Who else finds it really hard to write a villain scene with good dialogue? It’s very easy to make him sound unbelievable, cartoonish and just plain corny. Gone are the days of the 80’s movies with the cardboard cut out villain imprinted with a set of predictable lines. These days, your villain has to have a reason for the way he is, be a believable character and has to have some amazing lines.
Villains can no longer be mindlessly evil. They have to be after something. Be it the throne, or the world, or the universe. But they also have to have another side to them. Readers are into the grey characters these days. No villain can be wholly evil, and no hero can be wholly good. This makes the dialogue even harder to write.
How do you portray an evil man as having a soft side to him in his dialogue? Hitler, according to his friends, had a way with animals. Did we ever see this when he spoke? Did he ever make a speech about how to care for your dog? No, he didn’t. We only know that Hitler had another side to him, from reports from his friends and possibly a few photos.
It’s all well and good to say to just show it in their actions, or get someone else to tell the main protagonist some feel-good stories. But not all stories roll like that. Sometimes, the only interaction we have with the villain is during a tense scene with the hero. It seems implausible that the villain is going to be able to show his good side during those scenes. For all we know, Sauron may have run a free daycare for his little baby orc minions. He may have had free healthcare in his kingdom. The heroes never knew about it though, so we don’t. Therefore Sauron comes across as the ultimate villain.
I’m going to put up a little snippet of a scene from the story I’m writing (unedited), and please feel free to tear it to shreds. I struggle with dialogue, so would appreciate any opinion on the matter. I was aiming for ever so slightly crazy.
Brie shook with anger. She might never have met her parents but it didn’t stop her loving them. ‘My mother died when her Elemental took over. Don’t try to make me think my own mother did all that, because she didn’t. And whoever you killed in order to take over their body, it wasn’t their fault either. No matter what everyone thinks.’ She shuddered.
The Lord leant back, his eyebrows raised as though impressed, then he leant forward. ‘Are you scared that your Elemental will do that? Will throw you out of your own body?’ His lips drew back in a semblance of a smile. ‘Just imagine yourself lost in oblivion, dead to all the worlds, but your body still walks around, breathing, sleeping…killing. That’s what happened to your mother. And it will happen to you, eventually.’
Brie looked away, ignoring his words. He was trying to scare her, make her doubt herself and it wouldn’t work. Not if she closed her mind to his words.
‘Your father died at what he thought were his wife’s hands. How would you like to kill the person you care about most, feel their blood drip down your hands, their muscles twitch as you bury your fingers deep down to where their organs lie? How would you like to pull their still beating heart out of their chest? Your Elemental can make you experience all that before they cast you off. They can make you go mad before they kill you.’
The words didn’t affect her. She had already killed the person she loved most. The Lord couldn’t make her feel any more guilt then she already felt herself. Faces flashed through her mind, reminding her that however much she tried to hide it, there were still others that she cared for. Malise flashed before her, a smile upon her wrinkled face only to be replaced by Braum, his jaw clenched but that twinkle in his eye to show that he was amused about something. Lastly, Lasa flashed up, her innocent face transforming into something else, something sinister. Brie shook her head, clearing her mind of the images and looked up at the Lord. He appeared frustrated that she wasn’t reacting to his words.
He sighed and in an instant became that man she had first seen upon the stairs. His shoulders slumped and he looked at her without focus. ‘I should do something with you then,’ he said, more to himself then to her. He walked over to the stool and stared into the fire once more, an identical image to what Brie had seen when she had first walked into this room.
He sat there for long enough that Brie started to wonder whether he had forgotten about her. She was just working up the courage to try to escape the room when he spun around on the stool and looked out into the dark hallway. Two guards emerged from the pitch black to kneel in front of the Lord. Brie frowned. She had begun to think that the Lord didn’t allow anyone above the ground level.
The Lord looked over the heads of the two guards and said, ‘Take her to the pier cells. Give her a nice one, though.’ He paused and focused on Brie for a split second before turning back to the guards. ‘Wait, no. She annoyed me. Put her up the end, but one that won’t fall into the ocean. Check the screws.’
The men gave a curt nod, then turned and dragged Brie to her feet. She started to sweat. The pier cells were well known throughout the city. The cells dangled below the pier, open to the lashings of the ocean. It was said that if you managed to survive the first night from exposure, the cell would fall into the sea and drown you the second.
‘Brie, I’ve been thinking and-‘ Lasa appeared next to her as they started out the room.
Lasa! I told you to go away. You’re no help here. Leave before- Brie’s frantic thoughts were interrupted by the Lord’s shout behind them. She closed her eyes and counted to ten, trying to calm her hammering heart. It didn’t slow down her pulse and the guards pulled her back into the room. She opened her eyes to the Lord, his body quivering with excitement. The Lord didn’t look at her. He was looking directly at Lasa. That shouldn’t be possible. Lasa only appeared to those she wanted to be seen by. She saw Lasa’s horror struck expression and knew that the Lord shouldn’t be able to see her.
The Lord sidled closer to Lasa, his eyes bright. ‘It’s been so long…’ he said, his voice quiet. The guards didn’t react to their Lord talking to thin air. For all Brie knew, they could see Lasa as well.
Lasa backed away from the Lord, baring her teeth. ‘Don’t come near me. You’re all wrong. Where’s the other one? Why is there only you? Your face – it’s not right. Brie…Help me.’ She turned to Brie for guidance, but Brie could only shake her head, wide-eyed.
Brie had no idea what Lasa was talking about. The Lord seemed to, however, and he took another step forward, almost as though he were being drawn to her. ‘Ah, I understand now. You still think like them.’ He jerked his chin towards the guards and Brie. ‘You must forgive me, I thought that the girl had locked you away. That man you killed, well I assumed that was you displaying your power, trying to get my attention and my help. You can understand my confusion.’ He had a rueful smile on his face, as though he were genuinely contrite. He turned away from Lasa, in thought once more. He started to talk to himself, ignoring the other presences in the room. ‘Well, this is a puzzle. What to do with her now. Don’t need to put the girl in the cell anymore. But how to get her to snap out of thinking like the humans…’ He turned around, snapping his fingers together and addressing Lasa once more. ‘Of course, easy solution. I’m going to send you to your brother spirit. He’ll be able to change your way of thinking. Don’t worry, we’ll have you fixed in no time.’
Lasa looked at Brie with concern and then asked, ‘What about Brie?’
The Lord looked confused for a moment, but his eyes slid over to Brie and he nodded. ‘Don’t worry, we won’t kill her. You need her. Her body, anyway. She’ll be going with you to Obsideo.’