So today, Melissa wanted me to write something about villains in urban fantasy. My heroine Gin Blanco is getting ready to go toe-to-toe with her nemesis Mab Monroe in Spider’s Revenge, the fifth book in my Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series that will be released on Sept. 27.
For those of you who haven’t read the series, Mab used her Fire elemental magic to kill Gin’s mother and older sister when Gin was thirteen. Mab also tortured Gin and wanted to kill Gin’s younger sister Bria as well. So Mab is definitely not a nice person.
So what makes a good villain in urban fantasy? Here are some characteristics that I think make for entertaining villains in any genre:
1) They have to be, well, evil: Your villain doesn’t have to be bathing in blood on every single page, but she definitely has to be evil. Maybe she killed someone close to the heroine, or wants to take over the heroine’s business, or simply wants to crush everyone who dares to stand up to her. Whatever it is, your villain should be ready, willing, and able to do whatever she has to in order to achieve her goals – no matter how evil or underhanded it is.
2) They have to be a threat to your heroine: You want your villain to be more than a match for your heroine. In urban fantasy, that usually means that the villain has a magic/power that is the equal to or even greater than the heroine’s – like Mab’s Fire magic versus Gin’s Ice and Stone power. Not to mention all the folks who work for Mab and are trying to find out who Gin really is. Whether your villain is a single operator or has dozens of minions at her disposal, she has to threaten your heroine in some way – whether it’s physically, emotionally, or even financially.
3) They have to be cool and charismatic: To me, some of the most interesting and entertaining villains in urban fantasy (and beyond) are the ones who are the most charismatic – the ones you want to read about and watch just to see what they’ll do next, no matter how terrible it is or how much it hurts your heroine. One of the best examples that I can think of is Spike on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He was such a cool character that you almost didn’t want Buffy to defeat him.
4) They have to be powerful: In urban fantasy, most of the villains have some sort of magic/power that makes them especially dangerous. But magic isn’t the only power out there. Maybe a villain is so wealthy that she can buy whatever and whomever she wants. Maybe she’s an exceptionally good liar who has everyone fooled but the heroine. No matter what it is, the villain has to have some sort of power that she uses for her own evil purposes – one that she relishes using to achieve her goals.
5) They have to take your heroine to the brink – and beyond: A good villain is one that could realistically win at the end of the story. No matter how strong your heroine is, you want her to have to give 110 percent to defeat the villain – and even then the outcome isn’t certain. When I’m reading a book or watching a movie or TV show, I know that the heroine will probably triumph in the end – but I want the journey to be as exciting as possible. Those are the kind of books that I like to read, and that’s what I try to write in my books as well.
So there you have it – some qualities that I think make a good villain.
What about you guys? Who are some of your favorite villains and books in urban fantasy and beyond?
USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Estep writes the Elemental Assassin urban fantasy series for Pocket Books. The books focus on Gin Blanco, an assassin codenamed the Spider who can control the elements of Ice and Stone. When she’s not busy killing people and righting wrongs, Gin runs a barbecue restaurant called the Pork Pit in the fictional Southern metropolis of Ashland. The city is also home to giants, dwarves, vampires, and elementals – Air, Fire, Ice, and Stone. Books in the series are Spider’s Bite, Web of Lies, Venom, and Tangled Threads.
Jennifer also writes the Mythos Academy young adult urban fantasy series for Kensington. Touch of Frost, the first book in the series, was released in August. First Frost, a prequel e-story to the series, is available as a 99-cent download. Kiss of Frost, the second book, will be released Nov. 29.
For more information, excerpts, and more, visit Jennifer’s website at www.jenniferestep.com.
Jennifer, thanks for coming by the blog! I love a good vilain. Makes the heroine so much more... well... heroic! :D So, would you like to have even more fun? Well...
Jennifer is giving away one signed book to a winner! Squee! All you have to do is fill out the rafflecopter form and leave a comment! Answer Jen's question or ask one. I will end the giveaway on the 29th. Giveaway is US only. Good luck!