Sunday, September 9, 2012

5 Quick Fixes to Make Reader Love Your Villains

I read a great blog by RITA nominee Shannon Donnelly5 Quick Fixes to Make Readers Love Your Villains. Shannon made it sound so simple. When I took a close look at her post I realized all her suggestions demonstrate the hero’s humanity.
  1. What does the character’s mother love about him?
  2. What does this character love?
  3. Why does this character do bad things?
  4. What would make this character a hero?
  5. Give the villain a trait you’d love to have.

I get it! 
I'm working through my edits on my new story, working title Mine Forever, with Denise, my editor. Throughout the story I've portrayed my villain as a totally bad guy- Snidely Whiplash. However, the more I thought about some of Denise's comments and Shannon's post I clearly see if I give him some humanity even a streak of goodness it will create more conflict and a more powerful character.
Bravo to Shannon Donnelly for putting into words what I was struggling to achieve and for giving me one more outstanding tool for my author tool kit. Her workable questions produced answers that moved my villain from cliche to credible.
Who is your favorite villain? What tools do you use to write your villain?


  1. Love the simplicity. I give my villains a pet--something they care for and worry about. Rob a bank, kidnap the heiress, but be home in time to give Fluffy dinner or leave enough water and food for Spot in case things go wrong. I like the idea of giving the bad guy an endearing quality a mother would love. Great post, Ruth.

  2. I love this! Thanks for sharing. I love the villains who aren't really evil, just trapped by circumstance, or who are doing the wrong things for the right reasons, like Boromir and Wormtongue (who loved Eowyn) in LOTR. OK, I know Boromir was one of the heroes, but he was wanting to steal the ring and take it back to Gondor, so he was a bit morally mixed up.

    Then there's the Cardassians in Star Trek: DS9. So convinced of their own rightness and superiority, so selfish, they are just so evil... yet so bold, intelligent, charming, confident and family oriented, I love them.

    The most recent villain I enjoyed reading was Holden from Julia Knight's "Ten Ruby Trick." He's another one trapped by circumstance, who wants to do the right thing, but his idea of what's "right" doesn't agree with the heroes.

  3. I don't think we can relate to someone who is totally evil -- that streak, however small, of humanity makes the villain more real in our eyes. Someone who coud be redeemed. On the other side of the coin, every hero should have a little fault or two. If he's perfect, he becomes untouchable.