There are few villains I love as much as Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from the cartoon Phineas and Ferb. He's a bad guy, yes. He plots evil. He is the arch-enemy of Agent P. (also known as Perry the Platypus). He's a mad-scientist, even, but I totally and completely love him.
Because he's hilarious.
And he has depth.
I don't always have time to sit down and watch this show with my kids (as much as I want to), but they were telling me the other day about an episode where Dr. Doofenshmirtz was relating an incidence from his childhood. Apparently, (and this second-hand from a six-year-old boy, so bear that in mind) Doofenshmirtz's mother thought she was having a girl before his brother was born. She proceeded to knit a whole bunch of girl's dresses. Lots and lots. When Doof's sibling was born a boy instead, Doofenshmirtz was forced to wear all the knitted clothes to school. Of course, all the other kids laughed at him.
See, doesn't that little bit of back story help you to understand why Doofenshmirtz grew up to be a super-villain?
While he's admittedly evil, viewers have to love Doofenshmirtz: his crazy schemes, his clothes, his accent, his quirks, even the fact that his ex-wife keeps defending him to their teenage daughter: "Honey, your father isn't pure evil. We had our differences, but that doesn't mean he's a totally bad guy." (That's a paraphrase, by the way.) A big part of that love, though, comes from back story: why Doofenshmirtz is the way he is.
We've all heard it before: when we give our characters -- even our villains -- multiple layers, we'll have a richer novel. You know you've been successful when your readers can relate to your characters. Not just the protagonist, but the antagonist -- the evil villain -- as well.
What's your antagonist's back story? What experiences shaped him or her -- made them the arch-nemesis they are in your novel? Have you ever used back story to make your antagonist actually likable, or at least relatable?
With that said, I just found the ultimate site about Dr. Doofenshmirtz, so if you're interested in an in-depth character sketch, check out Wiki Entertainment's post about him here.
And of course, spend some time watching the show. Even if you don't have kids, do yourself a favor and take half an hour to kick back and watch some seriously funny TV. (As if you don't have anything better to do! *giggle*)
Doofenshmirtz Evil Incorporated!