Case Study: How To Write Frightening Villains

On frightening villains.

BAD Writing (Tame Villain):

Tulos wrenched the dagger from the back of the twitching guard, and rose to face Bolaris.

The tall witch had shining skin like gold, and her hair flung around her head and shoulders like scraps of storm clouds.

“You don’t scare me, witch,” Tulos said through clenched teeth. A shiver of terror was trembling down his shoulders, and his knees shook.

“You can’t destroy me, boy,” Bolaris replied in a high, lilting voice. She raised her golden hands, and an orb of pearly magic rose up between her palms. The witch looked ferocious, and transcendent. Part of her power is in her beauty, Tulos told himself.

“I’ve been given a charm against you,” Tulos spat. “Your magic can do nothing to me.” He felt a thrill of excitement at this encounter, which he had dreamed of for so long.

Bolaris laughed; her tone was like water plashing down on glass shards, and her eyes danced. She looked like a delighted child.

“Come closer, child,” Bolaris coaxed, extending one shimmering hand towards him. “I will show you what my magic can do.”

GOOD Writing (Wild Villain):

Tulos was alive to every sound in the dark chamber; he wrenched the dagger from the motionless guard, and remained in a crouch, staring around at the shadows.

“I know you are there, woman,” Tulos said, his voice barely a whisper.

“Do you?” the witch’s voice replied, in words that spun softly through the dark.

Yes, Tulos thought. His teeth pressed hard together, and he tightened his grip on the  hilt of his blood-stained knife.

“Show yourself, Bolaris,” Tulos said steadily.

“No,” she whispered; he could hear a smile in her words. Tulos leapt to his feet.

“Bolaris, holaren kai!” Tulos shouted. The witch burst into violent shining; her golden skin was like a star, shedding illumination over the whole chamber. Bolaris was caught with her eyes wide in surprise; she was crouched in a deep shelf, partway across the room. Her expression quickly adjusted into a look of friendly charm.

“Come closer, child,” Bolaris coaxed. Tulos felt magic tugging at his arms. “I will show you what my powers can do,” she murmured.