I Want to Rule the World!: Villains and Their Goals

“He is the Napoleon of Crime! There’s no evil scheme he wouldn’t concoct, no depravity he wouldn’t commit!” – The Great Mouse Detective
“You destroy the very fabric of the worlds in order to have your wish granted, Fei Wang Reed!”– xxxHOLiC
“Sauron needs only this ring to cover all the land in a second darkness!” – The Lord of the Rings
“It was He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named!” – Harry Potter

In real life, the average person doesn’t come across a true villain. In fiction, evil villains intent on wreaking havoc are quite common. Whether they’re interested in taking over the world, getting revenge, making money, or trying to relieve boredom is ultimately up to the writer. The struggle the writer then faces is what does this person want, and how much are they willing to do to get it? And how can I keep them from becoming a cliche?

What does my bad guy want?
When I finally sat down to really work this question out for my manuscript, I was over halfway through writing the book. Until then, I had been able to sweep that question under the metaphoric rug. Now my main character wanted to know, so I the writer had to come up with some sort of answer. I looked at my villain, studied what they’d done and what I planned for them to do. I tried to connect it to some underlying meaning…
and sat back surprised disgust. Crap, they want to take over the world?! Really?! I’ve never seen the appeal in world domination. Perhaps I’m missing something, since world domination isn’t only a fictional villain’s goal (look at Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and Hitler). I tried to come up with some other sort of reason for the villain’s behavior, but no. They really wanted to take over the world. Why?

I can’t count the number of bad guys in print who’s goal is some sort of conquest. My villain’s goal is by no means original. So how was I going to make this person stand out? What could their motivation be? This was my chance to make a unique storyline. I had to seriously consider why they wanted to take over the world. What could their motivation be? What was their end game once they succeeded? After really working through this problem for several weeks, I made the realization that their goal really didn’t involve ruling the world so much as…well, you’ll just have to read my book and find out! The point here is to say that even a well-used evil goal can be manipulated into something original and interesting if enough investigation is done in the matter. If you are a plot-driven writer, then you must have a villain that fits the needs of the plot. If you are a character-driven writer (as in the characters are the first things you develop for the story), you must really understand your villain’s motivations. What makes them do the things they do?

Sometimes the bad guy of the story isn’t an embodiment of evil, but merely someone who opposes the protagonist over something, be it the way the world should be run or who is going to get the girl. These aren’t necessarily “villains,” but they serve that purpose in the eyes of the protagonist, and the eyes of the reader as well. The method of working with these is the same. What do they want? Why is the main character/ protagonist a threat to their goal? How far are they willing to go to get what they desire? What makes them do what they do?

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. hibstika
    Feb 26, 2011 @ 01:28:12

    Speaking of getting your book, I was in Barns & Noble two days ago and I asked them about your book for me to purchase, but they said it was “Order by Demand” so I ended up buying different books.
    If you don’t mind I would like to write a review bout it, and maybe (if you don’t mind) interview you about it. If you have the time that is.
    Hiba ❤

    Reply

    • Jennifer Mandelas
      Mar 01, 2011 @ 23:18:38

      It is order by demand. Unfortunately, I don’t have enough clout to get the book into the bookstore (one hurdle at a time!). I would really appreciate a review, and I would love an interview!

      Reply

      • wovenstrands
        Mar 02, 2011 @ 00:47:11

        I don’t want you to het confused but Hibstika and Woven Strands are both mine.
        Yes, one step at a time 🙂
        Currently I got a couple of books on my plate but as soon as I get to it I’ll email you and we can set up an interview 🙂
        Thanks again ❤

  2. wovenstrands
    Feb 28, 2011 @ 18:43:41

    Hey Jennifer, just wanted to let you know I added a link to your blog on my page 🙂

    Reply

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