Writing about Villains

by , Wednesday March 22, 2017
Writing about Villains

Writing about Villains 

​Your guide to writing anything good when it comes to characters whose nature is bad... 



Dear Reader,

Yes it’s me. Did you think that you could write a story without me? Well, you thought wrong. But did you also think that you could plan a story without me, and leave the beloved hero in your dearest thoughts? No, no, no. I’m always here, you just need to pay more attention to me. I’m way better than the hero anyway, everyone knows that.

Sincerely, The Villain.



When you start writing a story, the main character is often your focal point, from there you start conjuring up the supporting cast, the friends and family of the hero, the people who made the hero who they are. The villain is sometimes pushed to the side, even though they play a vital point in your hero’s life. ...There’s always going to be a bad guy somewhere, but you want them to be both believable and vivid.


So here’s how to make a villain the readers will hiss and boo at:


1. You have pages of planning notes for your hero, so do the same with your villain.

Your villain needs a name, a backstory, a motivation, some sense of chronological events leading to their actions.  When creating my heroes, I like to get to know them as a person and see if I would like them if I managed to come across them on a street one day. I remember in drama doing hot seating activities with the characters of plays; I do something like that when planning. It may seem a bit crazy, but it works. If you know your character, you can shape them into something three-dimensional, a character that readers will believe.


How do you plan, you say? You make a checklist.


Bad Guy must have’s:  

  • Likable qualities – so the reader’s will feel torn on whether to hate them or love them.
  • Often identical qualities of the hero, some can be misdirected.
  • They’re not just evil for evil's sake.
  • A worthy opponent for your hero.
  • You like them when you write them – your passion will show in your writing.
  • Are they relatable in some way? They could be relatable to you first. They are a human being after all – well, not always.
  • What type of villain are they?

If you need help deciding on what type of villain you’ll chose here’s a really helpful blog by Aldrin.



2. Avoid the clichés.

Your villain has to come from somewhere, and more often than not they are somewhat influenced by something you’ve already seen or read. That’s okay, you just need to avoid accidently copying what’s already been done. I can find myself lodged into an already existing universe when writing one of my own, and you just need to shake yourself out of it. So include dialogue and situations like these…

  • "Say goodbye to…" (your hopes/life/ family/world)
  • "I knew this day would come…" (cue dramatic monologue)
  • Tries to take over the world, but fails because of the hero.
  • Is constantly foiled by the hero, time and time again.

Maybe take one of those lines and twist it, perhaps the villain wanted the hero to think they wanted to take over the world, but they wanted something better than that? Maybe the villain just takes something from the hero without them even knowing? There’s a world of possibilities out there and they are all in your head just waiting…



3. If they’re off the screen, still give them something.

In mystery stories, the villain remains unknown until far into the story. It’s then tempting to accidently forget the villain exists until the big reveal. While this certainly has the mystery element to it, you have a sudden and un- thought-of villain. You need to tease the readers with clues, vague flashbacks and short scenes are ways to briefly introduce what the villain is doing behind the curtain. Your readers don’t want to forget your villain and neither do your characters.



4. Vivid description.

So maybe by this point you’re either writing the first sentence describing your villain or it’s the big show down. To make that scene pop you need to squeeze out your creative juices – wow, that sounded weirder than I thought it would ;) By this I mean describing them to the best of your ability. Describe how they walk, talk, their small habits, their main features. Yeah they may have piercing cold eyes, but what else is there? Maybe the hero notices the slight twitch of the mouth, or the lines of injury, or age in the face? The more you wring out your scenes, the more real it will seem. And you want dialogue in there too! That’s when you get to describe their voice and speech mannerisms.


5. Multiple friends and foes of the villain.

Everyone has a friend and a foe. It’s just a fact of life. Show how your villain interacts with both kinds of people in situations. These are great tools of showing how the many intricacies of your villain work and it offers an insight into their mind and thinking. With friends you can show the better side to your villain or their true tyranny. With foes you can stretch their limits and wield the great weapon of suspense and absurdity.



Got any more tips to help your fellow writers? Leave them in the comments, and remember don’t blink – ahem, don’t forget. About your villains that is. They need to take over your story.



Thank you to Born to be free for writing this blog and to Prodigy for designing the banner!


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