How Bad Should Your Villains Be?

The Last Banquet (Bell Mountain Book 4) by [Duigon, Lee]

Every story needs a villain, unless you’re writing Serious Mainstream Literature that’s just plain boring. But how bad should your villain be?

A lot of it depends on what motivates the character. My No. 1 villain in the first four Bell Mountain books, Lord Reesh, First Prester of the Temple, justified everything he did, including murder, in terms of a lifelong mission to preserve the Temple, no matter what, so that it could lead humanity back to the great heights of culture and science and power which God had destroyed in the Day of Fire. It was sort of like Saving the Planet from Man-Made Climate Change–a wonderful excuse for just about anything he wished to do. This made Lord Reesh a really cool villain.

Succeeding Lord Reesh in the later books, Goryk Gillow betrays his country because he covets wealth and power for himself; Lord Chutt commits crimes–all under cover of the law–because he wishes to restore the old regime, with himself in charge; and Ysbott the Snake does evil because he’s very much a degenerate whose close contact with the Thunder King’s mask has driven him insane. And Lord Orth’s crimes arose from his moral and personal shallowness: but God regenerated him.

Different motivations give rise to different sorts of crime. The more powerful, and the more seductive, the motivation, the bigger (and more creative) the crimes.

The only kind of villain I don’t like reading about is of a type which, I regret to say, is all too common in fantasy literature: the hopelessly stupid villain who’s just plugged in to let the hero show off by defeating him repeatedly.

And I do try to stay away from writing about the ordinary villains in Washington, D.C., who make the news of our real world such depressing reading.


14 comments on “How Bad Should Your Villains Be?

  1. And on a side note, which this thread reminded me, I’d sure like to find out more about “the great heights of culture and science and power which God had destroyed in the Day of Fire.” There were plenty of hints in the first book and some after that, but it was just a tease. Maybe a prequel?

    1. Greg, I’ve got years worth of stuff I ought to write about. In fact, just today I was thinking I ought to go back into history and write the life of King Ozias.
      Believe me, those hints weren’t intended as a tease. But there are things about their history, including the Day of Fire, that the people of Obann no longer know. And a lot of things that I don’t know yet, either.

    1. Some people are actually enthralled with the Mafia – the ‘bad boy’ thing. I’ve never understood it, but it’s there.

    1. Y’know, that turkey Michael Goodwin supported, endorsed, and voted for the bigger turkey in the White House eight years ago. He said it was because he was “afraid of what Sarah Palin might do.” If that’s not a lame excuse, what is?

  2. One of the things I love about your books, Lee, is the genuineness of the characters. They’ve each got a personality that fits. There’s no gratuitous villainy going on and we, your readers, can imagine each character.

  3. I’m so glad you are going to reveal more about Obann’s past because you have teased us about it through books 1-5 (which I have completed so far), especially when you talk about their having some kind of air travel, etc. It is almost like your story is set after our current world had been cleansed like God did in Noah’s Flood. Intriguing stuff, Lee – I can’t get enough.

    1. As I read Genesis, it seems to me that civilization arose twice in ancient times–before the Flood, and then afterward, around the Tower of Babel–and was twice confounded by God.

      I’m intensely interested in the origins of civilization. If it’s wired in, why does it seem to take such a long time before it appears? And if it’s not wired in, why does it appear at all?

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