Let’s welcome back monthly columnist Keri Kruspe as she shares with us “5 Ways to Help Your Readers Fall in Love with Your Villain.” Enjoy!
Cackling, evil laugh…. the wringing of gloved hands… the melodramatic mustache twirling…
Yeah, yeah. We get it. To make a good story, we include a villain (usually another human) to offset our hero to create conflict.
Good guy vs. bad guy—back and forth until the good guy triumphs at the end and the villain is defeated. Woo-hoo… truth and justice win!
Oh, ho-hum. Yawn… yawn… yawn.
Okay, I’m being snarky.
If we didn’t love these stories where the hero outsmarts the villain, that trope would have died out centuries ago.
The best way to keep these stories “fresh” is to have your reader fall in love with not only the hero, but with the villain as well. To the point where the reader will secretly fall in love with the bad guy, rooting for them from time-to-time.
What’s the best way to do this?
Why make them flawed, of course!
Resist the urge to make your bad guy, someone who is ugly and has no redeeming qualities. A boring cardboard stereotype whose every action is glaringly predictable.
These aren’t in a specific order, just some fun ways to fix your bad guy:
Parents matter—even to a villain.
That includes orphans. The absence of parents can be a motivational force in their (or anyone’s) life.
Was how they were raised a main factor on what drives them? Here are a couple of examples in my own work.
The main bad guy in my Alien Exchange universe has been shaped by his family and how they treated him growing up. The lack of love and recognition (all because he didn’t look like others in his race, especially his identical twin who did) drove him to extremes to prove his worth. Not only to his elitist parents, but to the entire galaxy.
In my second series, Ancient Alien Descendants, the main villain discovers he is not the legitimate blood heir to the throne of a planet, so he has to commit all sorts of atrocities to ensure no one finds out so he isn’t executed.
What (or who) does the villain love?
The villain who only wants to take over the galaxy (what do you expect? I write scifi romance so it’s all about the bigger stuff…) is tedious and has been overdone. But if you can somehow put in what they love, it gives them an added dimension.
The best part of it doesn’t have to be anything big.
The villain in my latest series actually loves his people. He feels that if he wasn’t in charge, they’d succumb to extinction. He just happens to be a self-absorbed narcissist at the same time…
Why do they do the things they do?
Here’s where the big “M” word comes in “motivation.”
- Why do they want to take over the world?
- Why do they hate the hero and want to mess their lives up?
Uncover the deep, deep roots that drive the villain and what they want.
Alexander the Great wanted to conquer the world to show up his father. (There goes those pesky parents again…).
What would make this person the hero?
- What if you wrote your novel from the villain’s point of view?
- What would he have to do to make himself the hero?
They end up doing things that might be wrong, but they firmly believe they have the right to kidnap/kill/torture anyone who they deem deserves it.
Aren’t righteous villains the really scary kind? (Think Thanos of the Marvel Avengers series.)
Install in your villain, a trait you’d love for yourself.
What if your villain was crazy smart or a cunning manipulator?
Are they decisive, able to make their minds up immediately?
Or—maybe they are master storytellers who created worlds people are dying to be a part of…
Other Thoughts on Characteristics of the Villains
A person you’re not quite sure is as bad as you think, or maybe they’re just misunderstood. The hero may have found the strength to overcome, but the villain gets dragged down instead.
They’re Better than the Hero
They’re more charming, seemingly kinder, smarter, or well-informed. Make your readers cheer on the hero to become more like the villain. A great example would be Loki in the Marvel universe. He’s smarter and way more humble than Thor could ever be.
The Crazy One
You can spot these folks a mile away. The Joker/Hannibal Lector/Harley Quinn… These bad guys are overblown, excessive, obsessive, narcissistic and delusional. Most of all, they’re unpredictable (ooh…. the fun…). They come in like a massive hurricane and destroy everything in their path. No amount of logic or reason has a chance to tame them.
Wrap This Up, My Pretty, said the Villain
Think of your favorite villain.
What makes them so special?
The best advice anyone could give you about villains is to make them as real as your protagonist.
Better yet, give them mirror (positive or negative) traits of your hero.
If anyone tells you your villain is better than your main character, chances are you have a compelling story to tell!
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Keri Kruspe has been an author since the age of twelve and has always been fascinated with otherworldly stories that end in Happily Ever After. Author of Otherworldly Romantic Adventures, Keri’s first series is An Alien Exchange trilogy. An Alien Exchange is the first book in the arousing Alien Exchange sci-fi romance series. If you like sexy aliens, feisty heroines, and fast-paced action, then you’ll love Keri Kruspe’s steamy space adventure.
Keri now resides with her family in the wilds of Northwestern Michigan. An avid reader, Keri enjoys good wine, good food, and watching action/adventure movies. You can find her most days immersed in her fantasy world of writing or traveling with her hubby in their RV, discovering intelligent life here on Earth. For goodies, news of upcoming releases, sign up for her newsletter at www.kerikruspe.com.