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What makes a Villian truly memorable?



Best Answer Gabriel Volturi, 18 May 2017 - 12:11 PM

Darth Ragnarok

 

I thought I'd try and put my two cents in here with this character as he is by far my most memorable villain. When it came down to writing for Gabriel in the past it came down to one question: What would I not do in my RL? I know it seems sort of simple, and it can't apply to everyone. But for me, as someone that before Gabe only played morally good characters I thought it was important to make someone outside my comfort zone, to really challenge myself as a writer. So for me the character needed to be not so much of an open book. Even years later much of Gabriel's history and motivations are a mystery. He does what he does, and despite looking like he just wants to see the world burn on the outside, he always has a purpose to his actions.

 

The next thing that was important I felt was to take a look around at the other 'evil characters'. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? Its very important to be constantly breaking the mold. At that guy's craftshop I saw a lot of villains that were to over powered and godlike. I just didn't like the implications of that. If your character is already perfect it left no room for change, to evolve. The character should always strive to evolve, with out that one motivation you'll always stall out in role playing. Sure, now Gabriel is quit powerful. Out can never truly kill him off as long as he has his clones and mimetic technology. (which is stuff I should try and run through the factories if I am to transfer completely to Chaos). But in truth this is Gabriel's greatest weakness. He will always be dependent on it. This is how he sees perfection happening, but will be his downfall in the end.

 

And lastly, create a compelling story for the character. Something that gives motivation and drive. That provides a moral compass for the character, even if that compass is always pointing south. As long as it provides limitations to what he can achieve. And no I don't see limitations as just that. I see them as goals. Something that the character will always strive to over come in their quest. Its important to make something that the character wants more than anything, and he'she would be willing to burn the entire galaxy down to obtain. For Gabriel that desire is immortality. He has made great strides in the goal, but will still want more, eventually flying to close to the sun.

 

Anyways, I'll stop my rambling now.

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#1
Sebastian Blood

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So I am looking for some discussion on what makes a villian truly memorable, someone you love to hate. I know everyone on this board is the hero or star of their story, but with this character I rather be your antagonist. When he comes into contact with you, he supports you in being your obstacle. Sure he has his own goals, but all his goals seem to stand in your way, by you I mean everyone.

What I am getting at is I want to craft a villian who stands out without standing out. Who is evil and not watered down, but can't survive without that hero. A villian who isn't just kill kill kill, but also most, "well in my eyes I am the good guy."

Some examples I could throw are Darth Sidieus, Hannibal Lector, Circi Lanester, and Chancellor Sutler (v for vendetta) all these people were evil, but they weren't unbelievable and you could understand their motives. At the same time, they are merely one in many people of the story and don't big the spotlight, but also don't sit on the back burner. They are evil just enough and are true villian.

So with all that in mind, think of your favourite villian and direct them. Help me understand why you love to hate them, what makes them so fun to watch or read. What don't you like and so on.

Also the opposite, who is a villian you don't like and why?

Edited by Darth Ragnarok, 15 May 2017 - 03:00 AM.


#2
Darth Abyss

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I think it depends what kind of evil you face, especially in a world of star wars. The Characters you used as examples are all "human" evil, their reasons and motivations (as twisted as they sometimes are) often come across as understandable to us, at least to a degree. They are righteous (or at least believe they are). Other evils on the other hand a either simply chaotic in nature, pure destructive forces without any real intent other than chaos itself. While that can easily seem stupid, it can also be quite awesome when done right (see Batman's Joker). There is also supernatural evil: Star wars wise Darth Nihilus is the first to come to mind. A creature so far from human that its reasons are beyond our understanding. They work on the same note than Lovecraftian old gods, outside entities to strange to be fully caught by human understanding. Again harder to pull of than a self righteous evil, but really awesome when done just right.

I think the DnD alignment charts are quite useful to get an idea about this, even if I'm not a fan of putting every character in such a box.

As for my personal favorite villain, I'm gonna go with Kane from the Command and conquer series. Not quite human in the end he stands above the conflict he has created, with a long term goal so complex that his enemies never caught fully on to it. Despite on first glance seeming like some power crazed cult leader and therefore "human", it turns out that he is way above humanity, and that his very nature is more like chaotic or true neutral than actually evil. The war, his army, everything are just means to an end, as is worldwide domination. Not once has he really cared about the earth in detail, only about his way to return to the stars by forcing humanity in a corner. The thing that makes him stand out is his skill with words. Super charismatic guy that can rally the people behind him, who build a cult strong enough to fight the united world government. His rhetoric's, his style, pretty much everything is awesome about him. Another thing I like is that despite everything, he seems to care about those that march for him to a degree. While he has no problem with killing or sacrificing any of them if that's his only way out, he can be seen to be unhappy about losing those really loyal to him. At the end of the last game he even allows those that stood with him to the end to follow him to the stars where they will help him build a new world for him and them.
 


