Basic writing tips: villains


I was playing Titanfall last night, that heady bastion of drama that it is, and was talking with someone about how poor the attempt at a storyline is. It’s your basic evil moustache twirling corporation of English and South Africans against the valiant rebellion of Americans. Not offensive, just utterly pointless. It does nothing that hasn’t been done before.

Then, naturally, we started talking about Brink, and the topic shifted to what made that a compelling world if not a compelling game. The answer was relatively simple: the baddies worked.

This *is* basic writing theory, so if you already know this, don’t take offence. You’ll already know a great deal of writers can’t do this properly. For those that don’t know what I mean, here we go.

As a rule, your bad guy should not think he’s the bad guy. He can act like a total dick, but his motivation must be because he thinks what he’s doing is the right thing to do, otherwise it feels remarkably fake. They can still be monstrously evil, to the point of moustache twirling if you like, but because they think it’s necessary.

Taken to its logical extreme, you get this article from a website that will devour your day, but it doesn’t need to go quite that far. But really, all you need is a reason for them to be evil. Whether heroes need a reason to be good is probably something I’ll write about later if I remember — it’s got a whole article of its own there — but villains always need a reason to be evil. They are the source of your drama, your conflict, so they must be fully realised by you, even if a lot of it isn’t used directly in the story. You need that knowledge on hand for writing how they act, knowing how they think.

Just, you know, give your characters some character.

“That guy from that dragon film”


I watched Starship troopers and Reign of Fire last night. One of those is a very good film. I’m going to talk to you about the other one.

I’d not seen Reign of Fire before, and I was genuinely confused how such a dull film could have such an amazing cast. The entire time I was watching Christian Bale do an English accent – which is weird enough in itself – I was wondering about how, exactly, a man who was in this film gets other jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone in the film acted their hearts out, but surely when that resume comes across your desk you must think what, the guy from that awful dragon film?

There have been films that have killed entire careers, and watching Reign of Fire made me wonder exactly what it is that makes a film one of those. What are the qualities a career derailing film must have over, say, just a bad film?

And then… then I opened TV Tropes. So begins the tale of my eventual death, malnourished and wide-eyed, page after page of trivia being burned into my eye sockets.