good morning, cyberspace!
With all the story excitement buzzing around me lately — what with me actually finishing the second draft of everlost
(and also having a real live human actually read it hahahahahahahaha #help) and already diving straight into some minor-ish revisions (someone please help me.) — I’ve been finding myself thinking a lot about the craft of building a story.
Relatable heroes, witty (and at times slightly corny) dialogue, vivid storyworlds, understandable and heart-wrenching character arcs. . . These are but a few of the necessary ingredients in the delicious cherry pie that is a good book. But above all these things — sitting high and proud upon the perfectly blended crust — is my personal, completely unbiased favorite — the ice cream.
Or, as it is more commonly known to the average mortal man — VILLAINS.
I love villains. If you’ve been floating around this here blog for any length of time, you are most likely already well aware of this fact, as it is blatantly obvious in my extreme and totally normal obsession with Jim Moriarty.
However. Although Moriarty is complete perfection in every way, shape, and form, it is with the deepest regret that I must admit that he is not the only villain around. There are many villains out there in the world of books. Tons of villains. Some of them — such as Moriarty — are created in such a divine way that they are 100% worthy of my rather unnatural obsessing. Others, however, are more along the lines of meh.
And you do not want a meh villain, my good sir.
But what makes a villain meh, you might ask? What qualities should a vile villain have? What makes a villain, well. . .good?
And most importantly, how can you create a villain that is so masterfully evil, so deceptively twisted, so warped beyond reason and knowledge that it is absolutely impossible not to love him?
How can we — young, inexperienced writers that we are — create the next great villain?
Well, never you fear, my friends, for it is this precise question that has led me to begin what I like to call —
. . . Villain School 101 . . .
Villain School 101 is, in a nutshell, a currently limitless blog series about everything and anything related to villains. Through this series, we shall:
- take a closer look at what makes or breaks a villain
- learn how to make a cruel, ruthless villain painfully relatable
- say the word villain way too much
- listen to me rant and rave about my top ten best and worst villains of all time
- poke and prod at the most offensive villainous clichés
- discover how to shatter through the typical boundaries and learn to create a beautifully unique antagonist that will totally set your story apart from all others
(or your money back, guaranteed)
Sounds fun, amiright?
Basically, my hope for this series is that I can finally take some of my carefully gleaned
opinions knowledge and pass it along to you, my beautiful readers, so that you may go forth and create some truly riveting antagonists that I may someday fawn and flail over.
And also it is a chance for me to rant about super lame antagonists. Because I like to rant. Obviously.
And luckily for me, today’s post happens to be about Villainous Clichés! Which means that I get to vomit my humble yet always correct opinions out into the Great and Terrible Cyberspace for all to see and acknowledge. #selfless
But it also means that hopefully, by discussing all of these frequently overdone clichés, you might be able to pick up on a few tips and tricks as to what not to do when creating your villain, thereby making your villain that much more unique.
Like Moriarty. Because Moriarty is perfection.
And so, without further ado, let the ranting begin!
Villain School 101 — The One About Clichés . . .
Cliché No. 1 — The Sneeeeeeeeeeer.
Ah yes. Coming in at number one on our villainous cliché chart is none other than The Sneer. I know you know what I’m talking about.
Our young, dashing hero — let’s name him Bob — has just encountered the Vile Villain for the very first time. Now Bob, our sweet, innocent little bean who never truly wanted to be a hero in the first place, is trapped in Villain-Face’s dark, gloomy mansion, tied masterfully to a chair and completely unable to escape. His forever best friend (Wilson) has just been murdered right before his very eyes by the evil villain, who forced poor Bob to watch as the life slowly drained out of him. Now, as the villain rises up from the remains of Wilson’s dead corpse, he turns slowly to Bob the Hero, the six-inch blade that had just slit Wilson’s throat glinting in his hand and–!
. . .he sneers.
Wow. What a shock.
Perhaps you haven’t noticed this, but practically every. single. villain. that has ever been created by a writer’s hand sneers AT LEAST ONE TIME. Possibly more. In fact, if they’re truly evil, they might even get a good five or six sneers in on a single page. And that’s all before they flip into their overly exaggerated rant about how they are going to cleave the world of (INSERT WHATEVER THING MADE THEM ANGRY WHEN THEY WERE A WEE LAD)
I guess the whole sneering thing stems from the obvious fact that — HEY! Sneers are creepy. But at this point, it’s just kind of. . .weird. And overdone. And basically makes the wickedness we want to convey in our villains about as scary as a pile of cheese.
