Ingredients to Making a Great Villain

by Patricia Bradley

Hello, ya’ll from the deep South where the temperature as I write this is a balmy 28 degrees. That’s about 38 degrees warmer than Minnesota where Michelle is.  However, it is 52 degrees colder than South Florida where my daughters live.

What is this mama doing in the frozen north while my children scuba dive and snorkel? Under deadline, that’s what or she’d be warmer.


Photo courtesy of Printmaster

With the deadline in mind, I decided to write this blog about something that I love to create. Villains. Hmmm. Something I love to create. I wonder if that’s why I always give the same answer to people when they ask what I write? My stock answer is, I kill people. Oops, a little rabbit trail into psychology.

Or maybe not a rabbit trail.  Psychology plays an important part in creating villains. I dig deep into my character’s mind, trying to discover why he or she got off track. Often I look at why real people become villains. Here are a few things I’ve learned:

  1. A large percentage of our prisons are populated with men and women who grew up without a father or were disconnected from the father.
  2. Most people act in their own self-interest and commit crimes after weighing the consequences. In other words, if what they want is worth the risk, they will go for it. Most people also think they won’t get caught, and that they are smarter than the authorities.
  3. Addictions drive people to commit crimes.
  4. Greed and power also drive people to commit crimes.

If a writer uses one, two  or even all of the above statements to build a background for their villain, she can create an opponent worthy of the hero or heroine. Remember that villains think they are the heroes–and they are of their own story. It’s just not the story you’re telling. Think about Hannibal Lecter. In his twisted way, he thought he was Clarice’s hero.  See  The Silence of the Lambs Movie Clip Quid Pro Quo on YouTube.

So, who is your favorite villain? Leave a comment to be entered in our $50 Amazon gift card drawing.


About P. T. Bradley

Writer of Inspirational romantic suspense

31 thoughts on “Ingredients to Making a Great Villain

  1. jessicarpatch says:

    I also love to create villains! It’s one of the most intriguing parts of the process. I’m a big fan of Lex Luther (particularly the one played by Michael Rosenbaum on Smallville). He was such a complex character who could be loyal and had moments of goodness, but they were so skewed. That was a great show to watch to really dive into amazing villains. 🙂 Great post, Pat!

  2. I watched a few of those shows–mostly when I was at my sister’s because she never missed an episode. 🙂

  3. I’m not a fan of most villains, but Darth Vader would be one I could possibly call a favorite.

  4. Liz Johnson says:

    Pat, great post! My favorite villain is Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. I didn’t love him so much until I saw the stage the play. He’s just so fascinating. He really, truly believes that he’s the best thing that could ever happen to Belle, and he believes it so much, he’s convinced the entire village of the same thing. His motivation is all about pride, which makes for a lot of opportunities for humor, too.

  5. JillKemerer says:

    Great insight into why people commit crimes! I’m always interested in the psychology of why. 🙂 And I hear you on the cold! Brr…

  6. The psychology always interests me. And I hate the cold. I’ve even threatened to kill off in one of my books the first person who complains about the heat this summer. 🙂

  7. Wes Studi as Magua in The Last of the Mohicans. Ohhhh, boy.

  8. Read the book years ago, but haven’t seen the movie. Guess it’s time. Thanks for stopping by Jennifer!

  9. dtopliff says:

    I like this post, and the art work. Lots to think about, but I want MORE, please. My favorite villain–maybe terrifying Abel Magwitch in Great Expectations who ends up becoming a redeemed good but still rough man.

    • I will be doing a workshop at the MidSouth Christian writer’s conference March 7 on villains. You’ll have to come. Johnnie Alexander will be teaching the hero part. (Don’t you know I’d do the villain part. 😉 )

      Thanks for stopping by Dee!

  10. The “All Time Favorite Villain” rank is divided for me between two antagonists, both created by Jane Austen: Willoughby of Sense and Sensibility, and Mr. Wickham of Pride and Prejudice. Both are libertines who play gentlemen with winning personalities.

  11. Jadis, Queen of Narnia. She’s cold. I’m hearing Heroes and Villains by the Beach Boys now:

  12. Laurie Tomlinson says:

    maleficent will always be my favorite villain!

  13. Great choice! Thanks for stopping by Laurie.

  14. I don’t remember the character’s name, but the British officer who killed the sons of Mel Gibson’s character in The Patriot was just evil.

  15. mandyzema says:

    I’d have to say Prince Humperdink from The Princess Bride.

  16. BetJett says:

    My favorite villain is Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada. In an article, Anne Hathaway said that the first time they met on set, Meryl Streep told her this would be the last time she’d say a nice word. 🙂

  17. I don’t have a favorite Villan because I never like them so I’ll just name a couple ; Biff from Back to the Future or The Wicked Witch of the West from Wizard of Oz or The Joker from Batman or The Queen from Snow White or Darth Vader from Star Wars

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s