GIVE’EM THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE
For this thread, I’m going to talk about the most common villain type which is the villain who is a person, as opposed to a disease or time or a mountain quest or the sea (as in THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA).
Your villain has to be used wisely. Remember that he is the one who will drive your story forward. So, if you don’t show that you care about the villain, then you will express the same thing to your readership.
He should have goals and ambitions and thoughts and feelings. So since he does have those, think about how you will express those in your novel. If your villain wants to take over the world, tell me why? Is it only because he wants to be powerful? No. Probably not. There has to be something more in it than that. But what could be true is that he feels that the other parts of the world are not ruling their people as well as he could. We answer “YES!” when the joker asks, “Do you wanna know where I got these scars?”
Think of Osama. If you interviewed him, he would say that what he was doing was right. And in the same way, your villain should feel that the decisions he is making are right and true. For that to be possible, there had to be events in his life that brought him to that philosophy.
Now those events don’t have to come out in your story, but as the writer, it’s important to know what has motivated the villain to do the things that he is doing. And the reader will want some clear hints to villain’s motive. Is it power? Or greed? Or insecurity? Or is it simply that he has a different opinion from you protag? Whatever it is, find it and exploit it.
A well thought-out villain will not do evil simply because he likes being evil. I had trouble making it through a book that I won’t name because of how harshly I’m going to trash it. The villain in the book had an evil resume — like he had to apply for the job of a villain or something.
VILLAIN: “Uhhh…hey, my name is villain, and uhhh…I uhhh wanted the job to be you know…a villain?”
INTERVIEWER: “So, villain, what do you do for a living?”
VILLAIN: “Oh. That’s easy. I uh…rape…and pillage…and..uhh…less’ see…I STEAL! Oh yeah I’m great at that!”
INTERVIEWER: “Ok…well, I’ll get back to you in a week or two to let you know about the position.”
And by the way. The villain really was set up like that. He really did rape and pillage for fun. So, my thought is this. There’s nothing fun about rape. So…leave it out unless you need it. It should never be a notch under your villain’s belt because it doesn’t reflect on the villain…it reflects on the writer.