Making Your Villain Vile

Creating Antagonists who Really Antagonize


©Rachel Carrington - All Rights Reserved


Have you ever started writing a romantic suspense and fallen in love with the hero and heroine only to find yourself disgusted with the villain? You’ve labored over your characters, given them depth, emotional strengths, and made them shine—only to discover that your antagonist is more sad than bad.


We've all seen the cartoonish bad guys from early television series, and that's definitely not what your goal should be when you're creating your own Dr. Evil. So the question is how do you create that character that makes everyone shiver, the one who adds the punch to your suspense novel, and sends chills down your readers’ spines? 


No matter what type of villain you’re creating, whether an obsessed co-worker or an embezzler desperate to cover up his* crime, you need to identify your villain’s purpose. I know, I know. His purpose is to add tension to the storyline and create the suspense it needs to carry the plot. Right? Well, technically, but your villain has to have a purpose of his own, a goal, so to speak.  


What makes him a villain? What makes him integral to the storyline? If he could be removed without his absence affecting the storyline, then his purpose hasn’t been clearly defined. So that’s the first thing we need to start with in your quest to create a vile villain.  


Let’s just say, for example, that your villain is a serial killer who only kills blonde women. Why? What is his reason for killing only women, especially only blonde? And how does this affect your hero and heroine in the book? What is his ultimate goal by the end of the book? To kill all the blonde women in the city or to kill the one blonde woman he really wants to, like, perhaps, the hero’s ex-wife? Maybe he has a grudge against the hero. So there are two of the villain’s potential purposes. Okay, his purpose is established. Now, let’s move on to the depth of your character. 


While the identity of a killer can certainly come out of left field and surprise your readers, he still needs that depth which will make the shocking revelation believable. Throughout the entire book, his character needs to be developed through thoughts, point of view scenes, his action, and discoveries made by the other characters.  


Some writers question whether or not to use the villain’s point of view. Personally, I can’t write a romantic suspense without including the antagonist’s POV. What better way for your readers to delve into the deepest, darkest recesses of his mind than through direct scenes? Though character discoveries can add moments of tension, there is nothing more powerful than an inside look into the villain’s mind.  


What is he thinking, feeling, wanting? Open his mind to the readers. Through his thoughts, the villain can show readers his most heinous intentions. This builds the suspense of your story and provides the steps that lead to the grand finale. 


By the villain’s actions and reactions, you can give the reader insight as well. How does he act when he’s alone or interacting with other people? Is he jumpy? Cold and calculating? Is he a smooth talker or an affable fellow? Or maybe he’s sly and reserved? How does he react to confrontation, or does he avoid that altogether? How does he treat women? How does he act around men? Is he easily intimidated by them? Or is he just another one of the guys? These are things that can also be wound into the villain’s thoughts as well. 


Does he watch his victims? If he does, what does he do while he’s watching them? Does he smoke? Use binoculars? What does he do before and after each crime? Does he have a routine? For instance, does he have to come home after a kill and cleanse his hands with bleach? (This can indicate an obsessive personality as well as diabolical one in that he is washing his hands to remove traces of evidence.) Does his comb have to be placed in a certain way on top of the bathroom counter? (This can indicate an obsessive personality.) How does he treat the body of his victim? (Depending on what he does, it can either indicate remorse, rage, or a careless disregard for life.)With these actions, you can create a picture in the reader’s mind. 


Finally, you can build a villain’s background by character discovery, especially if one of the main characters is involved in law enforcement. Perhaps they’ve discovered his mother walked out on him as a child, he was a juvenile delinquent, or he has had several arrests for assault and battery. While these are not excuses for his crimes, they can certainly provide both the readers and the other involved characters with a profile of who this unnamed character might be.  


Of course these are just a few of the ways to create a really vile villain, but they can start you on the right path to the development of what is truly one of the most important characters in your romantic suspense novel. 



About the Author: Rachel Carrington is an award-winning multi-published author of fantasy and paranormal romance as well as romantic suspense. Her release, Burning Reflections, is a romantic suspense novel from Samhain Publishing and is earning rave reviews.  


Rachel currently lives on the East Coast, and she is also the editor-in-chief of Vintage Romance Publishing. To learn more about Rachel, you may visit her on the web at   



*I know villains can be male or female, but for the purpose of simplicity, I’m using the male pronoun. 



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