I was thinking about villains the other day - about some of my favorite evil guys. And what I found is that, while I love my flawed, beautiful characters, sometimes I just love evil villains. Are you ever satisfied by pure evil? Or do you prefer a villain with a tried-and-true backstory?
As writers, we have characters we create to be ugly. Sometimes we don’t want a light side, sometimes we don’t want empathy or a compelling reason. Sometimes our characters are not normal people who went bad. Occasionally, we need a character that is so unreasonably evil, so unforgivably dark, that no reader in their right mind would defend him.
Not the ‘mommy-didn’t-love-me-so-now-I-kill-teddy-bears’ evil, not the ‘I’m-just-misunderstood’ evil. We need a villain who we don’t understand; a man who does evil things because they are evil. A woman who does unthinkable things for no other reason than she wants to.
Why do we need such evil in stories? Because human nature can be dark without reason. The unforgivable villain is not just a character, but an extension of human nature - the part we fight against the most and fear the most.
When we see a flawed hero defeat the evilest evil-McEvil out there, we see victory against the darkness, against our own darkness. That is the truth behind the story, that’s why fiction is never just really fiction.