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I am working on a story from an 'Igor'/lab assistants' point of view. They work for a modern day 'Evil scientist', Dr Levo.

Igor has a good working relationship with Dr Levo.

I want the audience to like/root for Dr Levo, however I still want them to be Evil and live up to their stereotype.

How can I portray my Evil Scientist as evil, while still have the audience like them?


Maybe 2020 has all in all been a bit too much, but if Dr Levo and Igor were to build a death ray, well death ray means you are going to kill people and I have seen enough of that this week thank you very much.

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    Artemis Fowl (the book, not the awful movie) is a great model for this. The protagonist is an evil mastermind who slowly gains a conscience, has a character arc and has likable characteristics, making him likable despite his negative traits. – Sciborg Sep 18 at 11:02
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Depends on what route you want to follow.

The Pre-Emptive bad guy route for example. Take X-Men's Magneto, a popular and well liked character who is Evil (seeing he wants to commit genocide on the human race). But he does get a lot of sympathy from the reader because in a way his actions are understandable and one can see why he would deem them necessary. As an holocaust survivor he sees the same events happen with mutants as when he was growing up as a boy of Jewish faith.

Perhaps your character does what he does out of a sense of pre-emptive strike, either he attacks them now or they will attack him later, perhaps because of their misplaced fear of him?....self defense and nothing else?

The ends justify the means... I am staying in the comic world for now, let's take DC's Mr.Freeze. He isn't truly evil but he has no problem with doing evil deeds for a simple reason, it's his only hope to save his wife. And another character would be Thanos, who want's to sacrifice half the universe to save the remainder. Both characters are clearly evil in their way, but again understandable because Freeze is motivated by love and Thanos by a sense of greater good. Both might have logical flaws but both are understandable in their actions.

Perhaps your character has lost faith in humanities ability to save itself/the world and so he takes it upon himself to do it no matter what cost. Or a bit more selfish...he wants to save a person and is willing to pay whatever price there is.

Lawful Evil Again with the comics, The Fantastic 4's main villain(and probably the best villain Marvel has ever created!) Dr.Doom. He is evil but still plays by a rule book/code of honor. For example, at a time he was able to kill Reed Richards, which is pretty much his life goal but instead saved him...why? Richards was wounded by a other foe, there would be no honor/satisfaction in killing him. And another point is, he does not see himself as evil...and he isn't. In the Spider-Man secret wars series (Animated show version) he ruled as a dictator on an alien world divided in several kingdoms split between several Marvel villains. His kingdom is rather distinct seeing it's an utopia, an utopia under a dictatorship but still an utopia.

Having your character have a code of honor goes a long way in likeability, for example doesn't hurt kids/dogs.

Flamboyant D-Bag.
Some bad guys are liked more for their style then substance, take Damon from The Vampire Diaries or Klaus from The Originals. Both are ruthless killers without any regard for human life but they are like both in and off the show because they sell it. Why are cool people generally liked in high-school? because they are cool. Damon sells it with the rebel without a cause attitude while Klaus has a puppeteer attitude displaying his strategic intelligence whenever he can and giving speeches on how everybody sucks compared to him...sure you hate him but you also do love to hate him.

Edit for OP:

Neutral Evil, Boring unless they are a puppet master. Personally I find Neutral Evil to be hard to like because they aren't that compelling. They are often one dimensional characters motivated by nothing other then greed or power. This is because bad guy are often defined by their motivations. But this can be remedied by the way they obtain it.

An example would be Emperor Palpatine, he's a simple man with a simple plan...to rule the galaxy. But his methods is where it gets interesting. (The pre-Dinsey version that is) One of his greatest manipulations was the hatred he created towards the Jedi from their clones. He as the leader of the republic and secret enemy of the Jedi ensured that the Jedi got high-ranking militarily positions in the clone army. And in first glance it would be stupid to appoint the enemy as high ranking officers in your own army, but it was genius in two simple ways.

1: The Jedi were arrogant, by hiding in plane sight (as the head of the Democratic government he wanted to overthrow) he was able to direct the attention away from him towards people like Count Dooku. And appointing the Jedi in charge of the clone armies made them ignore the fact that such a massive army was a threat.

