Top 5 Ways to Build a Flimsy Villain with a “Mustache Twirl”
by Paul Millhouse
Fashion your villain after creeps on the evening news, or your mother-in-law.
Surf through Facebook for icky stories.
Steal your villainess from Pop-culture movie characters and give her a sinister laugh – Mwahahahahaha…hahaha.
Equip your villainess with lots of explosives, minions, weapons, and give her an impenetrable castle to hide it.
Make her invincible then send her and her minions out for world domination with no opposition and no hope of stopping her.
Just. Stop. That’s the perfect recipe for a mustache twirling villain, and we don’t respect them, we don’t want them, and we swear not to write them. Okay? *Virtual fist-bump* We will not create flimsy villains for our precious Readers.
No, seriously. I’m here today to discuss my approach to writing villains we love, or in my case, the Villainess. The baddies. The worst of the worst. The sinister people of fiction. Scary creatures who make you wake up in a cold sweat during the night while you’re engaged in a fantastic story.
How can you create a worthwhile villain who will have your Readers sitting on the sidelines watching, wringing their hands, and worrying if they’ll ruin your hero and heroine’s quest for Happily Ever After?
- Our best villains believe they are the heroes of their own stories
Give your villain their own version of your story.
Show me why your villain is angry. What happened in her world that made her the only person who could show the hero and heroine where their fault lines exist?
- Seat your villain’s story in a painful wound that results in a reactionary flaw, then write that flaw for all its worth
In my private practice as a Family Nurse Practitioner I see illness result when basic needs go unmet. By contrast, when writing fiction I exploit that principle.
I like to write female antagonists – the villainess who scares the literal hell out of me. Wounds and flaws all boil down to unfulfilled basic needs. I like Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs as a structure. In Chalvaren Rising I gave Isa Ansgar the wound of grief from love lost, and the corresponding flaw of vengeance. Once she showed up on the page in her full glory, even I was appalled at the depths she sank to.
Your baddies need street creds – something awful must have happened to them to make them so…wrong.
- Make sure your villain has something to teach your protagonist because of their wound
In winning story structure your antagonist must teach your hero and heroine a lesson. Whatever struggles you want your main character to overcome, have your villain embody the opposite values. In Chalvaren Rising, the main theme is Love Is Worth Fighting For. I fashioned my villainess Isa to point out specifically where to test the fault lines around that theme for my hero and heroine. Love Lost is a topic Isa is a specialist in understanding.
In order to deliver a despicable character who keeps readers hooked and flipping pages, show me how badly your villain wants their happily ever after.
Show your Readers someone who bears a raging painful wound, and is determined to see the flaw growing from their injured heart exploited. That reaction to loss and pain, unique to your own villain, is how you craft memorable villains we love to hate.
As a fun Halloween exercise to reinforce the theme of writing quality Villains We Love to Hate, let’s play a game. In the comments tell me who your favorite villain is, and what wound they suffered to turn them into a despicable character? I’ll start us off: Hannibal Lecter – his wound – soldiers ate his little sister and he could not save her.
Paula Millhouse writes fiction where Fantasy, Romance, and Suspense collide. In her off-writing hours she works in the medical field as a Family Nurse Practitioner. Her latest novel, Chalvaren Rising is Book #2 in The Kingdom of Chalvaren Romance series, published by Boroughs Publishing Group.
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