The Role of the Villain in Beta Male Fiction

So, who are some of your favorite villains?  Here are a few culled from various lists of favorite villains.

  • Voldemort, Harry Potter’s nemesis
  • Hannibal Lecter
  • The Joker
  • Norman Bates
  • Darth Vader
  • Dr. No
  • Sauron from The Lord of the Rings
  • Captain Hook
  • Long John Silver
  • Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Wicked Witch of the West
  • The Shark in Jaws

What do almost all of these great villains have in common?  It’s the quality of the hero!  You can’t be a great hero without a great villain, but the opposite is also true: you can’t be a great villain without a great hero.

So . . . what is the proper role of the villain in Beta Male Fiction?  Where the hero is not “great,” just some poor schmuck stumbling his way through life?  Occasionally driving the action, but just as often letting the action happen to him?

I struggle with this, now that I’ve identified my true genre as Beta Male fiction.  I’m trying to imagine any of my heroes beating up a villain.  Walter?  Well, at least he got a tattoo, so who knows what’s next.  Rick?  I thought he did OK just breaking JD’s hand with a gin bottle, although he did end up in the hospital.  He drinks martinis like James Bond, but he’s too timid to pick up a pistol.

Even those heroes who have to outsmart the hero because they can’t outfight him–Harry Potter, for one; Jim Hawkins in Treasure Island for another–at least take the fight to their enemy.  So for JD to be a great villain, Rick would have to track him down, or at least lay a trap; outwit him so at the moment of darkest despair he somehow manages to overcome JD, and rid the world of his sorry ass.  Instead, he lets his girlfriend defeat the dreaded villain.  Oh, what ignominy!

I can’t see changing my style–as an author, I think I pretty much am what I am.  So now what?

In my current novel, The Adventures of Sir Kay (description; not even a working title yet), I’m experimenting with a new type of villain.  Meet Count Meleagans, he of horrid tastes and random obstinacy.  He would never defy King Arthur, but he’s perhaps the perfect match for Sir Kay: a petty tyrant in his own fiefdom.  And the obstacle standing squarely between Sir Kay and the woman he loves.

I’m not sure Kay could ever take on Sauron or Hannibal Lector.  We’ll see how he does with Count Meleagans.

Hannibal Lector


4 thoughts on “The Role of the Villain in Beta Male Fiction

  1. And let’s not forget Mr. Wickham. But it takes a village, so to speak, to bring him down. Of course, Mr. Darcy – our hero – is leading the charge.

    As for beta male heroes, maybe the challenge is becoming a gamma male? (I know there are at least two very opposite definitions for this term, but I’m using it here in the positive sense.) If the alpha male gets the girl(s) but the beta male keeps her, then each must adapt, taking on some of the traits of the other. Sounds like a great set up for a quest or hero’s journey.

  2. Dexter is an odd one to classify. He’s both hero and villain. Moriarty in the new BBC Sherlock is an amazing character.

    So Beta Male… is that your invention or is it an actual existing classification? Beta male hero requires Beta Male villains I suppose. Is Avalon S.C to be published soon then? I don’t like reading novels on my computer. Can’t curl up with them the same way…

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