Developing the Bad Guy’s Character (Or, Why He Wants to Destroy the World)

How to build the ‘Bad Guy’ from his first impression

Looks are important. I know, I know, we don’t judge a book by the cover. Except, we kinda do, don’t we? Depending on the style of story you’re going for, you want a ‘Bad Guy’ who embodies everything evil in his physical appearance – let’s play on stereotypes here;

  • Ugly, disfigured, scarred, diseased, odd, disquieting, black and red clothing, etc.

Maybe your ‘Bad Guy’ is super hot on the outside, or completely innocent looking, but hides a core of pure undeniable evil;

  • Beautiful, pure, smiles, blonde hair, sweet features, halo, handsome, etc.

Maybe the ‘Bad Guy’ seems completely normal and average, until your main character (and your reader) notices a small behavioural tic that rings alarm bells;

  • Flicking tongue, eyes change colour, hair grows back instantly, etc.

What is the this dude’s deal? What made him ‘Bad’?

So, most of the time the ‘Bad Guy’ didn’t just come into the world ready made and bad to the bones. It’s not a relatable characteristic and as a character flaw goes, it’s pretty irredeemable. Which means somewhere along the path of the ‘Bad Guy’s’ life, something happened that turned him. Maybe he was good before, maybe he was in a grey area, but something occurred to make him full-on bad.

  • Abandonment; by girlfriend, wife, parent/s, etc.
  • Tragic loss; girlfriend, wife, child, parent/s, sibling, dear friend, etc.
  • Humiliation; by a mentor, a respected adult, a close friend, a crush, etc.
  • Fell in with the wrong crowd; drugs, sex, violence, etc.
  • Fantastical; possessed, turned into a supernatural creature, soul removed, etc.
  • A series of awful life events; more than one of the above (!).

Give the ‘Bad Guy’ some flaws to make him relatable

As mentioned above, no-one starts off that bad. Your character has got to become bad over time and through circumstance. So there should be leftovers from his past life and character that make him relatable and interesting, that leave hope for redemption. Hope that your ‘Bad Guy’ can be saved makes the movie, people. See >>> Darth Vader.

  • Love for remaining family / friends / animals / jobs / etc.
  • Shame at actions and knowledge that they were wrong.
  • Envy of protagonist’s powers / beauty / family / friends / love / etc.
  • How someone he once respected would think of him now he is bad.
  • Pride always comes before a fall.
  • Always makes time for cake.

Give your ‘Bad Guy’ some weaknesses (or how will he be defeated?)

Even Superman had Kryptonite. If your ‘Bad Guy’ has no weaknesses at all, no flaws, then how on earth is your protagonist going to despatch that bad boy?

  • Achilles was dipped by the ankle in magical water. You guessed it, his ankle was a serious weak point.
  • The Emperor believed himself all-powerful and discredited familial bonds.
  • Hercules was practically a god, but women were his weakness.
  • You-Know-Who was terrified of death and willing to do anything to prevent dying.

Come and talk to me about building your ‘Bad Guy’ on Twitter @EchoFoxBooks or catch me on Facebook to let me know which ‘Bad Guy’s’ you’ve been reading about lately.


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