Am I evil?
Am I evil or good? Am I the hero or the villain in my own narrative?
It’s time to ask these things of ourselves and of the characters we create.
It’s hard to write true evil. To write a good villain, that character must be the hero of their own narrative. This character must make decisions that would contradict the protagonist’s goals. They may steal from the character, because they believe that they are more deserving of the money, items, or loves than the hero. They may take over a school for witchcraft and wizardry, because they believe they are entitled to it or that they would be a better headmaster than Albus Dumbledore.
Annie Wilkes in Misery by Stephen King is a great villain - one of the best. She may be a little crazy, but she isn’t evil. Wilkes believes that she is doing what’s best for the character’s Paul Sheldon created. Every action she makes - spoiler alert - including hobbling (gag) Sheldon are done to complete her heroic arc of saving her favorite character from the dastardly author.
Unlike well-written villains, true evil does not need an agenda or plot arc. A Villain may wipe out a village to build an airstrip, but Evil would just land a plane there.
In 2015, Petra László, a journalist and camera operator, tripped a Syrian refugee that was carrying his child while fleeing a police roundup. László later only received probation for the act which included stomping and kicking refugee children. The courts believed that it was more wrong for the father to run from capture, torture, and possible death than to trip, kick, and stomp on refugees and their children.
In this example who do you consider to be Evil?
Is it the child being carried to safety by the father?
Is it the father who is illegally fleeing the military police?
Is it Petra László that stopped the criminal from escaping?
Is it the police force that rounded up thousands of Syrians because of their ethnicity?
Is it the courts that allowed this to happen and let László off with a slap on the wrist?
Is it the politicians that pitted citizens against one another while reaping the benefits?
Or is it the observer that knew of this and just went on with our lives?
Being a villain takes work. Being Evil is the easiest thing in the world.
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”― Edmund Burke