A Villainy Alphabet

(This is from my other book, “The Big Bad Wolf’s Villainly Alphabet“. But that’s a children’s book…or at least, it is if you’d like to raise some little monsters. I feel like poem under 500 words is fair game for a blog post. Besides, most of the next pieces are rather long and rather sharp around the edges. This is a nice, pleasant little rhyme. I even took out most of the death bits. I think.

Also, today we confirmed V is for Villains at Evil Expo. So this seemed appropriate.)

A Big Bad Wolf’s Villainly Alphabet
(to be read to anyone who needs more Horrible Role Models in their lives)

A is for “AAAAARRRGGGHH!”, that answer to wishes
(The last sound to come from things nice and delicious.)

B is for Belly, giant and fat
Let’s fill it with children, and maybe a cat.

C is for Creature, full of venom and fizz
(It’s not your name, but they think it is.)

D is for Darkling, what we are inside
(It’s our kind of sparkling. We wear it with pride.)

E is for Evil, obviously;
Marked for easy retrieval in our memory.

F is for Fall, as in “Fall from grace”;
When the sky is a lie, the ground’s an embrace.

G is for Glamour–the magickal sort
Which kidnaps poor mortals to Titania’s court.

H is for “Horrors!” – only some of our making.
They pretend to hate them. (And they are faking.)

I is for imp. With dark minds and bright hair.
(Don’t confuse them with House Elves. Those things are a nightmare.)

J is for Joker, and this is why:
When the world is exploding, you laugh, or you die.

K is for kneeling – a thing that’s expected.
They hate us because it’s a thing we’ve rejected.

L is for Love. It’s all you need.
(To have your heart eaten. Take heed! Take heed!)

M is for Murder – but just of the soul
(What happens when you play Society’s role.)

N is for Never, and please be our witness–
That’s when we will finally consider forgiveness.

O is for Opening – of hearts and minds
To all of the misfits, lost toys, left-behinds.

P’s for Penumbral–on the outskirts of dream
Where we like to live, like cats seeking cream.

Q is for Quisling, the treacherous touch
(They know who we are, and why we see them as such.)

R’s for Revenge, as always it’s been
(Revenge is expected. What’s never known? WHEN.)

S is for Stolen, like hearts or like breath
Or like stealing your name–the same thing as Death.

T is for Truth – in quite short supply
(LEAST valued by those who most falsehoods, decry).

U’s for Unholy, those who are ranked
Against automatic obedience to the sacrosanct.

V is for Villain, that glorious being
Who sees things that others would not dream of seeing.

W is for Warped, the strange kind of mind
That lets us seek out, and scheme, and find.

X is for Xenomorph. We can relate
To changing your form, for changing your fate.

Y is for Yelp, a cry of distress
(When you find that order is really a chaotic mess.)

Z is for Zero: What they say crime pays.
The first time we heard that? WE LAUGHED FOR DAYS.

Now we’ve completed our Abecedarian Villainy
This word of advice: Don’t tell ANYONE.
that you heard it.

Jeff Mach



The unspeakable Villainpunk Jeff Mach frequently seeks new, interesting ways to rewrite this part, and then often ends up just shifting a few words around, going back in time to before he wrote this initially, and hitting “Publish”, so that this is technically new. Don’t tell anyone.

Jeff is a writer and creator who has long aspired to be the sort of person who neither needs to promote his other work at the bottom of his short stories, nor need speak of himself in the third person. Sadly, in both regards, he has failed.

Villainpunk lives! Villains, monsters, antagonists, anti-heroes, and their admirers: Come to Evil Expo, The Villainpunk World’s Fair! Click here to find out more.

If you’d like to check out my darkly satirical fantasy novel, “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN,” click here.

Blackest Magick In Practice

Blackest Magick In Practicea Guest Post by Dave K, aka HellbornHero

Magic is pretty universally useful stuff, it is the ultimate problem solving tool. From the smallest and most subtle effects, right up to ascension to godhood and reweaving the fabric of reality, magic is at its most base analysis raw potential. However, in this Villain’s most humble opinion, not all magic is created equal.

