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Discussion Starter #1
I am struggling with this. There are two aspects to this. One is an outright villain who commits atrocities without any heed to the effect on others and another who knows that he is harming others and who still does it. But what if the latter thinks it is for the good of the other person? And the other one does not know, cannot know. I have been like that. My father has been like that. Ha! The shame! The shame! This is the character that I am trying to write. Yet it feels like the first one is more villainous because the second one can still be dealt with. But you cannot deal with the first kind. That kind has to be destroyed. But then sometimes the second one becomes so hard that he starts resembling the first kind. Yes, that is the kind of a cruel character that I am trying to write.

So, we start with this one being a nice person and then we see his villainy. The devil lies in the details. Anyone with any insights about writing evil characters? @Llyralen definitely expect something from you here. @PsychReviews ?
 

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What if you explore the Internet and make the character an amalgam of traits based on what you find...
 

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Watch the documentary The Act of Killing. It's all in there, both the evil from a person of conscience and from the person without one.
Heard about this documentary but can't bring myself to watch it. It's just too disturbing knowing that out of all the crimes committed, they simply won and none of them were ever punished. The message is that you can do the worst things in history and you will just get away with it.
 

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You should establish what drives character, view concerning life and said character collection of traits, is your character just an impulsive lunatic that commits atrocities in spur of the moment or does he subscribe to some philosophy like rational egoism taken to the extreme that make said atrocities just results of acting upon a logical conclusion of said philosophy? Once you've one of those three components you can start thinking of two another and try to make them fit into another components so they make consistent whole, for an example if greed and selfishness are key components of the character. then character unlikely will be driven to help local orphans (unless this is most beneficial course of action to them to take and will be rewarded) and adopt utilitarianism as a philosophy, as well-being of others won't be of concern to them and they will seek to maximize their own well-being even at cost of others. Then you move into a more difficult territory as you will have to answer why character is what they currently are, effectively backstory for a character what can be complex as you would in reality will be creating many different characters that will vary to some degree or another from each other as they will be influenced by their experiences upon which they will derive conclusions to form their world view and which they may to some extent act upon leading to other set of experiences that will lead to other experiences derived and so on, it gets even more complex as if you involve other characters into this you will have to do the same in order to create create consistent and well-written characters and story. Of course, you could skip backstory element and develop it later but you may trap yourself then into a plot hole or character inconsistency, as you will be a making character as you go without past in mind and then you may end with difficulty of writing past around what we know about your character and you may forgot some detail you wrote concerning them.Once you have all quirks, drives and philosophy (complex or not) and you can wonder how this character fits into the story (or how could character could fit into the story) and how such character would react in a consistent to character manner to situations they happen to be part of in the story.

That said unless you want to make audience hate character (what may be a good thing if done properly as audience may enjoy getting hated villains what's coming for them) or make character comedically entertaining you may want to give them some even if minor good qualities/traits so you won't them make boring.

If you want a villain that simply can't ultimately (or at all) be reasoned with then either you will have to make them unpredictably impulsive to the point coexistence or letting him exist would be unacceptable option to people that oppose him or person with ultimately incompatible goals or means required (or at least character thinks are required) to achieve that goals being unacceptable to those who oppose such characters. For an example misanthropic and nihilistic character is good type of character that you could pretty much pit easily against any other type of character with little to none chance of other characters avoiding coming to blows with them due to conflict of interests.

Unless, you're speaking about single character with a dual nature that commits self-serving atrocities and at the same time thinking their actions are for good of the others, happened in real world too. However, that's not the impression I got from what you wrote as what your wrote is quite imprecise and chaotically put together.

Heard about this documentary but can't bring myself to watch it. It's just too disturbing knowing that out of all the crimes committed, they simply won and none of them were ever punished. The message is that you can do the worst things in history and you will just get away with it.
Well, it's sort of true message because you can, provided you're lucky enough or create situation where others are unable or/and unwilling to punish you for what you did.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
What if you explore the Internet and make the character an amalgam of traits based on what you find...
I tried that. I ended up rationalizing the negative character completely and lost sight of why I was writing in the first place.
 

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Heard about this documentary but can't bring myself to watch it. It's just too disturbing knowing that out of all the crimes committed, they simply won and none of them were ever punished. The message is that you can do the worst things in history and you will just get away with it.
Nope. That's not the message I got. There are two particular criminals that show their motivations. One with a conscience and one without. Now they did kill Communists, who also killed lots of people as well, so it's not black and white. It's probably the most grey situation when Fascists and Communists kill each other.

