This is all my opinion. :) Just warning you. But... (i think i'm right...maybe?)
Authors, you know my deepest, darkest secrets, my obsessions, my habits of procrastination. You also know of my unending love of bad-guys. Villains. Evil ones. (MWAHAHAHA!) Which is probably why I blog on them so often. :D
They're often the best part of the story.
So how can so many authors mess them up?
That sounded horrible, but I DON'T mean that my personal standard should hold for all villains. Seriously. I prefer my villains a certain way, who doesn't? :) But I'm okay if villains don't act the way I want them to - obviously, they're villains!
Contrary to the belief of many 'badguy' fans, I know that heroes aren't simple. That the idiot with the good morals who somehow conquers the villain is old and tired, that these days heroes have to have a very delicate blend of good and bad, that they have to be relate-able. In fact, looking at heroes, villains seem like they should be easy, right?
Well.... It depends. There are several types of villains, and, in certain circumstances, most of them can work. There's the:
Misunderstood Villain who comes around in the end. Corny, but if written well, can make a fantabulous story.
Villain who was made that way by a difficult childhood/loss of a loved one.
Villain who is really trying to do the best thing, but ends up twisted.
Villain who is bad bad bad bad bad and doesn't care. (Think: Voldemort. Sauron. Warning - this works best when villain is competent, or madly skilled. bad bad bad bad bad and also unskilled or stupid is the stuff of children's cartoons.)
Villain who the readers never fully understand. (Careful with this, because readers like to understand at the end. This works best if the hero doesn't understand either. Also if explained in a prequel of some sort.)
Villain who is entirely selfish, but in a sexy way. Confidence is hot, right?
Villain who starts out as a minion, but is later revealed to be much more of a threat than previously believed.
All these villains can be used effectively, even the children's cartoon villain. Lots of authors do magnificent jobs spinning/combining these, giving us some of the best villains of all time. Voldemort, one of my personal faves, has a mix of at least three of these. Of course, mostly, he's bad bad bad bad bad. Gannon IS just bad bad bad bad bad, and is a tad simple character-wise(or so we think), but he's a video game character, so we'll forgive him.
If none of the above types of villainy are taboo, then what is? Well, I don't like to say anything is. But these are the types of villains that - even if I'm halfway through a story - will make me shut the book and forcibly stop myself from burning it. (I know, I'm against book-burning too. That's why I stop myself.)
Stereotyped Villain: Most authors have gotten the hang of this, so most of the time if there's a stereotypical situation set up, they'll tweak something in a surprise way. That's awesome. But every once in awhile, you find a villain that's EXACTLY the way you expect. And that is surprising - in a very very bad way. This can be anything from the religious leader who kills thousands for his religion and ends up perishing in some sort of flame/explosion to the cheerleader in high school who picks on the heroine for no apparent reason, but we later find out she was abused as a child and takes out her pain on unsuspecting classmates. Sad, yes, but we've read it a bajillion times. It does get old.
Incompetent Villain: Because really, who cares? Incompetent villain turned into hero's sidekick can be funny and interesting, but only if there's a real villain out there.
Selfish Sexy Villain: I know, he's on the 'okay' list too, this is more of an opinion thing. There needs to be a mix with another type, I think.
All these really round down to:
Predictable Villain: This guy has it all. He does every single evil thing, because that's what badguys do, right? Right? A helpless female asks him for assistance? Well, all right, but only if he's allowed to 'have' her first. A little boy witnesses something that could, if known, destroy his plans? He kills the child. I mean, come ON. It's no fun when you know the game. If the villain is predictable, the whole story is predictable.
Okay, so how do we do this? Well.... a fun exercise (seriously) is making a hero a villain. No, I don't mean making him a villain as in killing off a loved one and making him all moody and dark-eyed (I'm looking at you, Anakin), I mean just twist the world around so he's the villain.
For example: How awesome would Han Solo be as the bad guy?
Or if Frodo somehow was able to establish more power over the ring than Sauron and could bend it entirely to his will?
Or if Mario said, screw it, I'M taking the princess captive. Let Bowser rescue her. (And of course, he would, because Bowser LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVES Princesses)
Or if Zelda said, "Heck, maybe Gannon has the right idea."
Or if Princess Leia said, "Instead of dark lord you would have a QUEEN!" (haha)
Seriously, it could be AWESOME.