How to Write Villains 101!

Hey folks, we’ve reached the end. The final post in our How to write Heroes, Sidekicks, and Villains post series! It’s been lots of fun and I hope you’ve all enjoyed it! Today is wrapping up the villain questions…there were a lot, but several of them were similar so I was able to combine a little for everyone’s convenience! Without further ado, let’s jump right in!

What about villain POVs?

This seemed like a good starting question. Personally, I like writing villain POVs occasionally. I sprinkle them in when I need them. But sometimes I don’t like them because they merely paint a sop story for the villain, and I don’t want to feel bad for the evil guy if he’s never going to change…you know? More on this later. Villain POVs are all about whether you want to take the time necessary to go into the creepy bad guy’s head and work through dark thoughts…or if you’d rather stick with your hero.

How do you make a good person eventually change into a villain without it being too abrupt?

Oh, slow progression. That’s a good one…my best example is Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars. His transition took three 2-hour movies with a lot happening, and tons of backstory building. The reasons why. I think the best thing to do with these guys is show the obvious struggle. Let them be wondering which side is right or wrong? Questioning everything they know…longing to save someone but not being able to unless they do something they know they shouldn’t…relying too heavily on a person and being broken when that person is taken.

How to make it slow…make sure you flesh out the scenes. You want to make sure your reader understands why Alexander decided to turn against his countrymen. We want to know his reasoning…by taking the time to establish that you should be able to slow the process down.

How do you write a villain in love?/Romance.

These romance questions though…this one is pretty vague…especially the romance? Just like found that little guy hanging out in the villain section of the form…lol…but let me see if I can make sense. A villain in love would be like anyone else in love. He might have slightly twisted ideas of what this means and there are tons of movies full of good examples of this, the first one that comes to mind for me is BBC Robin Hood (seriously, you guys need to watch that series!).

As Miss Johnson is always saying, treat it like any relationship. The villain will probably be controlling or overbearing, so make sure you make it clear that he wants what is best for his love interest…and yet doesn’t know how to do that. Most villains don’t know how to love, in the movies and books I’ve seen and read, their broken because most of them have never known love themselves. So, making that come into play is always a fun idea!

How do you write a villain as the main character?

Ooof, hard one. Well first off, the villain doesn’t usually think he’s bad. Therefore, you’ll need to show it in his actions and other people’s reactions to his actions. Does he steal? Kill? Trade horses for slaves? I don’t know, but you do. He’s not all bad…there’s gotta be a redeeming quality in him or we wouldn’t want to read about him. So, find that and expose it, let the reader see it. But also let them see his evil and why he does what he does.

Planning diabolical plans

Mwhahaha…so, what I do is I think of where my hero is at, the worst possible way it could go wrong and then I make my villain do just that. Not super creative but it helps sometimes.

Another thing I do is once I know the why, the motive, and the reason spurring my villain on, I try to the best of my ability to get in his head. Step into his shoes and try to fully understand the reasoning behind it. What would he do? Is he fueled by anger or greed? Jealousy or twisted love? His motive is going to determine his attack. Wow, motive is so important….

How to develop a relatable backstory for villains/How to provide a substantial backstory for the villain to make their wickedness understandable

Okay…here’s where things get tricky. Backstory for villains. We want them to have one…but at the same time, we don’t want our readers to be rooting for the villain because they feel sorry for him unless, of course, you’re going to do a redemption arch.

I always hear that villains need motive and backstory, I get that. But what if a villain has been raised that way…or in fantasy is evil because well, they are the evil one. I know every story is not the same and I’d say the best way to do backstory for the villain is in bits and pieces. No matter the villain, we don’t want to info dump his story on the readers. So, sprinkle it in. Something he sees that reminds him of his father’s training or brother’s death at the hand of the people he’s opposed to. Show us who he is…one piece at a time.

How to express an antagonist’s traits and personality when writing from the protagonist’s POV

For starters, unless your hero is super empathetic everything he sees is going to be jaded by his opinion of said villain. Does he know him to be harsh? Something that may not have been very mean may come across as super harsh to said hero. Everything is filtered through this jaded lens. So, what is the hero/villain’s backstory with each other? Do they know anything about each other or not? What was their first encounter like? How does the hero view people in general? All these questions will help you write a believable scene.

How do you make a villain believable with an actually relevant drive to be bad?

I’m usually a fantasy writer…so, let’s see if I can answer this. Your villain must be scary, creepy, evil, say creepily evil things you wouldn’t normally say, slap his workers, run them through for disobedience…give orders to kill people or trap them or poison them…Don’t overdo it, but adding just enough of these evil actions can make him much more believable as a villain.

