How to avoid the villain being a caricature
I am on draft 4 of my story now, and many things are hanging together well. As a result, lesser items are coming into sharper focus. I need to revise for those next.
My villain needs work. He is too much of a caricature. I looked on this site and found this question which gives me some ideas to improve my villain. Still, I feel he needs more work than those answers provide (make him human, consistent, the hero in his frame of reference). My immediate goal is for him to be frightening, sinister - rather than laughably ridiculous.
In this question, I am asking for any concrete identifiers of caricature. The list could include
- Maniacal laughter. :-) Real villains don't actually do this.
- Info dumps by him, of why he is right, right, right!
- Inconsistency in his motivations.
He needs to be human. He is, I think, but his dialog still falls flat. Here is a short example of something he might say :
“Today will be a very bad day for Bill. For Janet too, I should think. Shelly. Your friend, Bob, over there, is also having a bad day.” He walked around to the other side of the table, his eyes locked on her face the entire time. “You’re breaking four people today, Susan. That’s quite an accomplishment.” Susan heaved, choking sobs.
I can't decide if it is that the nature of the torture he's inflicting in this blurb (psychological abuse) is different than the nature of his regular torture (he is an assassin), or if it's just too much talky talky, or both. (Or, perhaps it's fine and I've been staring too long at him. But imagine six or seven exchanges along these lines, with variations on the action surrounding them.)
He soon becomes aroused at her inability to fight back (she is tied down, and he anticipates killing her) and maybe that's contributing to the feel of caricature. On the other hand, sadism is probably part of his mix. His path to his personal dark side was through drugs, which he still uses.
Any thoughts about whether this is too much, perhaps? or some blind spot here?
p.s. He also is on top, winning the battle, until the end - when the tables (heroes) turn. That feels formulaic, which doesn't help in my opinion, but This link suggests it may be necessary.
edit: He also asks the protagonist a lot of leading or rhetorical questions. Is this a flag, something only caricature villains do? Perhaps I wrote those in for the reader (I'm not certain, I thought it was part of his voice), and that might be why he sounds ridiculous.
Second edit: Happy to report my villain is in much better shape. I added his perspective throughout the story, removed the 'muahahaha' language that he was prone to using, and had a few characters defend his past actions elsewhere. He's still a despicable person, but no longer a caricature.