Villains aren’t an archetype, but a necessary character type for any story. But there are many villainous archetypes a villain can fit into, some of which will be listed in this post.
“Anyone who gets in my way will be taken out of the way, permanently”~ Villain’s Motto
Some writers label any antagonistic force as a villain, but there is a difference. For the purposes of this post within the Character Archetypes A to Z series, the terms will be defined, and the post will deal with human(ish) villain types.
Villain vs Antagonist vs Anti-Villain
Antagonists vs Villains
Antagonists are antagonistic forces with opposing goals to the protagonist. But antagonists don’t have to be real life human characters. Conflict can exist between –
- Man vs Nature
- Man vs Machine (technology)
- Man vs Society
- Man vs Supernatural (monster)
- Man vs Fate (or the hand of God)
- Man vs Self
- Man vs Man
In 1-5 above the antagonistic force (a super-storm, a rampaging robot, a dystopian authority, a giant slug, or pure bad luck) may not even have an awareness of the main character and their predicaments, or humanistic goals. They just exist and go about their ‘thing’.
Many stories have multiple antagonists – an adventure story for instance may have the main hero firstly tackling an icy storm stuck up the middle of a high cliff-top, then tackling the evil corporation which sent him to that cliff, then later fighting with his wife over the fact he is fighting a corporation in the first place, then in the climax fighting fist to fist with an assassin sent out by the corporation to track down the hero, and eradicate him and all his knowledge. Phew.
If that assassin was involved in the first act, with goals to kill the hero, then I would consider him a story-wide villain.
A villain is defined as somebody human (or closely human) who has goals which forcefully oppose that of the hero’s. For the true villain antagonist, the hero is somebody who is getting in their way and must be stopped. They will plot and plan to do this. In this case, I’m going to say that the assassin was hired by the corporation to stop the hero, and if the assassin fails at his goal, there are repercussions (death?) to him for not achieving his own goal.
All stories only need two types of character – a hero and a villain (or antagonistic force). That’s it. Short stories have been written containing only that, and only one character at that – the protagonist is also fighting his own mind, so it’s a man versus self conflict, with the protagonist also the antagonist, or his mind creates his own villain.
Anti-Hero vs Anti-Villain
Most people understand anti-heroes a little. Some well-known examples of reluctant or slightly non-heroic heroes exist, such as serial murderer Dexter. The anti-hero possesses non-heroic qualities. They may be incompetent, a coward, clumsy, unskilled, naive, selfish, brattish, barbaric or reluctant to really go out there and fight monsters. Or they possess ambiguous morals – something Dexter does well. Han Solo and other heroes for rent (Solo initially helped in Star Wars because he was being paid) are anti-heroes.
An anti-hero is the story’s protagonist or another main character – we must root for him as the audience, even though he may possess characteristics or morals we don’t understand or like.
An anti-hero is a monster on our (good) side. He could be a hero who is prepared to kill or break laws for altruistic purposes.
Conversely, an anti-villain is a nice guy who is on their (bad) side. He may possess some good characteristics like a moral code of ethics, or loves his family, or he may refuse to kill women or children or break some laws for selfish goals, but ultimately he is bad.
At this point, this isn’t any different from any other type of villain – all successfully written villains think they are on the right side, and ultimately doing the right thing for that side. The difference is in audience alignment – readers are rooting for anti-heroes, whereas we’re intelligent enough to know that an anti-villain, despite some good traits, is a baddy.
The anti-villain serial killer may draw the line at killing children, women and animals for instance, so to assist himself, he may hire himself out as a political assassin only killing men. The spiritual leader who truly wants the world to attain world peace may kill to get the world there.
Dexter could be considered an anti-villain in this respect, as he still has a drive to kill people, but with a code that he will only kill those who deserve it, ie. other serial killers.
These kind of “good” intentioned antis (heroes or villains) make for extremely passionate reading and ethical questions. Using both, we have the noble jewel thief as hero versus the corrupt lawman as villain.
Write Practise summarizes 5 types of anti-hero from TV Tropes.
Villains as Shadows or Mirrors
It’s interesting to look at villains as the shadow or mirror form of one of the main characters. Shadows in this sense can be a non-human and symbolic antagonist, as with shadows we are talking solely about one internal shadow for a character.
