Villains – Part III: Are You Ready to Rumble?!

We grip the arm rest of our seats, leaning closer to the darkened stage. Tension hangs in the air, suspended aloft by anxiety and eager expectations. The lights come up. The curtain opens. Act III is about to begin.

Your Readers have followed the strands of conflict in the story you’ve carefully woven. Don’t disappoint them in Act III. Make sure your villain is a challenging match for the hero/heroine. Give them that epic battle to reward their patience and their need for a satisfying ending.


Super Sleuth and the Napoleon of Crime – Perhaps the most famous game of wits in literature is between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s intrepid consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes and his arch-enemy, Professor James Moriarty. Both men share cunning intelligence.

One uses his gifts to control as Doyle writes,

“He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them.”

While the other uses it to hunt and conquer.

“He [Holmes] loved to lie in the very centre of five millions of people, with his filaments stretching out and running through them, responsive to every little rumor or suspicion of unsolved crime.”

Watson’s Observation of Sherlock Holmes

The End – Your villain has stymied the hero’s efforts every step of the way. If you’ve carefully considered your villain’s back story, motivation and master plan, then all paths should lead to the inevitable epic battle between good and evil. Take a look at Holmes and Moriarty. We know Holmes is extremely clever and brave. He is always three steps ahead of everyone else…except Moriarty. In “The Final Problem”, Moriarty hounds Holmes at every turn. Out of options, the great detective draws Moriarty to the Reichenbach Falls in the hopes of defeating him. Once again they are equally matched in physical strength. Both men perish as they fall over the side (or so Watson believes).


Final Thoughts – The villain is a critical element to any story. This force of conflict may not be a human or humanoid. Rather, it could be a killer virus or a rampaging robot. No matter the form you choose to present conflict, do your homework. Make the motives relatable and the master plan plausible.

Images: original art work by Sidney Paget


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