Relevant drive to be bad… what does he want? A villain has to want something just like your hero wants something. Does your villain want power? To be recognized? Is he jealous? Greedy? Find his motive and you will find that relevant drive.

How do you keep them from being stereotypically evil?

To be honest this question is throwing me. Stereotypically evil? I only know one kind of evil, guys, and there is no blurring of the lines or crossing them…either the villain is a villain or he’s not. He can have a redemption arch, and can be changed for the better, but there’s no denying what he did in the past is evil.

Is there a box for evil? Yes, deeds that go against God’s commands, commands that have boundaries, and those boundaries are not to be tampered with. So, my answer is probably not very helpful, but truly…there is only one kind of evil and trying to blur that in any way is not good.

How do you give them personalities?

They are just like any other character. You don’t have to think of them any differently when giving them personality. If you want them to be funny, give the humor a stiff or dark side…if you want them to be smart make them use those smarts to form evil plans. They can have just as much personality as your hero…

How to depict a villain that has feelings for the hero

Ah, yes…when the villain likes the hero…BBC Robin Hood has a great example. Sir Guy of Gisborne likes Lady Marian…it’s really a love triangle with Robin, Guy, and Marian and is very well done (you will need tissues for the end of season 2). But it’s perfect! Guy wants to protect Marian from the very things he himself does, wants to hide who is really is and what he is capable of from her. There’s so much depth to the characters and the whole storyline…the inner battles that play across Guy’s face! Wow! Oh, did I mention that the guy who plays Thorin Oakensheild in the Hobbit is Guy of Gisborne!!!

So, do yourself a favor and watch that series…it’ll make like, this entire series of posts make so much more sense…lol…

How to make them human yet still bad, and when/if/how you should show a speck of goodness in them/How to show their humanity or weaknesses

Is your villain fully evil? This question must be answered. Is there still a bit of goodness or is all hope lost? How far gone is he? This is going to ty back into motive and backstory and will depend on the type of villain you have. If your villain is evil, just because he’s a stand-in for the evil in our world, then you don’t want to show that…but if your villain is merely a human who perhaps is just twisted in the way he views things or was raised, then yes we want to show some goodness, some humanity and weakness. We want to show them in moments that will impact this character, so knowing his why…will really help with this.

How do you find good motivations for your villains?/How do you come up with sensible motivations for great acts of evil?/How to make their motivations understandable/How to discover the villain’s motivation

So, many questions on motive. Most of the time villains’ motives center around greed, power, anger, jealousy, or wanting to one-up or prove something to someone else important. You can step out of this box if you like but the main point is, that the villain’s motive is going to be negative or opposite of your hero’s.

Sensible and understandable? I’m not sure a villain is ever sensible to us…but to himself he is. We need to make sure the readers are able to understand the villain when he explains why he’s doing this…even if, hopefully, they don’t, agree with him. How do we do this? By making sure we know the backstory behind the motive. What is his motive? Nail that down and then figure out why that’s his motive…what happened in the past that has made him like he is? Is there any chance he can change or is it too late for that? You need every area covered. Make sure you know your villain and your motive.

As for discovering the villain motive…I usually pick a motive for my villain before I start writing, that way he is consistent the whole way through.

How do you write non-evil characters as villains?

Honestly never heard that one before…but it would be all in the way your POV character views said character. I know I’ve judged people too harshly based on what they look like *sorry, Phil who is now my brother-in-law*. The POV’s thoughts and judgments will taint our every interaction with this character and can make them seem evil even when they’re not.

Or maybe they are confused. Raised on the wrong side of the fight…I’d focus on the inner turmoil if this were the case. The questions battling inside their mind and eating at their soul.

Ways to make them as intimidating as possible/ How to scare peeps with them

Dark. Dark clothes or bright red and dark hues…White could be used if you gave them a stern intimidating gaze. I’d even like to see bright colors as long as the look of malice lies on their faces. You can make them always have a hand lingering on their blade. Have guards that surround them and with one flick they’d kill anyone. Maybe they use threats to keep their men in line…all sorts of ways! Get creative!

How to write a believable redemption arc for the villain

This comes back to the common theme of timing. We want to make sure we show the inner struggle of said villain, the incident that makes him question the things he does. The arguing of which side is right. Slow and steady will win the race, breaking down the villain one piece at a time. A great movie to watch for this one is ‘The Redemption of Henry Myers’ or you could try reading ‘Promises Unbroken’ as it’s got a great redemption arch for one of my favorite charries!