Those of you who haven’t read the title of this piece and have perhaps forgotten which website you’re currently perusing will be positively shocked to learn my scandalous opinion on which particular flavour is most fun. Yes of course Black Magic, the darker the better, is the stuff I want to talk about today. A miracle will never be as interesting to me as a malediction, no answered prayer as entertaining as darkest ritual. I only recently realised quite how passionate I am about this view. I have found another hill upon which I am willing to die, and while I am most certain of the position I am not certain why, so please join me as I dig a little deeper.

To start with, we have to determine what constitutes black magic. TV Tropes helpfully did this for me years ago by deciding that black magic must tick at least one of the following three boxes:-

The source must be some horrifying power or place. Demons, Devils and Hell or whatever passes for the local equivalent. Eldritch Horrors if we’re in Lovecraft territory, The Dark Side of The Force and the like.

The cost must be some resource that heroic characters would largely be unwilling to acquire or use. Torture and pain, sacrificing human lives or souls, methods broadly agreed to be evil or at least very taboo.

The effect of the magic must be vile in the suffering and or damage it causes.

There’s some wiggle room in here but I feel like that is a good starting point. Now onto the analysis

My first thought was that perhaps it was a raw expression of power inherent in black magic, but this falls apart under exploration. Demons are reduced to ashes by Angels, the Aurors defeat the Death Eaters, the Power of Three overcomes The Source, and so on. It doesn’t happen every time, but it’s a common enough occurrence that I don’t think it reinforces my idea. For example Willow from Buffy The vampire Slayer grows massively in power when she overcomes the temptation of dark magic to draw on the white. Morgause and Morgana practice the dark arts and both find themselves vanquished by the somehow more morally appropriate magic of Merlin. Most egregious of all are those circumstances where all magic is black magic, as the frequent outcome of that state of affairs is people who can rewrite reality to their whim somehow being brought low by men with swords or guns (I’m looking at you Conan). It’s positively heartbreaking.

The cost of black magic is almost always higher too, so I’m clearly not shopping around for a metaphysical bargain. Demons and devils demand your soul, dark gods require the most abhorrent of rituals and sacrifices for their blessings. Frequently blood is spilled and flesh consumed merely to achieve the same benefits the heroes amass merely by trying their hardest, asking the gods nicely or being ‘pure of heart’ (barf). One doesn’t hope to have to sacrifice soul or flesh for power, so this can’t be the answer either. Harry in the Dresden Files at different points gains access to power boosts from Heaven and Hell themselves. Hellfire gives him a boost to his power output, at the cost empowering his anger and lessening his self control. On top of that to gain access to this gift he has invited the echo of a fallen angel into his head, braced and waiting for the moment it can overcome his mind and will to take total control of his body. By contrast the heavenly magic of Soulfire allows him to perform feats of magic far more powerful and complex than he otherwise could, with a comparatively minor risk to his body, and he receives access to this great power at zero cost.

By all accounts it isn’t in the effects said magic produces either. Dark and Light both get to do things the other cannot, but in most cases this is either balanced or leaning in favour of the forces of good. For every cruel curse Voldemort created, it was ultimately the powers of love and self-sacrifice that saved the day for Harry and co. The Night King and his near infinite army of the death couldn’t hope to match the practical omniscience of The Three-Eyed Raven. The glorious demonic space bending eldritch abomination Dormammu was trapped in time by Doctor Strange and the Infinity Stone powered Eye of Agamotto. The Time Stone is a rather more neutral force than one inherently good but I feel the point stands.

Is it just window dressing and spectacle? I don’t think so. The appearance of the Angel Castiel was dripping in grandeur and majesty, doubly so compared to the understated summoning of demons in Supernatural, who appear with rather less pomp. The Divine Light of The Traveller in Destiny presents far more of a visual feast than the oppressive shadows cast by the presence of the aptly named Darkness. Kaecilius and his zealots conjure subtle weapons that appeared almost to be made of glass, where Doctor Strange and the heroic sorcerers call forth energy that glitters like fire and sunlight.

