Hero & Villain Design
Any tale needs a hero (protagonist) who is capable of defeating the great evil your story harnesses. And with a hero, comes a villian (antagonist) who is destined to stop whatever good stumbles onto their path of destruction.
1) Make the hero unique. Why should the story be about them? Because they have a “deadly secret,” “a forbidden love life they must fight to keep,” and “having an ancient power” isn’t exactly a good reason.
Ex. “I’m a hero because I hold a secret so deadly, if I were to tell you, I’d be speaking to a corpse!” threatened one, their body hidden beneath a trench coat.
“Really?” laughed another, “I’m a hero because I’ve fallen inlove with a vampire and must redeem myself in the eyes of my werewolf pack.”
“Amatuers...” cackled a third.
“WHAT?!” demanded every clichè hero ever.
“Amatuers!” yelled the same voice with a tone unlike anything they have ever heard a hero speak in.
This hero had once been a villain, slaughtering anything that moved. Now, they fight to redeem themselves in only their own eyes. But they’re still the villain in so many other stories.
2) Make them struggle. Hurt them. Spill their blood over the pages. Kill them even. Make your readers feel the hero’s pain, let everyone suffer.
3) Give them reason to fight, but don’t be afraid to make that reason fall apart. Don’t go too clichè, but never hesitate to twist your plot to form a rollercoaster of everything.
Ex. “Why do I fight?” the question made them want to laugh as they stared into scarlet flames, “Because this beast is what took away my family... old friend, it is only you I have left because of it.”
A grin crossed the friend’s thin lips and they raised their head slowly. Warm light played over their pale features.
“And why now do you smile?” growled the beloved hero, their hand crushing the rotting bark of the log they sat upon.
“My Hero, this villian never took your family,” they stood as they spoke, drawing a sword, “I did.”
4) Go from one extreme to another. Make your hero starved of power, then make them intoxicated by it. Turn your hero into the perfect villian.
Ex. “You’re finally dead...” the hero breathed, staring over the cliff where the villain had fallen.
It was only a matter of moments before the hero turned. They had never felt so powerful, so strong, so... in control. And as they approached their friends, bloodlust took over their heart.
Slash after slash, scream after scream, cry after cry, soon it was only the hero who stood alive. Mixed blood stained their beaten and bruised body, dripping over their tainted mind. If only the prophet from the beginning had said that defeating evil will only make it rise again.
1) Don’t give them a backstory. Keep them mysterious.
1.5) If they need a backstory for the plot to make sense, keep it more like a legend— no one knows what’s true and what isn’t except for the villain.
2) Don’t give them henchmen. Let them do all their own work... and let them be damn good at it.
Ex. “Who is your master?!” the hero demanded as the villain narrowly dodged their sword.
“Because I’ll kill them after I kill you! A henchman is nothing to me!” they cried out.
The villain laughed, “Why, I am my own master, darling.”
In that moment of hero’s horror, the villain gained the upper hand.
3) A villian doesn’t need reason.
Ex. “Why... why do this?” the hero choked. Slowly, they locked their hand around the sword the villian had thought was out of reach.
“Because I can.” It wasn’t what the hero wanted to hear as the villian’s axe was brought down upon their skull.
3.5) A villian with a reason. This gives the character more depth, and if written right, makes them the perfect antagonist. Just be careful on what the reasoning is.
Ex. “Why... why do this?” the hero choked. Slowly, they locked their hand around the sword they hoped the villain thought was out of reach.
“Why?” they laughed, stomping down on the hero’s hand, speaking only after the sudden scream’s echo subsided. “I do this because it what’s right. Humanity kills off everything it touches. So I’ll teach them just what an empire is, just what a tryant is. I’ll let the forest run wild. I’ll be the natural selection we need.”
“Why... why do this?” the hero choked. Slowly, they locked their hand around the sword the villain thought they knocked out of reach.
“Well, hero, I do it because your great aunt killed my sister. I decided to rule the world and kill everyone in my path so that they survivors know what grief really is! Do you know how bad death stings?”
The hero thought for a moment. No one in their story died yet. They couldn’t understand.
“The pain all started well before you aunt came, though. My parents died soon after I turned two. I was put in an orphanage, adopted when I was three and a half. Somehow, I remember this all. Later, my adoptive mother died and father became a major drinker. I reunited with my birth sister and we started a fashion brand. The brand was doing really well, and we sold our company to a bigger one. After that, we went bankrupt and—“
The hero stabbed the villain in the throat. As they stood, they dragged the blade through their skull.
Long story short, the serious-themed backstory isn’t exactly needed. Making the reader feeling bad for the villain is only sometimes needed.
4) Bloodlust. Plain and simple. Malice is all one needs to rule the story.