Whereas external villains and antagonists can be many in a story, the internal villain, representing a main character’s deepest fear, can only be represented by one force.
In Lord of the Rings, Gandalf the Grey is a hero wizard to Saruman’s shadow – Gandalf avoids recognition and fame, while Saruman craves it. Sam’s shadow is Gollum – the two have huge conflicts later on in the books. And Frodo’s villainous shadow is the Ring itself. Whilst Frodo is relaxed and cheerful (before being overtaken by the Ring) and the Ring is power-hungry and malicious with whomever touches it. And Sauron, who as supreme evil wizard, you might initially think is Gandalf’s shadow, actually finds his own shadow later on with Aragorn, the King who does not seek his own kingdom but is eventually given it.
Shadow or mirrors reflect back to the main character the one characteristic they most fear, or their inner weakness.
So, create a shadow or mirror villain for each of your main characters, representing strongly the one trait or characteristic your hero’s are denying or fearful within themselves.
Top Motivations for Villains
There are many motivational forces which can work on your villain types, but here are some basics, single or combined:
- Failed career move
- Failed romance
- To gain acceptance
- Mental health issues such as depression, or even psychological conditions such as psychosis.
- Flee or achieve destiny (as chosen one?)
- Curiosity (like Pandora’s Box)
28 Villain Types
Although the “villain” as an overall concept is a character type, this character can fit several villainous archetypes, including but not exclusive, that of an anti-villain. Here’s a list of several villain varieties, but by far it’s not a definitive list. Below this is an even bigger but simple list of all the villain types I could think of – most of these will fit into one or two of the general archetypes listed here.
1. The Abusive Authority Figure
Other names: Career Bitch, The Abusive Autocrat, Dictator
Female characters in this villainous archetype are called “The Career Bitch” or similar, but the type is found across genders. This is the corporate climber who takes no prisoners, has no loyalty or morals stopping them from manipulating their way to the top, gaining wealth, power and privilege, and once they have authority, they hold on at all costs, and are abusive and dismissive of those working for them.
Note: statistically a lot of the world’s sociopaths can be found doing this climb, and sometimes not possessing any empathy or remorse is a bonus for some types of what we consider normal work.
This type of character excels in a wide variety of genres, but often are more prevalent in comedies and dramas. Audiences always identify with opposition to authority from the little man.
The abusive authority figure can be difficult to spot, however – such villains are manipulative and cunning enough to disguise themselves and collect an entourage of people around them who believe in them – until those people lose their usefulness, that is.
Abusive Authority Figure Goal: to climb and stay at the top (power, money, privilege, or simply winning).
2. The Beast
Other Names: the monster
The beast is literally a monster. This is different from an antagonistic force such as a super-storm, which has no mind of it’s own. The beast has a mind – it’s a very small mind, but he has a focussed goal with it. Those goals are to feed, rampage, destroy or prey on victims. There is no stopping the beast, or reasoning with it. In fact, they probably don’t understand humans anyway. Nothing but death will stop the beast.
Some beasts have been turned around on audiences when we find out the real reason for their rampage – consider some of the huge beasts like Godzilla, or the shark out of Jaws.
Beast Goal: to feed or protect, and that is all
3. The Big Bad
The Big Bad is the main and superior villain of a group of villains. He may well be a mastermind, or at least a lethal plotter.
Very often the Big Bad remains shrouded in secrecy, keeping his identity away from minion or lesser villains who act upon his plans and commands. Where he does keep his own identity secret the Big Bad will often use another commander type villain (called The Dragon) to run the day to day. A Dragon is more likely to share the same objectives, but also to be capable of running other villains under him, enforced out of fear or repercussions.
Because the Big Bad’s true identity is often kept secret, this character is typically used in a big reveal in the climax to a story, meant to surprise the reader and also the hero with who he was actually battling all this time.
It is the Big Bad who will have the opposing goals to that of a story’s hero. These goals may or may not be shared with The Dragon, but the Dragon will have reasons to go to battle with the hero.
Big Bad Goal: to maintain his secrecy while having other villains act upon his plans.
4. The Bully
The bully is painted straightforwardly as an opposition to the main character, often appearing in young adult genre, but as equal inside corporate work settings. There are various reasons behind the bully’s psychological profile, often associated with a childhood of oppression or abuse. Or they could just not have a lack of morals and social standards (aka the psychopath) and be outright mean, and enjoy torturing others.
