both 1) make sense and 2) not be completely boring.
What is the goal of the villain in the most recent story you have read or written? If you wrote the book from his/her point of view, would it be interesting and complex? If so, why? If not, how could you change it to make it interesting and complex?