How do I make a villain totally detestable and loathsome, I’ve no protagonist as the narrator is also a morally dark grey guy. Also all of my villains turn into anti heroes because of their grand ideas for the future bring a bit skewed in execution. Tips, ideas? Open for anything really.
First! As a quick note, when you use the word “protagonist,” you’re referring to your main character. It does not matter what their moral standing is, how they view themselves or how society views them. Your main character is your protagonist.
Tyler Durden is the chaotic evil protagonist of Fight Club, but that doesn’t make him a good guy. In fact, writing neutral or evil protagonists is pretty common and incredibly interesting!
Your antagonist is the main opposition to your protagonist. If your protagonist is a chaotic evil, then it’s totally possible that your antagonist is lawful good. The terms are relative to whose POV the story is being told through. Think Les Miserables. If that story was told through the eyes of Javert, then we would undoubtedly view his lawful good morality as superior to Jean Valjean’s chaotic neutral/good. And if anyone was ever the good guy in his own version of the story, it’s Javert.)
The most important thing is not making your reader hate your antagonist, or your villains, but make them love hating them. Making them compelling, but repulsive characters is what you want. If your readers just hate them, then it’s easy to develop a indifferent attitude to the entire work. We don’t like reading about characters that aren’t compelling and interesting, even if they’re simultaneously detestable.
So here is a handful of things to keep in mind or try:
- Your antagonist is the hero of their own story. They have legitimate motivations, and they see themselves as in the right. To their story, your protagonist is likely the villain.
- Spend as much time developing your antagonist as you do on your protagonist. We can’t empathize and feel true revulsion for a flat character. We can sneer and snicker, but ultimately, shrug them off.
- Make your antagonist’s strengths the weaknesses of your protagonist. Give him the ability to really undermine your protagonist’s abilities, quest, or relationships.
- Give him likable qualities. They need to fit within his moral code, of course, but if there are elements of his personality that the reader can empathize with or see in themselves or those close to them, then that will go further to making his horrible traits more personal.
- Moral code – mentioned earlier, but bears reiteration. Give your antagonist a moral code and don’t let him stray from it casually. That moral code can be anywhere on the scale, but it makes him a more believable character if we can see what he will and won’t do or put up with.
- Balance the power of your antagonist. Don’t make him unbeatably powerful or depressingly weak. We want to feel that sense of worry about his abilities, but it’s not interesting if he has no real weakness either.
- Outline your novel from the antagonist’s POV. What does he see as the arc of the story?
- Give your protagonist a moment’s connection with the antagonist. Letting your reader see that even the book’s MC shares something with the villain can go a long way to making their personality more powerful and more convincing.
- Above all, avoid Evil™ for the sake of evil. It’s dull. It’s not relatable. And it doesn’t help make the villain intimidating or scary. It makes them lame. **coughcoughvoldemortcoughcough** What!? I didn’t say anything.