Monday, March 20, 2017

Creating a Villain with Elise E. Rawls

Hello! I have Elise E. Rawls here with us today to talk about villains. AKA antagonists AKA the main driving force or your book's conflict. (Unless your plot is driven by a love triangle ... in which case ... your could probably use a REAL conflict. That's a post for another day.)

I have written a number of different villains in my career, villains of varying sorts. Mindless beasts, time constraints, evil dragons, miserly uncles, and so on. I've even redeemed a few villains. (That's a post for another day, too.)

Elise E. Rawls is the author of a book of poetry, Bleeding Hearts, under the name "Elizabeth Rawls"

Follow her on the Interwebs

"How To Create A Villain"

Every good story needs a villain, or some antagonistic force. They are the ones who make the protagonist's character grow until they become the hero their story needs, the hero that readers can admire. The villain makes the hero shine; the darkness makes the light shine bright. A story about good people with nothing happening doesn't show us or teach us anything, but a story about good people fighting against evil—now that is something.

So the question is, how do you go about creating this villain or dark force that your hero must overcome? Let’s begin with this: What are the key ingredients a villain needs to have?

1. They must be someone or something that helps move the story forward.
Villains are valuable in this. They are the ones that get the protagonist up and moving so that the story can progress.

2. They must be able to cause problems or obstacles for the protagonist.
Without obstacles, the protagonist wouldn’t have much to do through the story, nor would they grow as a person.

3. They must create tension or fear for the reader.
A villain isn’t much of a villain if they don’t evoke some sense of fear as the reader reads.
Now that we’ve covered the basic ingredients, it’s time for you to decide on what type of villain or antagonist it is that your story needs. Here is a list of possible villain types to choose from:

The Classic villain, the personification of evil. This type seeks power and control of all things. They have no regard for anyone or anything but themselves, and therefore are willing to kill and destroy all in their path in order to get what it is they want—which typically ends up being the world. (Think Sauron, and Voldemort)

The Redeemable villain, who is bad at first, but near the end has a change of heart. Whether they had once been good long ago, or were always corrupt, their dark ethics and morals may be slowly changed as they watch the protagonist's heroic efforts. Disaster might befall the villain, and it's the hero who saves them, causing them to change.

The Anti-villain, who goes back and forth between doing good and doing bad. They keep you guessing. They might have sympathetic characteristics, which let us care about them now and then, but they are still responsible for doing evil things. (Think Loki).

The Corrupted villain, once good but now evil. This type typically has a sad and painful backstory, and it’s that backstory that has led them to become the evil person they are now. But they could become corrupted in other ways, such as from the desire for wealth or power, making them lose their sense of compassion for others.

The Equal. They are almost identical to the protagonist, except that their ethics and morals are completely opposite. Like an evil reflection in the mirror. (Think Zod from Superman, and Moriarty from Sherlock)

The Mastermind. The brilliant evil person or force that plays behind the scenes of the story. The protagonist might be busy battling minor villains and henchmen, but it's the mastermind who is in control.

The Femme Fatale. The deadly beauty, who uses her good looks to get what she wants. She could be a spy, an assassin, or a thief. But whatever her occupation, her focus is always on herself and getting what she desires.

The Bully. They’re sole purpose is to make the protagonist miserable. They may not have a huge goal of taking over the world, but they do have a goal of ruining the hero’s life. They may not have to be an outright villain to do so, but they are an antagonist that causes nothing but trouble.

The Authority Figure. They are the opposing, ruling force to the protagonist’s will. The one who keeps them from the freedom they seek, and opposes their free will. This could be a teacher, a ruler, a commander, an ancient force—anyone and any force who is in charge.

Force of Nature. Whether it be a hurricane, a treacherous landscape, wild animals, nature can be a deadly adversary for a protagonist to overcome. It has no feelings; it simply exists and will kill you if you aren’t careful. The protagonist must be well equipped to face this foe.

Inner Demons. This villain is the protagonist himself, as he battles with his mind, battles with the demons and darkness within him.

Man’s Greed. In movies like Bambi, it’s humans that are evil and who are hunting them. In Avatar, greed is what leads humans to destroy the Na’vi’s home. But like in Avatar, you could use a human protagonist to counteract the evil being done by fellow humans, and show that not all are evil.

The Beast. Whether it be an alien, or an experiment gone wrong, this villain typically has just one desire: eat or kill everything.

The Machine. Similar to the beast, the evil machine’s goal is to search and destroy. Either it has gained self-awareness and views humans as a threat, or it is an experimental project gone wrong and destroying everything in its path.

