It’s been a while since I talked about the literary characters we love to hate (What Makes for a Good Villain & ABC’s 123’s of Nano: V is for Villain). I’m going to revisit the idea of fleshing out your villains.
Far too often I’m reading stories of our heroes and heroines battling some great evil, be it the wizard from a foreign land or the bitchy girl who wants everyone at the school to bow down to her, but I have only a vague understanding of why these villainous entities are doing what they’re doing. Greed? Lust for power? Fulfilling a prophesy? Because they’re bored and are troublemakers?
I want to know what’s going on in their heads. Were they treated poorly growing up and therefore trying to take revenge on those who held them down? Were they groomed all their lives to take over some evil empire? Did they have abusive childhoods?
I would love to see a story written from both the hero’s and the villain’s point of view, maybe done in alternating chapters, so we can really get a feel for why things are happening. I’m trying to remember a series I read not long ago that included a novella from the “villain’s” POV that gave us a great look inside how he has been trying to please his father his entire life and how he fell in love with the girl he captured and it was great to see that even though he was doing “bad” things, there was still a human side to him.
Aha! It was Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series! The novella was from Warner’s point of view and it gives the reader some great insight as to why he does what he does.
Writing about the villain’s backstory could make the reader come to care more about them, but they don’t have to have a “human” side. Show the reader why they’re inhuman. What caused them to be that way, whether they’re an alien species we’ll never quite understand or if they’ve been corrupted by an evil influence that has left them not caring for anyone but themselves.
Let the reader in and let them know the motives behind things. It makes for a more well rounded story.
Do you feel like learning about a villain’s backstory and motives would make a book more interesting?