I've had trouble creating good villains in the past and now that I'm working on a new one, I've been thinking about what makes a good villain. Should he or she be the calm logical type or the crazy violent type? Is a villain more effective when the reader cannot relate or when the reader understands their motivation? Do readers like a really evil villain or just an opposing character that isn't necessarily bad?
So I started thinking about the villains and bad guys in the books I really like. I seem to like the manipulative ones who are out for revenge. Although the whole world domination and ultimate power motive is sufficiently scary, it just seems so unrealistic to me. And it's definitely been done. I much prefer the scheming snake to the power-hungry bear.
When writing my villains I tend to make them more like what I like to read. What I struggle with is the background. Why is this person so angry? Who did what to make them this way? I think the most agonizing situation is when a villain harbors rage because of an incorrect assumption. They think they know what happened and who is to blame, but the reader knows the truth. An example of this would be Harry in the most recent Spiderman movies.
So what do you think? What kind of villains to you prefer? What characteristics do you like to see in a villain? Who is your favorite and why?