I only say this because I love villain characters. I feel like they get less time so you need to give them the same kind of development you give the main character. For example, maleficent is a driving force behind sleeping beauty and she’s barely in the movie, but she is just as important as the fairies (yes they’re the main characters if you look at it from a feminist standpoint), and is more remembered than the fairies.
One challenge I come across when writing villains is how high can you set the bar? When will the audience stop caring for them?
With me, that’s rape. If you want a character or villain we sympathize or root for, you can’t make them a rapist or imply they’re a rapist or have committed rape.
With murder, there’s tons of reasons why the character or villain did it. Maybe to save a planet. Maybe they had no choice. Maybe they’re good at it. Maybe they were raised to be such. Maybe they just don’t care.
And they have many reasons why they could be sympathized. Maybe it was an accident. Maybe they felt they had no other choice. Maybe they feel general remorse. Maybe they just don’t know right from wrong in a sad kind of way. Maybe they kill somebody the audience hates.
With rape, there’s only two reasons why a character rapes, and that’s control and they just don’t care. Regardless of what culture you’re in, for the most part, rape is heinous and unforgivable, and in instances, much more than murder. For example, in season 2 of handmaids tale, they want us to side with Serena Joy, who was the face of a rebellious group who toppled the United States. All fine and dandy because she’s beginning to feel general remorse. However, they quickly shoot themselves in the foot by having her suggest to her husband he rape his 9 month pregnant concubine out of spite, and then proceed to hold her down, while she’s kicking and screaming. They then try to have her be redeemed by realizing young girls can be killed for loving the wrong person, but the reason why I can no longer side with her is based upon this one decision alone. Yes, we should sorry you got your finger cut off, when people in your position lost more than that. What doesn’t help is that it comes off as hypocritical because said concubine let’s the baby be named with the moniker Serena chose, even if, again, she is the reason said concubine was violently raped, and almost let the baby starve because of envy.
I might sound hypocritical, but I do heavily respect writers who manage to make us root for a rapist. For example, heathcliff from wuthering Heights has a lengthy rap sheet that includes marital rape. However, we still root for him because Nelly is an unreliable narrator (he could’ve consummated his marriage with a willing partner and just been abusive after), he has a sad backstory, he is relatable in all but the rape thing, and they never spell it out in clear terms that he did. It doesn’t mean you should do it, however. Like I said above, most cultures nowadays find that the worst crime imaginable and unlike murder, you don’t do it because it’s cool. It’s not really a crime you can say sorry for and expect to be forgiven.
Therefore, if you’re writing a villain or an antihero, stop the bar at murder.
Source: reddit post