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#3
Valiens Nantaris

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To my mind 'memorable' is not the same as 'good'.

 

Mr Freeze from Batman and Robin is memorable...but not in a good way!

 

What makes a compelling villain is yes, someone whose motivations make sense and who has an internal logic. Presence and if in a performance media, a good actor also helps.


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#4
Coci Heavenshield

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Have to agree with Valiens Nantaris, a good villain has to have motivations that drive them, whether it be a power grab, or twisted game or fall into madness etc. It all has to make sense in the context of characters and the story line.   

 

I have several favourites, on the top of the list is:   

 

Jack Nicholson's - The Shining 

Heath Ledger - The Dark Knight (Joker)

All the villains in Game of Thrones - They are all brilliant!


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#5
Connor Harrison

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I also like a physical or mental trait - a tic, or their personal signature almost. Something equally memorable as their psychological goal/intent. That lends so much to them being memorable and lets them be just as powerful even without speaking.

Some examples:

Darth Vader - the suit and breathing. Says it all.
Blofeld - the stroking of the white cat.
Captain Hook - the hook itself.
The Joker - physical appearence.
Ivan Drago - says little, looks like a beast.

Etc.

#6
Valiens Nantaris

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All the villains in Game of Thrones - They are all brilliant!

 

There's heroes in GOT? I think the Stark kids are the only ones I'd actually call 'good' or heroic.

 

Everyone else is some shade of grey all the way down to chaotic evil.


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#7
Ash

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Evil is kind of complicated. There's evil actions, like murder, torture, terrorism, and the like. Then there is evil ideals. A lot of "dark-side" force traditions have ideals that are inherently either promoting chaos or evil. The Sith code (most of them, as the codes are often re-written) tends to believe in ambition and power above all else. Certain sorcerous traditions in the Galaxy actually espouse death as an object of worship, believing strongly in a desire to kill. Others' have motivations less about the self, and more about the state of the galaxy or other affairs. Some of the biggest crimes and atrocities on this forum have occurred because of IC personal vendettas. The fall of some major interplantary factions can be traced back to vengeance for a single murder.

 

 

One approach to villains is to have a character with a reasonable idea of the problem, and a genuinely horrifying solution. Good examples of this are Magneto (who responds to prejudice with violent terrorist attacks and no concern for collateral damage), a lot of other comic supervillains, and that sort of thing. In general, these fall under villains who have reasonable motivations, but are unreasonable in their means to achieve them, and that can be a compelling way to do a villain.

 

 

Another sort of villainy is evil as a force of nature. This works better in fantasy, but we happen to be in a fantasy/sci-fi setting where evil is a tangible force, if you'll pardon the wording. The dark side of the force is an existent thing that acts on people and places, that physically can contaminate and corrupt people, creatures, things, and even whole locations. While being evil as a consequence of proximity to evil can make for some good writing (especially if you want to explore the player's conflict with themselves over it), focusing on motivation becomes less meaningful, as the motivation is more of a compulsive behavior.

 

 

Monsters are also a type of villain. Some beings aren't touch by evil, they just are evil. Demons. Sithspawn. The risen dead. Some creatures have an innate evil by virtue of their very existence. I don't tend to feel innate evil is as easy to make compelling, and usually the most interesting stories about innate evil as a force come not from its evil for the sake of it, but from either the conflict it generates, or the consequences of its power. This kind of evil is usually more meaningful as a prop than as a character. A good example of this is Sauron in the Lord of the Rings. He's not compelling in his own right, but he's powerful enough that the consequences of his existence, and how others deal with him, allows him to be a driving force in a compelling story.

 

 

Villains can also be noteworthy by specific behaviors, that can produce a flavor. As Connor Harrison pointed out, appearance and quirks can be part of it, but so can theme and style. One of your examples is Lecter. Lecter isn't particularly powerful, nor is he all that unique in his actions. The reason he leaves such an impression upon the audience is because his actions and his behavior seem discordant at first. Cannibalism and murder seem ruthless and savage, and surely this genteel, soft-spoken, high-speaking academic wouldn't be such a depraved, inhumane monster? Hannibal Lecter isn't scary because he's a monstrous murderer with a taste for human flesh--Hannibal Lecter is scary because he talks like a guest lecturer at a prestigious med school right before he kills you and turns your organs into a seven-course meal.



#8
jbec1337

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Darth Vader will always be the ICONIC villain for me; Watching Anakin's growth up to the point where he becomes Vader was pretty incredible. What a roller coaster. It provoked a lot of thought, and brought out a lot of emotion in me. He sacrificed everything, until there was nothing left but the hatred of himself and his own actions.

