Every fictional story that has practically ever been told, has a hero and a villain. Villains are what keep us rooting for the hero-because we ultimately want good to triumph over evil. Villains are also what keeps us looking around the room every time we hear the slightest noise hoping that the shadow in the corner is just a shadow or that the tapping noise outside is just the wind or a branch and not the boogie man.
One of the most frequent questions I get is "Where do your villains come from?" If I looked at every story I have ever written that had a villain in them, I would have to say that they come from what scares me. When I wrote my first book, Renegade Night, I channeled Patrick Bateman, because I wanted Warren Langford to be psychotic. I wanted him to get pleasure out of causing pain yet unlike Jigsaw in the Saw film franchise, I didn't want him to be trying to right a wrong. Warren Langford is his own evil entity; his mind has degenerated so far that the evil has consumed him. To me, that is one of my phobias is being at the mercy of someone with no conscience and someone with no empathy; someone that is infinitely evil. When I wrote Cursed Awakening, I had two villains. I created a beast but I had to have another and I decided to make the real evil-human. I blend my fears with the story I'm creating. Some people draw on past experiences such as bullies they had as children or childhood phobias. When I write a villain, I want to give people that weird and creepy feeling that makes them want to look over their shoulder just to make sure there's no one or anything lurking in the dark watching them through a few panes of glass. I grew up in the 80s, and Stephen King were some of the first horror novels I read and so a lot of my phobias were ones he created. So yes, when you read my books, I want my bad guys, gals, and "others" to scare the tar out of you.
Does a book need a villain? No, I guess not. I have read stories where there was no villain but struggles with one's own environment, strife with another character, and where a character is trying to overcome something which brings in a whole set of other dynamics to the story. Charles Dickens was a truly great writer of just these kinds of stories. His stories had Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. The World. He took raw human life and gave their story life. Pip with his endless quest to better himself, to gain the love of the ever elusive Stella, poverty, personal struggles with right and wrong, and extreme imagery that causes the reader to feel as if they are on the dirtier parts of London escaping an Ex-Convict or in a decrepit mansion entertaining a woman who needs a nut house rather than being allowed to wallow in her own grief over a lost love. Charlotte Bronte was another writer that told stories with a true to life grit to them. Characters that had to overcome such adversity and go through so much. Some even ended up a tragedy. Classic English literature are full of authors like Dickens and Bronte.
So writers, whether your villain is spectral, fanged or furry and clawed, undead, alien, mutant, or even eight-legged, give your villains life and let them not only go to the dark side-let them run the place for awhile.
When you think of a villain, what comes to your mind? Leave a comment and let me know. Tell me what scares the living daylights out of you.