My villain is having issues

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    Hello fellow writers! I need your help.

    My villain is having issues. I can’t make him nice and secretively evil at the same time, that is just not my personality. I can’t figure out how to hint that he’s a villain without giving away he’s a full blown villain.

    I also can’t get him to look right ( @the-fledgling-artist and other artists), but that’s beside the point.

    Anyway, I need some advice on how to make my villain nice and evil at the same time, then of course he makes the transition from nice to evil at the end, but I can do that.

    @martina @dragongeek @sleepwalkingmk @sam-kowal @christianna-hellwing @natalie-marie @gabrielle @jenwriter17 @law0413 @libby @katherine @serenity @brookewolf @miriam-smith @anna-b-cole @dekreel @kay @storyseeker @h-jones @storyjoy @bookcrazygirl @child-of-god

    The Fledgling Artist


    As far as figuring out how he looks, I would suggest looking at lots of reference photos. When you see certain elements you like, you can make a list to compile those features together. I think Story Ember’s Pinterest page has quite a few character inspiration boards. Those might be a good place to start. 🙂
    It probably doesn’t matter so much for a book then it would if the characters were to be illustrated, but it’s helpful to keep in mind what your protagonist (and other relevant characters) look like. That way you can make them look distinct and contrasting. ^-^
    (If you feel overwhelmed though, you don’t have to worry so much about how he would look next to the other characters. Just take what ever steps you can. We can only do what we can do after all.)

    I could try to help with the actual writing aspect, but you will probably be better off waiting for the majestic arrival of Story Ember’s writing squad.

    "Though I'm not yet who I will be, I'm no longer who I was."


    Hello!  I’d like to start by saying to take everything I say with a grain of salt, because I am definitely not the most experienced writer on earth, and have plenty of problems of my own.

    But I’ve been writing a villain recently in my WIP, so I thought maybe I could help.  He’s a psychopathic, chilling, but perfectly brilliant character, with the flawless art of pulling off totally fake personalities for different people.  He’s the type in a dark suit, immaculate living place, and a million intricate plans up his sleeve.  I know that’s all somewhat cliche, but I’ve worked hard and put a lot of work into pulling him off freshly.  Hopefully I’ll manage it in the end.

    Anyway, some tips I would give are, if you want him to be nice but evil underneath, try to get in his head.  Focus, or make a list of his objectives, just so they’re totally clear to you.  Make certain everything he does falls in line with his own plan, make sure that he is self-centered underneath.  If he needs to conceal his villainy, he may do a very good job of acting nice, and going along with the others, even seeming self-sacrificial and heroic.  And there are definitely villains who are genuinely nice people, who have wrong beliefs, but as you said “evil”, I’m assuming he’s not a really nice guy underneath.  So, if you can keep his own personal goals in mind, and make sure everything he intentionally does lines up with his dastardly goals.  And if you can stay accurate to that, some things about him will most likely begin to seem “off”.  Maybe they other characters will notice, or maybe just the readers, but sooner or later some one will notice that he’s always around when something bad happens, or he always manages to not be around when certain things happen, or everything he does somehow works out for him better than anyone else, things like that.  Maybe just things that point to him being not as nice a person as people thought, so the readers are still surprised when he turns out to be the villain.  This works especially well when you have another super obvious “villain” to distract the readers with, because they’ll just assume they already know who the bad guy is.  But since I don’t know that much about your story, I don’t know if that would work or not.

    Anyway, I’d recommend finding an extensive character profiling list to fill in.  When in doubt, I always do that, and it works magic.  Just answering the questions about them and working out who they are as a person is unbelievably helpful.  It puts you right inside their head so you can make in character decisions  for them, and they’ll just practically live through the story themselves.

    I have a really good one that’s super long and deep.  I don’t usually fill it all in, just the parts I need.  If you’d like me to, I could copy and paste it to you here in a comment.  Just let me know.

    That’s all I got.  Hopefully some one else can chime in.  I’m used to just working things out in my own head, and so I don’t really know how to give advice, but I hope that helps you some.

