Villain Week Finale – Liches and Other Undead

The struggle of saving Liches and the Undead for the final day was really painful, but worth it in the end. Why? Because there was, believe it or not, an actual order to this week. The posts began with tyrannical, evil leaders, a sub-type of villain characterized by a constant craving for more power, and it ends with Liches and the Undead. Like Old Gods and Invading Species, Liches and Undead don’t necessarily want power. Their motives aren’t always known. More often than not, however, these three types of villains (well, it’s more a guaranteed thing with the Old Gods and the Liches) are all about destruction. Invading Species may show up and eradicate any resistance before continuing with their plans. They may be doing so to pave the path for world domination, or they could be setting up for planetary destruction. The Old Gods could very well have deeper motivations that aren’t always made clear through their actions, but the ultimate goal usually seems destruction and the further-spreading of madness.

Liches, however, and their Undead legions are delightful in that their endgame typically revolves around one guiding principle: the eradication of all life. Unlike Invading Species and Old God counterparts with the same goal, the Undead have one added trick that helps make them such a formidable agent of chaos: the more death they cause, the greater their own numbers become. The Undead, however, are notorious for not being the easiest creatures to keep indisposed. There’s necromancy for raising new undead creatures (or bringing back the fallen ones), viruses and plagues that lead to undeath, and so on and so on. Whether created by magic or malady, once the Undead show up they are guaranteed to keep on keeping on until they are stopped at the source. Not all Undead are subservient to a higher power, such as Liches, as evidenced by The Walking Dead and George Romero’s (Whatever) of the DeadContinue reading

Friday Villains – Old and Forgotten Gods

The biggest, nastiest possible invading forces are those with roots in creation and destruction of life are Old and/or Forgotten Gods. These big, nasty beasties rear their ugly heads (and tentacles and many-fanged maws) in all manner of entertainment media, and they are generally not showing up to make life better.

Old and Forgotten Gods aren’t always quite the same (ignoring the ever-present tentacles in most cases), but they all seem to share the same capacity for inducing madness and serious unrest wherever their presence is felt. Whether it’s their mere existence or a gradual, quiet whispering of dark horrors, any who are unlucky enough to be sensitive to these beings’ existence seem to end up going completely bonkers. In some cases, this could be a form of mind control. In others, it’s simply the effect of gazing into the unknown and realizing there’s some pretty horrifying shit out there.  Continue reading

The Wednesday Villain – The Power-Hungry Subordinate

Praise Odin it’s Wednesday and the worst of the week is probably over with. Probably. Shit, I certainly hope it’s over with at this point. Also, I realize that all of the types of villains I’ve featured so far are power-hungry. That shouldn’t be particularly surprising. This post feels even more ridiculous since the writing process involved in it has now spanned the entire day and I’m still only on the introduction. Bonus points because I at least managed to start organizing my living room, and I trimmed my beard for the first time without completely shitting it up. Please don’t judge me too harshly for that last bit, as this is my first real attempt at not being perpetually baby-faced. Right. So, moving on.

Today’s all about the Power-Hungry Subordinate. These are the bad guys waiting for the right time to make their move, stepping out of someone else’s shadow in hopes of casting a far greater one of their own. That’s not to say all villains classified as this type are working for other ne’er-do-wells, however. Some of the best-known Power-Hungry Subordinates find themselves trapped answering to a horribly cheerful, aggressively positive force of good. Such a dreadful fate. I wanted to try arguing these sneaky minions find themselves on a mission to overthrow a Tyrant, but I fear I might be venturing dangerously far into the realm of wishful thinking.

As with other types of villains, they can be pitiable. The Power-Hungry Subordinate seems to have a greater capacity for being sympathetic figures as they are typically in situations that have driven them to extremes, even if they do have broken moral compasses to begin with. I’ll get to that a bit more in one of the examples, though. Continue reading

Tuesday Villain – The All-Powerful Sorcerer/Sorceress

The word sorcerer apparently really trips my brain up for some reason, which is a bit embarrassing really since my genre of choice is fantasy. I’m also far more tired than is conducive to writing a blog post, so I better get my ass moving or this will conclude abruptly with a bunch of garbled nonsense from my face slamming against the keyboard. This post is technically late, and I wish I had an excuse. Instead, I was watching videos of Markiplier getting scared out of his mind while playing Five Nights At Freddy’s. Whoops?

All-powerful magic users are a prevalent part of popular culture. They’ve been a big deal for a long time, and they can be sagely advisers just as easily as they can be agents of profound evil. As a former practitioner of the dark arts, via my Warlock in World of Warcraft, I feel it’s my responsibility to weigh in on the dark and light sides of sorcerers and sorceresses, both of the good and bad variety. Tonight’s, of course, is all about the villainous ones. Continue reading

Celebration of Characters – The Tyrant

On the first day of villainy, FictionalPenguin gave to thee…the Tyrant of boundless power and greed!

