Writing a good villain can be hard. Cookie cutter bad guys with no real good reason to behave that way other than ‘they’re evil’ is ripping the reader off.
I once heard that ‘Villains are the heroes of their own story’ and I definitely believe that’s a good rule to live by as a writer. Think about antagonists, whether one in a popular story or one in a story you’ve written. Can you write out a character arc for them from their perspective? As they are inevitably beaten by their ‘villain’ it would need to be a tragedy, but you should be able to see it.
So let’s have a look at Lord Voldemort. His story starts like many others, in fact, there are parallel’s to Harry Potter’s origin story.
Tom Riddle is in an orphanage when Dumbledore comes to tell him that he’s actually a wizard and invites him to Hogwarts. Tom knew he was special because he could seemingly ‘do things.’
Death becomes the problem he needs to solve, and he decides Hogwarts is the place where he can solve this. But he is thwarted by someone he thought would be his ally, Dumbledore.
So he finds the solution on his own. Horcruxes. And as everything is going right for him, a new problem develops. A prophecy of a child who will be his downfall. So he decides no more fun and games, he must take action and cut off the threat by eliminating his enemy. But when he tries, the spell backfires and leaves him as a shell of a man.
Abandoned by his once ‘friends’, he desperately survives anyway he can until finally one of his ‘friends’ returns and helps him intact his plan to be restored.
But every step of the way Harry Potter is there to thwart him. Even after he finally manages to defeat his original enemy, Dumbledore. And ultimately in the end he unable to over come his young enemy and is killed.
Of course there can be an element of creepiness because they are really a villain after all. But we should be able to see how they are a hero in their own mind.
Sharon is a YA and NA author from sunny Queensland. Her Open Heart Series is out now with City Owl Press.