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Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate

Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate | KayeDacus.comOriginally published August 2009

With help from The Power of the Dark Side (Pamela Jaye Smith) and Bullies, Bastards & Bitches (Jessica Page Morrell), we’ll analyze the bad-guy characters in our writing and reading. And for those of you who aren’t writers, we’ll be looking at the antagonists in books and movies for examples.


Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate

    the heart of telling a good story is conflict. And while that conflict doesn’t have to come from an antagonistic character (a bad guy/girl, villain, whatever you want to call it), some of the most iconic characters across storytelling venues have been bad guys: Darth Vader, Professor Moriarty, Voldemort, Sauron & Saruman, the Wicked Witch of the West, Nurse Ratched, all of the evil queens and stepmothers from fairytales, Captain Bligh, and so on.
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Bad Guys: Breaking (Down) Bad

    We must first start off with defining what the protagonist/main characters believe is bad—bad behavior, bad beliefs, bad ethics, bad spirituality, bad culture, bad politics, etc. Through this process, we can start to see that a “bad guy” in a story might not necessarily be “bad” (or evil) in and of himself.
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Bad Guys: Everything I Need to Know about Bad Guys, I Learned in Childhood

    When we create bad guys, we want to play upon our readers’ fears—we want to tap into that primeval part of the brain and make our readers squirm, make them connect with the characters emotionally because they’re actually experiencing some of the same feelings/sensations the character should be feeling.
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Bad Guys: The Allure of the Dark Side

    What is it about the “dark side” that can be so alluring? Actually, what is it about human nature that makes the dark side so alluring?
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Bad Guys: Antagonist or Villain?

    Then there’s the role of the antagonist-who-isn’t-the-villain. As I’ve already discussed at length, an antagonist needs to be someone (or something) whose presence is necessary to try to thwart the protagonist from attaining his goal for the story.
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Bad Guys: Does a Villain Have to Be Evil?

    Villains are always antagonists, but antagonists aren’t always villains; and the difference is motivation/intent. An antagonist can be in opposition to the hero without meaning to; the villain sets out to be in opposition to the hero. A villain willfully chooses to try to stop the protagonist from achieving his/her goals.
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Bad Guys: What Is Evil?

    In many fantasy books/movies, the most evil characters, the worst villains, are usually a non-human entity at which we can take one look and know that they are evil. The Shadow in Inkheart. The Balrog and Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. . . . But what about in those stories in which the characterization is more subtle, in which the lines between good and evil aren’t so clearly drawn? How, then, do we figure out if a character is an antagonist, a bad guy, a villain, or truly evil?
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Bad Guys: Is He or Isn’t He? (Dark Heroes)

    A con man stranded on a strange island. A cold-blooded assassin with a memory problem. A vampire in a small Louisiana town. A billionaire playboy wanting vengeance for his parents’ murder. What do these characters all have in common?
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Bad Guys—Creepy Cartoon Caricatures (Caricature or Creepily Sympathetic?)

    There’s creating “Bad to the Bone” villains—the creepy cartoon caricatures; and then there’s creating Bad Guys (antagonists, dark heroes, villains) who have just a little something about them that makes them sympathetic to the reader.
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Bad Girls: The Scorned Woman

    We’ve talked about our favorite Disney villains, which includes a large number of females. But when it comes to creating believable female villains—Bad Girls, in other words—it takes a totally different skill set than it does to create a male bad guy.
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Bad Girls: From Vixens to Villains

    What is it that makes us sympathize with Bad Guys and hate Bad Girls? Is it because men secretly want to be that kind of guy and women want to save him?
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Other posts about Bad Guys/Villains:

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