Stand-alones: Tips and Advice

How to Write a Villain

Welcome (back) to Writer Central!

Before I dive into today’s topic, I want to apologize for neglecting my blog for over two weeks.  Life got really busy and I needed to take a break from it for awhile.  But I’m back now!  I hope to start posting regularly again.

Anyway, since Halloween is tomorrow (for those of us who celebrate it), I tried to prepare a Halloween-themed writing post for today.

So today I’m going to be discussing villains!  Or, more professionally, antagonists.  The two are slightly different, but today I’m going to be interchanging them a lot.

For starters, why are antagonists so crucial to a story?  Well, they are the motivation for the protagonist – they are what the protagonist is fighting against.  Basically, an antagonist is what makes the protagonist’s life so difficult, and gives him or her something to work on, creating the plot.

Let me just clarify the kinds of antagonists there can be in stories.  Because sometimes an antagonist isn’t a person.  (Say what?!)

The first type of antagonist is the one you’re probably most familiar with – a character that has either the opposite or the exact same goal as the protagonist and causes the two of them to butt heads.  (There’s also this thing called a villain, which I’m sure you’ve never heard of, who is a mere bad person whose main intent is to hurt people for seemingly no reason.)  An antagonist can also be someone who creates the majority of the plot of a story.  They make the problems the protagonist must solve, and the resolution usually has to do with defeating them.

But, strangely, there are other forms of an antagonist as well.  There are diseases, famines, animals, and so much more.  Now, just to be clear, “antagonist,” in the writing industry, generally isn’t used to describe these things.  But I like to connect them, because think about it.  An antagonist is a huge factor in the creation of a plot.  This means “antagonist” could refer to anything that gets in the protagonist’s way and gives them something to work against.

However, this post is focused on writing villains who have intentional, strategic actions – from people or creatures working alone to with a group, or a force.  So we’ll be neglecting the antagonist bit about disease and stuff.

Once you’ve figured out who and what your story’s antagonist is, there are some even more important things to consider.  First of all, what is your villain’s motivation?  What makes them do what they do?  Is it fear, hate, grief, or what?

After you’ve figured out their motivation, you’re one step closer to getting a fully developed villain!  And yes, that did sound like a commercial.  Completely unintended, I swear.

But, seriously, just like all other characters, a villain needs to be developed and realistic.

“I try to give both my heroes and villains an emotional dimensionality which provides the motivation for their actions.”

-Sidney Sheldon

If a villain doesn’t have motivation, they won’t be realistic at all.  But what are some other ways of making sure your villain is perfect for your story, and gives your readers the feeling you want them to get?

1. the villain’s physical appearance

For instance, if your goal is to give your reader the chills whenever your antagonist enters the room, give the antagonist an eerie, unusual appearance.  This way, the reader will get invested through emotion.  Remember, you usually can’t get your reader to feel exactly what you feel when you read the scene, but you can get it pretty dang close.

Not only does this step help give the reader get invested, but it also does what you should do for every character in your story – gives them an image that the readers can use to create their own mental pictures.

Also, make sure that the villain’s appearance reflects their personality, lifestyle, and past.  If they were physically abused, they need scars (both mental and physical).  If their personality is brusque and impatient, they might have a buzz cut or something.  (I don’t know, ok?)

2. the villain’s voice

This has two meanings.  The first considers the voice they use to speak to others.  Decide if it’s slithery and seductive or eerily normal.

The second meaning is only important if there are excerpts that are told from the villain’s point of view.  Basically, how do they tell the story?

3. the villain’s actions

If your story is supposed to be scary (even if it’s not horror), throw a few deaths in there.  Just make sure they have an evident purpose in the story.  Your villain’s actions should work with the theme you’re going for.

That’s all for today!  I hope this helped you. 🙂

If you’d like more writerly and bookish things, check out my other posts, and follow my blog for future ones.  If you have a question, suggestion, or comment, feel free to drop it below or contact me.

Happy Halloween to those of you who celebrate it!

See you next time ❤


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