In the beautiful Netflix adaptation “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”, which contains some of my very favourite depictions of witchcraft in recent years, the witches and warlocks of that world can do some pretty special magic thanks to their Devilish heritage. Given the right incantations and magical objects or concoctions almost all avenues are open to them. We witness the brewing of potions and performance of wicked rituals with great joy. However the forces of light show up in season two and pretty effortlessly dismantle all attempts of both the Church of Night and The Academy of Unseen Arts to defend themselves. Indeed the day is only won when Sabrina herself is revealed to posses some Angelic inclination of her own, and uses outright miracles to effortlessly succeed without any difficulty or price whilst the purely Devilish players in the game look on in impotence and awe. Regardless of all of this however, I’d rather be a warlock. With insincere apologies to all my righteous, goodly or angelic friends I have to declare once and for all; you’re just not as cool as us.

Even my historical research bears this out. John Dee may have pried the secrets from angels, but they’re boring compared to what lurks in Lesser Key of Solomon. What interest do holy books hold compared to works of Witchcraft and Demonology?

It can be hard to unpick the good and evil magics from the people that utilise them, and I’m not sure I’ve necessarily done a very good job here, but at the end of the day I feel like there might be an astoundingly simple answer. Sacrificing someone on a stone altar in the name of Shub-Niggurath is always going to be cooler than calling down the light of heavenly angels, regardless of what dark horrors or celestial miracles we get out of it. We know this, feel it in our bones regardless of whether or not we can explain it logically. It is good to be bad.

In researching this I stumbled upon something fascinating, a small piece of psychology research bears me out in an odd sort of way. A study from Harvard University appears to demonstrate a couple of things that I find in conjunction have very interesting implications. The first is that there is a literal strength in performing moral actions. Actively attempting to be heroic or villainous, to do good or evil, be naughty or nice, to behave or transgress increases your capacity. It can grant willpower, increase resistance to discomfort and pain, increase strength and endurance. The second result has some interesting implications for the world at large and us villains in particular. Those people envisioning themselves as being villainous experienced greater gains than those who were being benevolent.


So it is possible that those of us drawn to the villainous already knew this on some unconscious level. There is power in evil, and we here have elected to be powerful. That explains this website at the very least. What greater display of power is there than magic? Forcing reality itself to change in compliance with our will is about as big a power move as one could ever expect to accomplish. I’ve always had great interest in magic and the occult, both in fiction and in history, and I suspect those of us who value the ideas of magic and of power are more likely to have reached this realisation on the power of the villainous our own, even if we have not consciously realised that we have done so, or why we came to this conclusion. Evil is good.

I could spend a few thousand words talking about depictions of black magic from various media and try to pick apart why they make my little black heart feel all warm and fuzzy, but it might well be unnecessary. All that beautiful stuff is art, but the love of the bad was inside us all along.

If anyone can come up with a finer explanation than that, for the love of all the is unholy please @ me on Twitter, this concept is becoming an obsession.

Thanks to Dark Lord Journal for having me and until next time, I’ll leave you with a quote from everyone’s favourite Lovecraft, P.H. Lovecraft – “Y’all stay bad now.”


Dave K is writing for several unannounced projects that will be revealed to the world by @HellbornHero on Twitter when they’re good and ready. Or in most cases, Bad and ready, as you would imagine.

Villains, Zombies, the Apocalypse, and Reality

Fairy tale girl portrait surrounded with natural plants and flowers.Black-white art image in fantasy stylization.I used to stay up all night playing ‘Resident Evil 2,’ and it wouldn’t stop until the sun came up.. Then I’d walk outside at dawn’s first light, looking at the empty streets of London, and it was like life imitating art.. It felt like I’d stepped into an actual zombie apocalypse..

