Tropes, Stereotypes, and Clichés
The Villainous Villain!
There is one trope in SF/F & other genre fiction that I have a gripe about: grotesquely villainous villains.
I get it: a hero is only as good as the villain is bad. To raise the stakes and supercharge the conflict in their pieces, writers often need a larger-than-life villain that readers can really hate. But... the hardest part is to give that character sufficient motivation to do really bad things. He or she can't be just evil for no reason.
I'm reading THE DARWIN ELEVATOR - a wonderful sci fi adventure with zombie-like creatures and alien invasion-type stuff. Yet the bad guy--a guys called Russell Blackfield--annoys the heck out of me. He's a deplorable human being: he's brutal to his subordinates, sexist toward women, and generally has an alarming tendency to abuse people. He's the essence of evil and is completely consumed by his thirst for power. I can't stand him!
What examples of villainous villains have you encountered in your reading, and what strategies do you guys use to craft a "good" villain?
--edited by Nevena Georgieva on 11/21/2013, 1:06 PM--
Hmm . . . creating the perfect 'good' villain. That's a tough one.
In my WIP Destiny's Bond, my main Heroine carries the soul of a mortal and the soul of a Goddess who represents the Purity and Light in life. Although Destiny--the mortal consciousness--doesn't understand her drive to protect the innocent and spread her healing light through the lands--which only surfaces later in the book--she has to give into it, as she can do no other. Her desire stems from the Goddess, and she must obey her heart.
So my Villain, Fate, in a sense, is her opposite, the Goddess who represents all that is Sin and Dark. She's wicked to the core, and seeks to drench Drugara in taint. She's nasty and willing to go to any lengths to extinguish Destiny's life, so she can transform Drugara into a realm of gloom and despair. She is evil incarnate.
Now, if this wasn't the case--If I were writing a different novel, where my villain was human--I'd have to give reason for it, a backstory and possible redeeming quality. But since this is literal 'good versus evil', I don't. My villain is evil. Simple as that.
I love this! I recently finished rereading Robin Hobb's Liveship trilogy and she writes some of the best villains I've ever read. Most people in her books are seen as villains not because they're particularly bad, but because their goals go against the protagonists. Sure, there are some bad bad guys, but for the most part it's people with conflicting goals, which I love. Having an antagonist who could have been a protagonist in another story is just very interesting to me.
Here's a more in depth look at how I think villains should be written: http://bridgettemabuto.com/5-tips-for-writing-a-believable-villain/