How to Write a Villain That Readers Will Love to Hate

How To Write A Villain That Readers Will Love To Hate

Every story has a villain.

While most stories have villains that are generic and somewhat boring others have villains that are creepy and leave you feeling freaked out.

The best type of villain, in my opinion, are the ones where you aren’t quite sure if the character is truly a villain or just misunderstood or the type where you know they are the villain of the story and yet you find yourself rooting for them anyway. 

Literature examples of villains we found ourselves rooting for:

  • Lestat from Interview With A Vampire
  • Hannibal Lecter from Silence Of The Lambs
  • The Phantom from The Phantom of the Opera
  • Normal Bates from Psycho
  • Count Dracula from Dracula
  • Patrick Bateman from American Psycho
  • Smegal/Gollum from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Not the main villain in the story)
  • Humbert Humbert from Lolita
  • Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter Series

TV/Movie examples of villains we found ourselves rooting for:

  • Loki in The Avengers
  • Dexter in Dexter
  • Professor Moriarty from Sherlock
  • The Joker in The Dark Knight
  • Tony Montana in Scarface
  • The Grinch in How The Grinch Stole Christmas

What is a villain?

By definition a villain is:

  • a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot.
  • a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime.
  • a scoundrel.
  • an antagonist who tries to keep the protagonist from obtaining their goals.
  • a character who has a negative effect on other characters.

What makes a great villain?

  • Traits and qualities the reader can hate.
  • Traits and qualities the reader can love.
  • A soft spot or weakness. Something that really speaks about the humanity of the character.
  • A strong and compelling backstory that guides and motivates the villain from beginning to end.
  • A believable relationship between the villain and the protagonist that plays off of each other in an interesting way. For instance creating opposites between the antagonist and the protagonist.
    • Example: The protagonist is shy, honest and noble while the antagonist is out going, deceitful and out for himself.
  • An end game that goes beyond defeating the protagonist. Really take the time to flesh out the villains goals, motivations, wants and desires. What would be the villains Happily Every After Ending be?

The #1 “Don’t” rule for Villains

Don’t build your villain up, creating a compelling back story that feeds into the main story and then fail to write a proper climax between the antagonist and protagonist.

Nothing will turn a reader against a story as quick as a villain who doesn’t follow through.

Don’t tease the reader by slowly building up the tension between the two characters to basically have it fall limp and end before the climax has even begun.

If you’ve taken the time to write a strong, believable villain who creates compassion, tension, and conflict in your reader don’t short change them by making the climax lack-luster with the villain easily defeated.

Give the reader and the villain a climax to be proud of.

Never forget that the best villains are the ones readers can connect with.

The more believable and like-able the villain the more frightening and captivating they become in the readers mind.

I’ll end this with a question/quote to ponder on by Gregory Maguire from Wicked:

“Are people born wicked or do they have wickedness thrust upon them?”

– Gregory Maguire

Every Villain is a hero in his own mind

Stay Tuned

Wednesday @ 9 am “The Most Popular Book Villains”

Friday @ 9 am “Plus Size Hatred and The Bullies Who Enforce It”Let's Chat Graphic

  • Who is your favorite book villain?
  • Who is your favorite TV/movie villain?
  • What is it about a villain that captures your interest?

Published by Darla G. Denton, Writer

I am a Contemporary Romance Writer for Curvy women and the men who love them.

21 thoughts on “How to Write a Villain That Readers Will Love to Hate

  1. I think this is why it is so much easier for me to write the prequel I never intended to write than my “main” book. The villains from the prequel are complete characters with good reasons for doing everything they are doing. They are human. My villain from the main book is really just a placeholder to give my hero something to do. Hopefully by the time I’ve finished the prequel (where we first meet our second villain) I’ll understand why he is the way he is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely understand your dilemma Julie. This was my struggle for Destiny Be Damned. When I had finished the first and second draft my villain was flat. It wasn’t until I was writing the villains story as a writing exercise that I really got ahold of who that person was and why they did the things they did. The best villains will always be the ones who you find yourself relating to or having sympathy towards. Just be careful they don’t steal the spotlight from your hero/heroine.


  2. If you are writing a story bases on characters that already exists how do you spice it up without ruining what was already there by completely changing it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m not sure I understand your question 100%. However, the key to spicing up any relationship in a story whether new or old is to add conflict and it doesn’t have to be them fighting with each other. It could be a conflict where one person’s life gets threatened by a health scare, or they get a job offer that would require them to move of state or out of country. You can use an inner conflict where one person feels themselves changing, wanting different things, and they aren’t sure the other person would change with them or even if they connect with that person at all anymore. I hope this helps Mason!


    1. Hi Mason 🙂 If you want, you could share your questions here for everyone to see and I’ll answer as best as I can or you can always email me. You can find my contact info on the contact page. The tab is located towards the top left of the web page.


  3. I don’t recall ever really rooting for Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter Series. Professor Snape on the other hand is a villain that I think most people really started to like. Professor Umbridge, at least to me, was by far one of the most truly evil villains in the series. She was a villain that everyone loved to hate!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There’s nothing I like more about a story than a good freaking villain. Wether he turns good or acomplishes his evil plans, I can only consider the story good if the villain is interesting, so I pay special atention when creating my villains, though I like to separete villains from antagonists.
    My favorite movie villain is most definetely Loki, and on TV every single villain from Supernatural and Damon and Klaus from TVD. Now from books the list goes on and on, but the best are Shakespeare’s Richard III (I mean he is so good the play is all about him), Voldemort, Bellatrix, President Snow and every villainous Lannister in Game of Thrones.

    Liked by 1 person

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