Villians and supporting characters may require a bit more work on your part than just using fandom characters. The concerns for them are similar, but are more important when considering villains, so I’m going to focus on them first. I’ll talk about supporting characters tomorrow.
The first thing to consider when creating a villain, is that you villain isn’t limited to a supervillian Darth Vader/Joker/Lex Luther type. Villain isn’t even a term limited to a criminal. A villain could simply be the other leg in a love triangle, or a menacing boss making everyone’s lives more difficult. Basically, a villain is whoever is keeping your hero from achieving their goal.
The second thing consider is that even villains need to be credible and realistic. The villain should be just as fleshed out and developed as the hero(es), because your hero(es) needs someone worthy to go up against. It helps keep the stakes high, and gives the reader another reason to care about your work.
Your villain should be complex with complicated, even conflicting motives. Evil for the sake of evil is boring. Even if the villain is a certifiable psychopath, give him/her something, even just a scene for him/her to show some humanity. The villain needs to be accessible to the readers. If they can relate to the villain, it will make them conflicted, and if your readers are conflicted, they will be interested. At least, that’s my theory.
Richard Leonard “The Iceman” Kuklinski was so named, because he was a assassin for the mafia back in the day. Psychiatrist Park Dietz diagnosed him as having Antisocial Personality Disorder, which is the closest thing in the DSM* to a diagnosis of psychopathy. He could kill without feeling any remorse or concern; it was like changing a tire for him. Yet, he still had a wife, and children for whom he’d do anything.
Feel free to give your villain a psychological disorder or two. It’s always fascinating the places where an unwell human mind will go. But only go this route if you’re willing to put in the effort and time to research. Don’t use only what you’ve seen on TV. The DSM* is really not that hard to understand, go to your local library or google it, or even ask someone who knows psychology. And if you aren’t willing to do research, do not use a mental illness. Please.
Give them as in depth a background as you did your hero. You don’t necessarily need to divulge this to readers, but keep it in your own head. It will help you determine how they’d react to this or that, and remind you of why they’re doing what they’re doing. Give them ticks and mannerisms to further flesh them out. Make them come to life. If you get stuck, think about your favorite villains, and make a list of what you liked best about them.
*Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the reference book for mental health professionals on mental illnesses.
What fanfic stories have you read that have particularly well written villains?
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