A Villain so Bad that He's Good

Jody Lebel
Published on: 17th March 2014
A villain is essential to a good story, and in fact drives the story. Without conflict, without something for the hero to solve or deal with, there is no story. Just for purposes of this article, I'm going to talk about a male character, but women also make great villains.

1) Don't have a preconceived notion in your head of what your villain should be like or act like. Start fresh and create one from scratch. A blank page so to speak. Then you can have any kind of trait or quirk or evil manner you want.

2) Your villain has to fit your story. A crazy man in the forest with an axe is not going to fit in a traditional romance story. In a romance the villain might be the girl next door who tries to break up the hero/heroine. Or perhaps an old boyfriend who is jealous that his 'woman' was able to move on without him. There are many levels of villains, but yours has to be in keeping with the overall theme of your story.

3) Most villains lead a double life. The neighbors just love him and he is seen at the park playing with his dog, but at night he's up to his evil tricks. The degree of evil is up to you, but if you make him too vicious you may turn your story into a thriller by accident. Know where to draw the line.

4) Create a reason why your villain acts the way he does. Was there one devastating event? Was he bullied in school? Did he witness something horrific? Was he hurt so badly that now he has built a cold wall around his heart? Some people handle a crisis better than others. Some people get over losing the love of their lives, and some people will never be able to move on. Let your reader know what's going on in his head so they can believe his actions. A man acting crazy for no apparent reason is difficult to accept, hard to understand, and eventually will kill your book.
a villian so bad that he is good,writing skills
5) Whatever his devastating event was, exaggerate it in his head, twist it until it festers and turns him into a vengeful man, barely able to function at times. It is an interesting concept to take the villain's problem and counterpoint it with the hero's view. The hero loves his mother, and the villain would like to see his dead. The hero brings his girlfriend flowers, while the villain chops up her rose bushes and tosses them into the street.

6) Give your villain at least one good character. Maybe he loves to collect tropical fish. Or enjoys painting ocean scenes. Or likes to cook. It doesn't have to be a big thing and sometimes it's better if it's not. Be sure to not let your hero use the villain's vulnerable spot against him. Or he wouldn't be a big thing and sometimes it's better if it's not. Be sure to not let your hero use the villain's vulnerable spot against him. Or he wouldn't be a hero, would he?

7) Think about your hero. How does he fit in the villain's life? Why do they clash? Are they similar in some ways? Does that bother your hero? The villain is very likely to use something the hero loves against him. Be sure not to harm any animals in your story. Readers are disturbed by that type of behavior. If the hero has a pet dog, and the villain decides to snatch it to make the hero suffer, don't let the villain be cruel to the animal. Also make your hero and villain worthy of each other. The villain should be just as strong, if not stronger, than the hero. Make it a challenge for your hero to prevail. If it's too easy, there's not much of a story.
8) Some villains learn lessons, grow, and get redeemed. Some never will and will always remain the bad guy. What type of villain is good for your story? Sometimes you won't know that for sure until the story starts to wind down. Sometimes your characters will tell you how it should end.

9) Your villain is human after all and is probably afraid of something. Growing older? Dying young? Never knowing true love? Maybe this fear is what motivates him. It could even be a small fear, like the fear of spiders. These fears will help your readers connect with him, which is an important task for you to achieve if you want them to continue reading. Connecting with him is not the same as liking him.

10) Don't always make the hero win and have the villain fail. Where's the drama in that? Make them both work to solve their problems and achieve, or try to achieve, their goals. Sometimes you have to learn the lesson of falling before you can walk with confidence.
On a scale of 1-10, how inspiring did you find this article?