Some bullies can have a redemptive path, others just need to be conquered.
Bully Goal: to torment and obstruct the hero
5. The Corrupted
Other Names: Once were Good, Bad Politicians.
The Corrupted are people who were once good, or got to their place of authority with good intentions, but became corrupted by the bad side, wealth or privilege. Corrupt cops, corrupt businessmen, corrupt politicians – there are a lot of tropes out there.
Note that once a corruptable villain is discovered by a mastermind or big bad, they often become fodder for their own plans, and act for them. Once corrupted, there is seldom a way back without penalties the corrupted is not willing to pay. They are open to blackmail and bribes to live in other villain’s pockets.
Corrupted Goal: to keep their corruption secret, and continue to live comfortably
6. The Career Criminal
Other names: the thief, gentlemanly thief, the thug, the bankrobber
A general villainous type found in many detective or crime dramas. This villain works simply for the money, and the power offered by wealth.
Many anti-villains or even anti-heroes come from this archetype, particularly around crimes such as jewel thieving which can be relatively victim-less. Some of this nature can have a redemptive arc.
Some types of career criminals can work in temporary groups, under a mastermind or dragon who leads them, but most career criminals as villains are only out for themselves, thus reasoning why so many real life and fictional criminal thugs tend to turn on each other for a bigger share of the profits.
Career Criminal Goal: money
7. The Dark Knight
The dark knight upholds a strict and seemingly noble code of honour, but it’s his own, and nobody else can understand it. He’s passionate about virtue, standards and honour, but it’s his mission to uphold it, and get rid of anybody not meeting his own standards. Ethically, he is capable of murder and violence because the end always justifies the means.
Dark Knight Goal: to be right, noble and rid society of anyone not meeting his standards.
8. The Disposed Son
Other names: Snubbed Sibling
This is the villain born to wealth and privilege (or has worked their way up the top of the corporate ladder) but is not deemed worthy of inheriting it. He or she has been disposed of, or rejected, although often stays around the peripheral of the family, and may appear supportive of the crown-taker.
Having been brought up in that environment the disposed son has all the mannerisms and behaviours to manipulate those around him. The disposed son can therefore appear incredibly charming, intelligent and even supportive of the new crown-holder.
But behind, because they remain justified in their sense of entitlement, the disposed son will form a chronic resentment against his family ruler and the person sitting on their throne. This resentment will come from a feeling of entitlement, inadequacy or envy, probably all of them. They plot and plan towards getting rid of the usurper and taking their rightful place.
The principle is often explored in fairy tales with disposed queens (disposed by the entry of a younger and more beautiful woman) or in The Lion King, where Scar is a disposed uncle of young Simba.
The spoiled brat is an off-shoot or predicator of the disposed son.
Disposed Son Goal: to get back the symbolic crown they believe should be theirs.
9. The Desperado
The Desperado is a villain trapped in their own pitiful world, and on the run to get away. He could be a drug addict, a prisoner caught or trapped, or anybody else trapped by their own poor choices. They are now either running from or working for better and badder villains, and forced into performing unscrupulous acts to survive.
Desperado Goal: to survive, at any cost, and eventually get away
10. The Despot
Power, power, power. That’s all she wants, and she’ll take it by any (often violent) means. Like many bullies, she may start off life as a powerless victim of bullying and abuse themselves, but to stave off their own pain and humiliation, they enforce this on others. This makes them feel bigger and mightier than others.
The Despot gathers forces around her, to both act as minions, do her dirty work, and justify her belief systems. But she’s bigger than the school-yard bully, there are no limits to the size of her power needs. She’s found in history conquering entire countries to rule over.
- The Femme Fatale often seeks power over men because of a background of abuse.
- The World Dominator seeks ultimate power over the entire world held at ransom, or he’ll completely destroy it.
Despot Goal: power to rule over other people.
11. The Devil Incarnate
Other names: Evil Clown, Dark God, Fallen Angel, Lucifer, Demon, Merry Prankster, The Trickster
Literally the devil, appearing on earth in human form, or at least a character with the powers and persona of a devil: the ability to read and know the actions (perhaps thoughts) of the hero, good looks and a charming charismatic appearance, and the ability to zoom in and know the one spot of our hero’s moral weakness, allowing the devil to offer temptation over to the dark side.
