How to Write a Villain

It seems like it has been a while since I have done a solid writing tip. I’ve skimmed through the files in my brain and pulled out the folder labeled “Villain.”

Mwahahaha . . .

Everyday I get more and more people looking at my post about How to Write a Bad Boy. I don’t know what’s going on. Maybe there will be a huge influx of bad boy characters coming into novels pretty soon. Anyway, in that blog post, I said I would expand on the Villain character. So here goes.

Who is your favorite Villain?

Here is a list of some of mine. I’m going back to my post on resonance a bit.

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The Lord of Darkness from Legend

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The Joker from Batman

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The Governor from The Walking Dead

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Queen Ravenna from Snow White and the Huntsman

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The Goblin King from the Labyrinth

It’s all about seduction.

The Villain needs to seduce the reader into thinking that their way is understandable and enticing. We need to sympathize with them. Therefore, they need an intriguing backstory.

How to create Backstory for your Villain. Something turned this person or creature. An injustice was done. Every single Villain should have a back story. Most often than not, the writer won’t put it into the novel, but it’s there. You will see their backstory in the dialogue, in the body movements, and in the interactions. That is why backstory is crucial. Write a prologue or a chapter in the Villains point of view and don’t use it. Or write up a character sheet for your Villain. Know their point of no return or turning point and every terrible deed they have ever done. Also, just how evil is your Villain going to be? Know all these things before they begin to interact with your other characters.

The Villain needs a Motivation. It is important to find the Villain’s understandable motivation. Do they want justice or are they going off of a belief system? There are very few people who are mean because they enjoy making others suffer. Nasty behavior is usually rooted in some fear or insecurity. What are these insecurities? The reader needs to sympathize with their backstory in order to understand their motivation. The Villain’s point of no return incident is usually counterpointed with the hero’s experience or theme. Remember, the Villain is the hero to their own story.

Give the Villain a weakness. Give them a single thing that they adore. Much like in my post about writing “Bad Boys” where I talk about a simple affection for orchids, or being an artist, or maybe a lost love. Introduce something small that shows a spark of humanity. Create a hope where the reader might (even if only for a second) think “ah, they might not be so bad… I mean, look how much they love the simple pleasure of eating an ice-cream cone.” Something like that. A completely evil character is a weak character. The best Villains are the ones that people can connect with.

Give them a great death. Not all Villains have to die! But if you do kill off your Villain, make the death match their powers and level of evilness. If your villain is a thief or small crimes, then a simple shot to the head would suffice. If your villain becomes a huge character with monumental powers and influence, then give your readers a satisfying over-the-top ending.

What if you don’t have a singular Villain? Think of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is one of my favorite books. But the villain isn’t a person, really, it’s a mindset of hatred and bigotry that permeated a culture; it was oppression at its worst. Or the book The Help. Or in Terminator Two where Skynet is the ultimate villain, but it is attached to the face of the organically fluid metal shape-shifting cop. Often times when the Villain is a large corporation or a corrupt system, there will be one main bad guy that represents the whole.

There are so many different Villains. Here is a great article of how to write different types of Villains with screenwriting, but it applies to novels as well.

I will say something about writing villains. It touches a different part of my brain. I’ve written some horrid stuff. Cursed, killed, and maimed. It comes from some dark carnal part of me that is suppressed, I guess. I’ve felt very intimate ties with one of my villains for going on three years now. Sometimes he screams at me and shows up at the most inopportune times, eh-hem-gulp… church. But I can’t help it, nor would I want to. Because…

Writing is therapy and writing villains is probably the best therapy out there.

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Thanks for stopping by! Who are some of your favorite villains and why?

-Tara

6 thoughts on “How to Write a Villain

  1. Pingback: Falling for the ‘Bad Boy’ and writing to tell about it. | taramayoros.com

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