JB: I must admit that I have a thing for brilliant villains. I don’t care whether they’re evil genius serial killers (John Doe was my favorite character in Se7en), mastermind world dominators (I’m thinking about all the Bond villains here) or the psychopath next door (I’m talking about you, Annie Wilkes!). Smart villains don’t get caught or stopped (at least not right away). Smart villains have interests other than killing (fava beans anyone?). Smart villains are a match for, or even superior to, the heroes and heroines they go up against. Smart villains make a story interesting!
Jenny: Man, do I love villains. They're always my favorite character in the story, even if I'm not rooting for them (I usually do root for the hero). Villains can do whatever they want. They don't have to worry about being likable and they definitely don't have to worry about being sympathetic. They don't have to play by the rules. They can be flamboyant or they can lurk in the shadows. I enjoy writing villains more than any other character because there's such freedom in it. My favorite kind of villain is smart, original, and has motives larger than what they seem. So I have to ditto JB that John Doe from Se7en is one of the best villains of all time. He was the ultimate mastermind.
Joann: Count me as third fan of Se7en's John Doe. It's funny, I love complex villains when I'm reading about them or watching them on the big (or small) screen, but I have a tough time writing them three-dimensionally. In real life, I think it's easier to understand an "evil" act when it's perpetrated by someone who is clearly bad or seriously dumb. Such a concrete view keeps the ickiness at arm's length. I think that's part of why John Doe and the Joker and Iago and all those other really freaky villains both appeal and scare the bejesus out of me: they're intelligent, often funny, ambitious AND they want to watch the world burn.
Your turn, killer friends. What qualities of a villain capture YOUR imagination?