~Edgar Wright

We keep trying to escape this reality; is that because this reality isn’t good enough?  No, not at all.

It’s just that we keep realizing this reality’s deficiencies.  Carl Sagan said, “It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.”  And that’s true.  But…

It’s pretty damn arrogant to think we understand the Universe.  I’ll be honest; it took me something like two years to figure out exactly how I liked my morning coffee.  It took me ten years to realize that I look bad in shorts.  We seem to think that a small portion of a human lifetime is enough to tell us what’s “real”.

Friends, reality is malleable.  We are human beings; we are not slaves of destiny, we are not machines, we are not programs.  We change the world simply by existing within it.

That’s part of what Villainy says: “If we’re going to believe in a world full of monsters, shouldn’t the monsters be compelling and interesting, rather than banal and soul-destroying?”  This is what zombies say: “To hell with your day job, this future is more ALIVE.”  That is what every story of post-Apocalyptic survival says: “Forget the insipid joys; a real joy should be able to exist in the face of nearly complete destruction; it might even arise OUT of that destruction.”

We are beings of imagination and creation.  Go ahead, try to tell us what’s “real”.  We’ll fight back with a reality ridiculous and implausible, a reality flawed in every way except…

…except that as humans, we can make it real.  And that is Villainy and Renaissance Faires and zombies and Goth and Rocky Horror…but it’s also cell phones, computers, video games, and a basic understanding of history.  Reality is much less limited than anyone thinks it to be; Moore’s Law alone proves it.

We’re humans.  Our only limits are imaginary, and we can break imaginary rules any time we want; ask anyone who’s ever played Dungeons and Dragons.

Never let Reality hold you back.

~Jeff Mach


Jeff Mach is the curator, both here and on Facebook, of  The Dark Lord Journal.  He’s the producer of Evil Expo, the greatest place in the world to be a villain, happening at the Radisson of Piscataway, New Jersey, January 24-26th, 2020.  You can find “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN” right here on Amazon.)

On Making A Monstrous Army (“Diary of a Dark Lord” excerpt)

(This is an excerpt from my–that is, The Dark Lord Jeff Mach‘s book, “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN: Diary of a Dark Lord“, a darkly satirical fantasy epic told from, of course, the point of view of the Villain. You can find the book on Amazon, if you so desire.)

I have never met an Orc with decent self-esteem.

Contrary to popular belief, Orcs are not ugly. They’re frequently asymmetrical, which can be jarring to other sentients, since normal humanoid bilateral symmetry tends to see deviation from regularity as deformity. (Yet we claim not to fear malformed humans; is that true?)

Oh, the cave-dwellers have tusks, sure. That’s a reason to dislike their faces. Then again, we fear the canines of the Orc…but we enjoy those of the dog. Why is that?

It’s because dogs are domesticated, unthreatening. If they were sentient, we might call them slaves.

Orcs refuse to be slaves to Man. And Man can’t handle it.

The Orcs and I have a long understanding. Because I provide them with a target-rich environment? Sure, that’s a bit of it. But I actually offer something better and far more meaningful. I accept them.

For humans believe that Man and Orc cannot coexist. Humans say that the Orcs are vicious predators who would see everyone else dead or in servitude.

And of course, humans wouldn’t lie, would they?

They never do that.

They surely asked the Orcs before labelling them as enemies.

Because that’s consistent with human history, is it not?

Humans have pretty much never recorded an encounter with Orcs that ended in peace.

That’s got to be the Orcs’ fault.

Humans believe that Orcs need extermination. Personally, I believe they need therapy.

I don’t make monsters.

Definitions make monsters.

You make definitions.

Do you know why you fear the things that go bump in the dark?

Because you’re the ones who drove them into the dark to begin with.


Jeff Mach is the curator, both here and on Facebook, of The Dark Lord Journal.  He’s the producer of Evil Expo, the greatest place in the world to be a villain, happening at the Radisson of Piscataway, New Jersey, January 24-26th, 2020.  You can find “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN” right here on Amazon.)

