Consider the following villains: Darth Vader, Maleficent, Hannibal Lecter. What makes them so delightful to hate? These characters appeal to the audience for many reasons, which boil down to a simple fact. A convincing antagonist is much more than a roadblock to your protagonist’s goals; he/she is an integral member of your cast. In fact, your antagonist contributes as much to your story as your hero does.
Here are two methods to build a strong antagonist for your story:
Give him likable characteristics.
You might describe a villain as “pure evil,” but this is rarely the case. Your villain should, to a certain extent, manifest characteristics that your audience likes, even if they wouldn’t like to admit it.
Darth Vader is equally as powerful as he is ruthless; Hannibal Lecter is not only a murderer but a genius; Maleficent strong and beautiful even though she cursed Princess Aurora.
Consider your antagonist. What is his best trait? Positive character traits for antagonists include:
While these characteristics don’t make a person inherently good or evil, readers are drawn to them. This is a good place to start building intrigue for your antagonist.
Make her relatable to your audience.
As one of the most important characters in your story, your antagonist should resonate with your audience. Without some level of understanding between the reader and villain, your character will turn into a one-dimensional cliché.
Give readers something that makes them want to know more about the character.
- Your antagonist is an underdog.
- She is gifted, talented, or skilled.
- Your villain has relatable flaws.
- Her circumstances elicit sympathy.
One of the strongest tools for a likable villain is relatable flaws. Leave your reader questioning the narrator’s bias against the antagonist. Your protagonist is strong when the audience can see things from her perspective.
A villain might harm the protagonist if she felt the opposing character threatened something important or dear to her. Under different circumstances, wouldn’t your audience do the same?