Some of these may be considered antagonists and not true villains, as they aren’t all purely evil. So think about if what your story needs is a true villain who does evil things, or an antagonist who may not be evil but is an opposing force to the protagonist.

You don’t have to stick with one type of villain, either. You can mix and mash these types and come up with more complex villains. Perhaps the bully is also the corrupted once-good-now-evil villain? Perhaps the classic villain later becomes the redeemable villain? Possibilities are endless!

Now that you know the essential ingredients for a villain, and what all types of villains there are, look at your story and ask yourself:
What villain will best fulfill my story’s need?
Which one will best move the story’s plot forward?
Which one will make readers cringe in their seats, and fear for the hero?
Do they need to be smart, or crafty, or flexible?
Do they need to be a mindless beast, or a brilliant mastermind?

Be creative, and focus on what your story needs to be the best it can possibly be! I have another post on a similar topic: Make Your Villains Real—6 Tips, over on my blog:

Thank you for reading! What types of villains have you created for your stories? I’d love to hear from you.


  1. I've mostly done the Mastermind, the Femme Fatale, and the Authority Figure. Although, come to think of it, my latest villain was all of the above.

    1. All of the above? That sounds like an awesome villain!

    2. Yeah, she's a real pain in the backside. *groans* That woman...

    3. I think I have one that was all of the above plus redeemable. Now she's fun.

    4. I'm pretty sure I know who you're talking about. She is fun indeed.

  2. I love redeemable villains...because let's face it, authors...we fall in love with our bad boys just as easily as we love our heroes!!

    1. So true, Savannah! I do have a few redeemable villains in my stories. :)

  3. This was a great post! Villains are my favorite things to come up with and I love all the different types you can have. The hero may be important, but it's the villain that really drives the story in my opinion.

    1. Thank you, Hazel! Developing the villain for a story really is important. Without them, how boring would a story be? How bored would the hero be?

  4. I think I've had 2 outright classics with elements of others sprinkled in. They were definitely ones readers responded to.

    I think what's amazing to me is that my new book kind of switches villains, or at least has 3 and then it narrows to one. One is definitely a bully but also redeemable and "corrupted" I'd say. But it's what he does that brings about the "nature" villain and the "inner demons" to drive the conflict for most of the book. But it's definitely fun to see how the protagonist/villain dynamic adjusts throughout the book.

    1. Your bully villain sounds very complicated! Besides his own villain self, he does something to bring about a nature villain in the story too? Sounds like a fascinating read, J.J.

  5. I think redeemable villains, especially those who were originally good people who became corrupted, are those that speak the loudest the us as humans. Especially to those of us who are Christians. Because let's face it, who doesn't love redemption? Even when they were a despicable person, and you want to hate them with everything in you because of the horrible things they've the end, it still warms something inside to see them come to the light (yup, I'm looking at you, Darth Vader.)
    Though I guess, as a fangirl, those Loki-type villains are irresistible, too! So I'm sure I'll have plenty of those in my future writing... :D

    1. So true, I love redemption for that same reason. (Darth Vader is such a great example!) Just recently, a man I knew changed from being a drunk to being a Christian, and it's been such a blessing to witness.

      *ahem* Yes, I've fallen victim to a bit of Loki fangirling... *ahem*

  6. Oh, wow - this post was amazing! Thank you for sharing your valuable wealth of information, Elise ;). I've written (... and dropped ...) so many stories that I've written most of the types of villains on your list. Villains - despite the fact that they're on the wrong side - are quite fun to write ;).

    ~ Savannah

    1. Your very welcome, Savannah! It's fun to explore the many different types of villains, I agree. :) So far I've done the Mastermind, Redeemable, and Classic for my stories. Which has been your favorite villain type, so far?

  7. Thanks for this post! I love how you did the classifications of all the villain types.

    My favorite villain overlaps in two categories- the Equal and the Redeemable. (She may or may not end up being redeemed in the end; she'll certainly have a chance.) My others . . . I guess they'd mostly qualify as masterminds? Hard to say.

    1. Your welcome, Sarah, I'm glad you liked it!

      The Equal is such a complex one to write, almost as much as the Mastermind, I feel like. Those, and the Redeemable villains are my favorites, too.

  8. What about the villain who does bad things sole for the purpose of seeing how people react. The kind of person who just likes messing with people, or having fun for the sake of having fun. Mix that with a strong drive for self advancement, and a twisted sense of truth, and it's really fun and slightly terrifying.


Hi! Now that you've read my post, hast thou any opinions that thou wouldst like to share? I'd love to hear them!

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