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Darth Vader & Joker: What Makes a Great Villain?

What makes a fascinating and intriguing villain?

Great characters grow and evolve with the story adding a refreshing touch to our tales. Each chapter adds more depth to their personality and background. From Darth Vader's mysterious character to Joker's cunning, we see writers using the magic of mystery and a touch of humanity to augment their tales. 

Why is mystery so important?

In Harry Potter, we do not meet Voldemort until the 4th book. For most of the book, he is referred to as You Know Who, adding layers upon layers of mystery. His character is inherently an enigma; no one knows his motives, nor his past, until the very end.

Mystery captivates the readers' attention, forcing them to turn the page. The less the reader knows about a character, the more he wants to know about him. Writers like J.K. Rowling, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George R.R. Martin exploited this human trait to create the most iconic villains ever.

A touch of cunning

No matter how mysterious a villain is, if he cannot exude a cunning intelligence and a fair amount of brutality, he fails to make an impact. In John Milton's Paradise Lost, Satan's cleverness and resourcefulness, in the way he seduces and persuades, makes him a powerful and intriguing villain.

When villains become predictable, the story becomes boring. One of the main reasons for Joker's infamous legacy is his cunning ability to hinder Batman in extremely creative ways. He never bores the audience because the audience never knows what to expect. 

Unpredictability makes for an antagonist worth reading.

Every convincing lie has a touch of truth

Evil just for the sake of evil is barbaric, quickly making the plot boring. A convincing villain creates conflict, and conflict compels the reader to solve it. From Hannibal Lecter and Darth Sidious to Joker, we see this consistent trend in villains. 

A villain's way of weaving a gigantic web of lies, hatching a malicious plot all the while giving convincing arguments makes him seem like a perfectly rational human. The plot becomes even more convoluted when villains show compassion or love in their twisted way.

In V for Vandetta, V's arguments for anarchy and against leadership are so convincing that his mission to blow up the Parliament almost seems justified and rational. Even after the ending, V's words remain with you. This is the defining factor of a great character.

Vulnerability

Strong characters with unmatched powers, emotionless lives, and stoic philosophy to life, or in other words Gods, make the plot too predictable. In King's Dark Tidings, you'll see this predictability scaled a hundred times when the protagonist is immortal, all-powerful, extremely skilled, and knowledgable with magical powers to add to the mix. Invincibility should be ephemeral and added in complement to the plot, not as the main component.

Human emotions add substance to characters making them more relatable. When you find yourself sympathizing with a character, be it a villain or a hero, know that the book is here to stay. 

Conclusion

Great villains, like great heroes, define a masterwork of art. Harry Potter, Batman, Starwars, and many other fictional pieces are most renowned because of the villains. When good and evil fight, the result is a masterpiece.

Edited by cherrywine_stains

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