Writing a Villain as Your Protagonist

writing a villain as your protagonist

There’s something in me that just likes the gray areas.  In a world that’s all different colors, it feels like most characters in fiction are either black or white.  (Evil or good.)  To me, character and plot go hand in hand.  

But I’ve always like writing villains.  Actually, I think they’re more fun to write than heroes.  

Sometimes I think that the hero’s stories are told so often, that we forget that there are more people that can be protagonists than just heroes.

This is why anti heroes are so fascinating.  An anti hero is defined as: “a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes” according to the dictionary.  

The opposite is the anti villain.  Their goals are good, but their means of getting there are evil.

But I’m going to focus on regular villains.  Making a villain the main character of your story will often put him in sort of a gray zone ultimately because you want your readers to sympathize with him.

I’ve written an anti hero and my current WIP has a villain MC.  My next WIP will have a villain as a MC.  I’d consider myself fairly knowledgeable about what worked and what didn’t work for me, and that’s all I’m writing down.

*As your MC will be your villain and the heroes against her will be the “villains,” I’ll call your villain MC the MC, and the hero-villains the heroes*

Your readers need to empathize with your villain.  

This is the number one rule.  If our readers don’t care about your MC, they won’t read the book.  Even if your MC is rather despicable, they need to have something the reader can connect to.  A love of music, for example.  A love of cats.  Maybe they’re in the “gray.”  

Ask yourself if your villain will change for good

Will your villain become good?  If not, then the villain should have a reeeeaaaallly good reason not to change because otherwise the reader will feel cheated.  Gru from Despicable Me is a good example.  He starts off as a baddie, but changes to protect the three little girls that he starts to love.  

Or will your villain start off good, but turn evil?

A character that starts off as good, but turns bad can create an interesting story.  Heartless by Marissa Meyer is an excellent example of a relatable, nice girl MC who turns into a villainess, later known as the Queen of Hearts.  The reader knows the whole time that she will eventually turn bad, but the reader can’t help but hope that maybe she won’t.  It creates a compelling story, but you have to be careful.  Your reader should have warning that your character will turn into a villain.  In Heartless, there are bits of foreshadowing that include the MC rebelling against her parents, bits of intense passion, and hints at a great price.  

Villains have feelings too!

Though it might not be as apparent as a hero’s feelings, villains have feelings too.  They might have an ice cold heart, but everyone feels something.  They might feel a brief twang of regret after killing someone.  They might feel proud of their daughter.  Your villain is a human (unless they’re an alien or robot, in which case, this doesn’t apply… or maybe it does.  I don’t know).  Feelings make a more interesting story.

Villains think that they’re right

There is two sides to every story, right?  Sometimes a change of perspective can reveal things that the other perspective didn’t.  A villain has to have a reason for acting the way they do.  They believe they are right in their actions, how matter heinous they may be.  

And that’s all for today.

A side note– yes, I did disappear.  It was a nice little vacation, but I’m back now for weekly and biweekly posts! 🙂



5 thoughts on “Writing a Villain as Your Protagonist

  1. Pingback: July Wrap Up (and llamas) | The Artful Author

  2. Ah yes, the villain. The character no one should like, yet we’re all fascinated by. Great post, Jess. I’ve been toying with having a villain as the MC of the next book I write, and this is very helpful.

    Liked by 1 person


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