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Do You Really Want to Write a Villain?

First, let me start by saying… Not everyone is cut out to write evil characters. It takes practice. Dedication. A blackened soul. Look, I’m not trying to be a bitch, but most are just too sweet, and their moral compass too, you know– moral. These reasons make you unable to draft believable villains who perform dastardly deeds. BUT for those of you with ice in your veins and coal in your stocking, you don’t need to fret! I can help you. And please, for the love of all things HOLY, stop wringing your hands (lamenting is so last year). 

If you follow my easy steps, you’ll do just fine creating a villainous character capable of heinous crimes. 

Let’s begin by answering a few simple questions. 

Backstory: What tragedy led to your villain’s evil ways?

Power: Do they seek power or is it all about revenge? 

Defeat: Can they be defeated or worse, saved? 

Once you have determined your answers, you can start writing a story, #SuperVillain included. 

There are two distinctive ways to include your villain. 

  1. They can be the antagonist– you know, the thorn in the side to your hero. 

  2. Or they can be the main character and you can delve deep into the psyche of your big bad wolf. 

Whichever direction you choose, you’ll find fans for your villain IF (a big freaking IF here) you make their motives believable and their passion for spite, uh, relatable. Hey, we’ve all wanted to exact revenge upon our enemies and you're a liar if you say otherwise. 

A few years ago, several stories I wrote were featured in an anthology, I’m Not the Villain, I’m Misunderstood. A delightfully dangerous book filled with evil origin stories and tales of the anti-hero. 

In my feature, the main character, Ríona is a witch who has been avoiding her trashy coven for ages. She is morally gray, self-indulgent, arrogant, and downright bloodthirsty. Yeah sure, she is quick-witted and charming at times, and maybe kind of awesome– but still, she’s the villain. Throughout the story, I explore themes of power, temptation, and revenge. 

Now, as great as I am about writing villains, there is an author who’s even better. Abigail F. Taylor’s debut, The Night Begins, is wrought with villainous activity and features a dual-villain scenario. The first is Althea Mills, our protagonist's errant mother. Accused of murdering her husband with an axe, and with a past she never speaks of, Althea is anything but a welcoming soul for the homesick Darcy. Villains, however, are not always so clean-cut. As the story unfolds, Althea’s motives are revealed. She does what she needs to protect herself, her daughter, and the town where they live. Althea is the queen of her one-room castle and she alone has the tools and knowledge to ward off the dangers lurking in the shadows. Her desperation to protect those around her takes precedence and, in the end, destroys what she covets.

The second villain, and perhaps the more obvious, is the eldritch horror who skulks through the Texas Hill Country. It is a deadly, ancient creature, given power through the fear surrounding its mythos. The creature is a bookend, a mirror image of Althea’s queen-like tyranny. Like Jack Finney’s McCarthy-era aliens, the monster Darcy faces is a reminder that all villainous deeds come from within…and sometimes from those we least suspect. It is the choices we make at pivotal moments, when we are often at our lowest, that keep the wolves in the woods and far from the door.

Well, I hope you have a horrible time creating your evil characters and can stomach looking at yourself in the mirror after writing about their many, treacherous deeds. The next time you consider writing another boring hero story, remember, there’s a criminal mastermind lurking in the dark just waiting for you to spread the word of their terrible childhood. 


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1 Comment

Feb 09

I absolutely love this! If you're drafting your villain with the steps listed here, and start to see them as the protagonist of their own story, then you're doing something right! Nobody is the villain of their own story, but how fun it is to twist them into one for your main character(s)!

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