Whether you’re writing a novel, novella, short story or a work of flash fiction, sometimes you need an eye-watering source of evil to spice things up. Something that provokes feelings of disgust, fear, unrest or something that people love to loathe.
Usually, this comes from the tale’s main antagonist or villain.
In other words, a character who makes life unbearable for everyone or everything around them. A person, animal or force that is worse than Genghis Khan, Hans Gruber, Count Olaf and Lord Voldemort combined.
Every reader loves to loathe a villain.
If you’re sitting there, scratching your head looking for the inspiration you need to conjure up that skin curlingly disgraceful or spit-worthy character you need to make your story complete, follow these three simple steps.
1.Think of the kind of evil that will suit your story
We’ve established that you would like to create a real nasty piece of work.
You know, the kind of character who would steal Christmas gifts from an orphanage, or snatch a blind old lady’s guide dog. But, what you don’t want to do is choose the wrong kind of evil for your story.
To make sure you don’t choose the wrong evil traits for your character, sit down in a comfy seat with the outline of your plot or your draft so far and consider the kind of antagonist that will slip into your story seamlessly.
Think about your setting, where the story will take the reader, the relationships between other key characters, the conflict and the resolution.
If you’re going for a tale that includes all-out guts and gore, then perhaps a murderous, cannibalistic madman or woman will work wonders. But, if you’re taking your reader on a tightly-wound psychological journey, a vindictive, calculating intellectual will suit. Of course, the latter character could be capable of committing a murder, but portraying them as loud, brash and manic in the context of a psychological mystery might not do your story justice.
Think about the core traits that will work for your character. Write them down, refine them, and you’ll be able to build a portfolio for your antagonist.
2. Give your antagonist a name and a look, then, take a step back
Now you’ve identified the sort of skin melting pure evil that will sprinkle a wonderfully sinister element to your work of fiction; it’s time to give it a name.
Christen that character and the rest will follow.
Much like when you’re trying to write an eye-catching headline for an article, giving your character a name will help you define them.
Naming your character will also help them jump off the page in all their toe-curling, snarl-making glory.
Essentially, you’ll give yourself an extra boost of evil inspiration (this calls for a Dr. Evil-style pinky-to-corner-of-mouth moment).
Before you conjure up a title for your antagonist, sit back, close your eyes and harness those evil thoughts.
Think about what you hate and what gets your goat. Consider a person from your past who embodied everything that’s wrong with the world. It could be the science teacher who told you you’d never amount to anything, or that ex who treated you like a piece of proverbial dirt. Also, use those feelings and those people to define the aesthetics of your character. Was that science teacher portly with breadstick fingers, or your ex spindly with intense goggle eyes?
Use this to help name your character — organizing your thoughts on paper or screen as you go.
Brainstorm a number of names, being as plain or as wacky as you like — you’ll know what feels right for your story — go for a cuppa, and come back to your workstation to settle on the name of your despicable creation.
Now you’ll be able to link those core character traits to the name and help connect the dots that will bind your character’s being.
At this point, you should stop what you’re doing and take a break. An essential part of the ideation process, stepping away from your project and resting your mind for an hour, a week, or even a day will help your ideas incubate.
3. Create your character’s persona and go wild
When marketers are trying to target potential customers, they use buyer personas to craft content that will strike a chord with them. Creating a character for your story is no exception.
Now you’ve bestowed your antagonist with those core evil character traits and given them a name, it’s time to make them real — at your own peril, of course.
To help give them an all-important human element that will appeal to your readers — and this applies even if your antagonist is an animal or a monster — you should create a full ‘evil character persona’.
You can craft evil character persona by looking at certain character traits, personal attributes and other information including age and background.
To help you bring your antagonist to life, here are the headings you should use to fill in the gaps:
- Brief early life bio
- Economic or social background
- Likes and dislikes
- Signature item of clothing
- Main source of evil
- Reason for being evil
- Main weakness
- Main strength
- Current incentive for being evil
- Most skin curling physical feature
By working through this checklist methodically, you will be able to create a full background profile for your antagonist and have them jumping off the page in no time — just don’t look directly at them.
By now, you’ll have a detailed three dimensional source of evil for your story. Not only will you feel more emotionally connected to your character, but it will be like they’re in the room with you (scary thought) — which will of course, have them jumping off the page throughout your story.
An antagonist that will fit into your narrative like a glove and have your readers groaning in anger — literally.
Did this help you come up with your most evil character yet? Let us know by leaving a comment.