    Good luck! 🙂


    Hi! First I have to say that my style of writing is totally different than @brookewolf . I make up the characters when I need them. So in most of my stories, the villains develop when they come into view. The exception to this rule is the book that I totally planned, which has a totally cliche villain who scares absolutely nobody (which is weird, because he should). One thing that often helps me when I’m trying to figure out who a character is is to write an interview with them tied up in a chair in an interrogation room. Ask them questions like “Why did you kidnap the princess?” and “Why are you the way you are?” Remember, your villain is not a character. He’s a person who just happens to be in the book you’re writing. Realizing that people have more than one side to them and very complex motivations is very helpful.


    Oh, boy. I’ve been working on a twist villain as well, so here’s what worked for me, but no guarantees.

    If the villain is acting nice, there’s probably a reason. They shouldn’t just be trying to hide by pretending to be a good guy–they should be trying to accomplish something. They have an endgame, and they’re working towards it in secret. Let’s say they’re after a powerful magical artifact, and your main character knows where it is. They’re going to try to bring up the artifact in conversation often. Or maybe there’s a locked room they need to get into–they’ll hang around that area a lot. You get the idea.

    Fandoms: Narnia, LotR, Harry Potter, Marvel, MLP, Ranger's Apprentice, probably everything else

    Jenna Terese

    @millennium-m Everyone can cover this much better than I can, but I would say some very subtle foreshadowing as to his hidden evil intents might help. Just certain things he does or says that aren’t necessarily bad in themselves, but could be. Kind of mysterious. 😉

    "If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write." -Martin Luther

    Sarah Inkdragon


    Well, here’s my two cents worth:

    Take the saying “Not every hero is a good man, and not every good man is a hero,” for example.

    In many stories, a villain is a villain simply… because. Because you needed more conflict, or more tension, or maybe you didn’t know what you needed, but figured another villain couldn’t hurt, right?

    Wrong. Villains are people. Regardless of race, sex, color, personality, history, faults–they are people. And no person does anything without reason, unless they intentionally want to appear to have no reason or they are not sane. And taking from the fact that you never mentioned your villain’s sanity, we’re going to say he’s not insane.

    Secondly, people impersonating other people often have small “tells” that you can play with instead of dropping actual hints about your character’s identity that might give it away. Take expressions, for one–unless your villain is extremely intelligent and manipulative, he’s probably going to use similar expressions despite which personality he is playing at the moment. For example, even though I know the expression “barking up the wrong tree,” I was not raised in a place that uses that expression very often, so rather than saying that, I would more likely say something like “looking in the wrong place” or “lost in the woods.” It’s not because I don’t know or understand the meaning of barking up the wrong tree, it’s simply because it’s not familiar. People avoid what they do not understand or know. Your villain was raised a certain way, so he’s use certain phrases. It’s just like how royals or rich people speak differently than a 24-year-old addict on the streets.

    Third, know your villain’s true personality. If you don’t know how he is when he’s alone or with those he trusts, you’ll never be able to pull of multiple personas. It’s that simply. If you don’t know how to tell he’s lying when he’s with those he trusts, you won’t be able to tell when he’s not lying when he’s in a different persona. On the same topic, people are simple. If they want to appear as a different person, the first thing that comes to mind is to not act like themselves. If they normally stand straight, the other persona will slouch. If they normally are boisterous and happy, their other persona will be stiff and cold. People are not very original straight off the bat, so when they try to become someone else they usually act opposite to their true personality. So there’s another thing that you can drop in there as a hint. If your villain normally has trouble eating a certain food and is asked to come to dinner with one of the people he’s fooling and is given that food, don’t have him swallow it passively. Make sure your reader knows he’s swallowing it passively, because inside he’s trying not to vomit. Or if your villain normally has a twitch in his left hand when he’s angry, in his other persona’s he should take care to not twitch or to pick up another, similar habit.

    Lastly, a villain can be a villain and still be a sympathetic character. Your villain can be sadistic and a psychopath, and have an unnatural love of cats and have ten cats at home. He can be a wanted mercenary who takes in a young kid because he doesn’t want the kid to fall down the same path he did. So if you really want your villain to be nice and a villain at the same time, don’t hesitate. Make him nice, so very nice. Make him eager to please, because maybe deep down he likes being nice and wishes he could stay like this. Or maybe he’s genuinely just a nice person who was thrust into this job and who’s senses and morals have dimmed over the years of pain because he was taught that nice dies in the underworld.

