Reflection: Not-So-Sympathetic Villains

So I’ve previously written about sympathetic anti-villains, in one of my first reflections, in fact.  I’ve always been a fan of that type of character, but the story doesn’t always need or benefit from such a character.  There are lots of great villains in fiction who are just plain insane.

However, at the same time, saying that the villain’s only motivation is that he’s crazy seemingly makes for a very one-dimensional uninteresting character.  It’s an issue I’ve been dealing with for a while, as I’ve often run into places where making a certain villain more sympathetic would take away from, or at least not help, the story.  Two or three minor villains in the later chapters of Cromm spring to mind.

So, a couple weeks ago, I went to Zenkaikon, and there was an interesting panel I visited about character creation.  At the panel, the topic came up – they believed a villain could be interesting if they’re just insane.  I asked for more details how, and they suggested to add traits to the villain.

It does make sense.  I enjoy a good police procedural TV show, in which the detectives end up going after a serial killer now and then.  It’s pretty rare for a serial killer to be made sympathetic, but the most memorable villains are the ones who kill in unique or interesting ways, or have other interesting characteristics that make them more than just some random nutjob killing people.

This definitely is a good way for me to improve my stories.  Though Cromm has a major sympathetic anti-villain, some of his major associates aren’t supposed to be as sympathetic.  However, I was so afraid that they would end up as dull, generic, one-dimensional characters that I felt I had to include some kind of backstory, which ended up dull and cliche-ridden.

In other cases, I may have already been doing this without realizing – I have a couple villains from early Swogprille that are like this.

Then, I suppose in other cases, maybe they can have some backstory, that’s not sympathetic at all (to a sane person), like them blowing a few minor incidents way out of proportion.

It’s all about making the character interesting, and a less complex character can still be very interesting if written right.  It’s something I’ve definitely got to keep thinking about when dealing with villains I want to make less sympathetic.  Anyway, for now, White Rakogis, signing off!

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