Creating the perfect villain for your story


The world of literature is filled with tales of villains and anti-heroes who work against the lofty aims of the protagonist.



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Whether taking the shape of a dastardly, mustache-twirling figure or some metaphorical menace, its seems there is always some force in a novel that strives to derail the authority and success of those who seek to do good.

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Read on for some tips on how to create a memorable villain in your story:

Know Thy Character

Take time to fully develop this character on paper and in your mind. What are his flaws and motivations? What is his history and how has it impacted his life and goals? Perhaps this character is marred by a tragic childhood or has been raised to embrace a particularly violent lifestyle. What does he hope to gain with his villainous shenanigans?

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Hold Your Cards

You may know who the antagonist is in your story, but you needn’t give up that bit of information right away. At least, not too obviously. Give your readers and your main characters a chance to discern for themselves that the anti-hero is one that cannot be trusted. Shroud him in goodness at first and then let his surly ways unfold in time.

Keep It Real

Be sure that your villain’s actions suit her crimes. For example, a manipulative mother-in-law bent on the dissolution of her son’s marriage is probably more likely to spread harmful gossip or innuendo, rather than take an axe to his new, good-for-nothing bride. Not all villains are completely villainous. Some have a few redeeming qualities that make them complex figures. Think how often you have found yourself secretly rooting for the bad guy in a show or in a book. That’s because in real life shady characters often have elements of light in their nature that make them truly compelling.

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Do Your Homework

Study up on some of literature’s rich history of anti-heroes. Read books like William Golding’s “Lord of the Flies” for a look at how evil can transform person’s soul without warning. Or study Ernst Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” and note how the marlin and even the sea serve metaphorically as a foil to the main character of Santiago.

Kerri S. Mabee is managing editor at and founder of Breeze Media & Communications. Learn more about her at

Kerri S. Mabee

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