What makes a Great Villain Name?

By Charles Moffat, Fantasy Author, Creator of Korovia.

I am currently working on a new series of short stories and I have reached a point in the creative process where I am fine tuning what the villain will be - which in this case is a genius master manipulator / planner, similar to Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes.

But my villain needs a name. A name so amazing and perfect readers will find him fascinating just at the sound of his name.

So in the effort of researching the topic of what makes a great name for a villain, I ended up compiling the following list of villains who have rather unusual names from a variety of sources, both films and literary. For obvious reasons I have avoided boring sounding names like "Norman Bates", because the name Norman doesn't really sound scary. It sounds normal. Same goes with "Agent Smith" from the Matrix series, that name is deliberately boring. I am also skipping any characters who don't really have a name, like "Bruce The Shark from Jaws" or "The Predator" or "The Wicked Witch of the West" or "the T-1000 Terminator" because those are really more titles than actual names. I also ignoring any name that is more of a code name or alias, like Magneto or Bane, or robot names like HAL-9000.

Because my villain is male I am mostly really interested in male names, but if I include a few female names it is because they are truly unusual names. eg. Cersei.

In Alphabetical order, they are:

Amon Goeth
Angmar (aka the Witch King Angmar)
Augustus Melmotte
Barbossa (aka Captain Barbossa)
Bolivar Trask
Cersei Lannister
Commodus (aka Emperor Commodus)
Darth Vader
Dracula (aka Count Dracula)
Ernst Stavro Blofeld
Gregor Clegane
Hannibal Lector
Hans Landa (aka Colonel Hans Landa)
Hans Gruber
Hook (aka Captain Hook)
Hyde (aka Mr Hyde)
Ivan Drago
Joffrey Baratheon
Khan Noonien Singh
Lex Luthor
Long John Silver
Orlok (aka Count Orlok)
Otto Octavius
Ramsay Snow
R'as Al Ghul
Severus Snape (but is he truly a villain or an anti-hero?)
Shere Khan
Smeagol (aka Gollum)
Soth (aka Lord Soth)
Thulsa Doom
Utuk'ku Gardenborn
Zod (aka General Zod)

What are you seeing up above is that a lot of fantasy villains end up having unusual names, often using consonants like H K L R S T and sometimes V X or Z.

Hockler Stovex for example would be a rather exotic sounding name, and uses quite a few rarely used letters. However does it truly sound like a villain's name, or does it just sound made up?

Thus it almost makes sense to make a villain name that uses some combination of rarely used letters, kind of like using the more valuable letters from Scrabble.

The valuable letters in Scrabble are:

F, H, V, W and Y are worth 4 points.
K is worth 5 points.
J and X are worth 8 points.
Q and Z are worth 10 points.

However using Scrabble as a methodology to make up villain names would result in names like:

Quz Joxfever


Zuqix Kefhavwammer

And other nonsense. Trying to put too many Zs and Qs into a name just makes the villain's name sound ridiculous. And childish. Might as well call the villain "Zoopy the Vunderqid". Nope, not doing that.

Some of the names from the above list were also fond of using Alliteration. Alliteration is when you have two words that start with the same sound, like in names like Micky Mouse, Pink Panther, Otto Octavius, Green Goblin, Lex Luthor, Severus Snape, etc. If you are seeing a trend here it is because Alliteration is commonly used for children's books, comic books and cartoon characters - mostly because the name is easier to remember if it has Alliteration. Stand aside Bilbo Baggins, you're a character designed for kids!

Author J. K. Rowling was very conscious of all the villain names in the Harry Potter series, which is part of the reason why Severus Snape is such a classic pseudo-villain. The other reasons is because he is the evil teacher, the classic nemesis who seems to hate the hero right from the beginning, and so forth. And because Rowling was aiming the books at children it made perfect sense to use Alliteration to make Severus Snape sound more snake like as per House Slitherin.

However I am loath to use a name that deliberately uses Basic Alliteration. But that doesn't mean I am opposed to using a more complex forms of Alliteration, wherein it isn't necessarily the first sound of the word that is meant to draw your attention and help you to remember the name.

eg. I once used Marque Draque (pronounced Mark Drake) as the name of a character. The use of K sounds in both first and last names, while using "que" to create two alternate pronunciations, thus making the name Marque Draque a fascinating one.

Thus another way to have fun with a name is to make similar Alliterations but different spelling.

eg. Sian Vextion. Sian said quickly sounds like Sean, where as Vextion sounds like Veksean. So the name ends up sounding like Sean Veksean. Which sounds a bit like Jean Valjean, the character from Les Misérables.

Another complex form of alliteration is to simply repeat the same sound multiple times.

eg. Cersei Lannister, basically has three S sounds in there thanks to the soft C at the beginning. Kersei would still sound like an evil name, but Sersei Lannister sounds more snake like. George R. R. Martin may be super slow at writing, but he chose a name that reeks of sinister-ism.

