The Villain's Motive
Leaping from the pages of my latest book, my hero materializes before me as a tangible being, as real as the person sitting by me on the subway or passing me on the sidewalk. A hero, a.k.a. “the good guy,” a male lead character, can be defined by their unique characteristics or personality, but one common denominator among them is their opponent, a.k.a “the villain.”
The “Joker” to the “Batman”. The “Lex Luther” to the “Superman.” The “Loki” to the “Thor.” Every superhero faces a villain or two. Good versus evil. It’s the whole yin yang thing – the complementary nature of opposite forces. As in Newton’s Third Law, “for every reaction, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” without a villain, the need for a superhero ceases to exist.
If a hero surfaces to become a savior of sorts – a crime fighter, a protector – what perpetuates the emergence of a villain? Their motive. Whether it be revenge, love, power, pride, survival, ambition, fear, hate, greed, corruption, acceptance, rebellion and countless others… The motive defines the “why” behind the villainy. There would be no hero without the existence of the villain. The villain is just as, if not more, important to the story as the hero.
An effective villain is created with the same care, and completeness, as all the other characters. Many approaches can be taken, using complex motives, relatable characteristics, realistic conflict. A villain can be written as a tragic hero, someone who invokes sympathy in the reader. The good guy who commits a bad deed in order to achieve a good goal: protect a loved one, save the world. A villain can be written as a character with no redeemable qualities, whose main purpose is self-serving, regardless of the consequences.
A Vampire’s Tale contains a very obvious villain in the vampire set on destroying my hero Corgan Halton, and everyone he cares about, in an act of revenge. Revenge is a strong motivator. In this case, the vampire has been waiting a long time to extract payment for what he sees as a grievous injustice committed against him. He had been a young member of a nest of vampires. In his insecurity, he and other immature vampires one-upped each other in vile acts in order to solidify their positions within the group. Motivated by the desire for acceptance and the lust for power, a side effect of immortality, when his plans were thwarted in an unexpected turn of events, he carried on, re-building his vampire nest and planning to strike back.
A less obvious villain is Corgan’s maker, Dee. Turning Corgan into a soulless, blood-craving monster seems like an “un-death” sentence. Her motivation? Loneliness. Possibly driven from the fear of being alone, the instinct for survival, the need for love. In her own way, she saw turning him into a vampire as an improvement to his human life. As his maker, she is protective of him, wielding hurt to those she sees as a threat, still she callously left him for a time to fend for himself. Yet, out of love for him, there are no limits to what she will do. Dee initiated the fight with the vampire nest. Dee threatened my heroine, Marisa Clements, when she saw her as a risk to Corgan’s well-being. Dee has a “the end justifies the means” mentality, with a very loose concept of morality. She is an unrepentant killer, a selfish survivor.
Revenge. Acceptance. Power. Fear. Survival. Love.
A villain is a complex, integral character driven by motive. The villain’s motive.