How to Develop a Memorable Villain

Are you thinking about writing a mystery novel? A crime novel? Or a suspense-thriller novel? Before you write your story, you must figure out what your villain will be like. What type of crime will that character commit? Most writers start their story backward; meaning, they identify the guilty person first before fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together. With the villain identified, it will be easier for you to add the red herrings and clues into your narrative. 

You can not just randomly pick out your villain. For your story to work, the villain must be special. Nothing makes a hero more heroic without a worthy opponent. Every great protagonist needs an outstanding antagonist. You can’t have a good story without them. May the villain be cyborgs, crime bosses, demons, or serial killers: evil must take form in novels. Antagonists oppose the motivations and actions of the protagonist, therefore, driving the plot of the story. Villains enrich the story by providing obstacles for the protagonist to overcome. The protagonist deserves a worthy adversary— someone intelligent, dangerous, and bold, just like the villain in Death In Sequence by JB Clemmens, who showcases boldness and intelligence, which keeps testing the protagonist’s patience, courage, and prowess. 

Learning how to create the bad guy in your novel is as important as creating the protagonist. Whether your novel takes place on a secluded island or the house across the street, what makes all villains alike, is that they can leave a permanent mark on readers. Thus, here are the three keys to writing an unforgettable villain that readers will love:

Establish a Villain Motivation

The antagonists frequently have ulterior motives for their heinous acts. In the same way that of your protagonist’s wants and desire to be clear, your villain must also have a defined motivation for readers to better understand their villainy’s root cause and justify their actions. Determining their motivations can help you unlock a three-dimensional, credible villain. Only a few villains are evil for the sake of evil, and usually, a villain as such is forgettable. A great villain does not simply have an obsession with gaining power; rather, they have a motivation behind their actions and desire for power. Their motivations can be because of childhood trauma, revenge, justice, acceptance, and sometimes romance. It is far better to have a villain that readers can muster little sympathy for their crimes. 

You have to remember that a villain, no matter how horrible their deeds or deplorable their actions, believes they are doing the right thing on some level. Understanding how the villain justifies the crime gives you the material you need to paint a memorable villain. 

Use a Backstory

Villains are who readers loathe and hate. And sometimes they are also characters readers admire. However, we know that the protagonist will always prevail in the end. 

They become evil for something; that is why you have to have a short backstory for your antagonist. The most complex and interesting villains have backstories. The backstory is what makes readers understand the mind of a villain; therefore, they gain empathy and adoration towards the villain. The backstory enables the readers to see the situations and conditions that led to the villain’s choices leading to his villainy. Some authors focus on the protagonists more than the villain end up as a prop. Bear in mind that a villain is a product of their backstory and the society he lives in. 

The backstory can also help you create an irredeemable villain. Your villain wasn’t always the bad guy, and you would want to share this with your readers. Moreover, this makes your character more believable. 

Explain How the Villain Gets Away With Being Evil

There are all kinds of villains; some works alone, and some come in groups. When you read a mystery novel, notice how antagonists get away from protagonists almost all the time. Just like when the protagonist is close to the truth; however, the antagonist is one step ahead. This can frustrate the reader but also keeps them on edge, questioning who they are. But, the question here is: how does the villain get away from all their misdeeds? Most of the time, it’s because of their network of henchmen who help execute their plans. Other villains have the power, privilege, or protection which keeps them from being caught. And because the villain keeps getting away with being evil, this makes him a worthy enough opponent of your protagonist. 

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