Guy you love to hate

Question: I was wondering, do you think I could make a villain who does horrible things yet is likeable? I know it sounds like a stupid question but I notice that Hannibal Lecter, for example, has quite a fanbase despite being a cannibal and serial killer. Or like how Jim Carrey made Count Olaf so popular through humor. Two big differences betwen those examples and my character though is that my character would really take action against the protagonist (whereas Hannibal was mostly either in prison or in more of an anti-hero role), and I would try to make my villain more stylish than humorous (a suave, evil-gentleman sort as opposed to Carrey's whackey version of Olaf). So, do you think it's possible to make a villain who does the most vile things, but just looks so cool doing them that you can't help but go, "Damn, he is good..."? Thanks for all input!


Answer: Of course good villains can be seductive, even inspire admiration or affection from the reader. (When I was young and first saw You Only Live Twice I found myself cheering for Blofeld rather than James Bond.)

That is part of what happens when the villain is also the impact character. The idea is to put forward two very appealing characters (for instance, Bond and Blofeld are both powerful figures), but have them differ on one key aspect. For example, the hero may be fighting to save others, while the villain is fighting for his own self-interest. The hero must choose to stick to his own principles rather than become like the villian, but it cannot be an easy choice. So to be seductive, the villain must have appealling qualities.

Ultimately in this type of story, the hero chooses to stay true to his values. His victory over the villain then proves those values are better than the villain's.

Some readers who don't stop and think can find themselves seduced by the villain's charm and forget to look at horrible things he does.

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