Hi Jim,

I’m having trouble with one of the characters I’m working with in my story. If I could ask, what’s your approach to writing villians? Do you have a method for creating a backstory for why they are a “bad” character, or does it just kind of appear to you?


Hi B,

Yes and yes. The answer is that it really depends on the story and the bad guy in it. Sometimes I have no idea that the bad guy is going to be a ‘bad guy’ until much later in the story.

I actually wrote a character a while back that I was actually going to use as a heroic foil. Basically, he had a very basic sense of right and wrong, and was getting mixed up in the wrong situations that were eventually going to cost him everything. However, as the story went along, more and more, he evolved and took center stage as the villain. At this point, I had to adapt my plans for him as I couldn’t just kill him off and let the hero fix what he had done. No, the character had unintentionally become the villain, because that’s the direction the story took. The original villain still maintained her place on the dark path, but she became more of a puppet master than anything else and her role was drastically reduced.

Other times, I start a story off with the villain. My primary villain in Damnation was always the key character. I had her all planned out, brilliant, but rebellious, honorable, yet vicious. She was someone you didn’t want to mess with and though she viewed the loss of life as a terrible waste, she would not hesitate to kill you if you got in the way of her target. In her case, the story revolved around her instead of her evolving to match the story as we saw in the previous example.

There is also the case of the straight villain. This person requires little to no backstory. They’ll set the forest on fire simply to watch it burn. There is no reasoning behind it, no tragedy in the past to explain his behavior, he’s simply a sociopath. We saw this quite often with Disney villains. They’re referred to as ‘one-dimensional villains’.

Anyway, these are the types of villains I’ve been known to work with. I hope this helps, but I’ll also open it up to my reader base… Let’s keep the conversation going and see if anyone else has good villain examples.



Do you have a question about writing, publishing, my stories, etc? Please feel free to post a comment or email me.


I’ll use those comments to select my next blog post.

I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.

Please note, I only do one of these a day and will do my best to respond to everyone, but it may take some time.

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Thanks friends!

Catch you on the flip side!


6 Comments on “How to Write Villains #Advice #Writing #Literature #Fiction #Nonfiction

  1. With me, I make the protagonist as the villain.

    They are fighting their own internal war. The character will lose their sanity, and will find themselves tumbling downhill, not towards doom, but towards realization.

    At the end, my characters realize their mistakes, if but for a split-second, before the story ends. It’s that brief “eye-opening” realization to everything they’ve done throughout the tale.

    This is simply say that I love creating “anti-heroes/anti-heroines”. 🙂


  2. What do they want? Follow the money, like Hans Gruber in Die Hard? Villains are generally self-created based on what they are willing to do to others to get what they want (power, control, lunch). Look at the extent they are willing to kill, steal, and destroy, or simply exploit, control, or force others to think, feel, talk, act in order to make life, the universe, and everything turn out the way they want. And keep in mind, villains often believe what they want will be best for everyone, even if they have to break a few eggs to make that omelet.

    So, what do they want? And what are they willing to do to get it?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The problem with “one-dimensional villains” as a term is that it’s too often used as a negative. Some of the best villains in history just simply want power or evil for evil’s sake. These villains don’t need a backstory, especially a sympathetic one. They’re just evil because it’s their way to power. I’m not against those kind of villains mind you, but “evil for evil’s sake” has its place as a stand-in for the obstacle to overcome and a bit of catharsis. Kids stories don’t really need deep villains (although if you can pull one off that the kids can follow, by all means go for it) because those villains are also fun to watch in action and see lose.


    • This is true, though I will say that I do not take issue with the one dimensional villain. Arguably my favorite Disney villain of all time was one-dimensional… (until the crappy reimagining came out). Maleficent was arguably one of the most iconic villains of all time.

      Liked by 1 person

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