How to Write a Better Villain

By Maryann Yin Comment

How do you create a villain? We’ve rounded up some handy tips from around the literary world.

1. During her talk at CraftFest, suspense author Gayle Lynds said that “without a great villain, your hero has no one to play against.” She felt that all characters should be fully-developed human beings; heroes have to have flaws and “villains aren’t necessarily total monsters.”

2. Writer Kari Allen tweeted with this bit of advice on writing villains: “I heard Katherine Patterson speak recently and she said if you can’t find yourself in your villains, rewrite.”

3. Divergent author Veronica Roth offered this observation on her blog: “That is amazing advice for anyone struggling with a villain– you have to look at the darkest parts of yourself in order to make a villain convincing. The part that is so desperate to live forever that he would split his soul into seven pieces [like J.K. Rowling‘s Voldemort].”

4. Kristina pointed out that writers have to give their villain both darkness and light because “most villains that are all bad are boring (except Voldemort).”

5. When Katie Flanagan talked about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and Harry Potter, she pointed out that Harry can “see himself in Voldemort,” so perhaps the hero and the villain should share some personality traits.

How do you create your villainous characters?