Crafting a Memorable Villain

One of the best ways to hook a reader is to create multidimensional, lifelike characters. And the second-most important character in the novel (the first being the protagonist) is the antagonist. That means you should put just as much effort into writing the villain as the hero.

Here are three tips to making them a worthy nemesis.

1. Make your villain likable
Resist the urge to make your bad guy 100% evil; no one hates puppies, kittens, and cute babies, if you know what I mean. Besides, a villain without a personality isn’t all that interesting. Your reader will disengage pretty quickly. Try giving your antagonist a positive trait instead. Have her volunteer at a soup kitchen on the weekends, or have him stop a mugging while on his way home from dinner. Readers will have a hard time disliking an antagonist who visits his grandmother at her nursing home, and that will create an even deeper connection with your story.

2. Give your villain a goal that makes sense
When I say a goal that makes sense, it doesn’t necessarily need to be a popular goal. But the goal must be logical to the bad guy. For example, an antagonist may want to build a condominium complex in the city park because his company is drowning in debt and his daughter needs life-saving cancer treatments. Or perhaps your villain lost her family in a tragic car accident and the only way she believes that she can overcome her survivor’s guilt is to kill the drunk driver who caused the crash. So the reader has to understand why the villain is doing what she’s doing, even if he doesn’t agree.

3. Write several scenes with your villain as the hero
You don’t need to use these scenes in your final product. They’re simply a tool for you to better understand your antagonist. Make her the hero in that scene, struggling to accomplish their goal against seemingly insurmountable odds. Try writing the climax from his point of view. This will give you the opportunity to sympathize with your bad guy throughout the novel. And if you can connect with your villain, then your reader can too.

How do you make sure your villain is an interesting character worthy of facing off against your protagonist?

3 thoughts on “Crafting a Memorable Villain

  1. Pingback: Lesson 9: You have to have faith | Writing = Passion

  2. Pingback: Mirror, Mirror… | My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered

  3. Pingback: You don’t really understand an antagonist ― John Rogers « Dancing with Fireflies

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