Writing Villains & Understanding Their Villainy

Cruella de Vil is such a great villain.  Her image sticks in my mind throughout time as a creepy lady who scared the crap out of me.   And the best part about her, and most villains, is the entertaining value of her villainy.  She is sassy and flashy, visually exciting.  While I don’t want her to get those puppies, it is also fun to watch her try.  I don’t even like 100 DALMATIONS as a movie, but I love Cruella de Vil.

Childhood is where we learn about good and evil.  Where our imagination gets the best of us and monsters live in the dark shadows of the closet/attic/basement.  As the G.K. Chesterton quote goes “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey.  What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.  The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination.  What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.”  Good triumphs evil, Cruella de Vil does not prevail.

There are lots of great articles and thoughts about writing villains, but I’ve been thinking about writing villains less as a “how do I make this character real” exercise as looking at the villains in my own life for inspiration.   Understanding one often leads to understanding the other.  And I’m referring to human villains here not robots, aliens, or fantastical creatures, though I would think the same theories apply.

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