A Perfect Villain

Villains are such fun to write, don’t you think? And it’s even more important, I believe, to develop a strong backstory for your villain than it is for your hero.

The villain in my middle grade book series is a complex, calculating, cold-hearted man who has absolutely no remorse when he decimates a pawn in his highly intellectual plot against my heroine.

For every character that I either develop or that start talking to me late at night when I’m trying to sleep (they’re needy little buggers, I can tell you), I find a picture of a friend, neighbor, co-worker, random photo from the internet, or a celebrity that I think embodies their physical mannerisms.

My villain is physically based on my favorite actor, Benedict Cumberbatch.

Image

Nice, right? Now, I know Benedict is sort of a hot thing right now in Hollywood and with fangirls across the world, but I definitely wouldn’t consider myself a fangirl. I first noticed his talent when he played Prime Minister William Pitt in the movie Amazing Grace. One of his lesser-known works, I believe. I’ve never been one to be starstruck by celebrities. Yes, I’ve met a few, and I just see them as regular people. Except they’re ridiculously overpaid (but that’s for a another entry).

I greatly admire his body of work, his enormous talent, and, of course, his looks. I think the above picture is a little deceiving. He looks like a hunky Hollywood celeb, but if you watch his movies and television series, you’ll notice how much that face changes. Which is what I like best about him. Those facial expressions of his are unequaled. He can look incredibly innocent, manipulative, cold, calculating, destroyed, ecstatic… and he does it with only the tiniest transformations in his facial muscles.

Being a physical therapist, I am constantly analyzing how people move. Not just whether it’s normal or abnormal, but picking up the minute details of their physical characteristics. Benedict has remarkable control over his facial muscles, which is simply fascinating to me. I’ve seen him look demented, ugly, pretty, hunky, quirky, doofy – just to name a few.

His chiseled face makes him appear almost innocent and yet, at the same time, lethal.

That’s the kind of face I want for my villain. He’s not a villain that you’d look at and say, ‘Oh, right. That’s the bad guy. I can tell.’ He’s more ambiguous than that. If you’ve seen more than one movie with Benedict in it, you’ll know he can definitely play roles ambiguously. You’re not sure whether you love him or hate him, but there is something about him that inspires pity, or admiration.

My villain is a heartless piece of work, motivated by revenge, but also a deadly cunning that is virtually unequaled. His history is filled with death and destruction, yet he is impervious to even the slightest emotion aside from bloodthirsty revenge. But his face remains an implacable facade, rarely breeched by anyone. Which makes him even more dangerous. When someone betrays him, he doesn’t lash out at them with verbal sparring, nor does he physically abuse them. He can always farm that out. No – his face remains an icy barrier to his carefully guarded secrets, and his intense eyes lull you into a false sense of security.

One should never feel secure in the eyes of a villain.

Everything about him draws you in – his face, his eyes, his ability to mask his emotions, and his mastery of disguises. You can’t help but want to please him. But is it out of love, or some other deep-seated instability and fear?

When my books are published, I’ll let you be the judge.

Sigh. Everybody loves a good villain. I’m head-over-heels for mine.

“The villains were always ugly in books and movies. Necessarily so, it seemed. Because if they were attractive—if their looks matched their charm and their cunning—they wouldn’t only be dangerous.

They would be irresistible.”
― Nenia CampbellHorrorscape

“She should have known that villains often come with pretty faces.”
― Anna GodbersenThe Luxe

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