Last week I was filling out interviews for a blog tour that I will be on, and one of the questions was: Who is your favorite villain? I assumed it meant in my writing, but I wasn't sure, so I skipped it. But I haven't been able to get the question out of my head.
I'm a big fan of villains. As long as they are done well. More often than not, they are stereotyped and one dimensional. That's not to say that's always bad, but I like my villain to have some depth. I like to know their background and what drove them to act they way they act. I like them to be smart. It's fine if they're driven by revenge, and it's okay if they get beaten, but I want them to be hard to beat.
One of my favorite villains of all time is Darth Vader. The Empire Strikes Back is one of my favorite films because the bad guys win. It doesn't last, but that's all right. It's not supposed to. One of the reasons Darth Vader is my favorite is because he's so complicated. He's the worst guy in the universe with a bad temper and the ability to choke someone with his thoughts, but he's also torn between following the orders of the Emperor and saving his family.
By the end, we know what he decides, but up until that point, he's a major force to deal with. He's tough. He's smart. He knows what he wants, and he goes after it. Everyone is afraid of him. And if they aren't, they will be. That's what a bad guy should be.
The purpose of villains is to put the heroes in stories to the test. Villains are supposed to drive heroes to the brink, and the hero has to figure out how to come back. The tougher the villain, the harder the hero has to fight and the better they become.
When I create villains in my stories, I try to make them as human as possible but with a dark side. Sometimes, I imagine them as serial killers. Who better to model them after than a person who knows exactly how to act normal but hides a sinister side? I try to make my villains smart and driven. But like all villains, they are flawed. They have to be. They have to have a weakness that can be exploited so the hero can overcome them. But I try not to make it too easy. My heroes don't usually come out of the confrontation with the villain unscathed. They are usually worse for the wear.
In addition to liking my villains tough, I also like my heroes a little flawed. I don't like them too perfect. I like them human. Batman is one of my favorite heroes. But that's a different post.
What about you? Who's your favorite villain?