And while I get that a sneer is an actual expression that people use to convey disgust or viciousness or whatever it is that they’re trying to convey with a curled lip and a snarl, I still stand firmly beside the fact that The Sneer is GREATLY overused in the world of villains. Villains are supposed to be evil and demented, yes, but being warped and slightly sadistic does NOT equate to exposing your teeth to the elements after every sentence. Unless, of course, you have broccoli caught in your gums. But I digress.
(NOTE – I am completely guilty of this particular cliché. actually, i’m guilty of practically ALL these clichés, but HAHAHAHAHAHAHA whatever.)
Cliché No. 2 — The “Dark”.
Question. . . What’s creepier than a sneer?
Answer. . . Darkness.
Dark hair. Dark cloak. Dark boots. Dark mansion. Dark expressions. Dark soul. Dark darkness. — this villain is so dark that he makes a pitch-black night look like a mid–day sun in comparison. Everything about him is gloom and doom. Everything he touches dies.
In fact, in some circumstances, our villain even has the power to wield the darkness.
Because he’s just that cool, obviously.
Just once I’d like a villain who has control of the light. Let him blind his enemies using the scorching powers of the sun. Let him give himself a glowing aura that makes it impossible for peasants such as Bob
(that’s our hero, by the way. do try to keep up, Smithy.) to look upon his perfect being without burning up their retinas. Let him have a continually growing stash of unicorn-shaped sleeping masks because the light follows him everywhere, keeping him wide awake in the wee hours of the night.
Someone give me a light villain, for crying out loud.
And let’s also completely ignore the fact that I totally gave my first villain power over darkness HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA #fail.
Cliché No. 3 — The Infatuation With Blood and Death and Gore and More Death.
This probably adds in with the ‘creepiness’ factor, but. . .what is up with all the villains being obsessed with death and gore?
I mean, seriously now. Doesn’t anyone else find this just a tiny bit odd? Is there some sort of pledge you have to sign before becoming a villain that legally binds you to relish in every single murder you commit? Do they all hail from some sort of blood donation organization that makes them neutralized to the sight and smell of it?
I get freaked out thinking I’ll accidentally stab someone just by carrying a steak knife to the dishwasher, but these guys are over here gleefully slicing holes in people’s guts like they’re Swiss cheese and twirling their crimson blades in fascination as blood oozes down into their fingernails, all while sneering maliciously and cackling into the foul wind as a dark storm brews above them.
There’s just. . .there’s something wrong with this, guys. I mean, YES. Villains are supposed to be cruel and ruthless. YES. Villains are supposed to murder people. (#fun) But just once I would like to have a villain who couldn’t stand the sight of blood and guts and gore, you know? I want a villain who has to force his henchmen to commit a murder for him because the sight of death makes him puke. I want a villain who’s totally OCD and can’t stand touching a corpse, let alone plunging a dagger into one. I want a villain who has to clear the room when his henchmen prepare to decapitate the hero because he can’t stand the sight of a severed head rolling across the floor like a bowling ball.
I NEED THIS VILLAIN, GUYS. I NEED IT. Which means I’m probably going to write it someday. So.
#DON’TSTEALIT,IT’SMINE. *swats your hand vigorously*
Cliché No. 4 — The Lengthy Speech.
I’ll be honest: this is a cliché that I’ve read and heard about many a time. I am not the first person to say this, and I will most certainly not be the last.
However, it needs saying once again.
One of the strangest and yet most overdone clichés for villains is The Lengthy Speech. For those of you who are lucky enough to have no idea what I’m talking about, allow me to paint you a picture.
is currently on the cusp of a major victory. Bob the Hero is nearly defeated. He is tied, gagged, and completely unable to save himself. Wilson, his final hope of rescue, is dead.
He is alone.
All that remains for the villain to do is to deal the final blow, and yet. . .
. . .he decides to chat. Right now. In the heat of the climax.
