V for Villains...While readers often get a feel for the hero's moral compass from details shared about their upbringing and their relationships with others, I've read many books where I don't get any insight to why a villain behaves the way they do. Sometimes a villain who is evil simply for the sake of being evil can come across as a flat character. Here are my tips for creating an authentic villain as opposed to a cookie-cutter bad guy.
Show the villain's back story. I find it useful to know the tyrannical, sadistic king had once been forced to kill his beloved pet dog to prove his masculinity to his own father. Or that the snooty gold digger millionaire's wife had grown up poor and is embarrassed to be associated with her past. While knowing a villain's tragic back story doesn't necessarily make me more sympathetic towards them, especially if they had done something truly heinous, it helps me understand their character motivation more.
Show the villain's perspective. When you read a book, you get a certain perspective, usually that of the hero. Can you imagine the entire HARRY POTTER series being told from Voldemort's perspective, or THE HUNGER GAMES series narrated by President Snow? A glimpse into how the villain thinks will help readers understand their choices. Why do they find the hero to be such a menace? Why do they think their villainous deeds will accomplish more than the noble approach? Why does the villain believe s/he is the real hero?
Show the villain when no one is watching. Villains reveal their insecurities when they believe no one is looking. The tyrannical, sadistic king can't sleep unless he has a night light on and a gun under his pillow, in spite of the soldiers standing guard outside his chambers. The gold digger millionaire's wife can't bear to look at herself in the mirror after washing off her makeup. These little details help confirm that villains, like anyone, have vulnerabilities they wish to keep hidden.
Do you have other tips for creating authentic villains?