The type of villain that’s right for your story is going to vary wildly depending on what you’re writing. Darth Vader is probably the wrong choice for a historical romance novel (although come to think of it; I would read the hell out of that) and Mister Wickham wouldn’t be right as the villain of a space opera…actually I’d probably read that too.
OK, time for a change of blog post. Originally this was going to be a post about matching your villain to the right context, however maybe this is more interesting. If your story needs an extra villain, or you’re struggling with who the big bad of your story is, try reaching outside of the normal context of your style and genre and see how someone totally out of left field fits.
Perhaps a good example of this is the move The Fifth Element. While the big bad was an eldritch abomination of sorts, the villain we see the most of is Mr Zorg. A pathetic, yet powerful CEO of his own corporation. It would have been easy to make the villain more badass, but the reason I think Zorg worked so well is because he was utterly worthless in most respects…and yet still managed to be a threat because of his position in the world.
I think my point for today is to try different things with your antagonists. Try out a snivelling wretch rather than a powerhouse and see how that changes the story. You’ll need to work hard to make them dangerous to the protagonists despite the fact that they’re not traditionally threatening.
You could also try adding a physical or mental powerhouse as the villain of a story that would traditionally have a more subtle, social kind of villain. Some paranormal romance does this well, having a real physical threat rather than relying on a romantic rival to provide tension.
A good villain can make your entire story shine, but it can be hard to come up with an original one. Try changing around what’s expected of your genre and see how it fits. You might just come up with something great.