Today I had a major breakthrough with my villain.
My villain (whom I shall call "Dylan" for the sake of this post, as I have not come up with a name yet) has already been growing in my mind for the last... oh... four years. I stumbled across the initial concept for 'Dylan' in, interestingly enough, a history book on a now dead tribe of people.
So Dylan began. Over the years, I've tried to write Dylan, tried to understand what makes Dylan tick. I learned that Dylan was cruel, and a deceiver, and as ambitious as anyone ever was. But it wasn't until today when I let one of my other characters sit next to Dylan on a train that I found out what I was really dealing with. Any villain can be a liar, any villain can be cruel. But I think it's in the quiet moments when you find out what they're really like.
It turned out that Dylan was soft-spoken and even somewhat genial in normal conversation. I suppose even the worst villains must have moments when they aren't laughing evilly and plotting the destruction of the world. My eavesdropping on this conversation did two things for this character:
1. It made Dylan even scarier - the mildness shown contrasted hugely with the cruelty I knew about.
2. Dylan became, in my mind, someone who isn't just being evil for the sake of being evil - there was a real motivation behind it. Something driving from the inside - something desired so badly that everything else could be sacrificed to achieve it.
Still evil and cruel... but... almost pitiable.
Now that I have a proper, 3 dimensional villain, my story is building momentum and things are falling into place. From now on, when I really need to know the truth about villains, I'll start with a scene that is mundane - like a train ride. Who'd have thunk it?