Saturday, 13 August 2011

The Good, the Bad and the maybe not quite so Bad??

The Flawed Villain

To say a villain in a thriller story is flawed is like saying coal is black!
Of course a villain is flawed, I hear you say, otherwise he would be a pretty poor antagonist. A good villain has a personality that most of us would not aspire to as he may be capable of the most dastardly acts. I am however talking about a villain who may be flawed because he/she has some decent human traits that show us he isn’t totally bad. The only villain who could be said to be totally bad is the devil himself, I guess. Most others started out as innocent babies and children but maybe something happened to make them bad. Or maybe not – maybe they simply have more of the undesirable human traits in their genetic make up. Nasty traits do exist to some extent in all of us, but hopefully most people have control of those urges and anyway have more humanity and caring for fellow humans. 
How villainous a character is depends mostly on the type of story you are writing. If it is a love rival or a corporate executive he may not be so nasty in all areas of his life but on the other hand if it is a horror/supernatural villain he may have no redeeming features. For example a bad character may be wicked and malicious to people but may love animals! In this way he is a flawed character and not true to the caricature of evil which we may assume him to be. 
 Always, when using villains, a suitable adversary/hero is necessary and it is the juxtaposition of their characters that allow the most conflict and tension in a story.  The hero who has faults is a much more interesting character than the perfect boring type of individual. I think we can relate better to him because he is flawed – as we all are too. Similarly, we all know people who we consider to be horrible individuals but we know (maybe deep down) they will have some redeeming characteristics too.
For me, giving my villains one redeeming human trait, amongst all the vicious, nasty ones, makes them much more interesting ( and indeed fun) and if their malevolent ways came about because of something that happened to them – well, it just makes them all the more intriguing. Not nice and not worth rooting for but maybe a little more human?
So, what do you think? Should villains always be totally bad people with no redeeming factors?


  1. Pat - I agree with you. Giving your Villain a reedeming trait does make them and the story more interesting. Great post!

    P.S. I am looking forward to reading "The Witcheye Gene"

  2. I like the fact that all villains aren't born that way. Some one or some things in their lives often make them that way. The best part is that others may do so, but they don't think of themselves as villains.

  3. Thanks very much for the comments, guys. I so appreciate it! I guess that villains may often be a product of nurture not nature?

  4. When you put it like this, it makes me realise that my new ms has a main character who most definitely flawed. She's good in many ways, and very normal, but she has a dark side that only the reader will work out.

    I wanted to thank you for support in ordering a copy of Discovery at Rosehill.

    Best wishes, CJ xx (Kathryn Brown)

  5. The question of whether evil exists has always fascinated me, and I'm tempted to argue that it doesn't. In all my writing, I try to make my protagonists and antagonists equally likable and flawed characters who just happen to be on different sides of things. I think it's much more interesting that way.

    Also, IMO, Satan isn't completely bad, is he? He's working for God punishing the people who are sent to him.

  6. Many thanks for the interesting comments folks!