Thus using evil sounding letters is good, as is using a complex form of Alliteration.

But what other common themes does a good villain's name have?

Well I would argue that a good name in general should be 3 to 4 syllables.

Darth Vader, 3 syllables.
Voldermort, 3 syllables.
Donald Trump, 3 syllables.

You would really only use longer names when you want the villain to sound ostentatious - like Ernst Stavro Blofeld (5 syllables) or Khan Noonien Singh (5 syllables) or Joffrey Baratheon (6 syllables), in which case pride is certainly a factor, in which case the name should still roll off the tongue and be easy to remember.

Lastly, a good villain's name should be easy to pronounce. It should not be ridiculously complex and hard to know what the proper pronunciation is. The above three ostentatious names still manage to be easy to pronounce, despite their complexity.

I already know what my villain's name will be - if you want to find out leave a comment below and I will post a link later with the name of the new book when it is available.

In the mean time if you are looking for something to read check out my newest short story "A Hound Named Hunter" on Amazon Kindle, which introduces two heroes named Soljargon and Knox Miloslav and serves as a promotional prequel for my upcoming Chronomancer Series.

Below, for your amusement is a list of 10 Things Every Villain Should Avoid.

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Hero Forge Custom Miniature + Painting Miniatures

By Charles Moffat.

So I asked my girlfriend for a Hero Forge Custom Miniature for xmas. It arrived early and I am fortunate to live in a household where we celebrate xmas the whole month, so gift giving can happen any day. Hence why I received my gift on December 3rd - the day it arrived in the mail. It was not a surprise, I did design the miniature after all and ask for it.

Hero Forge makes miniatures using a 3D printer - and can make transparent plastic, strong plastic (which apparently only comes in white), and metal - and you can order the figurines in a variety of sizes, so you are not limited to the normal 1 inch base figurine.

Behold what I saw upon first opening the package.

And wow. That is a lot of packaging for one tiny miniature. (Note, you save on shipping costs if you buy multiple miniatures.)

Even the cat agrees that it is a lot of packaging, as she gleefully bites and plays with the box and bubble wrap. (I am going to be posting a video of her attacking the packaging later today on Victoria has Claws, our cat's youtube channel.)

Below, the front view of the miniature out of the packaging. His name is "Wrathgar", a character I designed circa 2003 and have been using, playing in Dungeons and Dragons, writing about for roughly 12 years now. eg. You can read one of Wrathgar's adventures / origin story in the book "The Adventures of Wrathgar: The Assassin's Trail". The character is Conan-esque, but Wrathgar favours the bow over sword and axe. His choice of clothing is also more unique, as not many people wear antlers on their helmet - which means it was also a challenge to find a company that has an antler helmet on their list of options.

And the back view of Wrathgar.

So I immediately had to begin the painting process. I got my box of paints, my roll of paintbrushes from studying painting for 5 years in university, lots of water to drink, something to watch while I paint, and a clean painting surface, and more water to wash paintbrushes in.

Before painting I washed the miniature in hot water to make sure there wasn't any residue leftover from the painting process. The manufacturer recommends washing the miniature before painting.

Below, the base coat of the miniature. Wrathgar is a very nature-loving character and tends to wear lots of brown, so "burnt umber" made a good base coat.

Additional layers saw me add black shading, titanium white for the antlers, and vandyke brown. For the face I used a mixture of jaune brilliant and naples yellow.

And here I used phthalo green blue shade for his arrow fletching.

The miniature is not done with the painting process. I still want to go back and do the following.

  • Fine tune details on his face.
  • Add white and blue for his eyes.
  • Ivory colouration for the antlers, which should not be completely white.
  • More shading around his armour.
  • Gold hilt for his dagger.
  • And other details I can think of later.

I was very pleased with Hero Forge and what I saw on their website - and yes their prices are pretty expensive, but it was totally worth. I have seen Wrathgar come to life before me in a miniature.

Note - If readers and their friends want to save on costs, I recommend ordering as a group in order to save on shipping costs.

Prior to this I was using a Dark Sun "Half Giant Psychic Warrior" as the miniature for Wrathgar, which was a good representation of Wrathgar's physique, but failed to point out that Wrathgar spends much of his time using his bow. So now I can use the half giant when he is using his sword, and my new miniature when he is using his bow - which is his preferred weapon of choice.

And for those people who are curious, Wrathgar is normally a ranger when I play pen + paper D&D. In DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online) however Wrathgar has been both a ranger and a barbarian, operating on the DDO Argonnessen server under the names Wraethgar and Wrathggar,because apparently, somehow, Wrathgar was taken. Go figure.

For more information about my writing or the world of Korovia in which Wrathgar exists, check out either http://www.korovia.com/ or http://fiction.charlesmoffat.com/.

Happy gaming!

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