“We want to believe the best of who we are, and ignore and deny the worst. The most intriguing moment of a story is when a villain begins to convince a reader that what he is doing may actually be necessary…”
As writers, we often romanticize our protagonists, endowing them with ruggedly handsome, or sweepingly enchanting good looks, special abilities that set them above the fray and add intrigue, and razor dialogue that always leads them to exactly the right thing to say at the right time. Our heroes are, after all, in some way not too short of narcissism, based on ourselves. And don’t we love to pretend we are that cool?
One thing that we definitely do with our protagonist, is give him a sense of duty born from a true conviction. He believes in what he does, and what he does is right and just. This aspect of a character is why he acts and plays out the trials and conflicts in the story. Ultimately, it is also why we as readers follow him into whatever danger his belief conjures.
But what of the villain? Why do so many bad guys fall flat and fail to intrigue readers? And why, as writers, do we spend so little time developing our antagonists as fully as even our sidekicks?
What of a villain bent on world domination, or a bad guy who just likes to kill? Isn’t that good enough to tell a good story?