1. Carol McLaughlin says:

    I have a love/hate relationships with villains. I hate what they do to my favorite characters but I love how they make the story compelling. J.K. Rowling created some of the most complex and interesting villains.  Voldemort and Bellatrix Lestrange are two that come to mind.  Both are elitist villains.  Then she also creates a villain like Severus Snape who ends up surprising you. 🙂

    • Yes, Snape was really surprising! He loved Lilly, but I don’t think he ever figured out that when you love someone, that love opens up your heart. And his heart never went past Lilly.

  2. Dee Kincade says:

    Morgan, this is an excellent article. I never thought about villains beyond their evil intents and sometimes their past. As I think about those evil characters in the books I’ve read, I can see them falling into the categories.

    My favorite villain would have to be Dictator Snow in the Hunger Games. He wants what he wants, no matter what it takes or who is killed.

    Hmm, the villain in my book is definitely in the “Bad” category.

    Thanks for an eye-opening way to look at them.


    • Dee, I think it took me writing my own books with my own villains to see how multifaceted they could be. They’re not just bad (even though they are) they are bad for different reasons and in different ways. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Alex Mellen says:

    I’m trying to decide how I would classify Darth Vader. He seems to actually fit in the “good” category. He joins the Dark Side to “hopefully” save Padme, and later, he’s serving the Empire by getting rid of the rebels. (However, the Emperor is a “bad” villain.) But I feel like there can be a danger of sympathizing too much with the villain. That’s why I’m skeptical about stories like Wicked. When we try to justify a villain’s actions, we might stop seeing them as wrong.

    Do you think a villain in any of the three categories can be redeemed? Or only the “good” ones?

    • You know, I forgot about Vader doing what he did to save Padme (I try to forget the sequels were made sometimes ;).

      I agree with you there. I never liked Wicked either. I think it is good to sympathize with the villain because we see that spark of humanity still left in them and we hope that spark wins out in the end (even though it usually doesn’t). And when we do see a villain saved, we believe then we can be saved ourselves.

      But it is a fine line between sympathizing with the villain and accepting what they do. Villains are villains for a reason: because they hurt people. I’m trying to think of a villain right now that didn’t hurt a person, but can’t think of one off of the top of my head. Hurting people is never ok. That is why I don’t like watching heroes who are ok with hurting people to reach their goal.

      • As far as redemption for villains, I think it depends on what you mean by redemption: a cleared case in court? No consequences for past actions? Eternal forgiveness and salvation?

        It’s interesting you ask this because when I was writing Valin, I cared about him. I knew his past, I knew his thoughts, I knew his heart. And I wanted him to be saved. But I also knew that he would not choose that path. Each choice we make changes us. His choices changed him into the being he became, one that could not see past his hurt and hatred. And so in the end… well, you’ll have to read the book 😉

        But I do believe that by God’s power, anyone is redeemable up until the moment they die. Even villains. Look at the thief on the cross.


        • Alex Mellen says:

          By redeem, I meant turned back to good/saw the error of his way. Like Darth Vader. Or the Apostle Paul. He thought he was doing the right thing by persecuting Christians, but then he was saved.
          Can you think of a villain who was completely evil–on the “bad” side of the scale–who was redeemed? I’m guessing there’s some example.
          Actually, a webcomic I read, Archipelago, might have a case of that. I won’t say more *spoilers again*.

  4. Winter says:

    I’d have to say, I love elitist villains. They’re fun to write, fun to watch as they grapple with the dichotomy of power not equalling success. They also have the best lines. 😉

  5. Wait, Jacen becomes a Sith?!  🙁  I used to read some of the EU books about the twins as teenagers, but I guess I never got that far in their story.  How sad!

    My favorite villain is Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender.  I know (SPOILER!!) he eventually turns around and is no longer a villain, but his character development was soooo good.

    The villain in my book is sort of a mix of good and bad.  He’s good toward his own people – his motives are to make a new home for his family and alien race.  So he does think he’s saving his people.  But he’s like Loki in the way he looks at humans and the other human-like race in the story.  He has no qualms about wiping them off the face of the earth or torturing them brutally, because he sees them as inferior.

