Evil characters can be the most fun, but how can you convince them?
No matter what you write, you will come across an antagonist on the page. You don’t have to be a human or even a physical character in the story, but there are always forces that press against the protagonist and put him in danger.
But we love when they are a bad character. The best antagonists not only have this sick glimmer in their eye, but also embody what our heroes fear most and what the audience also fears.
The problem, however, is how can you get a character to feel purely evil? Are there different levels? And what if you don’t want to completely deter their crimes straight away, but want to take a more nuanced look at humanity?
These are all valuable questions that we will examine today.
Check out this video from The cinema cartographyand let’s talk after the jump.
What makes a bad character type?
That was an excellent video that looked at human nature on screen. I think it’s important to think about our characters and how they fit into the nature of the conflict. We see a lot of people against people, but there is also how people are naturally viewed or how we are often victims of our own devices.
To write an evil character, you have to define where that is coming from. I loved how the video split it up from film to film. Instead of using their examples, I thought we should look at some new instances.
A movie that I love is Angels with dirty faces. It’s a gangster movie that asks the question, “How could a priest and gangster come from the same neighborhood? What happened to them when they were younger that affected the outcome?”
The film shows the possible downfall why these characters became that way. And this kind of arc will later be reproduced in a movie like Guys around This shows the temptation to transform the bad when the bad is blamed on you.
Even so, there are so many nuances to who these characters are, I’m not sure we can call them purely evil.
The same goes for any movie or TV show in which our protagonists are the bad guys The Sopranos or Goodfellas. Since the TV show is about them, they’re not purely evil, but let’s see what made them the way they are.
I know it’s in the video, but what about a bad guy like John Doe Se7en? Here is a serial killer who forgave the seven deadly sins to punish humanity. What makes that really bad? Here the writer Andrew Kevin Walker shows complexity.
Doe doesn’t kill Mills when he gets the chance. He later slaughters Mills’ wife and unborn child to show Mills what real evil can be. It’s not about a character behaving badly all the time. The point is to show that their intentions are driven by pure evil, and that is what makes them evil.
Finally, let’s talk about someone like Amon Goeth Schindlers List. He is a Nazi captain who has a range of emotions, from lust to greed to murderous desire. He has moments when he almost rethinks his actions, but he is still the pure evil incarnate. We have to make him to some degree of evil where we can still have a protagonist sitting across from him. You see, Goeth’s evil does not go beyond what he considers his duty to follow Hitler’s plans. While posing a threat to the Jewish characters in the film, he never presents one to Schindler, and sometimes even rescues him with more severe Nazis.
It’s the nuance here that makes this character especially nasty.
Wrap up bad characters
As you can see, there are many different degrees of evil coming onto the screen via characters. Sometimes it’s just kids doing bad things, but sometimes it’s people like Hannibal Lecter who are driven by their ego.
Anyway, you have to write it convincingly.
What are some purely evil characters that you have seen on movies and television? How do writers and directors introduce them and excuse them for who they are? Depending on the genre, there is a lot of room to improvise.
For example when we see Nazis in Hunter of the lost treasureWe know they’re bad guys. But when we see the crush of people in war of the Worlds When we attack the van we know they are only desperate to be safe.
There are many examples that I did not include. Let me know what you think about this in the comments.