My characters need to be believable. That means I need to know what they are about, what are they going through, what have they experienced, what are their wishes, needs and expectations. To bigger or lesser extent I need to know them.
So – the question then is – how do I write about a villain?
I don’t think I am one (a villain). In fact, I’m a very nice, decent, honest person (doesn’t make me very exciting, I know) which means that I don’t know what motivates a villain, who is he/she underneath, what are they thinking about, what are they afraid of, what do they want to gain.
So, I decided there are two ways how I can believably describe the villain character(s) in my books.
Number 1. I find one, or more exactly, they find me (this is what villains do). It’s not nice being around villains and what you’d normally do is to go eg. run away from them. But, I don’t, because I need some time to observe them. I need to see what they are doing that makes them a villain, and then, digging into my empathic self, to try to understand them, bearing in mind that most villains we meet don’t really think they are villains. Their behavior (to them) may seem very reasonable. And this is what I, as a writer, am trying to find out. Once I’m done, then – I run away.
Number 2. Everybody has a villain deep inside. That little fictional person with the red-skinned face and two red horns sticking out of their head, is inside, hiding. The reason why it’s not outside is: option 1 – you are afraid of punishment by the society; option 2 – because your upbringing made that other fictional person, with a halo on top of their head, stronger; option 3 – because you are sufficiently empathic that you understand how other people would feel if you let the red-faced guy come out and rule your actions; option 4 -because you are afraid of Almighty (whatever name he has in your culture); option 5 –because you’re guiding your children and you’re afraid they might copy the villain in you; and option 6 – all the other various reasons you found to keep the villain in check.
So, going back to my villain description: I actually need to go and find it, inside. Where is the red guy hiding, how would it be if he was in charge, what would I do, why would I do it, what would I want to achieve?
When writing about villains, I try to make them believable but not understandable. If my readers understand why my villain did the deed he did, and empathize because they understand, he most likely won’t be considered a villain anymore.