Wearing the Black Hat III – Final Tips for Writing Villains

Today, AuthorHouse concludes up our three-part series on writing believable effective villains in your self-published stories. In our two previous posts, we discussed considering the villain’s perspective, showing vs. telling, and avoiding pure evil (among other things; you can check out those posts in our Author Advice section).


We’ll wrap things up with four more tips, starting with…


Koschei the ImmortalLet the villain show her cards: on one hand, you might prefer keeping your antagonist’s scheme hidden until the last possible moment. On the other hand, you should at least consider revealing the “master plan,” as well as its logic. If it seems like the villain actually has a realistic chance of winning, it can crank up the suspense and tension in your story. Instead of asking “What’s the villain planning?” your readers will wonder “How’s the hero going to overcome this?”


Don’t make the villain too interesting: okay, this is a tough line to walk. Of course, you want your villain to be as interesting as possible; keep in mind, however, that your hero is still the focus of the story, the star. Don’t make the antagonist so sympathetic and charismatic that your readers find themselves rooting for the wrong side!


Avoid the clichés: evil twins, wicked stepmothers, and the like have been used so often that it’s hard to take them seriously. Can you still use them? Of course, if you can find a way to put an original spin on them, your unique take.


Don’t make him a chatterbox: this applies to almost every criminal mastermind that James Bond has ever faced. The protagonist and antagonist’s face-to-face confrontation seems like a great place for some exposition, but this technique is often overused. While some conversation between the hero and villain is natural, don’t use this scene as a dumping ground to explain every element of the plot that’s come before this point.


Let’s close with a quote from American essayist Agnes Repplier:


A villain must be a thing of power, handled with delicacy and grace. He must be wicked enough to excite our aversion, strong enough to arouse our fear, human enough to awaken some transient gleam of sympathy. We must triumph in his downfall, yet not barbarously nor with contempt, and the close of his career must be in harmony with all its previous development.


We hope you’ve enjoyed this series on villain creation. Thanks for visiting Author’s Digest!


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