    • Bethany, you know I tried to figure out if I should say spoilers, but are they spoilers if they don’t exist in the established world anymore? *grin*

      I love Zuko! I would consider him more of an anti-hero than a villain. And if you’ve read my books, you know how I like my anti-heroes 🙂

      • Bethany J. says:

        True, it’s not really a spoiler anymore.  That’s why I didn’t say, “Hey, that was a spoiler!!”  🙂 But I enjoyed reading those back in my Star Wars loving days.

        Ah, you’re probably right about Zuko being an anti-hero more than a villain.  But I’m not a huge fan of anti-heroes, 😉 unless they are played more like villains, I guess!

      • ‘Ware spoilers:

        I wouldn’t say that Zuko is even an anti-hero (which implies some state of permanence). Instead he’s a repentant villain: a villain-turned-total-hero.

  6. Julie D says:

    There was a gifset (see below; I couldn’t embed the link)  I saw not that long ago that said a “villain is a victim whose story hasn’t been told .”  Heretical ! And even with the characters chosen, they ranged from elitists (Loki) to formerly brutalized characters who chose revenge (Magneto),  but there’s a difference between understanding why villains do what they do and excusing them.  And I second Alex’s concerns.




    • Yeah, I don’t agree with that assessment as well. Not every villain is a victim. And even if they are a victim, they are still responsible for what they have done. For a villain to truly seek redemption, that first step is to accept responsibility for their actions. Until they see what THEY have done, they can never move forward.

  7. LadyArin says:

    One of my favorite villains is the lich sorcerer Xykon from the web comic Order of the Stick. He is definitely “bad”, though i’m not sure he counts as elitist, either. He’s a straight-up psychopath (or sociopath; i’m never sure which of those words to use) who gets his kicks from murder and chaos, and nothing else.

    His right-hand goblin, Redcloak, would fall under Good. His goal is, and always has been, to get a better deal for the goblin people of his world. His motivation comes in part from the destruction of his childhood village – something only he and his little brother escaped. But noble as his goals are, his partnership with Xykon has resulted in the unjustified deaths of countless people.

    What’s interesting about Redcloak, too, is that he’s already been forced to confront that fact. He’s not the hero of his people he wants to be, and if he doesn’t realize that, it’s only because he’s denying it to himself.

    In general, i think i like Bad villains better. The few Good villains i like that i can think of off-hand tend to make me uncomfortable — maybe because the fact that i like them makes it hard to watch them behave badly, i don’t know.

    Anyone here a fan of stories where the villain is the protagonist? In a way, the plot of Shardik (a book by the same man who wrote Watership Down), is about the main character discovering he has behaved villainously, albeit for a Good cause, and trying to fix it.

  8. Tim says:

    I would say that there are, for audience reaction, also three villain types. There are those you truly want to see redeemed, those you know are evil but can’t help liking, and those who you hate and want to see beaten. I’d say Vader, Loki and Fisk, and the Emperor represent these three respectively.

  9. Pam Halter says:

    I adore my villain, Tzmet. She was a spoiled child who now thinks she can do anything she wants because she’s always been able to. But when her world is rocked, she begins to see she’s not that important. There are so many layers to her personality, I can hardly take my eyes off her. HA! The challenge for me is to make my heroine just as interesting. That’s where I am in my revisions now.

    Has anyone read The Host by Stephanie Meyer? Now there’s a main character who is both hero AND villain! At the same time. It fascinates me. If you’ve read the book, what do you think about Wanda? I haven’t seen the movie, but have been told it’s not that good.


  10. Pam Halter says:

    And Jabba the Hut – oh yeah … truly ugly.  I still shiver when I see that nasty tongue lick his lips when he has Leia captive.  *shudder*

    I have to say my favorite TV villain was Sylar from HEROES. At least, in the beginning. As soon as he came in on a scene, I could feel the tension in my body. But then he got wimpy and I didn’t like him anymore. I’m kinda feeling that way about Regina in Once Upon A Time, too. She was a much better villain than a good witch. And the storyline of the show is just stupid now, but that’s a different subject.  😉

    • Bethany J. says:

      Totally agreed about Sylar, and OUAT! Sylar was great (at first) and so was Regina (at first). 😛

      And I’ve read The Host and really enjoyed it…I didn’t think of Wanda as a villain, though.

      • Pam Halter says:

        But Wanda really is a villain at first, right? The souls are taking over the humans and she’s part of that plan. *spoiler alert* Then she realizes what it’s like to BE human. She gets to know Melanie. And she becomes the hero.  I love her so much.

What do you think?