And I guess the exact opposite of this statement is to create a villain who is evil only for the sake of being evil, or is only evil for the sake of a story plot.
And if someone is simply evil only to give your hero someone to fight, then they run the risk of becoming simply a caricature of a bad person, instead of a living breathing villain.
In short. They don’t feel real.
I have noticed that so many new fiction writers fall into this pitfall, myself included.
Maybe it is a rite of passage? I dunno.
For example, my very first book (which I have long since deemed completely unusable ) starred a TRULY AWFUL VILLAIN. I mean this guy was sweaty. He had bad breath. He was ugly and gruff and really mean. He was even racist!
So clearly this guy was BAD NEWS.
Except of course he wasn’t.
He was just a seriously weak character that had a role to play within my plot, but no presence whatsoever within my story.
No one sighed with relief when he was vanquished, because he simply wasn’t scary.
So why is this?
He was just too evil without ever having a legitimate reason to be that way. Which means he was two dimensional. He wasn’t real.
After all, villains are people too.
Examples of stupid villains?
And I think it is just lazy writing.
(P.S, the first five season of this show are total TV gold).
So Darth Vader is not simply a bad man. He is a complex human of many contradictions, one who has made bad choices and done terrible things.
And I think that is exactly what makes a compelling villain.
So my takeaway from this lesson, is probably the word ‘humanity’.
Unless your villain is a predator from another world, I think the key word should always be humanity.
Make sure your villains have it.
Definitely still make them as evil as you like, by all means go all the way, just make sure they are not bad for the sake of being bad.
After all, villains surely don’t believe themselves to be villains. They probably think they are doing the best they can with the cards the world has dealt them. They are living life the way they believe they should, within the rules of their world.
So if your villain (or a side character who is clearly meant to be BAD NEWS within your plot) is smelly, ugly, sweaty, sexist, racist, mean and violent, and is written that way for no other reason except making your readers hate them, maybe it's time to think about approaching it a little differently.