So far, I’ve talked about antagonists and monsters and the differences between them, but merely mentioning these two aspects of the villain spectrum leaves a hole in the middle – one that begs to be filled by some of the best villains in fiction.
Disney’s old Maleficent, The Joker, Patrick Bateman, Lestat, pretty much any character in Supernatural, and (my favorite) Moriarty.
The hybrid is a monstrous antagonist, one who, without any other motivation, acts to please themselves. Here we find the realm of the most delicious nightmares.
This is the hybrid – the antagonist narcissist, the psychopath, the monster with human tendencies: the hybrid between the instincts and base level of a monster and the higher functioning of the thinking antagonist.
These characters cannot be trusted, even when they want to be. They exist as the fay folk – beings made to trick and entrap, vampires who fight against their need to kill, the beautiful stranger with a roll of duct tape in their purse, the villains from comic books and fairy tales.
They may act like allies only to ensnare our main characters into a trap, or they may try to act good, always feeling themselves being pulled under.
Or they may simply bask in their mad, narcissistic glory. They can love pain, then can relish in suffering to the point of glee. They might act the monster simply because it is the easiest thing in a life turned boring. They are the nice guy we think is a friend until we discover he was plotting against us all along; the malignant narcissist, the serial killer in our back yard. They are the nice old lady in the gingerbread cottage.
These characters tend to be sexy in some way – even the worst of them tend to exude a sensuality in their willingness to live head-on into their destructive tendencies, or in their struggle against their deeper natures.
Most of all, the hybrid villain tends to serve only themselves. They are some of the only characters allowed abrupt changes of mood, idea, or decision. They get to turn on a dime and back again merely because it is their prerogative, and they aren’t bound by the narrative gravity others must adhere to. They will do whatever it takes to get what they want – even if it leaves them too dead to see it happen.
To write a hybrid, most of us merely need to wind them up and point them in the part of our story that needs to be torn apart. If we have consumed enough good fiction, we will understand this kind of villain intuitively. It helps to understand their base instincts – vampires need blood, killers need to kill, writers need to write, fairies need to fairy – and the needs they are always resisting or chasing after. It also helps to know their disposition toward our protagonist.
There are hundreds of questions to ask a hybrid villain, but one of the best is to look within ourselves and find that inner beast – that thing inside that would do anything it wanted to if the consequences wouldn’t matter: the thing that doesn’t care, and to write from those places in our psyche.
The hybrid speaks as both playtime and cautionary tale to the deepest parts of our beings, and is a necessary and fun part of writing fiction.