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Sauron, Mr. Hyde, Hannibal Lecter, Pennywise, Voldemort, Count Dracula, Norman Bates, Darth Vader, The Joker… the list goes on, but what makes these villains powerful adversaries? How do we create the ultimate nemesis? Attention Wrimos, next in our Tips&Tricks hoard — H****ow to build the perfect antagonist:
Write What You Know
You have to start somewhere, right? Consider all those things that frighten you the most, the details around you that you find unsettling and even that behavior in people that you simply can’t handle. Remember the saying, “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer”? Maybe inspiration is closer than you think.
Also, read examples of villains and select what you like or dislike about them, what makes them (according to you) an interesting character. Which brings us to our second point …
A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” ―Hannibal Lecter
Define Their Traits
An antagonist must be powerful. Often times the psyche can be a much more menacing threat than physical strength. The weight of an opponent is measured by how accurately he attacks your hero, so define a distinguishing characteristic or quality that makes your villain a direct threat to your protagonist and the story’s nature.
The Greater Function
What is their purpose. A perfect foe to your hero is he/she who directly competes towards your hero’s goal. Remember they both fight for the same price, but with a different purpose. What makes a villain an unstoppable force, is their conviction and resolute belief that what they are doing is right.
Love Your Villain
It all comes down to empathy; looking at the world through their eyes. If you find the antagonist to be boring, unmotivated, or unconvincing, readers won’t understand the motives behind their actions. So, love them and secretly root for them.
That’s it for now! And if you’d like to go in a bit deeper, we recommend these books to great story telling — “The Anatomy of Story” by John Truby and “The Storytelling Animal” by Jonathan Gottschall.