Villains aren’t evil in their own minds. In their eyes, they are the hero of the story. Their actions are justified. Their goal is noble. Your hero is their enemy. Think President Snow from The Hunger Games trilogy or Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series. Over the last few years readers have gotten savvier, and their appetites are increasing for bad guys that are less black and white and much more gray. They want twisted characters that do bad things, yet still speak to their humanity. No longer will a bad guy who is simply a bad guy do, which I personally think is a good thing. Let’s face it. Flat characters, whether they are the hero or the antagonist, don’t make for an exciting story.
Here are a couple of tips to help you craft villains your readers will love to hate.
Flip the script.
We all tend to live in the head of our protagonist. We see the world through their eyes, and, when comes to their enemies, we tend to see the same flaws they see. Try reversing the perspective, and writing the confrontations between your protagonist and antagonist from the other point of view. Even if you don’t end up using them, this little exercise will help you get deeper into your antagonist’s head and worldview.
Give your villain a little love.
Yes, you want your readers to get that your villain is one bad dude. However, you don’t want him or her to be one note. There is a reason why this person is in your character’s orbit, and, more importantly, there is a reason this person gets under their skin. Take a few minutes and list a few a positive characteristics about your antagonist. Are they charismatic? Clever? Strong? This is especially useful if this an ex-lover,ex-friend, or former mentor of you main character. You want to give your reader some insight as to why they were close at one point and why it fell apart.
Write like no one is reading.