    So. Have fun, and if you have any questions let them loose on me. I love questions. XD

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis


    @the-fledgling-artist @brookewolf @katherineh @dragongeek @jenwriter17 @sarah-inkdragon

    Thank you all for you help. It is greatly appreciated and is what I have been looking for!


    great comments, all!

    for me, @millenium-m,  I just try to make sure that my villians are always still people… I definitely agree with @sarah-inkdragon, and there are lots of things you can do to figure out who your villain is. I generally try to envision(or write as well) each of my lead roles in situations aside from where their desire lines are coinciding. So I might have my protag run into an old lady at a grocery store, or my antag bump into an old girlfriend or something. Whatever will get them out of your novel and into the real world is what i’ll use to learn who they are, and if they aren’t turning out the way I like, adjust it.

    works for me, anyway!

    lover of our Lord, words, and music as his writing tools

    miriam smith

    I am not very good at writing yet, but for my books for the person who is going to be the villain I like to have them do secret bad things without anyone else knowing like going on a walk by themselves but they were secretly meeting someone and other stuff like that, I hope you can understand what I am saying, sorry if it is confusing, that is just my idea 🙂

    Veraza Winterknight

    My advice would be the same advice as @serenity gave. And also just writing everything down can help you work stuff out a lot.

    As for his looks, perhaps write a very in depth description as if you were explaining how he looked to a friend or telling people how to find him for a mission or something. -realizes that those are really different examples- Uh… just write an in depth description.

    Jane Maree

    @millennium-m I only scanned through the other posts above, so I don’t know if I’m repeating anyone or not, but here’s my thoughts:


    To make a villain nice, you have to give him a deep heart and soul and make him believe with every ounce of strength in him that he is the hero of the story. Make him friendly, engaging, chivalrous.

    But deep inside, there’s something in his past somewhere (be it a traumatic event or just the way he was raised) that makes him believe a terrible lie. Perhaps he knows that there’s certain people in the world who are murderers. So he saves the world by killing them. Is killing a murderer actually a good thing? No. Can some people look on it as a good thing? Definitely.

    Make him a hero, give him motivations and passion, but twist one tiny element that connects with the theme of the book (forgiveness, hope, courage, etc.) and he becomes a nice man and a terrible man in one moment.

    Writing Heroes ♦ Writing Hope // janemareeauthor.com.au



    I once read this story (from a friend of mine) where the world was dystopian and run by an Artificial Intelligence, who decided who was “good” and who was “bad”. It also decided what job you were best fitted to and made a bunch of decisions that ordinarily people make. None of this was portrayed as bad. The main character was a detective, in charge of taking down “bad” people. (Said friend really liked i robot and the giver so you can probably see similarities haha)

    The villain is one of the most chilling villains I’ve ever encountered. *takes a moment to sob frustration that said friend never finished the story*

    The villain believed in Free Will. He believed people should be able to choose their lifestyle. According to the system you were best suited for a desk job, but maybe you loved being an artist. Too bad, you just did what the system told you to. The villain believed an individual should be able to choose to be an artist, instead of what their statistics/IQ/education determines them to be. What made him a villain however was that he also promoted murder.

    What made the villain so scary (and I will never know if the true villain was the villain or the system (my bets are on the system)) was that he wanted something I believe in. Free Will. I found myself agreeing with the villain, but also disagreeing. Does that make sense?

    Off track from your question as it may seem, I have a point…at least I think I do. Another thing that makes your villain likable is something that the reader can relate to. Maybe they prefer a brand of cereal over another. Maybe they like Star Trek better than Star Wars. Its the little things sometimes that make a villain lovable. Make them like every other human. See them as the hero. Switch sides for a moment. The villain needs passion and the firm belief that s/he is right. The more a reader relates, the better. Also let them have love. Maybe they flirt with the pretty/handsome shopkeeper who owns the business they frequent. Not a villainous flirt, a genuine flirt that any normal person would do. Let them have a family…that would be awesome unless for plot reasons…or someone they can excitedly tell the latest news to.

    I hope that helped and I wasn’t just repeating everyone else…

    “Scarlet, What are you eating?” ~ “Ghost peppers...” ~ Robin sighed.

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