This is a think piece, in case you miss that.
Sometimes I wanna sit and write out all the stuff I would've done in your place kind of thing. Like, lemme show you how to be a better sneak, a sharper thief, a wittier manipulator, a more cunning liar, a farther seeing revenger, a more thorough getting even thinker. The fail I see others stumbling through drives me crazy.
The key to all great successes is simply don't tell anyone. If you have to tell someone, anyone, then you aren't ready for the big leagues. If you can't stand holding it all in and need to spell it all out or you'll pop, you're not that terribly serious. You might still be dangerous and whatever, but you ultimately fail in evil villainry.
You can't have cult followings or pyramid schemes and be ultimately successful. You might be a terribly evil genius, yes, but you will still ultimately fail. Because someone knows.
You are the only one who can know. If anyone ever traces anything back to you for any reason whatsoever, that is fail. If you go blabbing, it's uber fail. If you actually organize, that's so facepalm fail that you wind up being the example of how to fail.
Needing to spill is the greatest weakness.
Conversely, using spill to bait, using truth and vulnerability to snap the trap, and please understand I don't mean being fake vulnerability or acting here, but literally allowing yourself to be stabbed in the back as part of the revenge, now that is heritage cognac level evil villainry.
And let's be honest. Half of you reading this just compared notes, and the other half thought of people you fear. We're not talking about Penguin level leverage and fail here, although I'd love to get hold of a few writers and shake them. We are talking every day people. Everyone holds a grudge, and half of you want to do something about it.
So the key to success is staying quiet. Winning is the actual success. Define what winning is. This is where I am so keenly disappointed in most people that I can barely take anyone seriously. Winning isn't about squashing someone like a bug. Winning is about quietly creating what you'd really like to see happen. People who succumb to thinking that bug squashing means happiness and freedom are pathetic losers and don't deserve to win anyway. Winning is about fixing the problem that creates the bugs in the first place. You don't want a bug? Turn that whole person or situation into a not-bug. Don't make it someone else's problem. Make it not a problem at all.
I know, some of you are actually thinking about killing, maiming, or at least making someone cry as a solution. NO. That's not the solution. The solution isn't about removing or screwing with anyone or anything. Winning isn't about making everything else around it worse. Your scope of vision is far too narrow if that's how you are problem solving.
The whole reason this came up is because I keep running into successions of writing prompts, writing tips, writing memes, writing flaws, and so on ad nauseam. Everyone has the answer to how to make a better villain in a story. The problem with stories is that villains lose. Even if they are winning big for a very long time, they still lose.
The biggest writing fail of our times is making the villain lovable, giving the villain an out. Villains come to their senses, they are seduced by cuteness and some kind of love, they are just sad stories at the core like the rest of us. They are human. NO. A truly evil despicable villain is so unlovable, so broken, so ruined and cruel and obnoxiously loathsome that no one could ever really *care* about that person in their wildest dreams.
Case in point, Gollum. The very best you can do is barely take a little faint pity on the guy once being a simple soul. The rest is pure foul hatred that there is no coming back from. He would never dream of taking on an apprentice, like Palpatine does. The Emperor is a doddering grandfather compared to Gollum. Let's see Palpatine pull off the biggest power heist of the universe with no Senate support, and no Force. Nothing stopped Gollum, and dang if he didn't actually have the Ring back by the time it was over. The Ring itself couldn't stop him from utterly annihilating it with his twisted love.
It's cute to make villains adorable or fashionable or something fondishly cool to be a fan of, like Pixel. Why are we doing this to stories nowadays? Why are villains doing Disney showtunes? Why is Luna Girl the kind of brat we all dream of being deep down inside?
Writer gods forgive me for slamming tips back before I'm officially published, but if you can't Khan your villain into some level of unforgivable, I just can't myself. I can't read or watch stuff that has me feeling warm fuzzies for the super villain without the entire story caving in. If I'm hoping the villain wins, it's either because the story is some genre of mockery or the story is that bad.
Draw a hard line over which your morals don't step around your villains. Make your villains so hateable that no one ever forgets them. Drop the cute and hurt yourself writing what the hell happened. Some of us are out here depending on you to stop slathering evil with fun bathtub coloring soaps. And glitter. Stop that.
Evil needs to be evil. Because that is what evil is. Anything less is propaganda. Something to think about.