How to Create a Great Villain: Really Useful Links by Lucy O’Callaghan | Resources | Essential Guides | Links for Writers
Lucy O'Callaghan

Lucy O’Callaghan

Continuing with June’s theme of National Crime Reading Month, this week we are looking at how to create a great villain. No one wants to read about a cliched villain. Your villain needs to be a believable, three-dimensional character. The villain cannot be bad for the sake of the writer needing a villain; they need to have some attractive qualities too, so the reader is enticed and invested in your villain as much as they are in your other characters.

‘The most interesting villains are not completely evil. They have a soft spot for puppies or they write cheesy love poems. Contrary personality traits add depth and realism to all characters.’  Melissa Donovan

With this in mind, I have put together some articles and podcasts to give you some advice on writing those crucial villainous characters.

  1. What Makes a Good Villain? Here’s Your 15-Item Checklist (

It is easy to say the villain does evil things because he’s evil but the bad guy (or woman) needs a reason for being the person he’s become. Villains are real people to whom terrible things have happened. At some point rather than learning and growing, their maturation process stunted and stalled. While this may explain the reasons for your villain’s actions, it doesn’t excuse or forgive them. He is still evil and must be brought to justice. But giving him motivation will make him more than a cardboard cutout. This article from Jerry Jenkins tells us to conjure a back story for your villain. Making him real and believable and credible, even attractive in many ways. This article gives the writer a 15-point villain characteristic checklist.

  1. How to Write an Unforgettable Villain: Tips for Writing a Great Villain for Your Novel or Short Story – 2023 – MasterClass

Villains helped define your story’s hero, drive the conflict, and capture the reader’s attention. For that reason, villains are just as important as the good guys in your story. Dan Brown advocates for writing your villain first because it is your villain who will make the hero heroic. He says that the villain must have a strong connection to the hero, a clear morality with a compelling backstory. They must be a worthy opponent. He shares 4 tips for writing a good villain.


The term ‘villain’ defines an evil character who personifies the forces which thwart the progress of the main character. In the majority of cases, the villain is villainous in relation to opposing the needs and desires of the main character. This role of antagonizing the main character is a reason the villain is often described as the antagonist. They are a character who stands in the way of the spiritual, emotional, moral, or financial progress of the main character, character was often described as a protagonist. Jericho writers share ten tips for writing really bad villains including making them well-rounded, building on their emotional logic, sharing physical and emotional scars, and giving them a compelling backstory.

  1. Your Guide to Writing a Convincing Villain | NY Book Editors

To create a convincing villain, this article suggests that they must have motivations that the reader can understand and moments of relatability that make the villain vulnerable and tragic. Having a villain who is evil all of the time will fall flat; they have to be rounded characters living out their own lives. It is crucial to create a comprehensive moral code for your villain. It creates a framework for your villain to operate in. The villain has to have a story arc too.

  1. How to Create a Villain Readers Won’t Forget: 6 Tips | Now Novel

This article from Now Novel shares 6 tips to create a villain that readers won’t forget including, avoiding stereotypical villain dialogues, using vivid descriptions, and showing how your villain wasn’t always the bad guy. Each tip is explained with examples from literature.

  1. The Ultimate Guide To Creating An Authentic Villain – Writer’s Edit (

An authentic villain is made with a hint of goodness and a touch of humanity. Having a villain with strengths and weaknesses which are opposite to the hero’s can cause great conflict in plot-driven stories. The villain and the hero sharing the same strengths and weaknesses and mirroring each other can be great for psychological tension. This article gives examples of villains from a variety of different novels.

  1. How to Craft a Believable Villain — Well-Storied.

How can we craft villains that go beyond mere moustache-twirling and maniacal laughter to become truly believable villainous characters? Well-storied discusses where the writer often goes wrong and explains that the key to crafting villains is to remember that every villain is the hero of their own story. Several prompts are given for you to try.

  1. Villains | Writing Excuses

This podcast focuses on the more relatable villain of small evils which can be the key to connecting the reader to your story.

  1. Writing Heroes And Villains With Sacha Black | The Creative Penn

The Creative Penn podcast discusses why all good stories need a good villain, even romances, and how villains are part of the theme of the novel.

Your villains have to be credible, logical, and believable. You can’t trick your reader with just an evil character. These characters will take time and effort to craft but a fully formed villain can stay with a reader long after the story is finished. I hope this week’s column has been helpful to you. Please get in touch if you have any topic you would like me to cover.

(c) Lucy O’Callaghan

Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31.

Facebook: @LucyCOCallaghan

Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

About the author

Writing since she was a child, Lucy penned her first story with her father called Arthur’s Arm, at the ripe old age of eight. She has been writing ever since. Inspired by her father’s love of the written word and her mother’s encouragement through a constant supply of wonderful stationary, she wrote short stories for her young children, which they subsequently illustrated.
A self-confessed people watcher, stories that happen to real people have always fascinated her and this motivated her move to writing contemporary women’s fiction. Her writing has been described as pacy, human, moving and very real.
Lucy has been part of a local writing group for over ten years and has taken creative writing classes with Paul McVeigh, Jamie O’Connell and Curtis Brown Creative. She truly found her tribe when she joined Writer’s Ink in May 2020. Experienced in beta reading and critiquing, she is currently editing and polishing her debut novel.
Follow her on Instagram: lucy.ocallaghan.31. Facebook and Twitter: @LucyCOCallaghan

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