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Article - 'Cruel Intentions VII' by Xanqui

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Feb 6, 2004


Part Seven of the Cruel Intentions series. This article briefly explains the types of single villains.


Alright, there’s a lot to cover in this article, so I’ll give you a brief idea as to what this one’s about. There are a lot of different types of villains. We can’t really compare a villain such as Sephiroth to the common bank robber or a virus, as they are entirely different versions of evil. This article is basically a list of different types of villains, and will aid you in deciding what form of evil your foe wishes to take. Your foe may be more than one type, as this is only a general list. Try out different combinations, and see if you can make something truly unique!

I’ll start with the weakest form of villain, then work up to the most powerful. Starting with…

Personal Flaw
While this could hardly be classified as evil, a flaw is considered an antagonist. This flaw could be something like a broken back, a hatred towards another race, or anything that a character must overcome through character development. There are plenty of articles in GW about character development regarding flaws, so I won’t bother going any further than this simple description.

Intention: Prevent the protagonist from achieving his or her goals.

Personal Antagonist
Again, the antagonist here may not be evil, but is more of a rival. This could be a character who always gets better grades, or picks on the main character. The story generally revolves around this, ending with a situation in which the main character surpasses the antagonist. A good example of this would be the brother of the main character in Gattaca (Don’t ask me the names). While his brother was always smarter, stronger, and faster than him, he strove to finally swim further than him. He spends years working out, studying, and becoming a “perfect” human being, not just because he wanted to beat his brother, but also because of a personal flaw.

This is a great way to add a bit of depth to your story. It doesn’t need to be a significant part, but could be used to show the reasons the main character left to go on an adventure in the first place: to prove he is worth something.

Intention: Surpass the protagonist.

Here’s probably the weakest form of evil. A common criminal may not rob a gas station simply because he’s evil; he’s probably doing it because he can’t support himself or his family. A criminal may also be doing it for personal greed, which is in every human being, so that still doesn’t necessarily make him evil.

Criminals are generally used as one-shot characters when portrayed as the villains. Like in the movie Spiderman, or any other superhero comic, a man might be holding up an innocent person at gunpoint, but is suddenly stopped by the hero, and you never see or hear from the criminal again. But they have been used for other roles, such as the character who causes the hero to go on an adventure. Perhaps he accidentally kills a guy’s wife, and the guy wants to avenge her. There are a lot of different directions to go with these antagonists.

Intention: Gain wealth from crime.

Political Antagonist
This is a rather difficult antagonist to decide just how powerful of a villain he is. If this is simply the leader with ideas that the main characters oppose, then there isn’t really any evil involved. In movies about Presidential elections, where the audience is for some reason supposed to side with one of the candidates, there is a “fight” between the two candidates in a big debate or something. While this could be considered a form of rivalry, it’s a bit more significant than that.

A side note: I don’t like to watch these movies where it focuses on one particular candidate and puts down the other. It’s like they’re forcing their opinions down the audiences’ throats.

Another form of political antagonist would be someone like Lex Luthor, from Superman. Lex, while not nearly strong enough to defeat Superman, attempts to expose him whenever possible. These types of antagonists could be considered evil, but at the same time, may be doing it to protect a secret of their own…

Intention: Surpass the protagonist in political fame.

Henchmen are like the crappy versions of the lead villain. These guys start out rather evil, and cause a lot of fuss to the main character, but are otherwise fairly useless in a storyline. In games, these characters have weak attacks and are obviously used to teach the player how to play the game. Solt and Peppor from Chrono Cross, for example, were nearly impossible to lose against. In nearly every battle, they always forgot something vital, and they explain why you need these things in battle.

In other forms of stories, such as books or movies, henchmen should be avoided. They’re generally used to make jokes that aren’t funny and you never really know why the hell the lead villain hired them in the first place. Unless they play a vital role in which they cause a major change in the story, just leave them out. Trust me, your audience will be better off that way.

Intention: Serve a more powerful antagonist.

The Unknowing Villain
These are the villains that the main character doesn’t realize is the villain. This character could be a spy or someone who doesn’t realize that they are a spy. These characters usually don’t turn out to be the lead villain of the game, but they make for an interesting plot twist. There are many different directions you could go with this type of villain, such as the villain turning against his kind and joining with the hero.

Intention: None (Generally).

The Powerful Leader
Similar to the political antagonist, but rather than having opposing beliefs, is simply evil. Guys like Sauron from Lord of the Rings could be under this classification, since he lead the massive armies of orcs against the humans. This is usually the guy leading the armies, or the nation that is the antagonist of the storyline. A villain in this category is likely to be in another as well. I don’t want to get too specific with this type of villain, since it’s too broad of a classification.

Intention: Gain more and more power until antagonist can take over as much as possible.

The Insane Villain
When you hear the words “insane” and “villain”, the first name likely to come to your mind is Kefka from Final Fantasy VI. However, any villain with no real motivation other than the fact that he wants everything dead, without any particular reason, would probably be considered insane. A brutal past and a generally awful life can lead to an extremely powerful foe such as this. Or it could be a mental instability.

Lack of motivation can hurt your story. No villain should ever seek total destruction, because there is simply not benefit for it. Unless a villain is truly insane, he’s probably not going to be dumb enough to end even his own existence.

Intention: Variable.

The Unseen Antagonist
In many stories, the hero is on a quest to save the world from some hidden force. Usually we don’t know anything about a living villain controlling the force until near the end, when the hero discovers it. These villains lack in character development and personality, and once killed, no one really cares. Often times, people will give a really long in-depth background to a character we know hardly anything about (or care about).

Let’s use Lord of the Rings again, for example. Shelob, the spider from Return of the King, had been preventing anyone from getting past the walls of Mordor. No one actually knew it was a spider, or her name, until Frodo finally had to deal with her.

Intention: Variable.

The “Boss”
These villains are seen in games, mostly. These are creatures, robots, or even people who more powerful villains summon to use against the heroes. They have little to do with the story, and are used as a distracter while the more powerful enemy deals with more important matters. Sometimes these villains go on to have more to do with the story later on.

Intention: Defeat the Protagonist.

That’s it for now. I didn’t have time to go into the evil forces. But that at least gives me an idea for Cruel Intentions VIII. I’m sorry for the lateness of this article, but being so busy slowed it down quite a bit.