As Bad As It Gets–Guest Post

A hypo-villainAs Bad As It Gets: On Hypo-Villainy

by Mark Huntley-James

I like to get under the skin of a villain, starting with a sharp blade just under the… No. Wait. I was meaning to talk about sub-villains. Or perhaps hypo-villains, nasty little characters that get under your skin, an irritation, an infection, an unsightly and spreading rash that can’t be cleaned up by a happy ending.

A villain needs to suit the hero, not just in the appropriately gross acts of yuk, but in style and personality, offering just the right contrast and perhaps, if you want to play it mean, just the right touches of similarity to make things uncomfortable. It’s not easy finding the right villain for an anti-hero living in a quiet rural backwater, running a morally bankrupt supernatural business, and just keeping his head down. He’s not a maverick, a bad-boy (well, technically yes he is, but it hardly shows), or a wise-cracking genius, but an ordinary, every-day broker of demonic deals.

I’m no good at writing big, bold, overly dramatic villains, and even if I were, that would not sit right in the circumstances. Besides, I prefer sly and nasty expressions of that solid principle – everyone is the hero of their own story. My villains are all perfectly reasonable, decent and understanding characters – honestly – and so often a hypo-villain. I’m not going to define that too closely, because left vague it sounds like it ought to fit my anti-hero perfectly and I want to leave it like that. Push it and the analogy goes to pieces faster than you can feed a victim through a bacon-slicer.

What does a good hypo-villain need, other than a really annoying voice? A well-developed narcissism is a good start, along with a petulant air of “it wasn’t my fault”, the essential thick skin to sail through life with a wake of unhappy people not quite angry enough to do lasting violence. This creature also needs its A-Z multi-vitamin supplement of “in” – insensitive, indifferent, indolent, insolent, in your face. To jazz it up, I also like to add that familiar and sour spice – incompetence.

Meet Michael Twitch. Everyone calls him Mickey, and once upon a time he was my anti-hero’s best friend. You have to have that, right? The perfect background for the anti-hero/hypo-villain relationship. The shared history, the friendship gone bad, the promise of that hard-won act of redemption… No. Not for a hypo-villain. Redemption is for bold, dramatic villains who can change their black capes if only introduced to just the right tailor. For the true hypo-villain, the whiny litany of “it wasn’t my fault” can never step aside long enough for redemption, but when cornered it can hold off trouble long enough to spot the unguarded fire-escape in the gloom.

Mickey doesn’t wear black capes, declaim vengeance on the world from atop tall buildings (unless he’s very, very drunk) and certainly doesn’t plot world domination or destruction, unless he comes across a special offer on supreme power down at Villains-R-Us. Really, he’s hardly a villain at all, except perhaps to his victims. His mother has doubts about him as well.

He is the guy who uses the last of the milk in the office kitchen and doesn’t replace it. Probably the same day he breaks your favourite mug and tosses the emergency epi-pen in the bin before handing round a plate of peanut-butter sarnies for a fun game of allergy roulette. My ideal hypo-villain is vile, but inherently lazy, and thankfully lacking in the sort of ambition and imagination that might raise him into the ranks of the super-villain.

In fact, Mickey is so ordinary, so boring, that he almost didn’t happen at all, no more than a throw-away mention in a one-liner in the first chapter. I already had a proper villain, a monstrous demon with vile plans for those scuttling little mortals, until I realised my demon was really quite boring, just a package of evil and power, lacking any useful personality – that would have to wait for a later book, to be teased out into something fun.

The demon needed a sidekick, a proxy, someone disgustingly fun to have a proper relationship with my anti-hero – like athlete’s foot or a migraine. An irritating hypo-villain suddenly granted monster status by the power of a demon and an army of minions, so that petty cruelty and harmless narcissism can be magnified and inflicted upon thousands of victims. The perfect things to get under my anti-hero’s skin, and essential drivers for him to save the day.

