A well-thought-out villain is almost as important as the main character. After all, he/she is the reason for all your character's troubles! (Note: This post applies more to writers who have a clear "bad guy" in their story.) I cannot tell you how much it bugs me to have a flat villain without logic behind them.
But, Annie! They're evil! They're mean and they do bad things are they're out to destroy the world! That's all there is to it!
No. Sorry. You're going to have to do some deeper thinking here. *watches half of audience walk away* I mean, think about it. Nobody is evil just for the sake of being evil. Nobody wakes up in the morning and simply says, "Today I think I'll be evil. Maybe I'll attack some innocent people. Maybe I'll try to destroy Halla or Middle Earth or Harry Potter or my sister's muffin. That sounds fun." Villains all have one thing in common: they have a reason for being evil.
|Here is the little boy that turned into the ruthless, noseless villain known as Voldemort.|
Think of Tom Riddle. He started out as an innocent little boy. Throughout the series, JK Rowling shows us bits and pieces of his life, and when we put the pieces together, we see his journey from small child to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. It's actually kind of scary to read all that, if you think about it. But in doing this, we see that Voldemort didn't just become evil one day. His whole life led into it. And besides, he just happens to have a name that can be rearranged in a cool way.
Let's switch series for a minute and think about our old friend Galbatorix*. He makes for a super-evil, scary villain. He's a tyrant who cares nothing for his people. But he's like that for a reason! I mean, his dragon died. And that started a chain reaction that led into what we now know as Galby. (Yes, I just called him Galby. Yes, spellcheck is still mad at me.)
This applies to Saint Dane. Opal Koboi. Tigerstar. Manfred Bloor. (Okay, maybe not. He just amuses me so much with his patheticness.) The White Witch. Basta and Capricorn. *Insert your villain here*
So, before your big bad guy goes and pillages some random peasant village, think of their motivations. Think of how their minds work and what led them to become evil. And don't just say that they had a rough childhood, their father beat them, they were bullied, bla bla bla. That's cliche. Be a little more creative. My psychic mind powers tell me that you can do it.
What do you like in a villain? Which is your favorite? Which one do you love to hate the most?
*Just for you information, the guy who plays Galbatorix in the Eragon movie plays Lennie in Of Mice and Men. You have no idea how funny I find this.