How (Not) to Write Amazing Villains

Photo credit: L. Marie on Flickr
Darth Vader. Lord Voldemort. President Snow. Professor Umbridge. These are names that will forever live in infamy in our minds—names that struck fear in the hearts of more than a couple characters.

As writers, we often like to analyze the best of the best to discover their secrets so that we too can write characters worthy of being listed with them. After much research, I have uncovered the keys to brilliant villains, and because I’m a generous person, I’m posting them for all of you to see.

So, without further ado, here are the only tips you will ever need to write the perfect villain.*

Ten Keys to Writing Amazing Villains:

  1. Evil name. No villain can be successful without an evil name. This is why Peter Pettigrew will never be listed beside Lord Voldemort. He was doomed from the start with such a silly-sounding name (sorry Peter, but Lord Pettigrew just doesn’t have the same ring to it).

  2. Evil eyes. The eyes—oh! The eyes! Unless your villain has terrifying eyes, how can you expect him to terrify the other characters with a single glance? Don’t handicap your villain by giving him normal (or worse—pretty) eyes.

  3. Evil monologue. This really goes without saying (because we all know how crucial the monologue is), but monologues make or break your villain. If your antagonist doesn’t go on for at least five pages about his nefarious plot to destroy the world with his excruciatingly evil death ray and how there’s nothing your protagonist can do about it, then it doesn’t matter how evil his eyes are because he (or she) has failed as a villain. 

  4. Evil lack of hair. No one will take your villain seriously with a full head of hair. Can you imagine Lord Voldemort with hair? Exactly.

  5. Evil mustache. The twirly kind, so your villain can spin his finger in it while monologing. (And yes, even the female villains require one).

  6. Evil laugh. Case and point: MegaMind. 

  7. (via Dhruv1sCeLT on YouTube) 

  8. Evil smile. To be revealed just before your villain does something particularly nefarious, so that your protagonist knows something horrific is about to happen. And just to be creepy. Because all villains are creepy.

  9. Evil cat/snake/pet. Voldemort had his snake, Umbridge had her kitten obsession and the Grinch had his dog. Coincidence? I think not.

  10. Evil lair. Living in a normal home or suburb will slowly leech away your villain’s evilness. This must not happen. Give him a lair—preferably one with skeletons hanging on the walls and horrific torture devices and his death ray pointed at the sky. That way, when he captures your protagonist and brings him back to the lair, his evilness with literally resonate off the walls. 

  11. Evil evil. This is the MOST IMPORTANT point. It doesn’t matter how evil his name or eyes or cat is if your villain’s evilness is not appropriately evil. Your antagonist must not have even a single redeeming quality, or his whole character will be ruined. Ruined! Your villain must live, breath, think and eat evil (cauliflower will do. Cauliflower is very evil).  The moment your reader starts to sympathize with your villain is the moment he has lost his credibility. Whatever you do, don’t let your villain show even a glimmer of un-evilness.

So that’s it. You now know how to write the most evil, terrifying villain in existence. Now get to work.

*= Assuming you want your villain to be so cliché-ridden that no one will be able to take him seriously at all.

What evil keys would you add to the list? 


Chihuahua Zero said...

Evil, evil, and more evil! That's the key to making my antag so evil that no reader will be able to handle his evil evilness! Mwahahahaha...

Ava Jae said...

Yes! Then your antagonist's evil evilness will become so evil that the world will just bow to the sheer influence of his evilness!

kelly McClymer said...

Must kick a puppy. Must.

Author Steven said...

Haha I enjoy your how not to posts. They're funny and make you think. And although Harry Potter is my favorite fantasy series (and fantasy is my favorite genre) I think that whilst J.K.R. did a lot with Voldemort she could have done even more with him as a villain. I pride myself on my characters (and worldbuilding), I'm great with them and they come fairly easy for me. But my handicap of writing is the plot (well besides coming up with the initial idea which is probably related to the plot as that's where the idea starts). :) Thanks for yet another wonderful post!

~Author Steven

Ava Jae said...

Oh yes! Puppy-kicking, how did I forget? Good one. :D

Ava Jae said...

I enjoy these how not to posts, too. I never tire of writing them. :)

I think as far as villains go, Voldemort is an interesting character. Throughout the course of seven books we learn all about his past and what made him the despicable person we get to know and his flaws make him (in my opinion) a pretty nuanced character. But that's just my opinion. ^_^

Thanks for commenting, Steven!

StartYourNovel said...

Don't forget awesome evil weapon/death ray/torture chamber.

Ava Jae said...

Yes! Of course, the super evil weapon/torture chamber. A must-have for every villain.

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