Making Your Villain Vile
Antagonists who Really Antagonize
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
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
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
*I know villains can be male or female, but for the purpose
of simplicity, I’m using the male pronoun.