Right when our sneering, vile villain who is cloaked in darkness and death could swing the butt of a sword and conk our hero’s lights out for good, he decides to do a play-by-play of A) his entire scheme to take over the world
(because that won’t backfire at ALL), B) all his childhood traumas that apparently scarred him for life, or C) some other random thing that takes up a solid ten pages (or however many it takes for some completely unrelated Joe to come and save Bob the Hero from what we all thought was certain doom.)
It’s during long, aggravating monologues like this that I find myself wishing the villain would just kill the hero already. It would certainly be a lot less painful than hearing all the gory details about how the villain’s nose boil turned him into the terrible creature that he is today.
Cliché No. 5 — The Forever Alone.
Perhaps it was that nose boil on our young antagonist’s face when he was but a wee lad
(why do I keep saying this) Perhaps it was the fact that he was constantly sneering at all the pretty girls.
Perhaps it was because he constantly had blood dripping down his hands and a dark raincloud trailing about him, snapping and sizzling with ominous thunder.
Whatever the case, there is one fact about villains that remains tried and true throughout the years — they are forever and eternally alone.
I’m guessing this stems from the fact that villains don’t deserve true love — or possibly that if they had found true love, they wouldn’t have become a villain in the first place — but I am here to tell you that this just seems false.
Just because a character is innately evil does not mean they shouldn’t find their Happily Ever After. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that they deserve it more than the hero, who we all know is going to end up with whatever girl he’s been secretly crushing on for the past ten years because of how good and special he is now.
But what about our villain? Doesn’t he deserve to find someone as cruel and ruthless as himself to reign at his side forever?
(or at least however long it takes for them to blow up the world with firecrackers, of course.) Can’t a guy find someone who shares his ultimate goal of ridding the world of the annoyingly good-natured hero by strangling him to death with his bare toes?
I don’t know about you guys, but there seems to be something just a tiny bit off about the whole idea that there is only ONE bad guy with a brain in an entire universe of characters. Sure, the villain always seems to recruit a few henchmen monkeys to help him in his endeavors (who we all know can easily be taken down by Bob the Hero with a few good kicks and one well-aimed Super-Punch), but I am tired of henchmen monkeys. I want real villains who actually stand a chance against the heroes. I want best friends bent on wreaking havoc across the universe since birth. I want married villains who are totally in love and totally psycho. I want villains who stay villains when they find their true loves.
And by golly, I WANT A VILLAIN FAMILY.
I want a villain family with a three-year-old who knows how to use a machete, a ten-year-old who burns things and blames it on Fabio the tortoise, and a seventeen-year-old girl who is totally an assassin, but no one can actually prove it. I want a villain family that is completely at war with the rest of the world, who cause mass destruction and chaos wherever they go, and are also extraordinarily fond of the Italian restaurant down the street because apparently they love pasta*.
Villain families, guys. Villain families. Lonesome antagonists are totally overrated. Let’s start doing something a little more unique. Let’s give our villains something — or rather, someone — to fight for.
(*oh my word I am literally getting the hugest plot bunny of ever over here help)
talk to me, peasants!
Well, that ended up being super ranty. Oops. But despite the fact that I basically just shouted in your face for three hours, the real thing we need to focus on here is that I AM FINALLY BACK! (WOOT WOOT!!!) Or rather, my normal posts are back. And that, my friends, is something to celebrate.
With ranting, apparently. And also cookies.
But let’s focus on the questions now, shall we? I want to know your thoughts! What do you think of Villain School 101? What do you think about villains? What are some of your favorite Villainous tropes or clichés? Have you noticed any of the clichés I mentioned here in books, or am I basically just an oblivious Nutter Butter who has absolutely no clue what I’m talking about? (this is literally me, so it’s okay if you call me out on it.) Have you ever used (or are using?) any of these clichés? I’m currently using The Sneer, The Dark, and The Infatuation With Blood and Death and Gore and Also More Death.
(because it’s not like i should follow my own advice or anything, lol, help me) Are there any clichés that I missed in this totally expandable list? Any you disagree with? What are your thoughts on Villain Families? (because I am totally in love with this idea asdfghjkl) How many questions can The Kenzie possibly ask before running out of material? Let us talk about ALL OF THE VILLAINOUS THINGS down below, okay? Okay.
As always, until next time. . .
*flings cookies in the air and disappears*