In fiction, the villains are the bad guys that cause problems for the heroes. Antiheroes get to be a little of both. Villains are horrible people with no morals and are selfish bastards. Their goals will ruin the rest of the world and they need to be stopped at any cost.





In reality (and in good writing), villains are just people. They are people that were given some sort of problem, conflict, or weakness that failed. After failing to solve those problems by conventional means, they resorted to harsher measures. Villains do often give in to their baser desires, but it because nothing else has ever worked for them. This is a vague explanation, so let’s look at an example.


The Villian, Galbatorix


In Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Series (the Eragon books), Galbatorix is the main antagonist of the series. He is the mad king who committed mass murder, destroyed the order of the riders, and almost made the race of dragons go extinct. No one likes him and the rebellion is justified in overthrowing and killing him. But are they?




Galbatorix’s past is pretty messed up to start with. He was a rider, and the bonds between rider and dragon are immensely powerful. It was a known problem that when one lost the other, the remaining duo would never fill that hole in their heart. When Galbatorix was a teenager he did something reckless, as most teenagers do, and paid the ultimate price. It was no surprise that he felt immense grief and begged for help from the order of the riders. He was given nothing.


Galbatorix was not in his right mind, and I do not think you can ever truly blame people for their wrongdoings when they are confused. Galbatorix just happened to be very good at being a bad guy. He lashed out at those who hurt him and sought another dragon to fill his hole. He bound Shurikin with dark magic, but that bond had to have hurt him even more. Shurikin could not fill that gap left by Galbatorix’s first dragon. It didn’t help that the dark magic twisted Shurikin’s mind which had to have affected Galbatorix’s madness even more.


Yet, despite his poor mind, Galbatorix did not act without purpose. No villain ever believes they are the bad guy, they have real justifications. The order of the dragon riders was corrupt in those days. Galbatorix had been hurt unimaginably. So, he made himself stronger so that no one would be able to hurt him again. He sought to overthrow the power-hungry riders and anyone that supported them. Galbatorix wasn’t alone either. Others believed in his cause, and I don’t believe that many people would commit mass murders strictly because someone had a smooth tongue. I don’t approve of his methods, but there was some truth to his cause.


Current Storyline


Once Galbatorix did manage to take over the kingdom, what happened to the rest of the people? They lived their lives. Galbatorix’s rule was not perfect, far from it, but the kingdom survived. Despite his handicaps, he created a reasonably healthy empire. No kingship is perfect, but he did try. What right did the rebels have to cause a war that killed thousands of more people? That wouldn’t change the past, but it did hurt the present.


It wasn’t wise to leave a mentally impaired immortal on the throne, but the rebels committed similar atrocities to secure a possible future. Galbatorix wasn’t really a villain, he was just a lost hero who wasn’t strong enough. You see it all matters as to what perspective you look at.


What Makes a Good Villain


When writing the character of a villain you are not creating evil entities. Evil beings can be included in a story, but they are forces rather than characters. Evil beings are the conflict instead of the cause of the conflict.


Think of Sauron from The Lord of the Rings. Although he technically was once a person, the story only refers to him as a dark all-powerful evil overseer. Saruman, the wizard, was a villain in this story. He was just trying to survive by joining the more powerful side in a war.


Villains are thinking people with serious problems, but they are no worse than your or I in essence. Their deeds make them bad, but they didn’t start out that way. Because of all this, villains can often be the most interesting part of the story. It can even be difficult to make the heroes as interesting as the villains. Good villains often drive the story more so than any other character, leaving heroes to simply react. If you want to have good heroes, you have to take a page out of the villains’ book and make them less perfect. People are imperfect, and that’s all a villain is.


Photo by Andrei Lazarev


Pin It on Pinterest