Lately, I've been thinking a lot about villain motivations, and what will convince me of the villain's authenticity and/or the danger that the villain poses. I've come up with a few that I think are dead turn-offs. Let me know what you think.
1. WHEN WE LEARN OF THE MOTIVATION VIA EXPOSITION
I.E. The villain reveals all speech. Oh, how I loathe these moments. Quite honestly, as a reader, I would prefer it if I didn't even know the villain's motivation, if it's between that and the tell-all speech. I don't want to hear from the villain, "Ha! See! This is why I'm doing what I'm doing! Admire my brilliance! Now engarde!" The villain looks more ridiculous to me when that happens. I mean, seriously, though. If you were a villain, do you think you would take the time to explain your reasons to the pest of a hero(ine)? Do you think you would waste your time on that? Do you think that you would take the chance of revealing your next plan? Unless you're a villain who's specifically revealed these things because it's a part of your plan, you're just not acting as smart as someone who has a dastardly plan should.
Sometimes it's not even the villain who has the tell-all speech about the villain either. Sometimes it's the supporting cast that keeps telling you to fear the villain. You know what plays with this really well? Harry Potter. Because you're constantly told about Voldemort, but you don't discover a lot of what he's done until later. What makes it great is that Voldemort lives up to all that fear, which is not something I think a lot of villains do.
2. WHEN THE VILLAIN WANTS THE HERO(INE)
My gawds. Usually this doesn't work for me (exception: Shadow & Bone, etc.). Why? Because half the times, it's the villain that wants the hero(ine), it's the romantic interest(s) that wants the hero(ine), it's the supporting cast that loves the hero(ine). No! And meanwhile the protagonists are usually unaware of their effect on others. But the world doesn't work like that.
Plus, more often that not, the villain wanting the hero(ine) is some sort of ruse to make the villain more human-like Or at least, it seems that way. But here's my question: if you're a villain, and you're dead-set on your goals and this person is blocking your path, do you really care what the person looks like? Not unless you're about to seduce said person into compliance.
(This kind of situation I could agree with in a romance novel, or where the romance isn't merely a sub-plot, so it's necessary to expand on villain/hero(ine) dynamics.)
3. WHEN THE VILLAIN HAS A BLACK AND WHITE WORLD VIEW
This one bothers me less, because I think a lot of books are saturated with them, and we're trained to recognize that some "creatures" "are beyond redemption" (i.e. Strigoi in Richelle Mead's world - the "evil" vampires who kill and have no emotion and are not human). But those are the least interesting villains, IMO.
So, ultimately, what bothers me about this one is that some worlds doesn't necessarily have a combination of irredeemable + redeemable villains. Some books just have the irredeemable ones (which works fine, if you have a horde of zombies that you're fighting off. But again, that works for a pure action flick/book and not for much else).
If you want me to believe in the villain, you have to show me how the villain got to that state. Because let's face it: how many things in life do we look at with a completely black and white eye? Even murder-- sometimes we accept murder because of self-defense, right? And stealing is against the law, but books include plenty of protagonists and characters who do because it's necessary, because they have family to feed, because it's all about perspective. If you want me to believe in a person who has this completely black and white world view, you damn well better show me why.
What villains scare you the most? the least? What things do villains do that bother you?