How to make readers love and hate your villain

Make him one of the beautiful people.

Writing a villain and/or an antagonist is not as easy for me as the good guys.

A few days ago I wrote a post about the difference and similarities between the antagonist and a villain.  And think whether you choose to blend the bad guy into the antagonist or just let your villain go it alone, the information I discovered after reading Bonnie Randall’s article What The Well-Dressed Villain Is Wearing These Days may help us all to write better well-rounded bad guys.


Here’s what I discovered.

  1. I want a villain to look down and dirty. Road hard and put up wet. Know what I mean? Not like a beauty queen or movie star. But I realized Bonnie is right. Not all villains can look like the Joker in Batman. How many times have we heard, “He looked like such a nice young man, not a killer.” No, it’s scarier and more unsettling when he walks among us unrecognized.
  2. He’s smart. But, oh don’t we all want a villain/antagonist to be dumb as dirt? I certainly prefer to outsmart the bad guys than to be manipulated by one. Again, no one wants to end up blurting out, “I thought you were my friend,” just before the knife plunges. Yikes.
  3. The good guys may get irritated because the villain is right all the damn time. They want to feel and act superior to everyone. Yep. Think about it. How many times do you want to wipe the floor with a beautiful smug face? Nobody likes a know it all.
  4. They act like babies when threatened. Challenge their knowledge, their appearance, their knowledge, why challenge anything and temper tantrums abound. A good villain has suppressed anger issues that can’t stay hidden for long.
  5. They are harboring an imagined slight from their past which has stunted their maturity.

So far, I’ve gotten one thing right on Bonnie’s list. My antagonist/villain dresses like a fashionista. Now on to the other four. Lots to do, lots to do. Hmm, I’m beginning to see why actors agree to play bad guys, is more fun.

Now that you’ve read all the great tips on plumping up your villain/antagonist let me know what you think.

Me Let's Discuss - Jeanswriting.comDo you think an attractive bad guy is scarier?

Do you think using these tips will make a better villain?

How about other characteristics? What would you add to make a more believable bad guy?





7 thoughts on “How to make readers love and hate your villain

  1. I agree! Look at all the Bond villains – smart, smooth, sophisticated, smarmy. They are so sure they’re the smartest guy in the room! My favorite villains are the ones you don’t suspect right away. My favorite villain of all time is Iago in Othello. He lays out what he’s going to do, and methodically pursues his goal. He doesn’t care that he dies, he achieved his purpose.


  2. The villain has to be someone who can appear at any point in the story. They must come across as unlikely but not unconvincing. That is the approach that I take towards it


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