A Necessary Evil
At times, an event in a story occurs that not only requires a hero, but simultaneously prohibits the hero from becoming involved. Be it for moral/ethical, legal or atmospheric reasons, the person who would normally come to the rescue is hobbled and has to take a lesser position in their latest adventure. The hero cannot risk tarnishing their fought-for reputation, or cannot risk the precarious temptation of the situation they are presented with. This is where a villain comes in handy.
Liquidity of Actions
Villains have a distinct edge when it comes to matters of heroics. Whereas heroes are always expected to be the "good guy", a villain has a much broader range of actions available to them. Even the smallest seemingly heroic event can be used to a villain's advantage. It could be part of the villain's strategy to throw the hero off their scent; to buy them some time for a more critical aspect of their master plan, or a way of keeping other villainous characters out of their limelight.
In most cases, there is a worse villain or a greater threat to the public in general than the current villain the hero is having to battle. In those times, a villain may be persuaded to break rank and fight on the side of good; or in the villain's case, the side that interferes the least with the villain's own plans. The villain is able to take a tougher, darker stance than his heroic counterpart is, against the greater threat to both of them. This also provides the villain to reinforce his own vision of himself as the hero of his own story, even if no one else seems them that way. After all, even the most nefarious scheme has a list of reasons (logical or otherwise) behind it.
A Chance to Change, or Business as Usual?
Sometimes a misunderstood villain may just be looking for the chance to correct their ways and leave their evil ways behind them. Testing the waters with a heroic deed, regardless of the size, may show the villain there is a different mantle they may feel just as comfortable wearing. Then again, many villains are perfectly happy resuming their path of world domination after splashing around in the heroic end of the pool. Either way, a well-rounded villain is a necessary and welcome addition to any book or series.
If you enjoyed this article, check back for the next blog post, "The Science of Fear". Additionally, if you're looking for a good example of a villain, we humbly suggest you consider reading our book, "Haunted Hijinks".