The Devil Incarnate normally (not always) has some system of morals and principles, unlike the truly Unhinged, the later creates a totally unpredictable world while the Devil’s world will follow certain rules.
This is for fun, of course. It’s all comedy, all the time, playing with these piddling beings. The devil enjoys annoying and manipulating people. If you enter a world of the funfair with a hidden dark side, or charming bedlam you’ve entered the devil’s lair.
Devil Goal: to tempt and manipulate the hero (and everyone around them) onto their (dark) side.
12. The Dragon
Other names: The Boss
The Dragon is a modern name for the Main Leader or Second in Command of a group of villainous sidekicks. He may be an Administrator or he may be the Big Bad’s chief enforcer or fighter, so he can fit several other archetypes.
Either way, this is a villain who is trustworthy to the Big Bad, an able leader (either by respect of his wit, or enforcing through fear) and extremely experienced. He also wholly believes in the Big Bad’s group motives, although may be wary if something goes wrong, of being blamed for it.
Dragons have earned their way to the command with competence, and hard work. They may secretly be aiming to wipe the Big Bad away and take over the full command, or they may not. In the eyes of the lesser sidekick villains, however, The Dragon is the full commander. They will seldom know or see the Big Bad himself.
Being a force to be reckoned with, if done well, the Dragon is often perceived as the actual Big Bad, meaning that if a Big Bad is forced out into the open, it will be a surprise to many including the hero but also many of the sidekick villains working for The Dragon.
Darth Vader is an excellent example of The Dragon, combining both force and intelligence. Although the viewers considered him the ultimate enemy and the devil personified, all through the movies he was actually taking orders from someone else.
Dragon Goals: to command and enforce work though a group of villains to meet a Big Bad’s orders, yet secretly has the goal to take over the full business.
13. The Equal
Other Names: Nemesis or Arch-Enemy, Mirror
This isn’t a hugely used villain type, making appearances more in the superhero, action and thriller genres. The Equal is a character who is almost a doppelganger of the main hero – she shares the same skills, knowledge, and/or savvy of the protagonist, but it’s in morals and ethics that they differ.
General Zod as supervillain was Superman’s Equal in every way (powers, intelligence) but had different morals.
If an Equal is on board, they are more than likely to be the main villain, and the nemesis and arch-enemy to the hero.
The Equal Goal: to match wits and win against their own equal and arch-enemy (the hero)
14. The Fanatic
Other names: Mission-Orientated, Twisted Ethics, Cult Leaders
The fanatic is single-mindedly driven by an agenda, religion, idealogy or cause which is seldom traditional. The fanatic may believe that a certain type of person needs to be wiped from the earth, or that all humans have destroyed the earth and should therefore be eradicated.
In serial killer terms, this is the mission-orientated killer, somebody so mission-controlled that they are difficult to defeat because they put the mission above their own personal safety or well-being. They will fight like a Madman and to death. In real life, this is unfortunately true of many terrorists and spree-killers who expect to sacrifice their lives to uphold their mission.
Fanatic Goal: to succeed at their mission no matter the cost
15. The Femme Fatale
Other names and associations: seductress, Goddess, enchantress, black widow, homme fatale (male equivalent), swindlers, con-artists, Don Juan, honey traps
The Seductress is a classic archetype even nominated as the only feminine archetype within Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
The femme fatale uses her charms and sexual prowess to prey on the opposite sex, seduce them, then possibly drain them. Taken to extremes, such women are called Black Widows – serial murderers who lure men into marriage and then kill them for the inheritance.
There is a male equivalent of course – the Homme Fatale, who uses good looks, charms and creativity to lure women into spending money on him. He has associations with swindlers or con-artists also.
The Femme Fatale can occasionally work from both sides, and have a redemptive arc. They can work alone or for other villains in types of espionage.
Femme Fatale Goals: power over the opposite sex, and money
16. The Killer Frenemy
Other Names or Associations: Pseudo-Buddy, Nemesis, Arch-Enemy, Psycho-Nanny
The villain who appears as a trusted ally to the hero but secretly is plotting against him. This is because the killer frenemy understands the power of being close to her enemies who are also sitting ducks as her victims. She works though a motive of jealousy or envy of the strengths and popularity of the hero, and sees the hero as being in her way to take over all of that.