I’m so sorry. That was really the worst, just like the first kind of villain I’m focusing on: the Tyrant! Tyrannical leaders come in all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, and so on. They can start off as a democratically elected official with the best of intentions and the worst ways of handling said intentions, or they could always be a bad-to-the-bone, power-mad thug.

The Tyrant is almost always a control-freak. Every aspect of their dastardly plots, whether those plots are just to keep a kingdom under complete control or world domination, must be something they have total command over. Being able to manipulate every detail of their surroundings is key, to these characters, in maintaining their death-grip on power. Without that, they seem to have nothing and so such characters fall apart. Continue reading

A Celebration of Characters: Villains Week

It’s week one of that idea I mentioned yesterday! Surprise, it’s all about villains. Fret not, lovers of do-gooders and champions of justice, as the Heroes Week will follow with just as much attention and love as this one. I’m aware that’s shocking stuff, so don’t let that cause too much stress.

However, enough about heroes. This week is all about villains, and I’ve picked specific villainous types for each day from Monday through Saturday. I could explain it, but I took a picture of my notes earlier as a teaser and, really, that’s the easiest way to handle this. If we’ve not yet established my capacity for being supremely lazy, this is a great time to do so.

It's official because I wrote in a notebook.

It’s official because I wrote in a notebook.

The plan for each day is to define each type of villain mentioned above, giving specific examples in popular culture, and then discussing the pros and cons of their use. I’ll also be focusing on how they can, in their own way, be the heroes of their own narratives (even when they are causing chaos and destruction all around them). There are some exceptions to that last bit, as Friday and Saturday’s options don’t really leave a whole lot of room for arguing that they’re just misguided and trying to do what’s best. Old Gods and Liches are usually just forces of pure, ancient evil, after all, and so they’re typically convinced the best possible plan of action is laying waste to everything.

I’m especially excited for the Lich entry, but I’ve saved the best for last.

Brace yourselves, folks. This week’s about to get awfully evil.

Creating monsters is my favorite thing to do

Or “This is totally a love letter to writing strong, love-to-hate-and-hate-to-love villains.”

I love me some well-crafted villains.  That’s not exactly news to most people.  There’s a certain appeal to bad guys that heroes can’t capture, and for obvious reasons.  Sure, the hero saves the day, usually by dramatically untying the dude or damsel in distress, foiling the villain’s plan, and defeating/imprisoning/killing off the bad guy in question.  And yes, there’s definitely something enjoyable about writing the hero, flaws and all.  My heart, however, will always have a special soft-spot for creating the villains.  You may find yourself asking “Why’s that, Phil?”

Honestly?  Because we’ve all got a bit of a dark side; that little monster in the back of your head, hiding right behind your conscience and whispering things you’re sure couldn’t have been your own thoughts.  Villains provide the backwards version of our own moral compasses.  That’s not to say all villains are purely evil, and I’ll get to that shortly, but oftentimes they are modeled after a writer’s own view of what is wrong.  You won’t find any heroes tying people to railroad tracks or dangling them above shark tanks.  They’re the thieves, the marauders, the evil grand viziers (or, really, just grand viziers, because that titles seems to belong exclusively to sinister folks intent on taking over the government), the terrorists, and so on and so forth.

There’s so much fun potential for depth and moral gray areas with villainous characters, though.  Can they have redeeming qualities?  Yes.  Why not make them just a teensy bit likeable, too.  Or what if there’s some sad backstory on how they became the nefarious overlord or overlady they are in your story?  Writing villains, at least for me, is the creative equivalent of finding myself on a private beach with a bunch of construction equipment and endless hours to build the most epic, giant sandcastles ever.  That comparison sounded so much cooler in my head.  The best villains are the ones the reader will sympathize with.  The ones who will make readers think “Wow, what an asshole,” but still also cause the reader to want to wrap them in a shock blanket, offer them a mug of hot chocolate, and assure that everything will be okay (just as soon as they put down the remote to their Doomsday Device).  The most fun comes from finding the perfect blend of whatever brand of evil a villain should be and redeeming qualities.  My ideal villain needs to be just evil enough, but have a strong enough pull on a reader’s heartstrings to leave them thinking “Oh, man, did I really just hope this nutcase succeeds over the hero?”

Now you might be saying “Phil, I think you might be a little twisted.”  Maybe you’re right, convenient character helping me transition between talking points.  I would argue, however, that everyone is a little twisted by other people’s standards.  Everyone has at least one or two behaviors or traits that can, and probably would, make another person’s skin crawl.  The fun in writing a good villain is taking a trait like that, mixing it up with other things such as a dash of charisma or a hint of homicidal tendencies, wrapping it in a bow, and then letting it run havoc all over an otherwise perfectly peaceful fictional world.

Villains stir things up.  They screw with the status quo, help get heroes to the moral of the story, and, quite frankly, usually look pretty awesome in the process.  This post was brought to you by me writing a particularly “holy crap, did I just think that” line for a villain in Joshua’s Nightmares.  What are your favorite bits about writing bad guys?  And yes, killing them off in magnificently creative ways is an option.