I like my villains smart, sexy and devious

For dark fiction I like handsome, dashing villains. And I tend to like them almost better than the good guys. They need to be every bit as shrewd as the heroes. Because if they’re not, it’s too easy a struggle to overcome them, and we want the battles between protag and antag to be hard won, bloody, and brimming with breathtaking plot twists.

Why sexy, you ask? The real question should be, why not? All the more intrigue and eye-candy to capture your imagination! The hero shouldn’t hog all the good looks and muscles. Besides you never know when a bad guy might turn into a flawed yet alluring anti-hero and actually win over the fair lady’s heart. Sexy rogues abound: the Joker from Dark Knight, Loki in Thor, the Avengers; Khan in Star Trek into Darkness and Alex De Large in a Clockwork Orange. The list goes on and on.

From the very early days of badassery, both real and fictitious villains like Dracula, Jack the Ripper and Blackbeard the Pirate were outsmarting god-fearing folks all around them, and doing it with magnetism and edgy swag. Here’s a telling quote about piracy from the Smithsonian:

“Out of all the pirates who trolled the seas over the past 3,000 years, Blackbeard is the most famous. His nearest rivals—Capt. William Kidd and Sir Henry Morgan—weren’t really pirates at all, but privateers, mercenaries given permission by their sovereign to attack enemy shipping in time of war. Blackbeard and his contemporaries in the early 18th-century Caribbean had nobody’s permission to do what they were doing; they were outlaws. But unlike the aristocrats who controlled the British, French and Spanish colonial empires, many ordinary people saw Blackbeard and his pirates as heroes… fighting a rear-guard action against a corrupt, unaccountable and increasingly tyrannical ruling class.”

Part of the allure is the vigilante or outlaw aspect—the baddie gets to do all immoral, outrageous things and totally get away with it, at least for a while. Often the villain truly thinks he’s doing a service—like Dexter, ridding the world of even worse killers, or Robin Hood, stealing from the rich to spread the wealth around. Another part of the allure is a villain’s pure audacity, and let’s face it—his fabulous capes, scabbards, leather boots and gold earrings! Outsmarting someone this devious takes masterful strategy and is not for the faint at heart. 

In my YA horror, DORIANNA, the villain is Wilson Warren, a tall, raven-haired stranger who claims to be none other than a Prince of Darkness. He’s also a videographer who, in minutes, edits a compilation of Dorianna so supernaturally beautiful it has her gasping. He paints his nails black, wears Victorian style silk shirts, and black skinny jeans to show off his long legs, and impressive physique. The possible tip-off to his degenerate side is his necklace with its mournful, spooky glass doll face staring out. Well, also his top hat and Voldemort cape he favors when the boardwalk in Coney is windy. Here’s a short excerpt showing just how charismatic he is to Dorianna:
  As I watch the video compilation, what really throws me is that Wilson has magically changed me out of my school clothes—the pencil skirt and simple top—and into a yellow fringe bikini, barely covering my thighs. 
  An immediate protest boils up. How dare he virtually strip me. But as I stare longer at the image, I realize how stunning he’s made me. This is no porn slut image. This is the masterful, painstaking work of a cutting-edge filmmaker, amplifying tenfold the glory of his muse.
  “You like?” Wilson asks, clicking stop.
  Muse—I roll the word silently in my mind, taste its honeyed essence. All the concerns that crowded my mind minutes ago drift off. Things like morality and conscience seem like dirty rain clouds bumping by. Life is good, I am awesome, and Wilson’s video kicks serious butt.
  Placing my hand on his long, curiously delicate fingers, I whisper, “Am I your muse?” I remove my hand only when it starts to heat up, and before he gets the wrong idea that I want more. 
  Or do I?
  He shifts slightly in his chair, in order to line his eyes up with mine. “You could say that you’re my muse,” he admits. In his gaze, I know I could have him right now, in this room, as easily as he’s captured me on video. I could rip off his shirt and run my hands through his forest of hair. Plant a firm kiss on his lips and force them open. His tongue would taste of smoke, of musk, of infinite need.   For that second, I see past his charming fa├žade into the hunger, lodged in his soul. A lonely, desperate soul that seems to have lived for centuries, yet not quite at all—stuck in some netherworld where a virus might exist.
  It takes real effort to pull away. But I have to. This is dangerous, this audacious forgetting. 

Bad guys are masters of deception, manipulation, and pure wickedness. That’s why, when the good guy finally triumphs, we truly admire and love him.            
(Find Dorianna eBook here & here)

Who’s your favorite baddie and why? Do you think villains are sexy?


  1. I think I'm more f an anti-hero girl. You can't ever find anything about Voldemort, for example, that makes him worth saving. A flashback to his childhood shows he was treating people like objects even then. He has his very own groupie, in the form of Bellatrix, and just isn't interested.
    . Darth Vader is redeemed; he was manipulated himself, but in the end, he is able to throw that off to save his child. No one will really mourn Voldemort, with Bellatrix gone.

    So the real question is, is your villain an anti-hero your heroine can redeem, or is he going to turn her into someone nasty? In which case, she was probably nasty deep down in the first place.

    Don't know if you've ever read Mark Walden's HIVE series, which is set in a sort of Hogwarts for villain trainees. The students are told that villains get o do the cool stuff and wear the best clothes. Yes, they could do things the simple way, but where's te fun in that? The protagonists are not really dreadful, they just have the skills, such as computer hacking and ability to carry out major robberies. The series gets darker, however, as the author paints himself into a corner, because sooner or later the kids will have to decide just how evil they're going to be.

  2. Sigh. Wilson does sound smart, sexy, devious. My kind of villain!

  3. Oh yes. I do love a sexy villain. Mmm, Loki. Julian McMahon as Dr. Doom in the Fantastic Four and as Cole the demon in Charmed. Wilson sounds like just my type.

  4. I usually don't think of villains as sexy, but I like the ones who are suave and intelligent. Javier Bardem played great villains in Skyfall (intellectual, sensitive) and (cold, calculating, and violent). Then there are the villains who epitomize pure evil like the Dennis Hopper figure in Blue Velvet--he is fascinating in the sense of the why someone like him would exist and when will he get his due. My favorite villains are the everyman drawn-into-villainy by the circumstances of life characters such as the Michael Douglas character in Falling Down where in the end he asks the question "I'm the bad guy?" because all along he felt like he was on a mission of justification.

    Comic book villains are fun, but I like the gritty villains for whom you might have some pity or wonder why they are as they are, but you are glad to see reap the consequences of what they have sown.

    So many villains to love and to hate!

    Wrote By Rote

  5. I love a good villain. Apophis in Stargate was one of my favorites. Slade Wilson in Arrow. It's hard not to like the former gladiators, though.

  6. It's true that some villains are way too despicable to like at all. But there are so many who have some gray areas...

  7. Bad guys can be great fun. I particularly enjoyed watching Lucius Malfoy.

  8. Sexy villains are fun! My favorites are probably Angelus and Spike (when he was bad) in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I love a sexy, smartass villain. :D

  9. Oooeeee, Catherine. *fans face* You know she's a goner :)

  10. I love the bad-guys too. I like them every bit a charismatic as the good guy, making the love interest seriously have to make a moral decision which direction she wants to go.

  11. Yes, Dolorah, that's how it is for Dorianna between choosing Ander or Wilson.

  12. Catherine, very enticing characterization...and so well written. Not my kind of genre, but this sample looks good enough for me to plunge into.


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