Tips and Tricks, writing

Five Questions to Help Write a Great Villain

Have you started work on your novel, the next bestseller? Have you looked at your villain and stopped, wondering if your villain is cliche, boring, or just not something your readers will have much feeling about?

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Here are five questions to ask yourself to tell if your villain is the next Moriarty or the next Dr. Dufus

1. Does your villain have motivation? Often times a cliche villain is someone who is evil for evil’s sake. To avoid this, make sure you explain why your character does what they do. And don’t make it a simple ‘I want to rule the world’. Explain why, what that means. Does he want to rule the world because of a twisted sense of purpose, that he can rule it best? Does she want to because she was oppressed as a child and has tasted power and has become greedy for the feeling it brings? Does he want to keep someone he cares about safe?

2. Can the reader relate? This isn’t always a sure-fire indication of a boring villain, but often times a villain who a reader can’t relate to is hard to care about. Do they love someone or something? Do they feel humiliation, shame, embarrassment? Do they make mistakes, stumble over their words, get tired? Having a villain who is just pure evil who never tires, never makes a mistake (except maybe the one the hero uses to stop him in the end) is going to be the villain people don’t care about as much.

3. Does the villain have a relationship with the hero? Again, this is not a black and white issue. Sometimes the villain will have no idea that the protagonist even exists. But most of the time, it is a good idea to show how they interact. These characters are complex and we often take our cues of how to feel about our villain from our protagonist. If we don’t have a deep, complex relationship, we won’t care about the villain nearly as much. This one works both ways. Write how the villain feels but also make sure to highlight this for the protagonist as well. Writing a good villain is often times not just what he does, but how the characters we love perceive him.

4. Does the villain believe in the mission? This one can be cliche either way you answer this so I’m going to try to explain how to avoid that. Your character needs to avoid being wishy-washy. Now they can have doubts about what they do. That can create some great tension. But they need to care greatly. Maybe not about the protagonist or about everything. But certainly, he needs to care. Again, this doesn’t mean he needs to be one hundred percent confident for everything. She can have doubts about her decisions. But make the emotions strong, either way. Because if they don’t believe what their doing is important, how are we supposed to?

5. Does your villain always lose? I can understand wanting your hero to win, but if your villain is constantly failing and never gets one over the protagonist, you’ve probably got a rather boring character. There’s no suspense, no feeling of tension, and no stakes. This is also bad for your protagonist creation. Unless they are having an extreme amount of internal conflict, they are having an easy time of it and that’s just a story that doesn’t have any meat to it. You won’t get a hero that readers love and a villain they love to despise if the villain doesn’t win sometimes.

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