Despite that, there's a lot of unintended comedy, like one of them trying to be a politician and the Narcissist talking about these executions in the most bland way possible while shopping in a mall. It tells you that narcissists make excuses to feel better and people who kill with a conscience will have a bothered conscience afterwards. The guy with a conscience was dry-heaving while trying to describe choking several people with wire. His excuse was that it was the right thing to do to kill the communists, so having a conscience doesn't prevent killing, but it requires a purpose that seems heroic at the time. Abusers often feel they are protagonists. I got a lot out of that film...
...but it's not a date movie. :)

You can also see how even the narcissist is somewhat haunted by what happened even when he's shopping or golfing. There's a wish that the killings could have been avoided.
 

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Just take a few things from popular celebrities and politicians that mainstream society is so fond of then you will already have a large component of such a character where everyone has praise for like how Hitler was before the war. The other side just take a few notes from the Bible and you will have one nasty villain that is both praised but equally evil.
 
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A couple of my favorite villains are Homelander from The Boys, and Sylar from Heroes; I especially believe Sylar was the best developed character on Heroes. Very 3 dimensional, I sympathize with them for the unfortunate circumstances that created them. If you're not familiar with either of those characters, get familiar with them. Best insight I got on this matter.

Good luck.

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@burningsoul

Have you seen the recent Joker​ movie yet?

(Not really a spoiler, but just in case)

 
There a scene where the Joker gets condemned for committing murder. The Joker responded something to the effect of "why should I care about those people I killed? None of you would care if I was murdered on the streets!"


I think that's a good insight into the mind of a cruel/villainous character. A character like the Joker believes his actions are justified, no matter how morally reprehensible he may behave. He has dreams and goals like the rest of us, the only difference is characters like him don't play by any rules.

A trick I think to writing a good villain is to make the character somewhat relatable/sympathetic to your audience, versus writing a caricature villain who does evil for the heck of it. If really successful, some of your audience may not even consider your villain to really be the "bad guy" of your story.

An example that comes to mind is the alien character Scorpius from the TV show Farscape. On the surface he appears to be the typical villain: he has no qualms with torturing and/or killing people. However, upon closer examination his character is a bit more complex. He's the product of a brutal rape, he was tortured constantly as a child, and the only life he's known is "the strong survives and the weak dies". His ultimate goal isn't personal power, but rather to save his mother's species from being exterminated. If he needs to kill or torture to accomplish this goal he'll do it, but he will also cooperate and negotiate to succeed as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
@flamesabers

I did see Joker. In this version of Gotham, the Joker does not even come across as a quintessential villain. Maybe an anti-hero. You pointed out some very apt points for me. The villain has to have some details so that the villainy would hurt the audience as well as surprise them. But too much detail into the villain and he starts taking over the narrative. The way I see things, unless someone is an incarnation of the devil himself, everyone has his/her own perspective and narrative for the sequence of events that go on and the narrative is usually equipped with sufficient reason for his/her actions. Take Joker (from the movie Joker) for example. What could his life have become otherwise? He was abused by his mother's boyfriend. He was trying to make do as best as he could. He was beaten up once, twice, given a gun by a colleague because the colleague believed the gun would land Joker into trouble. Getting thrashed by a bunch of bullies in the train he killed them. The narrative does not necessarily make him a villain.

This is what I am struggling with. I want a classic villain. A villain who is a villain. Period. He should not be a caricature and he should have details. But the moment I start detailing him, I tend to lose sight of the larger picture, the story starts becoming a narrative from his perspective, the hero loses moral ground and start seeming like a delinquent and the entire narrative structure collapses. Creating a villain like Joker is beyond my skill right now. I am struggling with the basic, classic villain. Where do I draw the line between the perspective of the hero and the clashing perspective of the villain?

Let me know if you need more details here. I can supply those.
 

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Take Joker (from the movie Joker) for example. What could his life have become otherwise?
Not everyone who is abused and poor becomes the Joker (or even a routine criminal for that matter).