I like my hypo-villain. Yes, in real-life, I would want to punch him in the face, but the sheer awfulness has its own appeal. I could have dumped him after one book, but a good hypo-villain is like cheap chocolate, you have to eat more no matter how bad the taste.

Hi, my name is Mickey, and I’ll be your nemesis today. How may I spit in your coffee?


Mark Huntley-James writes fantasy, science-fiction or any other weird thing that catches his attention. He has published three humorous urban fantasy novels, won the British Fantasy Society short story competition in 2013, and has various short and flash fiction in anthologies, on his blog () or on Medium (). From time-to-time he says something strange on Twitter as . Mark lives in Cornwall, UK, on a small farm with his partner, multiple cats, a dangerous horde of psycho-chickens, and a flock of rare-breed sheep. Sometimes he writes about the animals, but can’t get any of them to read the stories.

The Destruction of the Great Library

“There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN: A Dark Lord’s Journal” is the peculiar, blackly satirical tale of the Dark Lord, who is amassing an army of Things of the Night, and awaiting likely death at the hands of the White Wizard and the Chosen One.This is a piece of Jeff Mach‘s upcoming novel “There and NEVER, EVER BACK AGAIN: Diary of a Dark Lord“. Find him at Evil Expo 2020, the Convention for Villains.

As mentioned before, sometimes someone with reason to consult the archives of a nation or place will express…frustration…that we know so little of our past.

Humans have a helpful myth, though. Once there was a Great Library. And great it was indeed! It was splendid, stuffed fuller than a holiday waterfowl with sages, white of beard and saintly of eyes, and it simply had all the books on all of everything. And then one day, one fell day, The Monster just came and burned it to the ground.

Which monster? Oddly enough, accounts seems to vary, depending on who tells the tale. One thing’s clear, though: it was never the fault of the side telling the story.

You catch a theme? Forgive me if I belabor it. But it’s this thing:

If two or three people tell a given story about an event, and are believed, then that affects the perceptions of those around them. Humans are highly subject to confirmation bias. If a few people are loud enough in saying that “these people are Good; those beings are Darkness incarnate!” – then, in many minds, it become so, regardless of what the other beings have done or what they are. Eventually, it becomes their truth. I reflect on this often, particularly because spellwork requires attempting to understand how Names are made, and the construction of the name “monster” in particular is of extraordinary import.

Consider: A young child spies a Goblin near a human settlement, looking at the human habitation with wonder and wistful yearning. The youth might be puzzled and feel moved to empathy by the pain on that darkling’s face. But wait until the child speaks of this to parents, who immediately yell at their offspring, and then cart the kid over to the town square, which is full of neighbors. They surround the child; this one shows an eye lost to Goblin attack (he speaks not of who attacked whom first, nor of the war around them, but surely that doesn’t matter, eh?) That one speaks of arriving only in the nick of time to prevent a Goblin from stealing her crops of wheat. (Goblins are actually gluten intolerant, but few people know that, and besides, who cares?) Everyone,suddenly,has a tale to tell. Her peers begin taking up makeshift toy swords and shields, vowing to defend the village. One kid refuses to play, and they torment her, calling her a monster herself, and saying that she sides with predators against the village.

In less time than you would think, the original spotter-of-Goblins has resolved that what she observed to have been a most definite look of cunning and hatred. The creature she saw wasn’t quietly observing a human settlement as a sad outsider, looking in; it was planning incursion! Maybe she even noticed signs in the distance that there were more Goblins, just beyond the tree-line—no doubt armed to the teeth. She’s lucky to have caught it when she did.

And this is what she will tell her friends.

And the lie spins ‘round another cycle or two…

It’s often said that humans are inherently good. Oh, they sometimes do bad things, but most of the time that’s just the occasional warring enemy tribe, and a good chronicling will just show that misfits were properly wiped out. (By the grace of Gods, o’ course, who are very much on the side of those who commanded that a given saga be written down. It’s fascinating how much humans put words into the mouths of Gods. One would think the Gods might resent it. Of course, the God who disapproves of you must, surely, be a Dark God…

…. worshipped only by your enemies. Ahem.)

