“Every story needs a good old-fashioned villain.” -Jim Moriarty, “Sherlock”.
We love them, we hate them, we just can’t live without them (I am SO going to get sued). Villains are so precious in our stories. They are the examples to be avoided, the representation of our inner evil. Sometimes, they are just poor, misunderstood creatures, fighting for the wrong reasons. But, are they always necessary? Short answer, yes. Here are two reasons I can think of, just for you.
One of them is that, without a villain, your story has no conflict. This is so obvious that even the eponymous Captain would not bother pointing out, but hear me out: this is not just for adventures or dramas. Even in comedies or in romantic stories, there is a villain. Someone who just ruins the day for everyone. A villain is not always the guy with the fancy suit, the amazing British accent, the evil plan and the superpowers. They can just be that jerk Steve from the office, whose ‘superpower’ is his bad breath. This creates conflict. It goes like this:
Steve’s breath smells like ass -> Protagonist can’t stand it -> Protagonist works out a solution -> Steve’s breath smells like a rose garden -> Profit(??)
Another reason is that a villain is, ultimately, the person that sets your brain into motion. Your hero’s reasons for fighting are the ones you can relate to: peace, freedom, justice, eradication of foul breath. But, it is the villains motives that should concern you. Are they trying to build a ‘utopia’ under their own rule? If so, what urged them to do so? Why do so many people consider the Empire’s rule over the Galaxy an improvement over the Republic’s system in ‘Star Wars’? Is Galbatorix wrong when he suggests that magic should be regulated by him, when confronted by Eragon? Does Steve have a deep-seated fear because of a toothbrush-related accident that burned down his house? See, sometimes, villains have their reasons, and you can find yourself relating to them.
Next time you see a movie/read a book/brush your teeth, just think: why did X villain make me so angry/sad/pro-personal hygiene. You will find your reasons too, I’m sure. Gotta go, ladies and gents! Till next time!