Every hero or heroine needs a villain to fight and there are plenty of villains in books to suit ages 1 to 101. You can narrow them down into several types:
Out of this world scary
The obvious villain that springs to mind here is Sauron from The Lord of the Rings. He’s a great big fiery eye with no eyelid. He’s ALWAYS looking. He never blinks. What could be scarier than that?
Of course The Lord of the Rings is a fantasy trilogy and fantasies will always be out of this world. They take our deepest, darkest fears and mould them into a human. They confront absolute evil in the form of a character. Other good examples of this kind of villain are Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series and the Prime Coordinator from A Wrinkle in Time. My own Red Moon Rising series has an unidentified villain called the Shadow. The heroine, Laney, discovers that this baddie must be someone she knows – someone she speaks to all the time – but she still doesn’t know who they are.
A villain who’s funny brings hours of enjoyment to a reader. My favourite example is Captain Hook from Peter Pan. A funny villain can be entertaining and humorous, and then suddenly catch you off guard with a dastardly deed. Most of the examples I can think of are from younger fiction, so if you can think of a funny villain in an older or teen book please add it in the comments.
Villain in disguise
Sometimes, to add dramatic force to the story, the villain will be in disguise. If the reader knows who they are but the main characters don’t, this will leave a reader wanting to yell “he’s behind you!” at the page. Count Olaf in A Series of Unfortunate Events is this kind of villain.
The friend turned villain
The friend turned villain is probably the worst kind, in my opinion, because the hero or heroine experiences a sense of betrayal when they realise the villain is actually working against them. Wormtail in Harry Potter is this kind of villain. There is also a villain of this type in Percy Jackson. I won’t name him here in case it’s a spoiler for someone.
Books based in the real world often have a rival to the main character who works against them. Justine Littlewood is the rival in Tracy Beaker. A rival is more subtle than a pure fantasy villain. They often have good reasons for the way they’re behaving which the reader may sympathise with. They are not evil characters but just flawed human beings. The main character must confront them or befriend them, and try to see things from their point of view.
So, who are your favourite villains?