Bad to the Bone Villains Make Your Heroes Hurt
“Bad to the Bone Villains Make Your Heroes Hurt” by Joan Y. Edwards
It’s amazing how many stories are even better in our minds because of the villain in each of them. A villain is the main antagonist who deliberately sets out to cause harm or stop the hero from achieving his goal. These villains seem to be bad to the bone. They make your heroes hurt. This tension makes an intriguing story. Each evil step the villain takes to stop the main character must add a difficult challenge for your protagonist.
Imagine Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs without Queen Grimhilde the Evil Queen. It would leave the story boring and without the big life/death problem for Snow White.
Annika Griffith explains that the villain is a character type, and the antagonist is a plot role.
Zara Altair says to make sure your villain has one or more of the following characteristics:
- He or she is worthy enough to make your protagonist look good.
- His or her skills match or exceed your protagonist’s.
- He/she believes he/she is doing the right thing.
- He/she has characteristics that match your protagonist’s, but they are misguided.
It’s a good idea to give your villain redeeming characteristics. Make them good in one area that would surprise readers because of his easily recognized flaws.
Think of the following antagonists. These are some of my favorite antagonists to hate. Are they all the main antagonists in the stories? Are they villains in your eyes?
- Captain Hook in Peter Pan.
- Lady Tremaine from Cinderella.
- Ursula in Little Mermaid
- Jafar in Aladdin
- Juror #3 in 12 Angry Men was the antagonist. He was played by the late Lee J. Cobb.
- Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest
- Count Dracula in Dracula
- Goldfinger in Goldfinger
- The Glee TV Series without Sue Sylvester wouldn’t be as intriguing to watch. She keeps you wondering what awful thing she’s going to do next to upset the apple cart plans of the heroes and heroines. I must admit that sometimes she was so evil, I stopped watching the show.
- In Murder Mysteries, like TV Shows Matlock, Columbo, and Monk, the antagonist is the murderer.
The antagonist is the person or thing n who gets in the way of the hero or heroine in the pursuit of his goal.
Sometimes, a character’s opponent is nothing tangible. It may be abstract, such as an internal struggle, a difficult situation in life, weather, or other things.
Gabriela Pereira says villains are not usually all-bad, they’re just misunderstood.
From what I’ve read, the villain intentionally sets out to stop the protagonist from reaching his goal. Other antagonists may stop him, but that wasn’t their primary goal.
On Pro-Writing Aid, Zara Altair says an antagonist’s role is to cause trouble for the protagonist. There may be more than one antagonist in a story. Each antagonist throws daggers to create problems for the main character which adds tension to the story. Antagonists test the strengths and show up weaknesses that your main character has to overcome to reach his goal.
1. Another Character – A friend that betrays the protagonist, a villain who sets out on purpose to stop the protagonist. Other antagonists may be characters who stop the protagonist from reaching his goal, but that was not their main purpose.
2. Features of the Natural, Physical, Material World
3. Culture/Society/Authority. The antagonist uses or abuses rules of society, authority, rules, or traditions to stop protagonist from being successful in reaching her goal.
Energy/Agriculture/Architecture/Entertainment & Media/Arts & Music/Appliances/Industrial Machines/Clothing & Accessories/Medical/Assistive/Science/Space/Robotics/Artificial Intelligence/Superintelligence/
5. Supernatural Forces/superpower interaction/vision faculty, mentality-based powers Belief in and practice of magic, spiritual, religious, medicinal healing
6. Self – self-defeating, undervaluing behavior, lack of skills, lack of information, lack of self-control, fatal flaw. The main character’s inner nature of what they usually do can create havoc to keep from reaching his goal.
My favorite villain/antagonists make me cringe and fearful for what they might do to the protagonist. Villains help make the stories unforgettable and fill you with fear for the hero. That’s the kind of story that’s hard to put down when you turn the pages. If it’s a movie, you want to see it to the very end. You expect surprise obstacles and known obstacles for your protagonist and they appear.
Gabriela Pereira. “Villains vs Antagonists:” https://diymfa.com/writing/villains-vs-antagonists
Zara Altar. “Villain vs Antagonist: How to Use Each in Your Book” https://prowritingaid.com/art/843/are-you-writing-a-villain-or-an-antagonist.aspx
Now Novel. “Types of Antagonists: Creating Riveting Opponents”
I hope this helped you understand that all antagonists are not villains. A villain is a special breed of antagonist who sets out intentionally to stop the protagonist from reaching his goal. A story can have many antagonists. Usually, there is only one main villain.
Please leave a comment. Let me know what you believe makes a great antagonist. What makes an outstanding villain? Talk about your favorite antagonist or villain and why you like him or dislike him.
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Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards, Author
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