I want to hurt for the villain. I want to see the good in them. I want a villain to be approachable and affable. I want a villain who I can take an afternoon tea and share my secrets with.
Of course, they’ll turn around and rip my heart out and leave me pleading for more.
Villains. They can’t exist only to be evil. Relying on your villain to be a psychopath does evil things for the sake of causing misery is boring. And as a writer it’s lazy.
The villain’s wants and needs are in opposition to the main character’s but just as valid. So, when writing your villain put as much care into them as your main character (MC). As a reader I want to hurt for the villain but know, in the end, they must fail.
Don’t just slap a cool name and a twirling mustache on the page and call it a day. Consider the following items when fleshing your villain. Or, as you’ll come to know her, Stacy.
- Imagine the story from your villain’s perspective
- For the purpose of this we’re going to call our villain Stacy. Stacy didn’t appear out of a vacuum to make MC’s life hell. There’s a reason Stacy is evil. Take time to write about Stacy’s reasoning, why she hates MC, does she view MC as her personal Stacy?
- What is Stacy’s backstory? What brought her to be the villain of your main character?
- Stacy had a childhood. Take some time and imagine what Stacy was like as a child, what her living situation was, think of key parts of her experience that shaped her personality into the villain she now is in your story.
- Plot out ways in which your villain succeeds
- I enjoy a good story where Stacy is so close to succeeding it’s almost a sure thing. In fact she takes it for granted it’s a sure thing. So her defeat is amazing when it happens. But for this exercise, Stacy succeeds in all her evil deeds. Type up ideas of what that world looks like for Stacy and what her next thing to conquer would be.
- Make your villain relatable
- Stacy has a soft side. Does she like kittens and rainbows? Does she have a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, that is near and dear to her? Does she have a cat named Wally with bushy tail that she loves to feed fish treats to? Maybe. Giving Stacy normal things that everybody cares about makes her relatable.
In The Walking Dead, Rick Grimes is the hero and Negan is the villain. But you can flip that and the reverse is true. Negan sees himself as the hero in his own story. He is the savior. And Rick is ruining that. For EVERYBODY. And Negan has to be the one to stop him. You know for sure Negan is the villain here but a tiny voice, in the back of your head, wonders, is he though? And that’s what I love to see in a villain.
© 2018, Jeannette Spohn. All rights reserved.
Jeannette is the owner and lead editor for Polar Bear Editing. Read more about her point of view on writing here http://www.polarbearediting.com