HOW TO CREATE A CIRCUMSTANTIAL VILLAIN
Yesterday we talked about a Slippery Villain. Today we are going to look at the Circumstantial Villain. She’s the one who would not be a villain under most other situations, but it just so happens that the events that have taken place are the right conditions for her villainy to emerge.
This is the type of villain that we each embody in ourselves. Most of us are probably nice people who work hard to treat people as we want to be treated. But, under certain conditions, that niceness would go away, if only for a moment.
When I think of the Circumstantial Villain, Oceans 12 comes to mind. Brad Pitt is a professional thief who steals valuable items to make a living. Catherine Zeta Jones is a detective who is Brad Pitt’s love interest. She is in love with him, but her job is more important than her personal life.
This dynamic creates an interesting subplot that ties really closely to the main plot.
So what elements are necessary to create the Circumstantial Villain?
A CV should be a likable character. She should be someone who the reader respects, and her cause should create empathy with the reader.
Maybe she sticks up for the new guy at work, or perhaps she defends her mother against her brother’s evil-natured claims. Whatever she does, there must be a feeling that she has good intentions.
A good CV will typically have a past relationship with the main. This relationship does not have to be romantic; it could simply be two friends whose ideas about how to handle a situation are different.
It’s important to show the strain that the circumstances put on the relationship if you use a CV. In fact, the relationship is the one string that keeps the reader from completely ostracizing the villain.
The reason for the breach in the relationship must be clear. One person has a certain view about how something should be handled, and the other person’s perspective is the opposite.
This divide creates a chasm between the two characters. Keep this in mind. As the writer, your job is to make the reader wish he could mend the gap between the two friends. If you do this, every decision that the villain makes, that pushes away from the main, will force tension into your writing.
X-Men: First Class does a great job with this dynamic with Professor X and Magneto. You learn to like Magneto, but you see that because of their differing worldviews, they can never work together.
I hope this helps in your creation of the villain. Thanks!