 

I always loved Vader. He was the PERFECT villain to me, because he was so IMPERFECT... 

 

One of my favorite moments with the character was when he literally stabbed himself through the chest to kill a resurrected Darth Maul... Maul asked Vader, and I quote, "What could you possibly hate more than me?", and Vader replied "Myself."



#9
Klesta

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If I was to write villainy, I'd want, from my own villain, 1) believable motives (from which the internal logic arises) and 2) redeeming qualities. Now, don't get me wrong, these are not sufficient in themselves: I tried to play Yula as a villain but the main mistake I made with her was perhaps indulging in her redeeming qualities too much, to the point where one may wonder where has the villainy gone (unless the whole point of Yula was to show a villain reform). As Connor Harrison said, quirks often help, too. To quote Christopher Lee, who played many of the villains I liked in movies:

 

 

 

Most people find my villains memorable because I try to make them as unconventional as possible. They are not overt monsters. It's easy to play a "heavy" straight down the middle, 100%, but it's boring. I don't think I've ever played a villain who didn't have some unusual, humanizing trait. When I look back at my men with the black hats, they've always had something else going for them, whether it be a sardonic sense of humor or a feeling of desolation. I always try to throw as many curves the audience's way as possible. That's probably why people enjoy my villainy.


#10
Natalie LaForte

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Their motivations make sense, because otherwise they are not memorable. They're just another evil person. I know this will sound weird, but I remember Megamind as how I tried to curb my own writing from being this cliche. He learns than when there's nobody for him to fight against, that being a villain has no purpose.

 

Moving on, true Villains don't believe that they are villains to begin with. They genuinely believe their actions are, "good". In the star wars films, The Separatists aren't actually that bad. They were scared of what the Republic was becoming, and are only thought of as Villains because the movie makes us think they are. In reality, wouldn't you say the Republic is actually villainous for not attempting peace negotiations? 

 

An example though, I know this may sound weird, but I really liked the original team rocket from Pokemon. Not because they were funny, nothing in the show is particularly humerus. For example, Jessie is a villain because when she was a child, her mother was so poor that she had to eat snow. In fact, this isn't the real reason. Because her mother was so poor, she went to a school for pokemon to learn how to become a nurse and ultimately failed.

 

I remember when I watched the episode on her backstory I ended up crying, and trust me, Pokemon is not something I usually cry at.  



#11
Sebastian Blood

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Guys I really like the direction this thread is going!


As for you two, I believe you are very detailed and understand where I am going so I hope it would be ok to ask more of you. If you take a Look at this character he has a generic style dark past, has his strengths and weakness and have his path.

To put that into perspective, he was abused and treated as nothing more than a status symbol with only his mind to save him from insanity. Thus he has the training to be a charming and cunning politician and pretenclds to be helpful and care about making the world a better place, but in reality he doesn't care about life and just wants the world to burn.

Over time He will enhance himself which will evolve that desire and make him more a monster who not only doesn't care about lofe, but craves to end it all together. Hos motives will become to destroy the galaxy and plunge it into chaos....

That is What I have and I feel it isn't deep enough or enough to make him a solid character. Got any advice to build this goal more. My desire is to make a true Sith that is pure and not watered down. Even more a Sith then vader or Sidieus as Sidieus wanted control and order which are good things so as you guys said, evil means, but the end justifies them.

I want to craft someone who is that chaotic evil like the joker who wants the world on chaos just like he feels.

Darth Abyss Ash

#12
Lady Psyona

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Darth Ragnarok

 

I don't know that Sith tend to fit the mold of the Joker very well. They're power-hungry, and tend to focus on the gain of power, influence, and control above all else. Chaos is about the joy of destruction, and while that is part of the Dark side, it tends to go against the idea that a Sith should gain power first and do everything else second. What separates a Sith from cultists like the Bando Gora or the like is that they can control the urge to murder, to kill the world just because it would feel good.

 

I'm not saying no true Sith would do that, but that it doesn't seem to fit the mold of a Sith very well. If you want to write like that, you do you.



#13
Sebastian Blood

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Lady Psyona

Well it depends, destroying the galaxy is showing power over it all. Of course he won't succeed, but he can try.

#14
Lady Psyona

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Darth Ragnarok

 

Destroying the galaxy leaves you with nothing to rule. What's the point of a power play if it leaves you empty handed?



#15
Rusty

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To me, the best villains aren't the ones ruled by emotions. They aren't prone to violent outbursts, they don't kill for the fun of it, and they don't make a habit of being evil for the sake of being evil. The best villains are smart, composed, charasmatic, and utterly ruthless in pursuit of their goals.

 

The Operative from Serenity is the perfect example in my mind. What makes him scary is that he's every bit as capable and competent as the good guys, and smart enough to think several steps ahead. His actions are truly monstrous, but he doesn't come across as a monster. He's polite, even apologetic about what he does, and he has no illusions about his place in the world he's trying to create, but that doesn't stop him from being brutally effective at his job.

