Villains need to have human characteristics to ensure they are three-dimensional; otherwise they may as well be faceless and mindless. It was discussed in The Perfect Villain Is Not All Evil that antagonists need human qualities – good and bad – but that may not be easy. If you are struggling to find character traits for the villain in your story, try this simple exercise.
Think of at least five villains that you liked (or loved to hate) and list two or more qualities (good or bad) from each. Don’t be surprised if you find the same qualities appearing on several villains in your list. These are characteristics that you’re drawn to for your evil characters – use them when creating your villain.
I tend to use movies as examples, because the chances of you seeing the same movie (or at least knowing the character) is better than reading the same book, but use whatever medium you want.
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves – Sheriff of Nottingham
- A strong presence
Trust Alan Rickman to turn a dull villain into a sensational character.
Harry Potter’s Professor Severus Snape
- Greasy look
While Voldemort was the real villain in the story, Professor Snape certainly caused plenty of problems for the main character even though his actions may have been with good intentions.
The Fugitive’s Lt Phillip Gerard (from the 1960s tv show)
- Career and duty focused
While on the side of the law, this man is infuriatingly clever and able to guess Kimble’s movements. Despite believing in Kimble’s innocence, Gerard is determined to capture Kimble. This sort of conflict would have torn most people, but Gerard was steadfast in his duties.
Star Wars’ Dark Vader
- Prepared to follow through with his threats
- Hides inner conflicts
Thor’s adopted brother Loki
- Life of being overshadowed by muscle-bound Thor
Now you have a list of traits to choose from.