A few days ago I shared Five Reasons I hate your Hero. So today I thought I would expand on that with Five Reasons I Hate Your Bad Guy. Let’s face, many genres live or die with the bad guy. Think of some of the great movies. James Bond, Batman, Iron man, they all have one thing in common- Great Villains. But not all villains are great. If I hate reading a book with a bad hero, trust me, I’m even more annoyed when I read one with a bad villain.
But what makes a bad villain…? What is it that makes me slam the book shut and say I can’t take this junk anymore? As usual I came up with five.
I HATE villains that are nothing more than a cookie cutter bad guy. You know, they’re the ones that are just a strong stereotypical copy. Much in the same way I hate a Hero that is a clone of a past hero; I hate a bad guy being a carbon copy of some other great one. Not all bad guys have mommy issues, not all were bullied or saw their families killed before them. Give me a fresh perspective on evil. Think about it, there is still a Hannibal Lector still out there undiscovered…
I hate stupid bad guys. Think of Home Alone. Now I get it, the bad guys stupidity made the movie the comedic hit that it was, but not all bad guys are stupid. They plan ahead. They don’t make Chessy mistakes that get them caught.
Now I love the show Castle. It’s one of my favorite crime dramas. But Sometimes I get annoyed because I feel as if the bad guy, the one that did it, just comes out and says so when being questioned. Bad guys, the real ones, they wait for their lawyer. They’re not stupid.
Think about what pushes your bad guy to do what he does. There has to be something, some are plain crazy yes, but not all. Is it revenge, anger, loss of control…? Give me something- To use my Shrek analogy from my last post- Give me layers.
I remember when I was reading Stephen Kings novel Under the Dome. Not necessarily my favorite, but it had one of the most irritating bad guys. Big Jim Rennie. Now Big Jim from the TV show is a little weak, but Big Jim from the book- He is just plain evil. What was Big Jim’s motivation? Simple- Power, control, influence… He craved it. He was like a Jim Jones on steroids.
Not All are Evil:
This brings me to a point that many don’t seem to get. Not all bad guys are really evil. Some are confused, others are on the wrong side and just don’t realize it.
Let’s take Darth Vader for example. Evil- You bet. But as time goes on we start to see he really isn’t that evil, he still has a bit of humanity left in him. And it’s that humanity that makes him weak.
Let me give you a good measure tool for evil. Stalin. Write out the character traits of Stalin and then match your character up to them. If they are a match, then your character is evil. If not, there has to be something else you need to show the reader. I think villains that aren’t truly evil are the scariest. Look at Jack Torrance from the Shinning. Evil- No. Disturbed- Yes.
I don’t Hate Them:
Yes, you heard that right… I want to hate your bad guy. I want him to stab me in the gut emotionally. I want your character to make me slam the book shut in anger. I want to put his face on my dart board and… Okay, maybe I went too far. But you get the point.
I hated Big Jim in Under the Dome. I hated Voldemort. I hated Draco Malfoy’s father. Great villains make us hate them. But it is that hate that drives us to love them.
Again, I don’t claim to be an expert on any subject. I have just suffered through too many books where the villain is a joke. So think about what it is that makes you write them to begin with.
As always- Happy writing, happy reading… J.J.