Truly wicked, yet sympathetic villain?

Question: Do you think it's possible that I could make a villain in my story who is genuinely and truly evil, yet make him sympathetic at that same time? Obviously, a key to a sympathetic villain is showing why they do what they do, but that tends (at least in my experience) to how them in a less-than-villainous light. For example in Phantom of the Opera, Erik takes the role of antagonist, but when we know his background, we realize he isn't truly evil so much as hurt, lonely, etc. What I want is to make a villain who might have been a good person but the world didn't allow it. For example, someone who endured severe childhood tragedy like Erik, but rather than be pushed further and further from sanity, their view of the world simply changes; they've tried to be a good person and suffered for it. Maybe being wicked is what they're supposed to do? Perhaps wickedness is mankind's true nature? Something like that, a villain whose past has lead them to take up evil as an ideal and a purpose. Do you think it is possible to make a person who is heart-and-soul evil, but who didn't necessarily start out that way and who the readers could actually end up sympathizing with?


Answer: I think it's entirely possible.

Just remember, the reader will hold the character responsible for his choices, regardless the reasons. Consequently, characters of this type usually suffer a tragic end.

Of course, the more you invite the reader to see things from the perspective of this character, the more likely he will be viewed as the main or principle point of view character (regardless whether he functions as protagonist or antagonist in terms of the story goal).

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