 

That is everything a good villain should be.


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#16
Sebastian Blood

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Lady Psyona

 

You have a really good point, like really good. My only answer was the original one when I came up with the idea which was the classical destroy and rebuild. When someone grows up abused they have a skewed image of the World and believe there is no good. I imagine in this Galaxy that feeling can become even greater and make the young boy believe the Galaxy isn't good and thus over time that could grow to the Galaxy needs to end so it can be reborn.

 

As I write that it does feel lacking and too much a stretch and too simple. Hence why I posted this, I wanted to understand people of the board and how they view villains. At the same time this poses the problem of throwing this character to the "top" of the plan and makes him the so called star. That I don't want to happen as I was to build a story that doesn't feel like the Ragnarok show. If that makes sense.



#17
Ariealla Vareldi

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So I'll throw my few cents here. It may not help all too much (depending on your exact desires for the character) but I feel it's worth throwing out an example here or there.

I like my villains to be fitting to the story, the environment. In the case of Star Wars, it really can depend. Darth Abyss himself is an excellent example of something of an eldritch horror made real, something that has motivations that aren't so easily understood from the outside looking in, and is themself something the average person will have difficulty (at best) wrapping their head around. His example of Nihilus also works well for this kind of villian, they're maybe someone that had understandable motives but have twisted themselves into something unnatural to achieve their goals, and thus become something foreign to the mind.

But as some others on here have been kind enough to show as well, many a good villain is someone with the best of intentions but the worst of applications. Someone who's problems you can resonate with, can understand, but become horrified at their actions. They're people, they might have qualities to redeem them and have a logic and consistency to their plans. Sometimes these villains really can be made to resemble heroes that picked a darker path, and they can work extremely well (especially in Chaos).

Of course, quirks or traits can help with the style or theme of the character. And even sometimes the villain can take a back seat to their style and it can work well. (And since we're talking RP characters here, sometimes that's enough to enjoy writing them if you don't mind the role.)

For a personal example, take a look at perhaps one of my all time favorite villains, Grigori (The Dragon) from Dragon's Dogma. Since there are potential spoilers im putting it in a spoiler box...

 

Maybe taking a cue from you, I'll try to put my ideas behind Ariealla into words at some point to try and explain what I like in villains, since I've been inspired all over the place with her lately.



#18
Sebastian Blood

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Darth Abyss Valiens Nantaris Connor Harrison Ash jbec1337 Serenity Loveheart Lady Psyona Rusty Ariealla Vareldi

Just wanted to properly thank all of you for your words of wisdom. I will use this to help craft this character to a much more well rounded and hopefully exciting to read, character.

#19
Gabriel Volturi

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✓  Best Answer

Darth Ragnarok

 

I thought I'd try and put my two cents in here with this character as he is by far my most memorable villain. When it came down to writing for Gabriel in the past it came down to one question: What would I not do in my RL? I know it seems sort of simple, and it can't apply to everyone. But for me, as someone that before Gabe only played morally good characters I thought it was important to make someone outside my comfort zone, to really challenge myself as a writer. So for me the character needed to be not so much of an open book. Even years later much of Gabriel's history and motivations are a mystery. He does what he does, and despite looking like he just wants to see the world burn on the outside, he always has a purpose to his actions.

 

The next thing that was important I felt was to take a look around at the other 'evil characters'. What are they doing right? What are they doing wrong? Its very important to be constantly breaking the mold. At that guy's craftshop I saw a lot of villains that were to over powered and godlike. I just didn't like the implications of that. If your character is already perfect it left no room for change, to evolve. The character should always strive to evolve, with out that one motivation you'll always stall out in role playing. Sure, now Gabriel is quit powerful. Out can never truly kill him off as long as he has his clones and mimetic technology. (which is stuff I should try and run through the factories if I am to transfer completely to Chaos). But in truth this is Gabriel's greatest weakness. He will always be dependent on it. This is how he sees perfection happening, but will be his downfall in the end.

 

And lastly, create a compelling story for the character. Something that gives motivation and drive. That provides a moral compass for the character, even if that compass is always pointing south. As long as it provides limitations to what he can achieve. And no I don't see limitations as just that. I see them as goals. Something that the character will always strive to over come in their quest. Its important to make something that the character wants more than anything, and he'she would be willing to burn the entire galaxy down to obtain. For Gabriel that desire is immortality. He has made great strides in the goal, but will still want more, eventually flying to close to the sun.

 

Anyways, I'll stop my rambling now.


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#20
Sebastian Blood

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Gabriel Volturi

While there have been so many great answers, that one just hit the nail on the head for me and now I want to read about your character. Thank you!