A good, bad guy (or gal) adds intrigue and excitement to any story, especially in sci-fi and fantasy settings. This series explores how to write memorable villains who add spice and life to any narrative.
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Poorly written villains aren’t necessarily over-the-top evil or too traditional. You can have a mustache-twirling scoundrel who ties a lady to the train tracks and still offer personality and memorable dialogue. No, the worst villains are vicious for no reason, have evil as their only personality trait, and often commit crimes for dim reasons, such as “taking over the world.”
One such antagonist I’m going to highlight isn’t a literary villain but a cinematic one. The 2016 iteration of Ghostbusters could have been a fun addition to a nostalgic series. But, the film’s most prominent issue was a forgettable villain who fell flat. This villain was so poorly written and forgettable he sunk a reboot of one of my favorite movie franchises.
A few people once mocked the Ghostbuster’s antagonist, Rowan North (remember him? of course not), for being an intelligent nerd inventor, so he decided to use his mastery of supernatural technology to create portals that allowed ghosts to take over New York City. To what end, you may ask? To “cleanse” the world of humans and leave just ghosts and Rowan, who will also be a ghost by then. Yawn.
The ultimate destruction of the world for either no reason (see the Marvel Cinematic Universe) or for weak reasons (like being mocked) is a terrible basis for villainy. The Korean film Old Boy was the only time the whole “revenge of the bullied” worked, and it can’t be replicated.
So, how to avoid the common pitfall of the afterthought bad guy? Remember that they are characters too. A good writer would not give their protagonist a flimsy motive and a one-dimensional personality. The villain needs the same treatment and development as the hero.
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