How to be (or Write) a Villain

We’ve all seen it. The villain has the good guy or gal in his clutches, and then he pauses to gloat or spill his plans for world domination, giving the hero just enough time to get free and ruin his plans.  Curses, foiled again!

A few years ago, a sci fi fan[1] took the top 100 mistakes villains inevitably make in fiction and flipped them on their head. The Evil Overlord List was the result.

So, if you decide to take over the world—or write a villain—here are a few pearls of wisdom from the Evil Overlord:

  • Shooting is not too good for my enemies.
  • The artifact which is the source of my power will not be kept on the Mountain of Despair beyond the River of Fire guarded by the Dragons of Eternity. It will be in my safe-deposit box. The same applies to the object which is my one weakness.
  • After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out.
  • I will be secure in my superiority. Therefore, I will feel no need to prove it by leaving clues in the form of riddles or leaving my weaker enemies alive to show they pose no threat.
  • I will never build a sentient computer smarter than I am.
  • I will not interrogate my enemies in the inner sanctum -- a small hotel well outside my borders will work just as well.
  • The hero is not entitled to a last kiss, a last cigarette, or any other form of last request.

You get the idea. Can you think of any more cliches? What about dumb things the hero or heroine does  that inevitably land him or her in the villains clutches?

[1] The Evil Overlord List is Copyright 1996-1997 by Peter Anspach.


Anonymous said...

I love the Evil Overlord List! *goes off to read yet another time*

Dumb things MCs do: when they have a fight (often with their love interest) and storm off for a nice night-time walk in the woods, despite knowing the enemy's out there. You just know they're going to get kidnapped.

lotusgirl said...

Fun list. How about when the MC knows he shouldn't, tells himself he shouldn't but does anyway and lands in a heap of trouble? Of course, teenagers do that all the time, so maybe it's not so much cliché as reality.

Mara Nash said...

I've seen this list before, and it's hysterical. And I can't help but read it with the voice of Hans Doofenshmirtz in my head.

Sierra Gardner said...

My pet peeve cliche for a bad guy is to assume that he/she is all bad, totally evil, bent on destroying the world. Bad guys can be complex characters as well. As for MC's - why does an MC always check out the scary house, long hallway, deserted room, etc in the dark? I'd be flipping on every light I could find.

Janet Johnson said...

Funny! I'm with lotusgirl. Why do it when they already know it's going to be bad? . . . Or they know it's a trap, but go anyway because they "have to."

Melody said...

"After I kidnap the beautiful princess, we will be married immediately in a quiet civil ceremony, not a lavish spectacle in three weeks' time during which the final phase of my plan will be carried out."

Anonymous said...

Oh, the Evil Overlord List!! I loves it. Two of my favorites:

12. One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.


34. I will not turn into a snake. It never helps.

oh LOL!

Colene Murphy said...

Love it! So worth the read.

Nicole Zoltack said...

LOL It must be villain day today because I posted about this list on my blog this morning! How ironic. :)

Katrina L. Lantz said...

Hee hee. That's awesome. Of course, reading your list made me nervous because if he marries the girl right away and shoots all the heroes, he wins. Scary, scary thought. You have to make your heroes even more clever, meaning as a writer you have to BE more clever.

And that's scary, too.

Roz Morris aka @Roz_Morris . Blog: Nail Your Novel said...

Thank you for finding this. I also loved:
I will not include a self-destruct mechanism unless absolutely necessary. If it is necessary, it will not be a large red button labelled "Danger: Do Not Push". The big red button marked "Do Not Push" will instead trigger a spray of bullets on anyone stupid enough to disregard it. Similarly, the ON/OFF switch will not clearly be labelled as such.

Okie said...

what a great list.

it's often hard not to fall into cliches and stereotypes when writing. Sometimes it's acceptable...but most of the time it's just so much more fun to turn the cliches on their heads and do something totally unexpected. :)