Creating Villains

– I created something similar that is more focused on what not to do when creating a good villain, but I wanted to do a more basis-level post on where to start and which direction to head in when you begin creating a villain. Also, I use a lot of reference to The Joker and Batman in this article because I assume most people have a general knowledge of the characters. I hope the examples make it easier to digest, since this stuff can get difficult to navigate otherwise. Happy Writing!

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Start With The Protagonist

The protagonist always comes first. Always. The protagonist gets the most page-time. You need to understand the way the protagonist will respond to threat before you introduce the threat. If you simply throw a blank character into the villain’s lair, the story will fall flat, because 80% of the storytelling will focus on getting to know them, how they got into this conflict, and how they’re gonna get out of it.

Decide The Why Before The How

Before you create the villain’s master plans or how they prefer to create issues for the hero, you need to decide what makes them want to make the plans in the first place. The villain’s motivations should never be a mystery to the reader, at least not throughout the whole story. That’s not mystery, that’s bad character development, so make sure you understand what makes the villain want to clash against the hero before you establish how they plan to do it. This can be told to the reader in reverse, like it was in The Dark Knight where The Joker revealed that he simply wants to create chaos after the creation of chaos had been done. This was after the major climax of the actual action scenes, and this is a viable option for your story. Just make sure you share the motivations at some point.

Get In Their Mindset & How It Contrasts The Protagonist’s

The reason the Joker works so well is because Batman has a lot of underlying insecurities and this complex where he refuses to be lethally violent toward even the worst of foes, which complements the Joker’s reckless action that he seems to enjoy while simultaneously not giving a damn what happens to him or what anyone thinks about it. He is mischievous and curious and willing to do whatever he wants in order to create chaos for the sake of chaos, whereas Bruce Wayne is cautious, heavily reliant upon others, and has a lot to lose. Understanding the core drive of the hero’s actions will help you find a contrast to use for the villain’s. Don’t be afraid to spend time thinking about all the little branches and hypotheticals. The more you understand their similarities and differences, the deeper your scenes between them will be.

Create Their Vision

The villain cannot simply be an evil presence that wants the world to burn without any vision or reasoning. In order to understand the villain and therefore portray them, you have to understand what it is they’re after. Your villain might very well be a psychopath with daddy issues that simply wants to watch the world burn because they see no purpose in it, like the famous antagonist from the Batman Universe. However, that archetype is extremely overdone and boring when written poorly. Also, it might not suit your particular antagonist. Find what makes the villain tick, then how they prefer to control that thing, and then decide how that is going to manifest into their grand plan or ultimate goal.

Pay Close Attention To Details

Such as the villain’s temperament, their core values, and how those things came to be. Details like where they came from are important, but what’s more important is how those things are relevant to the present and the conflict at hand. Relate their past to their present and be clear about the future they want vs the future they’ll get, and how they’ll arrive there.


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