Nothing makes your book’s hero or heroine more gallant, brave, and worthy than a conniving villain. So, dear writers, if you want to make your fiction book a bestseller, create a ruthless, sneaky villain. From Cerci Lannister to Niklaus Mikaelson to Allaudin Khilji, some of the best fiction books of all time have the most unforgettable villains.
As a book publishing company with hundreds of fiction books published per year, we can assure you that books with unforgettable villains sell more. Villains play multiple roles in fiction book writing – they provide the story’s foundation, define the hero’s character, drive conflict, and create adrenaline-high situations. Many authors don’t put enough effort into creating their antagonists. But it is the villain who makes the hero…well, a hero. So, don’t make them weak or shortchange them. Make them credible. You must spend as much time wiring your fiction book’s villain as you do while crafting your hero or heroine.
Learn more about how to write an unforgettable villain for your fiction book.
What Makes a Villain Unforgettable and Chilling?
“No reader wants to see a dynamic hero win over an ordinary burglar.”
If you are self-publishing a book and your story don’t excite you the way you hoped, irrespective of having an amazing hero, it is probably because it lacks a formidable villain.
Villains are villains because terrible things happen to them. During their childhood. When they were adults. Or maybe later. Niklaus became ruthless because his father and mother outcasted him and chased him for centuries. Cerci became an unforgettable villain because she wasn’t given what was her birthright.
So, instead of growing and maturing, they became lonely, bitter, and fearsome.
If you notice from a distance, your hero and villain may share the same attractive qualities or have the same back story. But in proximity, the true, evil qualities and desires surface.
While he must still be brought to justice, the villain’s motivation to be bad should be believable and real, even if it is attractive in many ways. Example: Jamie Lannister.
Here is a tip: Write your fiction book’s villain with the awareness that they consider themself the hero of their own story. This will make your antagonist more compelling, hateful, yet realistic.
If this doesn’t make enough sense, create a villain that your readers will hate to love – they will feel bad, but then something terrible will happen, and your readers will feel worse for sympathizing with the villain.
So, What Are the Characteristics of an Epic Villain
The fiction book villain’s role is critical for book marketing as they challenge your hero to be heroic.
You cannot just simply point out and say, “oh! that’s the bad guy.” You have to ensure that the readers understand what makes the villain tick.
But more importantly, your readers must fear that the villain can beat the hero and conquer him any day.
Most iconic villains of the book publishing world share the following common characteristics or traits.
A Strong Relationship with the Lead Character
All unforgettable villains in the history of fiction book publishing have a complicated relationship with the hero. Example: Cerci plotted with Little Finger to kill Ned Stark. It happened in front of Arya Stark. The view of her father being slayed remains in her mind forever, rewiring her entire journey from an innocent little girl to a nameless conqueror.
A Hard Background, Almost Sympathetic
Making your readers love and hate your fiction book villain is an art. We all were sad when Jamie Lannister was killed, weren’t we? Because he had an interesting backstory that was almost sad.
Your antagonist’s story should be credible and deep enough to help readers identify his flaws and connect them with his actions, almost like feeling empathetic.
Example: Portrayal of Gollum’s character in Lord of the Rings and how the One Ring corrupts a normal hobbit and makes him one of the most atrocious fiction book characters of all time.
While reading your book, the reader should feel, “What the villain did was horrifying. But I understand why he is this way.”
The Strongest Opponent to the Hero
The villain should be a strong and dynamic adversary to your story’s hero. He should be smart, powerful, intelligent, a mastermind, and not easily bested – someone who can be defeated only with skill and brain. His or her ploys will create credible threats for your hero again and again, pushing your readers to the edge of their seats.
A Firm Set of Beliefs and Moral Code
Every villain comes with a preset belief and morality that they are the hero of their own story. And that’s the way they justify their actions. Villains claim that whatever they do base on their twisted moral code is justifiable. They would never go against their code, no matter how wrong it is.
A solid example would be the terrorists who hijack and kill people in the name of their perceived religion.
That’s why it is important that you design a set of moral codes and beliefs for your antagonist. It should act as a framework or setting in which your villain operates.
Other Traits that Make an Unforgettable Villain
The antagonist must believe that he’s the good guy and should have quite a few likable qualities. For instance, he may like killing people, but he loves his children. He must be accomplished and clever enough that people must be begrudgingly respectful.
He cannot be bested or fooled easily. While your fiction book villain may mirror many of the hero’s characteristics, they are mostly misdirected. He can be occasionally kind but mostly merciless, persuasive, thoughtless, proud, cruel, jealous, deceitful, and vengeful.
Interesting Read: See how to self-publish a fiction book.
How to Write an Unforgettable Villain For Fiction Book – From Our Experts
Here are a few tips on how to write an unforgettable villain for your fiction book that makes your readers clutch the book hard until their knuckles go white.
Create a Memorable First Impression
The first impression of your fiction book’s villain should be as exceptional as that of your heroine. Your readers need to be wowed by the villain’s first look, as we were astounded by the Joker’s first look presented by Batman.
We will also like to add the first impression created by the White Walker Prince and the first snake-like walk of Allaudin Khilji with the ostrich in the movie Padmavat.
Write an Epic First Confrontation
The first confrontation between the Villain and the Protagonist should be remarkable. It can make very good book marketing content. Those few moments when the hero gets a personal look at how dangerously crazy the villain is should be chilling.
Example: We can never forget the memorable confrontation between the Starks and Cersei when she visits Winterfell for the first time or when Jamie sees Drogon flying toward him for the first time in the episode Spoils of the War.
Narrate a Moving, Bitter Sweet History
Make sure your villain has a heart-wrenching background story that moves your readers.
Your readers should feel sympathetic toward your villain, even if it’s just for a moment that soon replaces with repulsion or antipathy.
Balance Your Villain’s Character Between Dark and Fun
Avoid creating a too-dark character. While your goal should be to portray your villain’s darker side, they cannot always be bad. Illustrate his other qualities, too, such as being inspiring, talented, clever, funny, and romantic. Example: Niklaus Klaus was a great painter and a gentle father.
Make Your Villain a Product of Their Environment
Don’t make your villain’s habits, behavior, and language eloquent and sophisticated. She or he should represent his environment, upbringing, and world.
Let the Villain Beat the Hero on Several Occasions
The villain should temporarily defeat the hero, if not once, several times. The hero should feel threatened by the villain. He must be knocked down by the antagonist. The villain should get their way with everyone in almost every scene.
The readers must know that the stakes are really high and the readers should fear the worst, just as the readers of Harry Potter felt the entire time reading Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows.
And Finally, Give Your Fiction Book Villain a Stage to Perform
We always write a memorable protagonist. But in reality, writers should know. How to Write an Unforgettable Villain for Fiction Book. That’s the recipe for bestseller fiction book writing.
If you think your protagonist is a Superhero, then your villain should be Thanos.
Self-publishing a book is not so tricky, but the book publishing market is competitive. Readers can discard your book within minutes if they don’t like what they see.
So, create a villain your readers will care about by following our guidelines.
All the best.