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Monday, April 15, 2013

Villainy at its Best

Picture Credit: http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page
Everyone loves the cute cartoon villain who rubs his hands together in delight over how evil he is. But if you want a real villain--one that will capture your audience and make kids choose your "bad guy" for their Halloween costumes--your villain must be much more.

Picture Credit: http://scriptshadow.blogspot.com/2012/09/

Get in the villain's head

Think of the effective villains you have read about, watched in movies, or studied in history. These villains have depth and, if asked, would tell you they are the "good guys." They believe (or at least have convinced themselves) that they aren't really doing anything wrong. They would always tell you that their actions are justified.

This is true whether you are talking about the definite villain of a story, or if you are simply talking about a secondary character that your main character can not get along with.

Picture Credit: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/10/23/the-
Take a moment to get in the head of your favorite villain. What drives him or her? How does he or she justify the pain and suffering that he or she causes? Try to see the world through this villains eyes--that does NOT mean you have to agree with the villain--just try to understand what he or she is seeing.

Now do the same with a villain that you are writing. Is it easier or harder? Do you run into a wall where your villain only functions in a way that will hurt the main character for the sake of the story? If so, your villain is suspiciously like the cartoon character depicted at the top of this blog. Now, if you want your story to be punchy and light, you might be on the right track. But if you want a realistic villain, you need to give him or her more. Every villain must think and act as though he or she is the main character. There should not technically be a "bad guy."
Picture Credit: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/393442-

Give the villain a moral code

If you want people to be able to relate to your villain, try figuring out and somehow showing his or her moral code. Obviously, villains don't function with high morals on every desirable subject, but one or two redeeming features will make the villain more realistic. Your character may be a psychopath killer, but maybe he or she is absolutely loyal to that one friend from childhood.

Know the backstory

My last piece of advice on creating a villain that will stick with people, is to give the villain a back story. This is going to be a major part in why he or she is a villain today. Now, you have to be careful here because a secondary character's back story really can't take up pages and detract from the here-and-now. But if you can find ways to add tidbits from the villains past at times when it will add to the story, you will find that you have created a villain that everyone loves and hates at the same time.


  1. Hi Rachel,
    I have to admit that I like the bad guys, especially the ones I can connect with, you know. Like the Nazgul in Lord of the Rings, I was voting for them instead of Frodo. :)
    Anyway, I agree with what you say, the bad guy (or gal) needs to have qualities that we can connect with, or we're just going to get bored of them!
    Thanks for posting this. Who's the bad guy in your books? I want to know more about your books :)

  2. The only constant bad guy in my series is the king and his army since Miriam, my main character, finds herself living in a city that is in the middle of a revolutionary war. But through the series there are several other characters that are also bad guys--neighbors who pick on her, thieves, her owner when she is forced into slavery, and in book 3 she even finds out one of her friends is a traitor. But she also has a shaky relationship with her father so, in a way, he has some bad guy in him.

    I really like the sound of your bad guy--Aster the Terrible. It sounds like you have spent some major time developing him. No wonder he's your favorite! I've found that I have a special connection with my bad guys, too. Once you've seen the world as they see it head and realized why they do what they do, it feels like your other characters are judging them too harshly. :)

    By the way, if you want more of a synopsis of my books, take a look at my website: http://rachelkjohnson.com/. I have a general synopsis of the series on my homepage, and then each of the four books has its own page with a synopsis of that book. I have to say that I go into more detail on the first book's synopsis than the others because it's hard to say too much about what will happen late in the series without giving away anything from the first book. Once the first book comes out--hopefully it won't be too much longer--then I'll add more to the synopsis of book 2, and so on.

    As always, thanks for reading and for your comments, Tayla!

    1. Agh! I want to read your books! Are you published yet?
      Little misunderstanding here :) Aster is my main character, but I suppose to some people he IS a bad guy, he's called Terrible because he's a thief and everyone is terrible at catching him, don't worry, the 'terrible' part is a bit confusing :)
      My main bad guy is a wraith called Amaarzar, he's extremely evil, but I do feel I have a connection with him, he's angry and vicious because of a wrong that was done to him, but the other characters do have an excuse to judge Amaarzar pretty harshly, he's mean! But you know the old saying, never judge to harshly because you haven't walked a mile in someone else's shoes. Those shoes might squish your feet.
      Anyway, I love how passionate you sound about your books, it makes me happy to hear about them. Can't wait to read them!!!
      Tayla :)

  3. Thanks for clearing up who Aster is. :) I'm excited for that to get published, because I really want to read it. As far as me, no I'm not published. I've been looking for an agent, but it hasn't taken me anywhere yet.

    1. No problems. Good luck finding an agent, that's got to be frustrating, I'm crossing my fingers for you to find a good one and your writing career will take off. :)
      Utahan too? Awesome, Utah rocks, I wouldn't want to live anywhere else, except maybe Ireland, but I'd miss my mountains. :)