Got Villain? Use these 5 ideas to write him (or her) real

I love getting other writers’ takes on how they create their villains, especially when the temptation is to make them purely bad. As a character driven writer and reader, I want to pity them, hate them, and understand them all at once. That’s a pretty steep order for a writer to fill.

This Wednesday, I thought we’d get Christine Cunningham’s view on villains, and she offered up a nice little list of things to consider when building the second most important character in a novel.

Creating a Realistic Villain

By Christine Cunningham

Christine Cunningham

I just finished writing a character that gives me the creeps. I don’t usually delve into the darker side of writing, but it was a challenge from a fellow writer. It’s awfully hard for me to resist a challenge.

I found out a few things as I began writing:

  1. 1.     Heroes and villains aren’t that different.
  2. 2.     If you want something that society has deemed evil you are a villain.
  3. 3.     A villain has people in their life that love them.
  4. 4.     A villain might be a person we secretly admire because they break rules, we are afraid to break.
  5. 5.     A villain or a hero is the unique person that stands out from the crowd.
  6. 6.     A hero or a villain can influence people to trust them.

A hero or a villain wants something desperately, and it’s only how they choose to go about getting it that makes them a hero or villain. Was Robin Hood a hero or a villain? His actions led to a socially acceptable outcome; therefore, he’s a hero. Were Bonnie and Clyde heroes? The actions those two perpetrated against society make them villains. They are villains in most people’s eyes, that is. That’s the point I’m trying to make. People are normal until they do something out of the ordinary. Think about someone who you believe is a villain in your life. Now discard all the evil tendencies and see their normal human traits. Reapply the evil tendencies with the normal human traits. That’s a realistic villain.


Christine is the author of Eternal Beginning. Buy it now from Amazon.

Friend Christine on Facebook

What do you do to help yourself write your villains real? What are your traps you fall into without thinking?

As always, I (and today Christine) welcome your comments and critiques. And if you like the post, please do consider sharing using any of the little buttons below.

Thea Atkinson is a writer of character driven fiction.

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Posted in guest blogging, writerwednesday exercises
8 comments on “Got Villain? Use these 5 ideas to write him (or her) real
  1. […] Got Villain? Use these 5 ideas to write him (or her) real ( […]

  2. […] Got Villain? Use these 5 ideas to write him (or her) real ( […]

  3. Thanks for this post! I’ve been thinking about villains lately, and noticing how they usually end up becoming unlikely friends with the heroes. Usually brought together by a common goal, or the hero seeing beyond the “evil” facade. Sometimes they’re not really all that bad. I find it hard to believe most villains are truly evil; I’m always hoping they’ll change their ways. But then again, when there is a REALLY bad villain, it makes things more interesting.

  4. And I think that villains need SOME good traits to make them real. No one is all evil.

  5. Jeannie says:

    Nice article. I’m still learning how to make authentic heroes and villains in my own stories. Thank you for the mention (and follow). It’s nice to meet you!

  6. Diane: I’d love to have you guest post about what you do to develop character. You’re welcome anytime. Thanks for visiting, and as always, for commenting

  7. Diane Tibert says:

    These are great thoughts to keep in mind while creating a villian.

    It’s easy to make a cardboard villian — I created lots of them in my teen years — but now I struggle to make them as interesting as the heroes.

    Thanks for sharing.

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