Hero Archetype #5 — The Villain

I know what you’re thinking right now.  How’s the villain supposed to be a hero, right?  That’s like oil and water, nitro and glycerin.  These things don’t mix and you must be a terrible writer!

Well, if that’s what your thinking, give me a second to defend my position here, as I may win you over by the end of this post.

First, let’s define villain:

(in a film, novel, or play) a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.

What I always liked about this definition is that it highlights the villains importance to the story.  They are only the villain if they’re important to the plot!

So many times I see people write a villain who is totally interchangeable with any other baddy ever created.

It’s natural I suppose.  When I started writing, I used to think everything was about the protagonist.  Have amazingly well thought out and loveable hero save the world against [Insert evil doer here].

The villain was an after thought to me for years until I heard this one line that I say quite often in real life.

The Devil was an angel too.

Now, I don’t mean to make any readers out there get all squirrelly.  Despite being raised Roman Catholic I don’t practice it in any sense, but I will admit I do find the stories in the bible quite inspiring in the sense of perspective.

Exhibit # 1:  Lucifer.

Lucifer was the greatest of all angels.  Hell, his name means Light Bringer!

How did he become the bad guy?

He thought he could run things better than God, and he got his buddies together and made a play at control of the throne of thrones from the great tyrannical bad guy.

Does that sound familiar?

How about the plot of almost every fantasy novel ever written!

Now I’m not sitting here condoning the Devil’s works, or Satanism or however that statement can be construed in an odd, off the wall way.

I’m simply trying to point out that Lucifer, long before he came known as the Devil, thought he was doing the right thing, not only for himself, but for his fellow angels as well.

Doesn’t that seem like quite a noble cause to you?

If you read Paradise Lost by John Milton you’d know where the famous line, “Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven,” comes from.

Don’t you see how the Devil/Lucifer/whatever name you want to give him, has just become a tragic hero?

Don’t you see how if you tilt your head and squint the Devil doesn’t seem so bad.  In fact, he’s starting to remind of of Macbeth and Oedipus Rex as I write this.

What’s my point in all this?

You need to think of your villain as the hero of their own story!

I’m not saying you actually have to make the villain a, “good guy”, with a different opinion.  Evil acts are still evil acts.  What I’m saying it underneath all of that insanity/evil/Machiavellian/whatever type of person you decide to make them, the villain should seem like he’s at least trying to do the right thing according to their own beliefs and/or moral compass. (God forbid right?)

Why?

Because this makes the hero relatable!

People, as we all know, life sucks.

It’s a test first, and lesson last.

No one really knows what they’re doing as they make the big choices throughout their time on this planet.

Everyone has fallen victim to that.  Why not your villain?

If you have a villain with this depth of character then your audience is going to love your story all the more for it.

So, now that I’ve finished explaining myself, do you think still I’m nuts?  Agree?  Disagree?  Whatever you think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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