Wearing the Black Hat – Five Tips for Writing Villains

A hero is only as strong as the villain he faces. The tougher the antagonist, the more resourceful your protagonist must be to meet the challenge… and the more interesting your story becomes.


In just a few years, comics-based movies have gone from being just a sub-category of action movies to a genre all their own. And as any fan knows, the first question asked when a new superhero movie is announced is, “Who’s (s)he going up against?” Who’s the villain?


Whether you self-publish thrillers, action yarns, or graphic novels, you should develop your villain with as much thought as you put into your hero. Today, AuthorHouse offers five tips for doing just that!


Put a face on your villain: corporations, cults, and abstractions don’t make for interesting enemies. It’s okay to pit your hero against one of these, but you should still give the entity a face (the company CEO or cult leader, for example).


Consider the villain’s perspective: if your story shifts viewpoints, you might want to try using the villain’s perspective. After all, almost no one thinks of themselves as “the bad guy;” villains have reasons for their actions, reasons that make perfect sense to them.


Show, don’t tell: whenever possible, show your antagonist doing bad things. Choose the verb over the adjective! If your readers see what the villain does, they’ll fill in the adjectives on their own. Actions can reveal the fine details of a character’s personality.


A worthy opponent: your villain should present a challenge to your hero, someone who tests her limits. This doesn’t mean, however, that their skills have to be similar; a villain whose strengths match your hero’s weaknesses can make for a more interesting



Avoid pure evil villains: characters who are evil just for the sake of being evil are unbelievable and boring. Your antagonist shouldn’t be bad just because it’s the opposite of good; whether it’s for revenge, a sense of justice, or righting a perceived wrong, don’t’ forget what we said above: your antagonist believes her actions are right.


We’ll be back with more tips for your “black hat wearers” next week. Until then, keep your fingers to the keyboard!


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