Creating an Authentic Villain

Every story needs a villain, right?  Whether it be the bully in school or a crazy warlord.  Otherwise, your protagonist wouldn’t even have to try to reach their goal.  But how to make your antagonist realistic and believable?

Don’t have a villain that is evil just because.  Normal people don’t just wake up and decide to destroy the world.  Give him a good reason to be bad, but make it moving to your readers.  A good villain will cause your readers to emphasize with him or her.  Antagonists are human too.  Remember that.

Try to give your villain an origin story that your readers can relate to.  Maybe the villain didn’t get justice for his son’s murder so he decided to take the law into his own hands, leaving his wife behind in his pursuit for revenge.  But throughout the story, maybe address that he still sends his wife anonymous checks in the mail to pay for her rent.  This still gives him a heart and doesn’t make him so two-dimensional.  But keep in mind, he is still bad so make sure to include instances where his evil side wins over.

Your villain should be as skilled or more skilled than your protagonist.  This makes for the most interesting kind of rivalry.  A good example of this was in the TV show Prison Break when Michael Scofield is pitted against the FBI agent, Alexander Mahone.  Alexander is just as smart as Michael and is able to track him down and even figure out his next destinations.  Cause your protagonist to have to go above and beyond to defeat their nemesis.  It won’t be exciting to the readers if your protagonist easily stays ahead of the enemy.

Know your villain.  Your villain should be well-developed, just like your protagonist.  Give your villain a distinct personality, look, and voice.  Steer clear of the stereotypical villain persona.

Give your villain a weakness whether it be a family member, love of money, or pride.  Your villain needs to have a chip in their armor that your protagonist can exploit.

Your villain should not be overly intimidated by your protagonist.  A good villain is usually confident in his or her abilities until the end.  No villain will shiver at the sight of the protagonist.  They are the good guys according to them and they will defeat anyone who stands in their way.

It’s okay to let the antagonist win once or twice.  It makes for exciting reading if your antagonist is able to thwart the protagonist once or twice throughout the novel.  This, of course, will mean that there will be more than one major conflict between the two throughout the book.  It will also provide for an opportunity for the protagonist to grow if he or she realizes that they can be defeated.

Hope this helps.

~Nightsong

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