Villainous Villain – Or Not?

Dr. Evil(

My villain. My villainous villain. My villainous villain who may not be so villainous?

Or who at least may have a different backstory than anticipated.

I recently had a burst of creative insight into my villain. If you’ll remember from previous posts, my villain is physically based on Benedict Cumberbatch.

He's the inspiration for the villain in my middle grade book series. Good choice, no?

Would you trust him? 

I’ve already discussed changing some of the physical characteristics of my villain, but when my brain decided to ram straight through my preconceived notions about my villain, it really got me thinking about my favorite villains.

There’s the villains you love to hate, the villains you love, the villains you pity, and the villains you just plain out hate.

Which do you prefer?

Some villains are just out-and-out evil and there’s really no explanation for why. They just exude evil because… well – just because, I guess.

Then there are villains that you can pity or feel sorry for because their background has led them to perform these sinister acts (not that their acts are justifiable, by any means).

What do you like? Who are you favorite villains and why? Villains who have black hearts and just hate because they can? Or do you like to see a little humanity in them before they utterly destroy everyone else and themselves?

I’m in a bit of a conundrum and I need some advice.


And Happy Writing!


“People are not born heroes or villains; they’re created by the people around them.”
― Chris Colfer

“He was as yet not sufficiently experienced in ruffianism to know that one villain always sacrifices another to advance his own project; he was credulous enough to believe in the old adage of ‘honor amongst thieves.”
― Émile GaboriauFile No. 113


15 thoughts on “Villainous Villain – Or Not?

  1. Okay, this might sound pretentious but I like a villain who’s true to himself. If a person is totally evil, trying to conjure empathy or shoe their humanity is going to backfire. Some villains need to have some backstory to make them more real. For example Cruella DeVille and Hannibal Lector could not have carried off a dysfunctional childhood excuse. They wre depicted in their humanity.

    But Hilly Holbrook from The Help was obviously a product of the culture. Not that that excuses her behavior because not everyone in that culture behaved as she did. It just gives some needed insight into why she is the way she is. Kind of rambling. Hope that makes sense.

    • It does make sense, thank you! One of the reasons he’s got issues is because of something that happened even before he was born. It had a profound effect on him and it’s something that I think people can relate to. But it doesn’t excuse what evil he’s perpetrated. I always had backstory for him that was more complicated than just plain evil, but I’ve felt nudgings to change it a bit.
      I’m still torn, though, and the backstory won’t come up until later in the series, so I’ve got time, but I really want to have a better handle on him before I go much further.

    • I agree with you. But I think the opinions are mixed on this score. I definitely don’t want people to like my villain, because he really is evil, but they need to know why he does what he does.

      • Right. I don’t think you have to worry. I don’t think adding any good qualities makes the bad qualities any less horrendous. I mean think about it: If you told me that Hitler loved his mother, treated Ava Braun like a princess, and raised puppies, that’s great, but it doesn’t take away from any of the evil that he did. Or if you told me he was severely abused as a kid, that’s too bad, but he still made bad choices as an adult. I don’t think anyone will like him better if they learn either of those things. I agree with you, too… I do like to know “why” someone acts the way they do. 🙂

  2. I feel like villains who are evil just because they’re evil is kind of a cheat. There has to be some sort of background or conflict to make villains who they are. Have you seen the BBC Robin Hood series? Kind of lame, but it has a perfect contrast between these two types of villains. The sheriff of Nottingham is just cruel and mean and stupid. But Guy of Gisborne is wonderfully torn between good and evil, and his hatred of Robin Hood is planted in their childhood. There’s a tipping point where he goes over the edge to evil, and then you just feel for him because there were so many points where he could have redeemed himself.

    So I like my villains to have a past, with opportunities where they could have been good and just went so wrong.

    • Thank you for your opinion! I have a tendency to feel the same as you, but there are some villains that I just love that are pure evil, but then I feel like there’s something lacking there. It’s a conundrum for me, because it would change a bit of how I’d portray the villain. I guess we’ll see how it goes. But I’m leaning more towards what you’re talking about.

  3. I think that all villains have a back story, something had to happen to them which caused them to become evil. So I like that. Right now I’m into Once Upon a Time, not sure if you’ve seen it. I like how the Evil Queen is super evil at first, but then you learn her back story and your perception of her changes.

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