Henchmen Motivation

One thing I’ve been wondering about the past couple of weeks is Henchmen. The expendable thugs that do the bidding of the villain. In particular, I’ve been wondering where they come from, and why they are so loyal. In other words, their motivation.

(Henchmen can be stereotyped as being dim-witted idiots. For this post however, I’ll be referring to smart henchmen.)

My WIP has several thugs. When I first planned my novel, one of the problems I faced was their motivation. Why are they sticking around when things go bad? Why are they sticking around when their boss, the antagonist, is trying to wipe out humanity/the world? Because, to me, the average man who works as a security guard for the villain never seemed realistic to me. I would think that the average man would quit soon after all his security guard mates started getting killed.

So, in the end, I chose mercenaries as the henchmen. The motivation was obvious – they were for hire, willing to do whatever their employer wanted. They knew the risks that accompanied their occupations.

I soon realised that the mercenaries could only be a temporary thing. I couldn’t have mercenaries as thugs in every novel. So, what kind of henchmen could you have?

As I said before, their motivation is  clear as day. They’re doing whatever their employer wants, because they’re in it for the money. But as soon as their boss is killed/jailed, they’re out of there.

Gangs/Mafia/Chinese triads are all fiercely loyal to their leader. No doubt, they’ve killed before. Perhaps the antagonist is their leader or Mafia boss. Or perhaps the villain has befriended one.

What other variation of henchmen are there? What type do you use?


3 Responses to Henchmen Motivation

  1. Merrilee says:

    A lot of the time it has to do with fear. You do what you are told, because if you don’t, you could be the next target.

    Sometimes it’s about power – if you follow the bad man and support him, you have power of your own.

    Sometimes it’s cultural – you follow your daimyo or your cardinal or your king, because if you don’t, you are a traitor to your country.

  2. Mia says:

    Interesting post. My WIP is suspense, but there’s only one bad guy. Your post has given me new ideas, though. Maybe I’ll give the enemy a little minion to do his dirty work 😉

    As for why a person would do terrible things for a man/woman of leadership, even if their own life was at stake, I would say they’d do it because of fear, power, loyalty, and/or money.

  3. kasie west says:

    It’s so true. The most unrealistic characters are those who you can’t understand their motivation. I was going to repeat the sentiment of the two comments above. Maybe some are in it for the sense of belonging to a group or because they don’t think they’re good enough to do anything better with their lives. I don’t know, that’s a good question. And one we should definitely consider for all our side characters. What’s their motivation?

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