Learn How to Craft a Memorable Villain
Hello everyone! We have quite the fun post for you today about crafting your villain. We had a Q&A with the quirky and charming Tyler Yeager. He is Co-Owner of Clockbox Production Company. I met Tyler some months back and one day we began talking about our passions. Turned out we have writing in common. I had no idea he had a production company and writes screenplays so naturally, I began to ask him for advice on my own series and the one character I hadn't figured out yet, my villain.
As an author and a reader, I thirst for in-depth conversations about characters, storylines, other worlds, etc. Tyler has a passion for villains so I found myself asking questions that lead to great answers that had me thinking and crafting my villain. From there I thought, if I love the feedback this much I feel as though our readers would love the same. I asked if he would share some of his thoughts for alI of you to read and he was happy to do so! I am excited for his input to help you as much as it has helped me. So here you are, a post on crafting your villain!
Q: What makes a villain great for you and why do you love them?
A: Villains are the guilty pleasure of society. They exist as portraits of different lives we can pretend to experience. They mirror our darkest desires and most basic instincts. For example, the love of money, power, and fame. They also serve as a face to common fears: like violence, poverty, or hunger. Apart from the symbolic nature of antagonists, they can also teach us about perspective and morality.
So, why root for the bad guy? To keep it simple in the real world the "bad guy" wins all the time. It's refreshing to see a villain knock down heroes. Seeing a person you perceive as bad, attacking another man instantly absolves the victim of any moral ambiguity. People will see the hero and want to "root for the underdog."
Basically, I love villains, because they see the world from a unique perspective and they exist as living portals into the deepest darkest lives and desires of ourselves and everyone we know.
Q: Have you ever had to craft a villain in your line of work?
A: Yes, I design villains all the time. Since I was 15, I've been inventing all manner of characters, but villains are often enjoyable to design. One of the first villains I created was Dempsey, an aging accountant, who runs an elaborate smuggling operation. During the course of the film, Dempsey must take action after a shipment of ammunition ignites on a vessel at sea, sinking it and stranding the ship's captain James Willard. Dempsey was an interesting type of Villain in the sense that his choices are driven by logic and his own blend of morality. To Dempsey, the world can be kept aloft by the balancing of books, the submission of bribes, and sometimes decisive acts of violence. He holds seniority over all other characters in the story and as such acts with the most amount of care and thought.
Q: What do you do for a living and how did you get involved in screenplay/production?
A: I am a Freelance filmmaker and I Co-own a production company called “Clockbox Productions” (clockboxproductions.com) As stated I wrote and presented my first narrative in middle school in front of a class of my peers. Growing up I had a teacher who encouraged and pushed me to be a great entertainer and writer. Her name was Jenny Shoeman and she was one of the biggest inspirations for my continued work in writing and entertainment. From grade school onwards through college, I met many fellow filmmakers and have been doing collaborative projects since.
Q: Do you believe villains have redeeming qualities?
A: Yes, very much so. One of my favorite character arcs is watching a truly sinister badass, reveal humanity and become likable. Characters that defy social norms but play to our desires always have the power to relate to us and compel us.
Q: How do you make a reader sympathize for a villain?
A: When a writer is able to conjure humanity or relatable traits from within a villain, we can see ourselves in them and thus relate to them. Here is an example, Kira Yoshikage, a character from “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.” He is a murderer who wants to live a quiet life, masked as a normal member of society. Kira has a special skill which allows him to turn anything he touches into a bomb. Needless to say, he is a very dangerous man, so why do I like him? The reason is simple. Every examination into Kira’s past reveals this misguided life the secrets of his parents, which he desperately wants to keep hidden. It is his humanity that is revealed to us. The mental processes of a murderer and the logic that drives his desires and actions. So, if you want to generate sympathy for the antagonist, simply reveal their humanity, gradually. Do this while isolating relatable traits and all the saucy details. I hope this was useful.
Q: What makes a villain evil versus simply a villain?
A: Evil is all about perspective, that being said account for that in your judgment of antagonists. You can be driven by your own wants and needs and be viewed as a villain. The real deal breaker comes from whether the character feels remorse or is willing to sacrifice the lives of others to obtain their goals. For example, murdering characters for your own gains could be considered the works of an evil villain, while a selfish driver who cuts you off in traffic, isn’t evil exactly, but is definitively a villain.
Q: What makes a villain great and why do we love them?
A: I know it will be hard to explain without being slightly redundant, but Villains who mature during the narrative are often times the most interesting. A character who starts the story as a neutral part turns into an opposing force and is able to explore the world of the narrative from that view.
Q: How does one drive a villain?
A: It's all about what the character wants. Villains sometimes live for the suppression of the protagonist and often find their storyline intertwined with the actions of locations the main character finds themselves in during the story. Other villains have their own goals and objectives which they are trying to achieve by the film's end. In other words, if you want to motivate a villain offer them something they want.
Q: What is a villains purpose and why does he or she exist?
A: In simplest terms, antagonists exist to create obstacles for the protagonist. Think about the roadrunner cartoons. The story is always the same, the roadrunner is always racing towards a destination. The Coyote is always trying to set a new trap and always fails. Without Wile E. Coyote, the narrative wouldn't exist. No force besides the coyote ever hinders the roadrunner. So we can assume any story about the roadrunner racing to a destination will only ever end in success but at the loss of any comedic or dramatic meaning.
I love hearing feedback and getting other peoples viewpoints on the writing process in general. As Tyler has mentioned to me before, villains are great because there is so much you can do with them that can really entice or spice up your story line. The other intriguing side to it as well for a writer, is being able to bring readers in and have them see it from a villains perspective. That's the beautiful thing about writing, especially when it comes to a villain, the possibilities are endless.
We would like to thank Tyler for this Q&A and his feedback. We truly love hearing from others and evoking these in-depth thought-provoking conversations. We hope you enjoyed this as much as we have. Now have fun crafting the perfect villain!