Is Your Villain A Hero?

Some friends and I were discussing FAR RIDER when I started breaking it down into POV plotlines.

Beth reminded me, each important person needs to be the hero of their story. Even the villains need to be heroes. They have some sort of “code” they live by.

Now, there are definitely rule breakers, but for the most part this is true.

In FAR RIDER there is a triangle of sorts.

The good guys, the bad guys and the guy who is kind of bad, but he could care less about politics and power.

It’s easy to make the good guys the heroes of their own stories, but it’s not quite so easy with the villains. It was that idea that got me to thinking about some things.

Firefly is a great writing teacher if a person dissects the stories and characters. Miska is about as bad as they come. He enjoys torturing people. He doesn’t allow anyone to cheat him or dishonor him. Still, he has a code of sorts. Unlike Patience, who will look for ways to cheat you out of your money, Miska pays well for services rendered. He isn’t going to cheat you, but he will find ways to torture you for days if you fail him. I tried finding links to these two characters, but couldn’t. You just have to trust me if you aren’t familiar with the series.

Baroness Lucine Chastain in FAR RIDER is based loosely on Elizabeth Bathory. I don’t have the stomach to mimic her too closely nor do I wish to establish myself as that type of author, but she makes a good model for a villain.

I had to examine Chastain closely to figure out why she’s a hero in her story and it boils down to her fighting for the rights of women or at least powerful women in a society that largely withholds women’s rights. They can own land, but it’s unusual and frowned upon. They don’t rule. Noblewomen are married at a young age to make sure she has a mate who can care for her lands if she inherits.

Chastain is very determined to show she’s not only capable of ruling her lands, but much more.

So, Chastain has a reason for what she wants and she’s the hero of her own story, but she might be a bit two dimensional. She likes beautiful things, but she isn’t affectionate and she certainly isn’t sexual. It’s just hard being well-rounded when you’re a psychopath.

Erokath is the demon in human form. He tends to be very laid back. He doesn’t get upset about things. He just destroys that which makes him unhappy. He hints at the fact that he has tortured people in his realm as punishment for refusing him and amusement, but he much prefers to play mind games.

Erokath was more difficult than Chastain at making the hero of his story because we don’t know why he wants power. Wanting power isn’t enough. There should be a reason. Perhaps he just thinks he can rule better because he has a more ordered mind. Where Chastain is fire, he is ice and everything he does is totally calculated. He dislikes untidy things like murders he hadn’t planned on. He doesn’t get upset, but he’s definitely forceful on the battlefield. He’s a gifted commander. That counters with his attitude which is almost cat-like. He has the well-rounded personality, but his hero arc is more difficult

The sort of villain is Captain Boots Trelaine. He’s young, attractive, has a lively sense of humor and joy de vive, but he also has his dark side and he doesn’t mind destroying a young woman to inflict pain on someone else he hates.

How the heck can you cheer for a guy who’s going to annihilate an innocent person’s life just to get revenge?

Of the three, he wound up with the middle ground. He’s a satisfying character and he has his own mission that seems just to him.

So, is your villain the hero of his story?


  1. Not really. She has a soft moment and helps the real hero but only because it is to her benefit.

    “It’s just hard being well-rounded when you’re a psychopath.”
    LOVED this.

  2. I think this is a good way to think about it; the villains feel what they do is justified. In fact, I think the author can play with this a bit, showing the villain indulging in more self-justifications and the heros in more self-questioning. Both the villain and the hero might do something violent, take a life, frex, but for the hero this will be difficult to justify, for the villain, easy.

    Although, sometimes writers may give sociopaths too much credit. I remember reading a study of true sociopaths that was trying to explain that in addition to a lack of conscience, sociopaths don’t seem to have as much overall depth and complexity of emotion. But when writers and filmmakers try to write them, they want to put this complexity in because otherwise the characters seem “unrealistic” to normal people.

  3. Tara,

    I agree. I’m not sure many people go around and tweaking their mustaches and laughing evilly as they plan their next debauchery. Most people who do evil things think they are justified. They don’t particularly think of themselves as evil.

    The Canadian officer who was convicted a few days ago felt remorse and shame, but he still scored an 18 on the “scale of evil.” True sociopaths don’t really have those feelings, as you mentioned. They either feel nothing or that the victim deserved what they got.

    It makes it difficult to write because we like the characters to both have flaws and strengths so they can be complex characters. Some characters aren’t complex. They just are what they are.

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