I firmly believe that a story is only as good as the villain” – Clive Barker

If you want people to worship your hero, or if you want your readers to sympathise with the protagonist, you are going to need a strong antagonist. Harry Potter will be just a smart, bespectacled kid with a strange scar on his forehead without You Know Who. Lord Voldemort brings out the ‘hero’ in Harry. English literature is blessed with many such astounding adversaries. They make it difficult for the characters to materialise their dreams and goals.

The antagonist throws hurdles at your protagonist now and then. If the central character has to swim across a river, the meanie will send his crocodile friends to attack her. If she wants to participate in a talent show, the antagonist will replace the proper microphone with a faulty one. The basic idea is clear, right? But the meanies are much more intriguing and sophisticated. So, many of you might be wondering about ways to create a compelling antagonist. Don’t worry; we will give you some ideas.

The Quintessential Villain

What are your initial thoughts when you hear the word ‘villain’? The most common answers will be thick moustaches, blood-shot eyes, wild hair, scary laugh, deformed face etc. Including these characteristics in your antagonist is an easy way to create a baddie into being. The reader can easily identify the villain in your story just by his/her physical appearance. Some examples of such classic villains are Lord Voldemort (Harry Potter), The Queen of Hearts (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland), Shere Khan (The jungle Book), Miss Trunchbull (Matilda) etc. They are frequently found in adventure, horror and fantasy novels.

 "Miss Trunchbull, the Headmistress, was something else altogether. She was a gigantic holy terror, a fierce tyrannical monster, who frightened the life out of pupils and teachers alike. There was an aura of menace about her even at a distance, and when she came up close you could almost feel the dangerous heat radiating from her as from a red hot rod of metal.”

“She looked, in short, more like a rather eccentric and bloodthirsty follower of the staghounds than the headmistress of a nice school for children.”

 — (Extract from Matilda by Roald Dahl) 

Unexpected Villains: Charismatic and Strong Opponents

A true villain is always the one you least suspect. In the fifth Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, Professor Dolores Umbridge looks harmless and sweet in the beginning. She looks like an adorable piece of pink cotton candy, but she shocks us all with her torturing devices and unconventional punishments.


Any Sherlock Holmes fans here? He is the fictitious but exemplary detective everyone is crazy about: the brainchild of Arthur Conan Doyle with excellent deductive prowess. His arch-foe James Moriarty is equally intelligent and cunning.  Even though he appears only in two stories, this Machiavellian villain has quite a reputation and a loyal fan base. So, your villain should be equally worthy as your protagonist.  He should be strong, powerful, influential and quick-witted.

“He is a genius, a philosopher, an abstract thinker. He has a brain of the first order. He sits motionless, like a spider in the centre of its web, but that web has a thousand radiations, and he knows well every quiver of each of them."  

― Sherlock Holmes to Dr Watson (speaking about Professor Moriarty)

Description of a Villain

When writing a story, a proper introduction of your antagonist is necessary. Use sensory and descriptive language to describe your villain and his motives. The readers should despise the villain and fear his sinister plans. They should always look out for your hero. Make the bad guy look invincible and powerful, so that when your hero emerges victorious in the final duel, the victory can be extraordinary, incredible and stirring. Let’s take a look at the following example:

“She was an evil sorceress.” 

Are you scared? Can you feel her scary eyes staring straight into your soul? Do you have hairs standing on end?  Not really, right?

A different approach – Her gaze was piercing and intimidating. Her fiery eyes were glowing with anger and looked lethal enough to set the entire world on fire. The wind was howling furiously and the trees were shaking their branches as if they were possessed.

The first example is monotonous and lifeless. The second example is preferable, right? The antagonist comes alive in flesh in the second example. Including sensory details and descriptive language can help the readers to visualise the scene better.

You now possess the basic ingredients required to brew the perfect portion for a memorable meanie. GOOD LUCK!