Done wrong, however, they can make you a laughing stock of everyone from nearby villains to the local news media. A misspelled threat can turn you from a credible enemy to an Internet meme in moments, at which point the only solution is a complete costume/theme change and a year-long hiatus so that everyone can forget who you are.
In order to make certain that doesn’t happen to you, it’s imperative you follow these handy guidelines.
1. Examine your reasoning
First, be honest with yourself. Do you really need to write the note at all? I understand wanting to, of course – part of the reason we got into this business in the first place is because we love an audience – but in some cases your crimes should speak for themselves. Which will the media take more seriously – a written taunt, or freezing an entire bank (after you’ve made off with everything of value inside, of course)?
Be particularly careful when writing notes to heroes. Yes, threatening them can be entertaining, but saying too much can also give away vital details of your plan. A villainous monologue can be dangerous, whether on paper or out loud, and you don’t want the authorities to get wind of your plan until it’s too late for them to stop it. Remember, signing your work is just as much fun after it’s already happened.
The one exception where you should always write a note is if you’ve captured their family member/sidekick/love interest/friend. The entire reason you kidnapped that person in particular is to watch the hero’s pain, and the entire thing will be pointless if he or she is too busy fumbling around somewhere else looking for clues. There’s nothing that kills a villainous buzz more than a clueless hero.
2. Consider your medium
The key to a successful villainous note is drama. Handwriting is for shopping lists, not villainy, and letters cut out of magazines are meant for criminals far more common than you are. The only time paper should be involved at all is if the note is written in blood, and even then it would be more effective scaled up to a wall in the target’s home or private sanctum. It doesn’t even have to be the blood of someone particularly special – unless they have a forensic lab, or have special super-sniffing powers, they won’t be able to tell.
Unless blood is involved, scale up even further whenever possible. Outside walls are better than inner walls, so more people can see the note, and surfaces that are harder to clean/paint over are preferable. Burning can be fun, whether it’s fire or a laser beam of some kind, though more traditional kinds of carving can often take too long to be efficient.
Note: Don’t scale up too high unless your target/nemesis can fly or has regular access to some sort of jet. There’s no point in burning letters big enough to be seen from space if the person who’s meant to read them can’t make it up that high.
3. Spellcheck, spellcheck, spellcheck
In some ways, this is the most important thing you can do. There’s nothing that robs a threatening note of all its horror than spelling a word wrong, or using a word that’s technically spelled correctly but is used in the wrong context. Since spellcheck and grammar check aren’t an option on your final work – why type when you can carve the words into the side of a mountain with a laser – write it out in advance and copy from there. If you make a mistake in the transfer, turn whatever you were writing on to rubble and start over again on another building or landmark.