Saturday, August 23, 2014

How to write a villain protagonist

In one of my first posts, Making villains - Part 1 I talked more about villains as antagonist. In this post, I will talk about villains as protagonists.

Types of villain protagonists
There are three main types of villain protagonist.

Anti-hero: Usually, the villain will start out this way and become a fallen hero or the reverse will happen when changing sides. In the case of the latter, she would no longer be a villain protagonist.

Anti-villain: While in anti-hero is a hero who possess qualities of a non-classic hero, an anti-villain is a villain who possess qualities of a non-classic villain. There's usually some overlap between anti-villain and anti-hero.

Villain: These are the guys who do it for the evulz. The guys who torture little puppies and tear down orphanages for her own amusement. Classic villains.

When picking a villain protagonist all choices are valid, but it of course depends on the type of work your aiming for. If you're doing a comedy, a classic villain can work quite well, especially with a healthy dose of incompetence.

Though in a more dramatic work, an anti-villain is probably a better way to go.

You probably want to stay away from anti-hero's altogether unless you want to show a rise to villainy.

Keys to writing a villain protagonist
It's probably counter-intuitive as a writer, but the most important thing about the villain protagonist is that she's likeable.And if you're writing a character who is truly villainous , this might prove difficult.

Here are some tips on writing a likeable villain.

1. Have an amusing personality. Of course all your characters should have good personalities, but readers will forgive a lot more transgressions if they find your character to be amusing.

2. Give your villain standards. Your villain can be an arsonist, serial killer and even a terrorist. But some things are just hard to redeem, such as killing young children and raping people. Better than simply not doing these things, would be to oppose these things.

3. Show the villain as a person. Give her a family, give her struggles. Maybe she's a thief because she was a homeless teenager (yes, that is one of my characters).

4. Gray morality is your friend. Your villain, in all likelihood, doesn't see herself as evil. The thing is to show your readers that your villain isn't evil. Show the light side of what she does, show why it's necessary (to return to the thief example, she's a homeless teenager). Show the dark side of the heroes, show why what they're doing could be construed as evil.

It's important to remember that while you will want to justify your villains to some extent, they're still supposed to be villains. Otherwise they're not villain protagonists and more like anti-heroes.

Any questions or comments? Leave one below or email me at

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