Getting thrashed by a bunch of bullies in the train he killed them. The narrative does not necessarily make him a villain.
It's one thing to shoot in self-defense, quite another to kill someone who is wounded and running away from you. If you want to examine something somewhat similar of a real-life example of the incident on the train, read up on the 1984 subway shooting in NYC:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_New_York_City_Subway_shooting

The public reaction to the subway shooter (Bernard Goetz) was mixed to say the least. Even though the initial trial cleared Goetz of all charges minus unlawful possession of a firearm, there was still people who thought what he did was wrong.

This is what I am struggling with. I want a classic villain. A villain who is a villain. Period. He should not be a caricature and he should have details. But the moment I start detailing him, I tend to lose sight of the larger picture, the story starts becoming a narrative from his perspective, the hero loses moral ground and start seeming like a delinquent and the entire narrative structure collapses. Creating a villain like Joker is beyond my skill right now. I am struggling with the basic, classic villain. Where do I draw the line between the perspective of the hero and the clashing perspective of the villain?

Let me know if you need more details here. I can supply those.
What's your story's genre?

With writing a classic villain, maybe a good starting point would be creating a character who has extremist beliefs that most people would abhor? For instance, someone who is so driven to creating a better society he wants to kill off everyone he considers to be weak/degenerate. Or maybe an environmentalist who will stop at nothing to force modern-day humanity return to the pre-industrial era? Another example is a doctor who wants to find a cure to a disease, even if it means conducting experiments on unwilling human subjects?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
What's your story's genre?

With writing a classic villain, maybe a good starting point would be creating a character who has extremist beliefs that most people would abhor? For instance, someone who is so driven to creating a better society he wants to kill off everyone he considers to be weak/degenerate. Or maybe an environmentalist who will stop at nothing to force modern-day humanity return to the pre-industrial era? Another example is a doctor who wants to find a cure to a disease, even if it means conducting experiments on unwilling human subjects?
Since I have got very positive responses here, I'd reveal a bit more. It is a family drama, but one can also think kitchen sink drama. I am not very sure yet. It's a middle class family with an extremely controlling father. The son has no space to live life, spend money that he earns, and to just be himself. The father's control is so much that even the wife and daughter sing his tunes unaware of how damaging the situation has become in the family. Culturally speaking, this is a malaise that I see too much of. Crudely speaking the argument can be made this way - every government official is corrupt down here and these individuals who are a disease for the society keep a very tight leash on how the affairs run in the family. In the course of the narrative, the son befriends someone outcast from the society and through a subplot finds his voice, to speak of how his life has turned out to be completely different from how he ever imagined it would be.

The son's suffocation is genuine and the father is deeply disappointed that the son hasn't turned out to be how he intended him to be. The father intervened and intruded into every aspect of the son's life so as to turn him into something that would bring the father greater esteem socially. The trouble is, when rationally approached, the father's perspective does not seem wrong. It is in finer details of emotional cruelty that the father reveals himself to have had a tremendous negative influence all around him. Practical details of these things are imaginable, but the father's emotional demeanor is a bit difficult to get my head around. How hard will he be? Where will he go soft? What things he would reject without hearing? What are his own insecurities? I need to breathe life into these ideas. But I am hesitating too much. I don't understand why.
 
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Sounds like Narcissistic Personality Disorder, but they don't really go "soft." The trophy behaviour of the Father towards the son and the need for Intrinsic Motivation for the child are typical in many families. If you want the father to learn a lesson then it can't be complete NPD. There would have to be some empathy. Some abusers mean well. You might want to look at Big Brother in 1984 and tone it down to someone who's not completely pathological.
 

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Think of all the values and morals the best hero would have. Then invert them.
 

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Everyone is the hero of their own mental narrative, even mass murderers.

Think of the slimeball shit the character has done. Now, what sort of justifications/rationalizations/excuses would that someone like that have to use, in order to believe themselves to be a good person?
 

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Have you given much thought to this father character's backstory? What circumstances in his past brought out this need to engineer a "trophy son"? Did he grow up poor? Was he ridiculed? Perhaps he's trying to live vicariously through his son's achievements which he himself never accomplished. Was his own father tyrannical? You don't need to come up with some complicated backstory, but a general idea will give you a guide on what his values are and what situations he will react strongly towards.

If you have already written down some of this story, then perhaps you can look back and pay special attention to this character. If you notice that he has a particularly strong reaction or does something unusual, then consider what might be the cause and how that might relate to his background.
 
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