2: The Jedi were peacekeepers, negotiators, and self righteous hippies. They viewed the clones as little more then machines because they were unnatural. And their total lack of military experience or passion made sure that a lot of clones died for next to nothing. And although they were brainwashed/bread to be loyal to the Republic this wasn't full proof. In fact a few clones deserted the Republic to side with the Jedi but most didn't because Palpatines plan. Most of the clones were so used to being mistreated by the Jedi that they didn't have a second thought when the order came to kill them all.

If your bad guy can be like that, a master manipulator he would not be likeable but he will be respectable due to his sheer level of skill.

Chaotic Evil, insanity justified 2 characters I mentioned as Flamboyant D-Bag's are Klaus Mikaelson and Damon Salvator. They aren't fully Chaotic Evil but had their periods. Klaus, a creature that has lived for hundreds of years always had one thing that defined him, his family. It was his obsession but at a time he could no longer be close to them. It drove him mad and violent randomly killing people for no reason. And same goes for Damon who did his malice because he was heartbroken.

But they were still likeable to the audience because they were acting out due to emotional pain, something most people can relate to.

Chaotic characters (Good, neutral or evil) are defined by their unpredictable nature and their disregard/inability to see the long term consequences of their actions. Or how it would effect a third party. And here comes the motivation, there must be a reason to why they became chaotic, a form of trauma that made them depressed or lose faith in others which caused them to no longer care about anyone or anything. If your character is evil because he has no reasons left to be good (Lost loved ones, or a other form of defeat) can generate sympathy form the reader to him.

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  • This is a good answer thank you. It doesn't quite fit the Dr Levo I have in my head, but you weren't to know that. My Dr Levo is more comically evil or now that I think about it they are maybe more chaotic neutral/evil. Any chance you could expand on a chaotic neutral/evil character type? – DarcyThomas Sep 18 at 21:24
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There is very little correlation between being likable and unlikable and being good or evil.

Many people become disgusted by other persons when they discover that those other persons are evil. Once they discover those other people do evil deeds, they can no longer like them.

So there is some correlation between how good or evil someone is and how likeable other people consider them to be. But I am sadly disappointed in the human race, considering how little correlation there is.

Think about the usual list of the most evil persons in history, who massacred the most millions of men, and women, and children: Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Hitler, stalin, and Mao.

Anyone who can't ignore how evil someone is, or can't force themselves to like someone who is evil, could never like Genghis Khan, Tamerlane, Hitler, stalin, or Chairman Mao. But on the other hand, many people who knew them personally considered them to be people with combinations of attractive and annoying personality traits, like everyone else they knew. They didn't seem instantly unlikable to everyone they met personally, despite being so exceptionally evil.

In my own experience in junior high school and high school, most of the boys were bullies to a greater and lesser degree, and at least 10 percent of the boys in my class were bullied more or less often.

And maybe bullying is not a very strong evil and doesn't have a very high evilness quotent. But the evilness of bullying is very pure. Nobody gains anything from bullying, like a counterfeiter or a bank robber might gain from their crimes. bullies eem to bully to get pleasure from the suffering of the bullied. So bullies seem to be doing it for what TV Tropes calls "for the Evulz", out of pure evil.

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ForTheEvulz[1]

And in my experience the majority of high school boys are at least occassionally bullies. And from what I have heard the majority of high school girls are also at least occassionally bullies, though typically with a different style than boy bullies.

So a large percentage, probably a majority, of high school students at least sometimes commit acts of pure evil. But a large percentabe, probably a majority, of high school students are somewhat likeable and are liked by a number of other stundents and adults who know them. And it seems statistically very likely that those two very large groups of high school students have a considerable degree of overlap, that many high school students who bully are also likeable to some people, if not to those they bully.

In the Get Smart televison series (1965-1970) the spy organization Control fought agains the evil spy organization KAOS. In the episodoes "And Baby Makes Four" and "And Baby Makes Four, conclusion", Simon the lIkeable was a totally charming and likeable evil KAOS agent.

