The Villain

From  Shadow in the Flame , the Lor Shys torments Molly

From Shadow in the Flame, the Lor Shys torments Molly

Spoiler alert! The graphics in this blog reveal for the first time the Szard, and from the second book Shadow in the Flame, the villainess- the Lor Shys.

For a fantasy story to truly hit the mark, it needs a memorable villain.  In some cases the villain can be compelling that he or she overshadows the hero.  That’s not always a bad thing, because it is the villain that helps the reader to best understand the hero. It is the villain who actually drives the plot. He's the one with the plan, he's the one with the goal. But to really make a villain, or villains come alive there are five major characteristics a writer needs to convey.


Great villains are staggeringly powerful.  In other words, they have a way of making things bend to their will.  In fantasy stories this often takes the form of magical powers.  In some cases, though, the villain’s power is less obvious.  A classic literary archetype is the femme fatale: a woman who uses her charm to control those around her.  Some villains posses keen acuity and cunning, which is far more dangerous than raw might.

The Szard

The Szard


Effective villains are intelligent.  This does not necessarily mean that they are intellectually gifted.  Rather, it means that they avoid making silly decisions. A truly great villain is always two steps ahead of the hero, and carefully considers every option. This does not mean that they are above making mistakes.  Otherwise they would be undefeatable.  But they certainly don’t make the obvious ones.  Great villains pose a real challenge for the hero, and they do so by being on top of their game.


True villains are immoral.  This is what makes them villains.  It’s not that they lack a sense of right or wrong.  On the contrary, villains often subscribe to a moral code.  But they are willing to violate accepted moral principles in order to accomplish their goals. They believe so strongly in the rightness of their own cause that they no longer see the normal standards of moral conduct as applying to them.

Battle for the Snowwynne Barrens

Battle for the Snowwynne Barrens


Memorable villains are usually wounded individuals.  More often, though, the most defining wounds are emotional or psychological. This reflects the great truth that no human being is born a monster.  Rather, people are made into monsters by the damage and abuse inflicted upon them.  Something must have happened to transform an innocent child into a homicidal adult. 


This is what separates the great villains from the lesser evil miscreants.  A truly formidable villain is possessed by an unstoppable drive to achieve his or her goal.  Under no circumstance will he ever give up. When a great villain sets his sights on a goal, nothing short of annihilation will stop him from accomplishing it.  This makes the defiance of the hero that much more perilous.

In The Harrow, From Under a Tree villainy abounds. From the race of the En’ Rauko , to Dark Wizards, to the Dree Dunn der witches, or to the many other forsaken characters, villainy helps to provide the backbone of any good tale. For it is villainy that gives us conflict and without conflict, there is no story.

I have always been fascinated by the dynamic of heroism and villainy in fictional narrative. When asked which type of character I enjoy writing, I usually respond by saying "those at the extreme" – the pure good or the pure evil. Tolstoy said that all good marriages are alike but each bad marriage is unique.  He argues that this is what makes bad marriages more interesting.  The same is true with any story.  Heroes are nothing without their villains.