HOW TO CREATE A NOBLE VILLAIN
A nobleman is a man of dignity and sophistication. He is a man who handles business with a professional approach. He is a man who is determined to succeed. Take this nobleman and give him the traits of a villain, and you have created the Valiant Villain.
A VV is the type of villain who has a strict moral code, and only under the rarest of circumstances does he break it. This is the kind of villain whose motives need to be explored. He deserves to be understood; he demands it even.
There are countless examples of these types of villains all throughout literature. General Cornwallis is the VV in The Patriot with Mel Gibson. He does an amazing job at making you feel as if his cause is valid, even to the point of convincing Mel Gibson’s guerilla militia to fight the final battle in the British formation.
I could name so many others, but I’ll spare you. Let’s look at how to craft the Valiant Villain.
This character has to have a specific ethical code that he lives by. He’s not more underhanded than he needs to be. Does this mean he’s not vicious or evil? Of course not. But there’s something within him that prevents him from becoming a Slippery Villain. There’s a “method to his madness.”
Obtaining his goals are supreme, but not to the point where he must risk his morality.
VV must have a view of the world that can be understood. If the reader could only but see things from his perspective, the reader would see why it is necessary to kill innocent victims – because the world needs to be rid of its evils.
This type of villain is right, in his own eyes, even though as readers we may disagree with him. For this reason, it’s important to make the noble villain’s cause something more than money or power.
He may want to obtain money and power to accomplish his mission, but these two assets are fickle and fleeting, secondary to his primary mission.
A VV begins in nobility, and he should end in the same way. There’s nothing worse than a VV getting knifed in the side by a random motorcyclist. Reserve this type of random death for the Slippery Villain who should have his head crushed like the snake that he is.
No, a VV should go down as a hero in his own right. How can you do this?
Think about your novel from the perspective of your villain. What if he were your hero? What if you changed the story to justify his cause to the reader, and your current main character becomes the new villain.
Once you have considered this, how would you like your “hero’s” story to end? That’s how you should have your villain be defeated.
Whenever I think of the VV, Jules Verne’s Captain Nemo springs to mind. At the end of the 20,000 leagues under the sea adventure I remember being upset at his death rather than being happy at the hero’s deliverance. Great post!
Thanks, Maria! And you know, I was running out of words that was one comment that I meant to add. A noble villain really makes you fee sad that he’s gone. That’s what’s tough about writing one. A great writer has to make the antagonist so likable that his victory overshadows the villain’s defeat…even if only slightly. Thanks for the comment.
I think the best stories contain valiant villains. We have enough of the didactic, it’s time to be realistic. The only problem I can see here is that it’s often so hard to write a valiant villain, simply because it requires more work for the writer. It’s hard for the writer to sympathize with both the hero and the VV. Brilliant post, it really got me thinking!
Thanks, Kristel, for your insight! I agree. Writing a VV is tough because you have to make the reader see that his cause was real and just, even though he might have gone about it the right way.
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