KAOS's "most irresistible agent". As the Chief explains it, "a man so unassuming, so modest, so sweet and warm that you take one look at him, and you like him."

Nonetheless, Simon the Likeable remains capable of all the wicked and evil acts that one expects of a KAOS agent, for instance freely admitting in a London court to grand larceny, forgery, espionage, extortion, counterfeiting, smuggling, and assault with a deadly weapon. Yet, to the cheering of onlookers, the Lord Justice on the case takes a look at him... and dreamily finds him "Not Guilty!"

https://getsmart.fandom.com/wiki/Simon_the_Likeable[2]

TV Tropes has a supertrope Likeable Villian, which includes many tropes about ways in which various villains are more or less likeable.

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/LikableVillain[3]

No doubt the examples they list will include many characters you are familiar with.

And you should see the trope Designated Hero

A Designated Hero is a character who, despite being presented as The Hero within a story, doesn't really do anything heroic. Viewers may typically see this character as a Jerkass and, at worst, a villain. This is not the same as the deliberately morally ambiguous Anti-Hero. From the praise Designated Heroes receive from other characters, the narrative, and perhaps Word of God, it is plain that the audience is expected to like and root for them. Instead, many viewers have trouble liking the character and may even feel disgusted by them.

https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DesignatedHero[4]

It has many examples of characters who the writers make the protagonists who do evil deeds.

So there are many examples of fictional caracters who are more or less evil and and more or less likeable.

As for evil scientists, in real life most evil scientists and engineers are those who work for their national governments to develop weapons of war, not sterotypical fictional mad scientists.

As for fictional mad scientists like you intend your character to be, perhaps you might go back to the prototype story with a mad scientist main character - Frankenstein, or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary shelley, 1818. Victor Frankenstein has a number of character flaws, but he creates his monster in an attempt to better humanity.

So it seems to me that it is perfectly possible to create a mad scientist character who is the hero of the story, whose project will benefit humanity, and who is competent enough to carry it out successfully.

And if it is posible to do that, it would be possible to created a mad scientist character who was evil, but had likeable characteristics.

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  • I tried going through tv tropes, but got lost... Thanks for finding these useful tropes. – DarcyThomas Sep 21 at 19:58
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Number one, start with what you like about him. You presumably find him to be an interesting character with an interesting motive or personality or you wouldn't have him in the story. Whatever reasons you like him for, make sure the audience sees that. If he's funny or flamboyant or clever, show him being those things.

Number two is to show other characters liking him. Make sure Igor feels emotionally invested in the scientist's plan. Establish WHY Igor follows the scientist. Though you want to be careful here. If he follows him due to some manipulation on the part of the scientist it could actually make him less likeable.

Number three is to obscure the evil. Fairly simple. Try not to dwell on the actual effects of his evil. Think of it this way: in books where you're supposed to like a character who sometimes has to kill people, they don't usually focus on how the corpse looks afterward, or how it made them feel to kill those people.

Number four is more of a personal suggestion for this specific case (and it might ruin the vibe you're going for). Show that the scientist has a soft spot for someone or something. Maybe he has a soft spot for Igor. The important thing is that we see him empathizing with SOMEONE, just not his victims.

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By showing something that your readers can see in themselves. Normally authors use moral values for this purpose as they're believed to be universal. However, there are other things universal among humanity like survival instinct, jealousy, a search of higher purpose etc.

There are many books out there with evil protagonist. I'll list a few on the top of my head.

Overlord series originally written in japanese, but english translations are available. Hero is a skeleton monstrosity.

This is a amateur novel but same theme. Check a few chapters.

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Always make sure he has a "good thing" he does alongside his evil doings. Be sure to make him likable in ways that the reader can believe he also has sincerity in the good he does as well.

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    Hi, welcome to writing.se! Take the tour and visit the help center for more information. I think your first sentence is a good start to an answer but it would be good if you could go into some more details as to how to do it. You can improve your answer via an edit. Good luck and happy writing! – linksassin Sep 24 at 7:06

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