I've been giving some thought this past week to what makes a good villain. I've dealt with all types in past books, from the insane, to the power hungry, to people who are twisted by their circumstances into something monstrous. On occasion I've crafted a villain to meet the circumstances of the plot. This is what I did with The Devil's Peak, fitting the perfect villain to torment my main character. In The Righteous, religion motivates both my protagonists and my villains in equal measures. For The Red Rooster, the villain is a Gestapo agent, working to forward the evil of the Third Reich.
As I'm plotting out my newest book--another WWII thriller--it would be easy to come up with the same sort of character. Nazi is shorthand for evil; if my sympathetic characters are opposed to Nazis, there's no further need to justify their actions. And yet this strikes me as a little too easy for this particular book.
I absolutely do not want to justify the horrific behavior of the Nazi regime, but if I simply adopt the usual tropes, it's unlikely that I'll produce anything interesting or memorable. And it occurs to me that a reluctant Nazi might be, if anything, more horrific than the usual sociopath pulled directly from central casting.
As this character starts to come together in my head, my attention turns toward his opponents, and the need to give them an equally compelling narrative.