A permutation (before the term “frenemy” was ever coined) is simply the close friend or buddy who appears normal, and works closely with the hero, who later turns out to be the killer-all-along.
During times of high emotions, the frenemy may let some of their inner psychosis slip, making the hero think something is a little off with them, but they recover very quickly. When things go wrong, the frenemy is either safely not around, or easily distracts blame to a nearby victim, causing relationship breakups and unhappiness which allows her to get in even closer to her prey.
Permutations on this villain type sit around a trusted colleague, or somebody you naturally let into your home or close to you, who hides a psychopathic killer mentality behind a normal facade. Examples are the Psycho Housemate, or the Psycho Nanny.
The Nemesis is normally found in young adult comedic genres – this is the frenemy who has been recognised as such. The hero may even call out his nemesis or arch-enemy as a rival.
Frenemy Goal: to destroy the hero from within
17. The Lethal Plotter
Other names: the nemesis, arch enemy
In Group of Villains, the lethal plotter is often the Dragon (administrator) to a Mastermind.
This villain type has a cunning plan, in fact they constantly have a plan, and it’s a plan to get what they want which involves ruining the life of their nemesis, the hero. This villain won’t take the easy way out (like just waiting to find the hero alone, and shooting him). There will be a series of challenges to test wits with the hero or cunning plans to progress a crime. Backup and false plans exist, and it helps if there are either sidekicks or colleagues to explain the plans to.
The lethal plotter is very patient and can wait for the exact time to put his plans into action. However those under him must meet his deadlines or pay.
As the hero’s arch enemy or nemesis, the lethal plotter is not easy to take down. In fact, a nemesis has the same traits and characteristics as the hero he’s plotting against. Moriarty matched wits and cunning with Sherlock.
Often the plotter’s areas of weakness are incredibly hard to ascertain, and he is shielded by disguises, by having other villains acting in his stead, or by false identities.
Plotter Goal: to perform a specific crime, then get rid of the evidence (including minions).
18. The Machine
Other names: the murderous robot, the android, the husk, the supernatural or extraterrestial beast
The machine is similar to the beast – he has one focussed goal, to destroy the hero normally. But the machine can be even more unstoppable and terrifying because they have very few human characteristics such as remorse, combined with superior armour (as with a robot) or body technology which means they can’t easily be harmed, stopped or killed.
Used normally in the science fiction genre, but you can also find machine type villains in fantasy and supernatural, where the machine once may have had a normal human background.
Machine Goal: to destroy the hero
19. The Magnificent Bastard
This is a combination between the Mastermind, Puppetmaster and Devil Incarnate, the competency of The Dragon, and the ruthlessness of the Sadistic Predator.
This is a world dominator, but treats it as a game. The Magnificent Bastard can swap sides, too, even working for the good side for a bit of a change. You can’t help but admire the traps set out for the heroes, and the villain who set them so easily. All done with dapper moustache-swishing and a wicked grin.
Magnificent Bastard Goal: World Domination but via a very slow and enjoyable route.
20. The Mastermind
Other names: the ring master, the brain, the chess-master, the puppet-master, the mad scientist, evil genius
In Group of Villains, the mastermind is often the Big Bad or master leader. The real leadership is however, undertaken by The Dragon.
The mastermind considers himself the intellectual superior to everybody. This is above and beyond that of the Lethal Plotter.
This villain loves to play games to test and challenge the hero. He enjoys matching and beating the wits of others, and it’s as much about the preparation as the end game. Or as an evil genius mad scientist, he will design and use technological tools to destroy the world with. Typically, the mastermind is happy to not do the dirty work, so he will hide himself behind a series of other villains who appear initially to be the main criminals.
In serial-killer terms, this is the killer who leaves cryptic clues for detectives or the media. In television series like ‘Bones’ this type of puppet-master intelligent villain is only used once every few seasons, paced slowly across several episodes to increase tension and stakes with the main characters. This mastermind enjoys the game and infamy, and will leave a signature or hints behind.
But this is still a villain, so to confirm his superiority he won’t allow the risk of losing: when he sets puzzles, he’ll also set outrageously short timeframes for the puzzles to be solved, or for giggles he’ll rig the games, or he can’t be trusted when giving his word or agreement.