Should the villain be known to the reader or be a surprise revelation in the climax?

This is a personal preference. Whichever is fine. If your villain is not relevant till later then there is no need to reveal him before that… unless you want to reveal him in a good light and then turn the show around when the character discovers the truth.

How to give them 3 dimensions

Think of them as any other character. Give them a character profile…you know treat them like everyone else. Then when you start writing make sure you know how evil they are, are familiar with their why, and the motive that is driving them forward. All will help with a well-rounded character.

The lore and character-development process, how the villain became a villain, and keeping readers interested.

I think I answered a similar question further up in the post…sprinkling this info in throughout the story is the best way to do it. Often the backstory on how the villain became a villain is not necessary…unless it is absolutely necessary to the plot find it out for yourself and then just keep your notes and don’t use them unless you really need them. Villains are villains, after all, we want people to hate them in a good way…not feel sorry for them.

How to write them compellingly, thoroughly, and convincingly.

Well, I’d take everything from this post…everything you know about every villain ever and channel it all into making the best villain possible. Honestly, that is the best advice I can give you. Write truthfully, honestly, and sensible…and your villain will come across stronger. Don’t sugar-coat his evil intentions…let us into the dark side.


Okay, so I hope you guys enjoyed this post! Study villains in movies and books to pick up more tips on how to write them. How do your favorite authors deal with villains? Take notes, and always be on the lookout for something unique!

Was this helpful? Are you going to watch BBC Robin Hood now? How do you find motives for your villains? Are there any posts you’d like to see my sisters and I do in the future?



Published by Kayti

Hi there, my name is Kaytlin Phillips, but I go by Kayti. I'm a homeschool grad, author, reader, and child of our Gracious King!!! I have an obsession with the written word, or maybe an addiction. Ever since I can remember I have read everything I can get my hands on! I LOVE BOOKS!!! I also love writing and might have a slight obsession with pens and notebooks, don't tell anyone. I also love the smell of old books! And yes, if you're wondering, I talk to myself, I think all bookishly crazy people do...

15 thoughts on “How to Write Villains 101!

  1. The stereotypical villain question was one that intrigued me, so I kinda wanted to give my own thoughts on it. When I heard it I thought it meant a villain who isn’t cliche. I think I would just avoid the same overused tropes: wears all black, no real motive, everyone says he’s bad, has a bunch of minions. For villains you have to create something special to your story, where they fit the role perfectly and aren’t just stolen from another popular novel. Think less: “He who shall not be named is evil! You are the chosen one destined to stop him!”, and make it fitting to the setting, situation and someone our MC would actually want to oppose.

    But you made a good point that a villain is a villain. If they’ve done bad things, a redemption arc doesn’t completely get rid of this. My main character has done bad stuff, so has the villains. While she does win, and is glorified slightly so, I’m trying to make that a important theme.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was intruging and I’ve been glancing at it and now I’ve thought of other ways to answer it…lol…it was the last question I answered and it was almost midnight….so my didn’t even think of answering it as if the asker meant villain. *slaps forehead* But yes, you make a very good point with that!

      Thank you….yes. Evil is evil no matter it’s reason.


  2. Eeee this post was just pure awesomeness!!! Chock-full of incredible tips!! (And very helpful since I’m still developing a villain in my WIP… lol…) When I started out writing villains, I was quite amazing at forgetting that they actually needed to have a personality. *smh* 😂 So there are some villains in my put-aside-for-now WIPs that I’ll have to go back and rework and figure out personalities for.

    YES I’M GOING TO WATCH BBC ROBIN HOOD. 😉 (I placed a hold for it from our library. *grins* How cool that the actor of Thorin Oakenshield is in it!!)

    Thank you for taking the time to write this post, Kayti!!! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much!!! So glad you think so!!! Hahaha, same….it’s like he’s the bad guy….then I really started paying attention to the bad guys in books and what made them so good and I was like…yep, I need to work on mine…lol…

      YES!!!! (Awesome!!! I know right?! It’s awesome! He does so well!)

      Awww, thanks Saraina! I stayed up till almost 12 to finish this because, I kind of thought it’d be done quicker so I put it off…never doing that again…lol…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Villains … they’re tricky. (In a number of ways.) I really need to try to write one of those super conflicted, side character villains with a character arc someday (lovely example from Promises Unbroken – I’m awfully partial to Alberto, too. Kristina nailed his character arc! 🙂 )

    Thanks for this post, Kayti!

    Liked by 1 person

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