If you enter the world of creative writing, be prepared for a substantial amount of work. You have to squeeze your brains to invent the psychology of all your characters. In this article, I will tell you how to write a perfect character and make your story even more compelling. In this case we deal with the villain.
Building the antagonist of your story should take you the same amount of time and effort as your protagonist. Especially if he is the only thing preventing the protagonist from achieving his goal. The success of your characters, whether they are good or bad, will certainly depend on your creativity, but nevertheless there are tips to keep in mind that will make your job easier.
Here are some tips for writing a perfect antagonist for your story. Learn how to create an engaging and memorable villain with in-depth characterisation, believable motivations and actions that generate tension and conflict. Delve into your villain’s psychology, background and impact on the plot. Read on to discover creative writing techniques that will help you create an antagonist your readers will love to hate!
Ask yourself what they want and what justifies their means
Every character must have his or her own motivations. Something that drives them to behave in a certain way rather than another. Sometimes it is trauma, sometimes a certain behaviour is the only way to achieve goals.
Your villain must have his reasons.
Sure, he may admit to others that he agrees with the definition they make of him but he himself must not see himself as a villain. He must have something to justify what he does so that he feels he is in the right. The usual logic of villains is ‘the end justifies the means’.
Therefore, his only purpose cannot be to destroy humanity.
Take the characterisation of Thanos for example. He is undoubtedly evil, has killed millions of innocents and was ready to destroy half the universe for what he believed in. But there was a motivation: to save the universe from a worse fate.
Thanos had convinced himself that although he was doing horrible things he was in the right, a misunderstood hero who was saving the life of the universe from a slow and painful self-destruction.
The villain’s purpose must threaten the hero’s purpose
It seems an obvious sentence but you have to put time and energy into understanding how the hero and the villain come to clash. And why.
If there is nothing connecting the hero and the villain, pitting them against each other, they cannot be part of the same story.
Let me give you an example using a much-loved series on Booktok. The cruel Prince series (with spoilers).
Jude in the second book has to fight against the forces of Orlagh, the Queen of the Undersea.
Their being enemies is all about their conflict of interests.
Orlagh wants to marry Cardan to her daughter and thus take control of the land. Jude, who controls Cardan, cannot allow this because it would mean losing all the power she has gained so far.
Therefore they become enemies and Orlagh becomes the villain of the story.
But if all this had happened a year earlier, when Jude had no position of power, Orlagh would have had a free hand and the two of them would have had no reason to clash.
You have to do exactly what Holly Black did, you have to construct the plot in such a way that the goals of the two characters clash naturally, because otherwise, there would be no reason why there should be any tension between them.
Construct their past so that the present is consistent
Not all villains are crucial in their story. I can think of many titles that have an antagonist but their conflict with the hero is not the focus of the book. That’s why nobody bothers to explain their backstory.
If, however, the villain you are building will be mentioned often in the pages of your book, it is only fair to give him a backstory that is consistent with who he is today.
And let’s be clear, the past doesn’t have to be a way of excusing him. It just has to explain why that character is the way he is, thinks the way he is, acts the way he does.
For example: A character performs horrible actions to attract attention.
From here we can move in two directions:
- The character never received enough attention growing up and learned that doing bad things was the only way to be noticed
- The character always received a lot of attention, but at some point something changed and he has since been sidelined. Now he hurts others because he does not feel complete without receiving the same attention he was used to.
Give your villain a principle
A very common principle for a hero is ‘unity is strength’. Deciding on a character’s principles is crucial if you want to give him enough depth to sustain the story.
Take Aladin for example:
The villain of the story is Jafar. Jafar bases his every evil action on a single principle, “If you are not the most powerful person in the room, you are powerless.”
This is why even though he has a position of power, second only to the King, he is not satisfied. And he never will be unless he conquers the entire planet.
His principle makes the people worth nothing to him, because their value is closely linked to the amount of power they hold.
Decide how the villain behaves with the other characters
A respectable character does not have just one face, just one behaviour. A person whether sweet or aggressive, lazy or sunny, has different behaviour with different people. Your villain will have to do the same.
Is there someone close to him in the story? How does he treat this person?
How does he treat enemies? How does he treat allies and how does he treat ordinary people with whom he has nothing to do?
Does he have any friends? How does he deal with them? Is there anyone towards whom he feels empathy?
Surely even a supervillain will treat a relative differently from an enemy.
Deciding these facets of his character will make him more real and allow him to make himself more familiar to the reader.
Tips for making the villain more interesting
- Mislead the other characters. Hide his true intentions.
- Pretend the villain is someone else. Make him a “friend” of the protagonist.
- Make them strategic not impulsive. It will be much scarier if his every move seems calculated.
- Don’t make them completely evil. Give them nice characteristics that confuse the reader’s idea of them.
- Also allow them to kill characters that are important to readers.
I hope this article has given you ideas for writing your villain, remember to subscribe to the newsletter so you don’t miss out on new articles, happy writing!
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