We all know the villain as the opposite of the hero, but what does that really mean? Is a villain inherently evil? Must they always do the wrong thing? How does an author create valid and believable antagonists?
The first thing to consider is that the villain doesn’t think of themselves as evil or bad. They are just reacting to their environment and making judgments about the actions that will create the outcomes that they desire. A villain is the hero of his own story. He doesn’t know that he is the villain. He has valid reasons for doing the things that he does.
A true villain is a wounded human being who has goals and aspirations that make sense. A monster isn’t born; he is made. Examples of this abound, Darth Vader was once Anikan Skywalker. His wounds created his decent into immorality. He had his reasons.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the creature is made from recycled parts. How could he be anything but ugly? However, that was only his outward appearance. Inside, he was innocent and curious. He had the desire to connect with others. Unfortunately, Victor Frankenstein rejected his creation. Victor introduced the wounds to the creature’s spirit that created the villain. The creature wanted nothing more than to be loved; that unrelenting desire is what drives the story.
He doesn’t have to be more intelligent or stronger than the hero. Making a mistake is where he will fail and the hero will prevail-or not. In Frankenstein, the creature is stronger, faster, and arguably more intelligent than Victor. The creature aka villain wants a partner for his life and to live in isolation and peace. He does evil and immoral things to reach that end.
Memorable villains are always complex creations. They have desires and goals that arise from their wounded spirits. Are you the hero or the villain? Only the end of the story can tell.