The name of evil

Mwahahahahaha... Sorry. An evil laugh seemed apt. I have a problem. Having got past the issue of procrastination in planning my novel for NaNoWriMo in November, I now have another obstacle to tackle. What do I call my villains? I have four. At the moment, they're all rather non descript but giving them a name will help me to begin to paint their portraits as such.

So how do you go about naming a villain? Are you ironic, as in the popular American TV vampire Angel? Do you go for the obvious like Stan Lee's Doctor Victor Von Doom from the Fantastic Four storyline? Where do you start?

If I look down the list of the Telegraph's 50 greatest villains in literature, I find alliterative names such as Velma Valento (Farewell My Lovely), the White Witch (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) and Milo Minderbender (Catch 22). There are names that point out physical characteristics, Captain Hook for instance. There are sinister sounding names like Sauron (Lord of the Rings), Voldemort (Harry Potter) and Hannibal Lector (whom we all know of course as Hannibal the cannibal).

Years ago when I had misplaced yearnings to be an actress, I attended a two day workshop on Shakespearean acting. I very quickly realised that this was not where my talents lay. However my writer's mind retained one of the exercises we were given to act out. Each enthusiastic workshop attendant was given a slip of paper bearing a name. I can't remember exactly what mine was but it definitely began with an F. We were then asked to decide whether our character was one of the good guys or a villain based solely on their name. I decided I was a villain. I was wrong. Our instructor told us that the soft sounding letters generally started the names of the heroes whereas the names of villains tended to begin with the harder sounding letters such as T and D. I can see where he was coming from but as I look down the Telegraph's list I see villains called Shere Khan (Jungle Book) and Moriarty (Sherlock Holmes).

Perhaps a villain should have an unusual name like Steerpike (Gormenghast) or a grand name like Count Fosco (Woman in White). Suppose you throw all that grandiose, obvious malarkey out of the window and just choose a normal name like Fred. That's what Margaret Atwood did in The Handmaid's Tale.

So I shall continue my search for fitting names for my villains. The name Prosper is beginning to appeal to me for the head villain, a tall, golden haired man with a booming voice. You see, give me a name and the portrait follows. I just have to 'christen' the other three now. Decisions, decisions.


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