A villain is a character in a novel, film or other fictional work who opposes the protagonist. A hero or heroine is the main character of the story, typically someone who is admired and looked up to by many readers.
The purpose of this article is to provide writers with information necessary in creating heroes and villains in their works. The article will help the writer that is a beginner in the writing of fiction identify issues for consideration as the author undertakes character development for these important types of story characters.
Here are some tips for beginner authors when it comes to creating heroes and villains in novels:
The villain should be downright evil for readers to feel entertained. The hero should be reluctant, but full of promise.
The villain must also pose a threat to the protagonist. He must be able to bring out the hero’s weakness.
The villain must also have something that he wants that is important to him. And though it is not necessary for him to want the same thing as the hero, this helps create an even balance between them.
A villain that is too obvious and predictable becomes predictable to a reader and therefore, undramatic. A hero who is too perfect is just as boring. Make them both interesting (3 dimensional) and make sure their goals in life are completely opposite to each other’s – this creates obstacles, conflict and tension.
How To Create A Hero Character | Creating Villains
Who are the heroes and villains in a novel?
In a novel, the story may center on many different characters. Some of these characters will be heroes, some will be villains and some will be in the middle, neither good nor evil but motivated by their own personal goals in secondary or sub plots.
How Do We Create Heroes?
The creation of heroes depends on what we have learned from our cultural and personal experiences. Usually, heroes are people who do something for somebody else.
Often in the beginning, the hero doesn’t seem so good, but an event launches him into a quest or journey, and his best qualities come shining through.
Other times heroes are created in fiction from a person who is outside the circle of normal society or someone with very different life circumstances from the rest of the characters in the story, like Cinderella or Harry Potter.
When a character is created who appears to be perfect, without human failings, this can cause readers to have little interest in that character. This is where villains come into play.
Readers like villains because they are deeply flawed, have many faults and limitations. Their flaws make them more realistic, and consequently more interesting.
How do you show antagonism between hero and villain?
It’s difficult to give a definite answer, there are many different ways you can show antagonism between hero and villain.
They have to be opposites of each other. The villain is there in order to force the hero to use his skills in an effort to stop him from achieving his goal and usually leading to some kind of conflict between them.
You can also make the villain self-righteous, that is he believes he’s doing society a favor by killing the hero. He may see his actions as a form of justice or vengeance, or the greater good and be justified in his actions.
What are some characteristics of villains?
The stereotypical villain is usually evil, wicked, brutal, sadistic, ruthless and cunning. A good example of a child-themed villain would be the Witch in “Hansel & Gretel” or Captain Hook in “Peter Pan”.
It’s good for a story if the villain is as evil as can possibly be, but he must also have some human personality and action. It’s not good for a villain to be one-dimensional, i.e. without flaws or emotion, because this makes him boring and predictable.
The villain is often the personification of evil in a story, yet that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for an anti-hero as well as the villain in your novel.
What are some stereotypical villains and heroes?
The following are a few examples of stereotypical villains and heroes. These characters are found in many works of fiction.
The main heroine in “Snow White” is beautiful, reasonable and very kind. The villain is the evil Queen who wants to kill Snow White for her beauty.
The Queen looks ugly and evil, with a heart even uglier than her appearance. She’s a woman who wants to be young and beautiful forever so that she can stay a queen forever.
Captain Hook in “Peter Pan” is a perfect example of the child-themed villain. He’s greedy, cruel and ruthless.
Captain Hook wants to kill Peter Pan and become leader of the lost boys. Even though he’s evil, Captain Hook is somewhat likeable because he has human emotions and reactions.
His main goal in life is to be leader of the lost boys but in order to accomplish this, he must first get rid of Peter Pan.
The Sheriff of Nottingham in “Robin Hood” is mean, self-centered and disgusting. He’s also very greedy for money and titles.
His main goal in life is to become the king’s right hand man to take over the kingdom when the king dies. In order to do this he must first get rid of Robin Hood who is the hero of Sherwood Forest.
Your novel doesn’t necessarily have to have just one hero or one villain. You can have more than one.
Top villain characteristics include: cruelty, coldness, ruthlessness, cold heartedness and a hunger for power.
The villain may experience inner turmoil such as guilt or an emotional conflict during which they must decide whether to take another step towards the destruction of the hero or to remain on the path of good.
If You Want to Make a Villain, Make Him/Her Interesting.
One of the worst things you can do to an antagonist is make him/her boring. You’ve got to give your villain character, not just a ‘heel’ quality.
The villain has to have some really bad points and you have to show them. Otherwise your villain will be a flat, cardboard cut-out who’s only purpose in life seems to be the destruction of the hero(ine). There’s much more to them than that, but it gradually becomes the focus and an obsession.
Another problem that many authors have is the idea that they should make their villain look horrible. They want to show him/her as a hunchbacked, misshapen, deformed monster. This might be a bad idea if you want to create a believable antagonist. Often, evil people look just like you and me.
I think one of the best ways to create a compelling antagonist is to contrast him/her from your hero(ine). It’s great for a heroine to have a villain who looks like a monster if she looks like and angel.
It gives her an opposite to fight against, to overcome. It adds dimensionality and intrigue to the relationship with the antagonist from both sides of the conflict. Your hero(ine) has a more tangible goal to achieve if the villain is really evil.
Villainous or Heroic Motivations for Creating Heroes and Villains in Novels
“All good heroes and villains have a strong motivation for what they do. Their motivation either makes sense or is mysterious to the reader.
You can start with the villain’s logical motivation and add a mystery about why they want it so bad. Above all, don’t make them do evil things for no reason, to create conflict.”
(Mary Carroll Moore, author of the Steampunk Secret Agent series)
Final Thoughts About Heroes and Villains
It is very important to make sure that the villain has a purpose for being the antagonist. The villain can be a flat, cardboard cut-out character with no motivation but this is not good for the story and may cause readers to lose interest.
The villain should have a deep rooted motive for his actions or it will be pretty lame. It is also important to look at the antagonist and the protagonist in a moral context to make sure they are both complete opposites.
They can be in conflict, but they should be on the same page about what they want from life and why they pursue their goals. This creates huge conflict, because if either achieves their goal, it means the other cannot.
If you can show there is absolutely no middle ground between the protagonist and the antagonist, then you will be on your way to creating a good novel with bags of conflict.
- So you’ve written your villain but he is not really that exciting.
- How do you make him more appealing?
- What did you learn about writing a villain that resonated with you?
- Do you have any other questions about writing a compelling antagonist?
I would love to know your thoughts so please leave them in the comments below!
How many villains can there be in a story? How many heroes?
Normally, the less, the better. In general, an author wants to create interesting characters – not just hoards of heroes and villains. Sometimes there are two or more heroes, but mostly only one very bad antagonist with minor henchmen thrown in.
One of the most difficult things for beginners to learn is creating characters that have real depth and complexity. Creating a good villain is even more difficult than creating a hero.
An author needs to consider not only who they are, but why they’re doing what they do. Having just one really evil villain is better than introducing one that’s just bad; if you can build a great evil character, you’ve raised the bar.
How can you as an author create a compelling villain?
The answer is simple: You have to understand the psychology of your character. Simply saying that a villain is evil won’t be enough for readers. What motivates the antagonist?
Show him doing some really bad stuff! Ultimately, what is the central conflict that sets them against the protagonist? This is how you create an antagonist that you hate and want to see defeated. More than that, crushed to dust!