Villains People Love to Hate
Every story has a bad guy.
There wouldn't be much conflict for your protagonist to
overcome if there was no antagonist to stir the pot.
Yours might be the evil villain who opposes everything
your hero (or heroine) does. He might be the treacherous
double-agent from the past, or the psychotic evil
scientist, or maybe just the "other woman"
fighting for your hero's attention.
Who ever your villain is, making sure he is believable is
far more difficult than simply creating a character who
does bad things to hold up your protagonist's progress.
Your job here is to make your villains credible, logical,
and believable, but not likeable. You want the reader to
understand what they're doing that is such a negative
thing for your hero.
But it's more involved than just explaining their adverse
actions. Your readers need to understand why the
antagonist is doing what he does, and why he believes his
actions are justified and rational.
Basically, you need your villains to be real, three-dimensional
Unfortunately most "bad guys" are shown as
being shallow, narrow-minded creatures whose only
ambition is to be as evil as possible. This approach to
an antagonist loses the respect of your reader for two
1 - You lose any
emotional impact your story had if your readers can not
completely believe the threat to your hero is real, or
It also lowers the reader's esteem for the hero who they
know can only beat this unthreatening villain.
2 - A completely evil
character equates to a totally weak character to a reader.
If your villain's only motivation is evil, this does not
give him enough depth of character to become real in your
reader's mind. Giving your bad guy only one driving
motivator is not enough - especially if you choose a
lightweight surface motivator like "evil" or
Think about when you created your protagonist. Most
likely you created someone you admired, a character with
strength and integrity. I'm guessing you took the time to
get right inside your hero's head and understand what
made him tick.
Your villain is no different.
In order to be considered a worthy opponent, you must
portray your antagonist honestly. You must be able to get
inside his head, too, and learn what drives him to act
the way he does.
Remember here that no one sees themselves as mean or evil
or bitchy or insane or stupid. Your villain won't either.
To him, his actions and his logic are perfectly
Show your readers this side of your villain's logic and
you intensify your story's suspense factor. Show that
your antagonist is quite capable of winning the battle
and make sure that it seems as though the outcome of your
plot is uncertain.
That uncertainty doubles your suspense again, and gives
you the perfect opportunity to showcase your hero's
qualities as well, thus creating a stronger protagonist
just by displaying the comparisons.
Put more simply, your villain has to be good about being
a bad guy, but it forces your hero to be even better.
Your readers will be turning page after page to find out
if your hero is actually good enough to overcome the
monster you forced them to care about, in a twisted kind
Remember Silence of the Lambs?
If you can actively portray your villain in his own Point
Of View as being an intelligent, logical, complex
creature with the capacity to be understanding and
reasonable, who does what he does because his reasons are
sound to him, then you are on your way to creating a
pretty believable villain.
But when you can also show your villain's complex,
devious, misguided nature from your hero's Point
Of View, you know you've created a truly memorable bad
guy, and you will have strengthened your protagonist's
character and your plotline at the same time.
Copyright Lee Masterson. All rights reserved