Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Rules for Villains: Picking a good name

I cannot stress how important it is to pick a good villain name.

There's five classes of villain names.

First: the scary name. If you have scary powers, maybe that's okay - people will know what you're selling when you give them your business card. But for the rest of you, grow up. If your name talks about "Blood", "death", or "war", and your powers can't walk the walk, go home and rethink your choice.

Second: the corny name. In the old days, people had some really ridiculous names. Why? They didn't think about other peoples' reactions. They'd say the name in their head and go "oh, that sounds good". A quick trip to the playground of any grade school and half an hour of the kids' time would have shown them how graphically their choices could be dissected and mocked. These days, things like Twitter and Brickwatch are daily reminders that how something sounds to other people is important.

Third: the obscure name. I don't care if you name yourself "Terror Incognita" because you teleport your victims to a distant wilderness, the literary reference will be lost on 80% of your audience. Maybe you're okay with that, but expect people to get it wrong or slap you with a nickname you dislike.

Fourth: the generic name. Do you have any idea how many Children of Lilith take a name like "Ogre" or "Crusher"? If you're going to squat on a name, be prepared to fight very hard to make it your own. Try something like "The Oakland Ogre" if you must - that way, you can at least tap into some civic pride. It sounds unlikely, but a shout-out to a city, a sports team, or things like that will get a lot of civilians on board with your program.

Fifth: the good name. Reminiscent of your powers, easy to remember, not so pretentious that people need to take you down a peg with a nickname, and unique. I hit on "Mr. Big" after a lot of searching, but I'm lucky in that my powers are relatively rare. I've known bricks that went for years without coming up with a winner. But you know what? Sometimes, that's okay.

If you're really stuck, just go out and do your thing. Don't get talky, just show up, make some threats, smash some cars, steal some jewelry, whatever. The press will label you. If not them, some genius on the Internet will come up with something. If they pick a winner, use it! It's not like they can sue you for stealing their idea - you're a villain, remember?

Mr. Big's words of wisdom: Don't be a geek, pick something unique.