Let me clarify. I'm not talking about this Long John Silver...
I'm talking about this one:
Do you remember the basic storyline of Treasure Island (perhaps you know better the steampunk version from Treasure Planet)?
The premise is the same. Young Jim Hawkins is the recipient of a treasure map from a dying pirate. He takes the map to a local authority, who decides to take him on an incredible adventure to seek out the treasure. This gentleman allows Long John Silver to find him a crew, and they set sail.
Our suspicions are aroused about LJS from the very beginning (because the dying pirate warned about someone matching his description), but LJS works hard to win over young Jim (and us, as readers). LJS becomes a sort of mentor and friend to Jim... and then betrays him.
Though I grew up watching the 1950s version on VHS, I hadn't watched it in at least 20 years. While I watched the newer steam punk version with the kids a few months ago I was struck by how likable Long John Silver is.
He's such a compelling villain, because yes, he's an evil pirate who wants to overthrow the ship's captain to steal the treasure, but he is also Jim's friend. I haven't watched the 1950s version or read the book lately, but in Treasure Planet, it's clear he loves Jim.
It got me thinking about evil for evil's sake, or better yet, avoiding evil for evil's sake.
I think it's quite natural to paint our 'bad guys' (or even 'mean girls') as caricatures.
Whether it's a greedy bank robber or a snotty cheerleader, it's easy to fall into the trap of creating a two-dimensional villain.
I don't think it works in every story to have such a compelling or likable villain, but I love the idea of this.
Have you ever written a likable villain?
What tricks do you use to create antagonists with multi-dimensional motivations?