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How to Make Villains Relatable?
Giving a villain relatable or sympathetic qualities is an effective way to make them more interesting and nuanced. If you want to make a villain more interesting, just give them a sob story. Works every time! It’s like when you’re rooting for the bad guy in a movie because they’re just so darn charming, even though you know they’re up to no good.
So, you want to make your villain a little less villainous? How about giving them a soft spot for puppies or a love for knitting? Maybe they have a fear of heights or a tendency to break out in hives when they eat strawberries.
Anything to make them a little more relatable, right? Just don’t make them too likable, or you might end up with a hero who’s more of a villain than your actual villain.
Here are a few ways to incorporate relatable or sympathetic qualities into a villain:
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Give the baddie a backstory that makes the viewers go “aww” instead of “boo.” This could involve experiences of losing their favorite toy, being betrayed by their pet goldfish or experiencing the injustice of not getting the last slice of pizza, which shaped their worldview and led them down a darker path of becoming a pizza hoarder. By understanding their past pain, the audience may find themselves empathizing with the choices the villain has made.
Portray the villain as someone driven by a misguided sense of idealism or a belief that they are pursuing a greater good. The individual who thinks they’re doing the right thing, but really they’re just a few sandwiches short of a picnic. They’re like a misguided GPS, leading themselves and everyone else down a dark and winding road to nowhere. But hey, at least they’re passionate about their cause, even if it’s as useful as a chocolate teapot.
They may be convinced that their over-the-top antics will magically transform the world into a utopia or fix a problem that only exists in their imagination. This adds complexity to their character and can make their motivations more relatable.
Show the vulnerabilities and flaws of the villain. They could be battling with their own personal army of self-doubt, inner gremlins, or emotional boo-boos that make them extra relatable. These vulnerabilities can make you feel sorry for the villains and make you wonder if they just need a hug or a therapist instead of a life of crime.
Create moral ambiguity within the villain’s actions. It’s like being a cat that sometimes brings you dead mice as gifts and other times scratches your face off. You never know what you’re going to get, but it keeps things interesting.
Perhaps they are faced with difficult choices or have to make sacrifices for a cause they genuinely believe in. This gray area can make the audience question their own moral judgments and empathize with the villain’s predicament.
Make the villain want something more than just world domination or destruction, like a really good cup of coffee or a comfortable pair of shoes. This could include cravings for pizza, puppies, money, or fame—basic human needs that anyone with a pulse can understand. When the audience recognizes these motivations, it can create a sense of understanding and even sympathy for the villain’s journey.’
To learn more about this, check this article: A Riveting Villain: Complex Motivations
Illustrate the internal struggles and conflicting emotions that the villain experiences. One minute they’re feeling all powerful and evil, and the next they’re questioning their life choices and wondering if they should just give up and become a florist. It’s a real mess.
As they embark on their journey of evil, they might also struggle with the pesky emotions of guilt, regret, and a nagging sense of responsibility. It’s tough being a bad guy these days! This internal conflict showcases their humanity and adds layers to their character.
Remember that adding relatable or sympathetic qualities to a villain does not mean condoning or justifying their actions. Just because Darth Vader had a tough childhood doesn’t mean we should excuse his habit of blowing up planets. #VillainProblems
It’s about creating depth and complexity, allowing the audience to see the shades of gray within the character. By turning the bad guy into a relatable character, you can make your story way more interesting and get people debating about what’s right and wrong. Plus, who doesn’t love a good existential crisis?