Posted by Chris
I didn’t introduce the series last week, but I will be exploring some of the major archetypes in littature over the next week or two. Last week I dived into the Hero, so in case you missed it you can find it here: https://christopherjhillger.com/2020/10/08/the-hero/
This week we are exploring the villain. What makes someone a villain? Why do we write them? What are examples we can find in the real world? Are they easier to write like many modern writers claim?
Villains are simply antagonists right? Just someone who opposes the main character, and is only a literary device… Well no. In grade school I was taught that yes, but after diving into creative writing it is clearly false. Villains are in simple terms individuals who’s motivations are solely derived from self serving desires. They will then do whatever they deem necessary to fullfil those desires.
That is a much broader way to see villains huh? Is it true though? Villains are the opposite of heroes, we can probably agree there. Heroes serve others first, so it should stand to reason villains serve themselves first. Heroes go through struggles and over come them keeping higher morals intact. Villains also go through struggles, but sacrifice morals if they deem it necessary to over come those struggles.
So why do we write them? Again, in simple terms, it is to build contrast in the world building. Without villains we don’t see how keeping morals intact is a difficult process when the hero achieves it. It is also easier to understand strife when you can put a face to it. In this way, villains are commonly the antagonist of the story. But that role isn’t what defines them, as we already covered eariler.
That is all well and good in your fantasy land Chris, but what about here in the grayscale that is life? Where are the villains here?
Good question prospective reader. We find villains in our world everyday. From orginized crime, to politicians (not really a range between those huh?), from corporations, to lawyers; villains are all around us.
Now before you come out to hang me, yes there are morally upstanding people in all of those examples (well, maybe not the politicians), but that is more the exception than the rule. In general, most of all those things are completely self-serving. They exist to accumulate power, profit, privilege, and influence, and rarely will avoid tarnishing any morals in the process, especially if the easiest path sacrifices them. In this way I fundamentally disagree with the old saying “you either die a hero, or live long enough to see yourself become the villain”. Villains are not born out of worn out heroes, they are born of their own choices along the path of their life.
So, as many modern writers say: villains are more interesting, and easier for readers to connect to right? Wrong!
Villains are easier to write. You don’t have to come up with personal struggles, sacrifice, and meaningful growth to create villains. Heroes are more difficult to write, because why would you keep your morals when you could just break them and get what you wanted now? That is how villains think, they feel heroes are naive or simply uneducated. How then are they more compelling? They are infinitely easier to write though. I don’t need to justify actions with villains, I don’t need to show moral or personal growth with a villain, I don’t need to inspire the reader with a villain. Sure you Can write a villain with some or even all those things, but with heroes you Have to, so it is harder to write those.
In closing, our villain worshipping modern littature disgusts me. I see it as nothing more than lazy writing from children unwilling to grow up. But, in strife, in the muck of the world is where heroes are born. Not out of self-serving desire, but out of self-sacrifice and serving others. We all can rise up and become better people and writers if we simply refuse to compromise our own morals.