Terrible Villain Tropes
There is nothing that moves a story forward better than a really good villain. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and found yourself rooting for the villain? (Hint: hopefully you read Descent of A Broke Man) If you have, you know that a good villain you can sympathize with can really pull you into a story. For some strange reason most of us can identify with the villain before we identify with the hero. I’m sure it’s because we are all flawed is some way or another.
Yes, a good villain can make a story, but there are some tropes that are just too overdone that I simply hate and are so overdone they just don’t work anymore. Furthermore, in my opinion, you should avoid these tropes as much as possible in your writing. Here are my top three tropes to avoid curtsey of Oren Ashkenazi:
1. The Hero is Still Alive?!
Why would the villain bother killing the hero? Obviously this weakling do-gooder is no threat to them. Or maybe death is too good for the hero, and they must be left alive until their spirits are properly crushed. Either way, the villain has it in their power to kill the hero and chooses not to.
Audiences can see through this trope from a mile away. It’s obvious that the hero will eventually go on to conquer the villain, and passing up a chance to eliminate the threat just makes the villain seem deliberately negligent.
2. Killing their followers
A villain’s lieutenant fails in an important assignment. To show their displeasure, the villain kills the lieutenant. This villain doesn’t tolerate failure, you see. Which is ironic, because with that kind of policy they’re almost certain to fail in the long run.
A villain who kills their own lieutenants is incompetent for a number of reasons. First, everyone fails sometimes. If the villain kills everyone who messes up, soon they won’t have any minions left. Second, this kind of arbitrary murder is almost certain to weaken the loyalty of the minions who remain. Why would they want to work for someone who might kill them at any time? Finally, and most damningly, killing a lieutenant makes the hero’s job easier. Now they have one less enemy to fight. This reduces the story’s tension, which is the opposite of a villain’s job.
3. Explaining the master plan
Before I kill you, Mr. Bond… Actually, how about I just kill you? We all know how silly it is for a villain to explain their plan to the hero. It appears on every list of “things an evil overlord should never do,” and with good reason.
Yet this trope remains popular because it allows storytellers to keep their villain’s plan a secret until the last possible moment, and it’s easier for a secret plan to be threatening. When the villain’s plan is vague and shadowy, the audience can fill in the blanks with whatever most scares them. But once the plan is known, it can lose a lot of its threat.
These tropes are so cliché and predictable that it actually ruins the story for me. What are some other motivations for villains we can use? We can relate to both the hero and the villains because we are human. However, i’m sure we wouldn’t be as cliché as these tropes if we decided to go in that direction with our writing.
I hope this helps get your creative juices flowing. Let’s keep doing things The write way. Until then…thank you for reading!
Descent of A Broken Man
Credit: Oren Ashkenazi for the three tropes I agree 100% withds. You can find her work on mythcreants.com