Whereas, in contrast, virtuous humans are the inheritors of wisdom, progenitors of veracity. They are the beacon of brightness in what is an otherwise gloomy, hostile, and unfriendly universe.

And if you believe that, we’ve got a bridge to Narnia we can sell you. Cheap.

I became a Dark Lord because I knew that I wanted to effect change not like a homo sapiens, not like part of the human cycle of victory and erasure. I wanted to step outside of those history books, become some kind of thing unto myself. There have been a few Dark Lords, each one different, each one barely beaten, if at all (some just…slumber. Some seem to have found ways to ascend to the moon or descend into the seas, and simply have nothing more to do with Man. I am more foolish—I could call it ‘audacious’ if I felt like flattering myself—and I have my own ideas on where I might live. Somewhere beautiful and endless—like the eternal Goblin song, perhaps.).

The strongest defense against being rewritten when you die is to avoid dying, of course. II could have taken a path more likely to keep me alive, and I’d have been less of a target. But vanishing off the map leaves you in no real position to go changing what’s on the map. So it’s rather unhelpful if you care about the world of Man, and I do. Sometimes I care in ways that make me want to raze said world to the ground; but if that’s not a human feeling, what is?

-Jeff Mach

How To Create A Villain People Love To Hate

Villainous Woman warrior with sword in hand on gray backgroundby Ashley Gallagher-Pollard

You’re in the trenches of your first draft, getting down all those plot points and character development scenes, and you think “This is great, I’m on a roll!” – until you hit that brick wall. You’ve constructed this astonishing world with courageous heroes, but what are they supposed to be up against? A dragon? A talking vegetable patch? Possessed socks? No! You need a bonafide villain (to be fair, all those things could be a villain as well)! But you don’t want just any old villain. You want one that will be memorable, someone – or thing – that will stick in the reader’s mind. One that will make your audience silently root for them even when they know it is so wrong. How does one create that experience?

Some of the best kinds of villains are the ones that still retain human energies: they have/had a family, dreams they aspired to, mentors they look up to. These are the ones that started out as decent people and somehow wound up commanding the legions of the dead. They make you question if they were actually evil from the get go, or if their intentions followed the wrong brick road and landed them face to face with the protagonist.

Creating a villain that people can empathize with means showing your reader that they have good and bad qualities, allowing their own story to unfold parallel to the protagonist, and making them feel unique to the world they live in. Exhibit that they don’t kick dogs or make babies cry – maybe they adopt strays and look after orphaned children. While the hero was raised on a farm with lots of siblings, maybe the villain had a royal upbringing and was an only child. They must grow as your hero does, or they risk falling flat like warm soda.

A villain that has understandable motives and goals, perhaps even relatable, pulls your audience into your story and lets their mind wander through all the possibilities and “what ifs” without you having to do much of the heavy lifting. It also creates questions like, if that one deplorable thing in their life had never come to fruition, would they still be a wrongdoer? Or would they have ended up in the hero boots instead?

Your scoundrel does not have to have the secret lair and hairless cat to fulfill their role – they just need to be real enough to create havoc, which in turn creates the demand for a hero. By building up your baddies, you add life to your story, which in turns gives the reader a more realistic journey to follow. The more depth you add to them, the greater the experience!

Ashley was in elementary school when she fell deeply in love with reading and fantasy, mostly mythology and fiction. At eleven, she penned her first story about a fearless princess and a tyrant king. Now, she’s writing about gifted women and the power of family. She has written numerous poems, a handful of them published through the Young Writers of Canada, and several flash factions on personal characters that she has developed over the years. She currently resides in beautiful British Columbia with her husband, where she loves to read and write fantasy adventure and science fiction, though she dabbles in romance once in a while. Her current project is War Wine (working title), a mature high fantasy adventure novel that cover love of all varieties, familial bonds, and friendship.


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