- The Pusher or Corrupter – this mastermind villain enjoys corrupting and pushing other villains into doing his bidding. If successful, he may open up his corrupting games to innocents and even the hero.
Mastermind Goal: to prove his superiority and wipe out anybody who challenges it.
21. The Matriarchal or Patriarchal Oppressor
Other names: Tiger Mom, Mummy Dearest, Helicopter Parents, Bad Mother, Wicked Stepmother, Evil Queen
Mother or Daddy knows best. Stereotypically there are too many Mummy Dearests out there in the fictional world, but there are also male family tyrants – both are people who will do anything for their family, as long as it’s what they personally want.
The oppressive mother is also far too often used in teen and young adult books, with the hero struggling to obtain independence from a helicopter mother. This villainous type also has a good history of producing serial murderer children.
The Family Tyrant rules at the head of the family, and won’t accept anybody else doing so. They love you, but not unconditionally. If you fail their tests of your allegiance, you’ll quickly be disposed and replaced. In the meantime this loving villain has all the best intentions (her intentions) for how her offspring should be living.
The Family Oppressor Goal: to rule over the family who unconditionally love her.
22. The Minion
Other names: Villain’s sidekicks, thugs, henchmen, sports villains, jocks, heels
Henchmen are generally villains who have similar cravings and amorphous morals to a head or mastermind villain they work for. This is because although the henchman craves the same profits from their crimes, they don’t believe they have the intelligence or desire to mastermind the plans. The mastermind or dragon who leads them uses the henchmen for the dirty work they possibly don’t want to take part in.
More intelligent sidekicks may have ambitions to take over the business as soon as they can dispose of the main or head villain, but these intentions will never be displayed.
Permutations include the sports villain – those jocks who have been trained in karate or whatever, and are tasked to challenge and beat up the hero. It’s not really their fault – but they never question their training. Sports Villains in professional wrestling are called “Heels”.
The Minion as Thug is a group dynamic. Many are expendable, while a few will end up in hospital or running away.
Minion Goal: to profit from partaking of a bigger bad’s goals
23. The Outsider
He’s an outcast, a hermit or outsider, lonely but seemingly a decent person. Everybody who meets him feels sorry and sympathetic to him, even offering him a place in the heroic group, because he offers a lot of intelligence, knowledge and experience.
But he refuses because all he wants is to be accepted back into his own world he was (falsely, he says) rejected from. He’s secretly bitter about his past and being rejected, and out for revenge as well as to prove himself worthy of inclusion again. Any new people he meets a simply fodder to string along and help him get to his main objective.
But then, something happens, and the group and hero suddenly understand why he was outcast from his previous life. Behind hidden doors, some ugly truths are revealed, and they have simply and happily wandered into his lair. Or in order to obtain redemption with his older group, he is prepared to sacrifice or betray his new friends.
Outsider Goal: either something evilly wicked like human sacrifices or cannibalism; or he wants redemption at any cost, and is prepared to sacrifice those who have helped him the most.
24. The Savage Predator
Other names: the sadist, the menace, barbarian
This villain has a bloodlust and takes no prisoners. Fighting and killing is simply a sport, and he has no regrets in tearing your heart out, literally. Violence and brutality, especially when he can play games and use skills in the hunt and slaughter, are entertaining, and his pornography.
If he doesn’t have the wherewithall to create his own sport, he’ll hire himself out as a soldier or thug-for-hire in places which allow him carte-blanch with his violence.
- The Schadenfreude is a manipulative sadist who craves to hurt people, either physically or mentally/psychologically.
- The Menace is psychopathic in their violence, not into the hunt. Whereas a savage predator will kill and then move on to his next victim, the menace will stay around to destroy as much as possible, less mindful of being found and captured. He just loves to rampage and destroy.
- The Complete Monster is the bottom level to this sadistic rung. These villains hold absolutely no redeeming characteristics, are forever rampaging, and brutal in their destruction. They target entire villages – women, children and babies alike, and don’t just kill, they torture and postpone death for long periods. You can’t reason with the complete monster, he doesn’t care what you are feeling. These types of villains are very difficult to write both emotionally, and for how other characters react to them – most must be met with intense emotions of acute terror and revulsion. Done poorly, the complete monster comes across as stupid and thuggish.
Savage Goal: to kill, maim and violently act, for sport.
25. The Traitor
Other names or associations: the betrayer, two-face, tattle-tale, treasoner, whistle-blower, spy, secret agent (on the baddie’s side). saboteur, back-stabber
He will betray the hero or others to save himself. As a coward, the traitor is capable of manipulation and deceit to get usable information, and can perform acts of treachery or even treason provided he can be kept safe. The traitor is also manipulative and cunning, having an outward appearance of being the friend and supporter to the hero.
Traitors, spies and saboteurs work from the inside to oppose the protagonist, appearing part of the trusted group.
More on the traitor is found in the previous entry, T for Traitor.
Traitor Goal: to provide information about the hero to the opposing side in order to ruin the hero’s objectives.
26. The Unhinged
Other names: mad woman, mad man, deranged, lunatic, psycho, maniac, rogue, the disturbed
Permutations: the bunny boiler, scorned woman, stalker-exe,
Heath Ledger’s Joker comes quickly to mind when exampling the Unhinged Villain. Dark Knight fans will know that the movies were less about Batman and more about the unknown and surrealistic world of the Joker, giving any hero a huge task to conquer a world where nothing is predictable or makes sense.
In the world of costumed superheroes, the Joker is accepted and even has the ability to assemble a group of thugs around himself, despite his appearance or behaviours. In more normal fictional worlds, you may need to disguise your unhinged villains with a shell persona which allows them to at least at first, appear normal.
The Unhinged will have a reason behind their madness or insanity, often coming from a traumatic or abusive background, and they may well understand this about themselves, but that won’t change anything. They want to share their pain and suffering, and madness with everyone else. They may not even have a real reason for opposing the hero, but they will, just because…
Norman Bates from Psycho and Annie Wilkes out of Misery are other examples of the disturbed.
Unhinged Goal: not predictable, although as a villain it will involve hurting or destroying the hero specifically.
27. The Vengeful Villain
Vengeance is mine. There were times in history when taking out vengeance for a wrong was acceptable. Nowadays revenge is not so acceptable, especially as done by a villain because the judgement of what is indeed a wrong deed is skewed by a villainous mindset.
Somewhere in the past somebody wronged this villain type, and he’s never gotten over it. Now it seems there are a lot of people doing the same thing, and unlike back then, he’s grown up and has more power to seek retribution and justice against his past.
Vigilantes and Revengers have taken it upon themselves to be both judge and jury and believe themselves exempt or beyond the normal human justice systems. In the perspective of having such a villainous type for your story, something about this vengeance will affect the hero specifically.
Vengeful Goal: to obtain vengeance against a perceived injustice
28. The Victim
Other names: the innocent, the child
This villainous type constantly tells people it wasn’t her fault, she was forced to agree to a hideous plan. She truly believes this, denying any responsibility for the atrocities she’s done, and actually feeling she’s been wrongly judged by many people.
As long as at the end she remains safe and secure, this villain is capable of performing any kind of atrocity, and resolving herself of any guilt because somebody else made her do it. She’s an unreliable witness, capable of tilting the blame onto anyone and everyone other than herself.
Victim Goal: to appoint blame elsewhere
An Unsorted List of Villainous Archetypes
Villain Types: black knight, mercenary, psychopath, fanatic/extremist: terrorist, destroyer, spoiler, mad scientist, serial murderer, savage predator, mindless monster (insane/lunatic), mustache-twirler (vaudeville villain), ancient evil, mastermind, puppet master, dark lord, mirror, tyrant, dictator, bastard, bitch, devil, traitor, saboteur, sadist, parasite, lethal schemer/plotter; warrior villains – savage, barbarian, big bad, the dragon, complete monster, bully/bravo/thug
Antagonists with possible redemptive traits – bully, mean girl, anti-villain, someone else’s hero, nemesis, outcast, backstabber, frenemy, trickster.
Avoid cliche villain types: evil clown, evil twin, evil genius, evil (total) villain; evil queen, bad mother, matriarch, mad woman.
Villainess types – black widow, femme fatale, enchantress, seductress, mean girl, gorgon, scorned woman
Part of 2016’s Character Archetype Series (A-Z) @ Hunter is Writing.