How to Create a Villain for Your Story | Julia Gousseva | Skillshare

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How to Create a Villain for Your Story

teacher avatar Julia Gousseva, Writer, Creative Writing Teacher

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

13 Lessons (27m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Defining a Villain

    • 3. Villain Archetypes

    • 4. The Accidental Villain

    • 5. The Purposeful Villain

    • 6. The Unexpected Villain

    • 7. The Over-the-Top Villain

    • 8. The Mundane Villain

    • 9. Villain Exercise #1

    • 10. Villain Exercise #2

    • 11. Villain Exercise #3

    • 12. Villain Exercise #4

    • 13. Conclusion

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About This Class

Do you want to create compelling, dynamic villain characters for your fiction but don't know where to start? Or have you started writing but realized your villains are one-dimensional or not very interesting? 

This short class will show you how to develop realistic and fascinating villains with unique attitudes, abilities, and qualities that your readers will want to read about.

Meet Your Teacher

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Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher


Julia Gousseva

Writer, Creative Writing Teacher

How to Write an Original Short Story

Have you always wanted to write fiction but don’t know where to start? Have you started writing but got stuck and don’t know how to finish? Do you have ideas but find it hard to develop them into a complete story that makes sense? Or do you experience writer's block, get stuck, and lose motivation?

If you have experienced any of these problems or if you simply want a clear and specific way to develop your idea into a story, you’re in the right place.
This course will present an approach to writing stories that I have developed over a number of years and refined with my students in face-to-face classes.

This approach is a step... See full profile

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1. Introduction: Hi. Welcome to the class. They were going to talk about ways to create a villain. We're going to start by defining what the villain is. We're going to talk about what belongs to avoid and how to create a well rounded village. It was just the beginning. Then we're gonna discuss for interesting villain archetypes and see which one would work for your story in the best possible way. And we'll also look at the villains inner journey. And that's a very interesting issue. A lot of people don't think about her journey for villains. They tend to just think about it for the main characters. But villains have to be well rounded and multifaceted characters as well, and the look at ways to create such characters in this class. We'll also look at villains motivation, and that's the most fascinating part in care against great writer and look at how to create realistic, available motivations. You will before exercises that can help you in different ways to develop your villa. And then he can post one of them in the Project gallery more you control postal for your life. I'm ready to get started 2. Defining a Villain: off course. Not all stories need a villain, but many stories do. And whether your villain is the main character or the secondary character, the better he or she is developed, the better your story is going to be. So let's start by talking about what not to do when the creating a villain. What you don't want to dio unless you're writing Commons your periods. E is to create a villain that is purely evil. There's nothing but evil about him or her, and that makes that character very one dimensional. Very cartoon like you also don't want to create a villain who is unchallenged by doubt, villains, aerial characters. And they become much more interesting if they have some questions and doubts about their own actions, even small ones would be enough. You also don't want you ability to have the free reign of the story and never have any obstacles. You do want your villains journey to be complicated, right? And, uh, something should stand in his or her way, and that's the same idea. So you want your villains to have setbacks, tried some difficulties accomplishing their goals, and you don't want your villains to have unlimited time on resource is because that decreases the tension in the story and, ah, decreases your reader's interest. And another thing that often happens even in professionally than movies and stories, is that these villains, they just show up once in a while, wreak some havoc and then disappear again. That's not very interesting. Your villain should be fully engaged in the story. Or at least if it's a secondary character in the subplot off the story, all right, and you don't want to have villains that are weak and wimpy. We want strong villains because then they create strong obstacles for your protagonist. Or they create a more compelling story if the villains themselves are protagonists, all right, So now that we looked at what not to dio, let's think a little bit more about villains from different perspectives, and we'll take a look at the few quotes from writers. We're going to start with this one from Casino Royale By IAN Fleming. History is moving pretty quickly these days in the heroes and villains keep on changing parts. That's a nice quote, isn't it? So that gives us a sense of perspective and a sense of context whose Avila How would they find the villain is Ah, can the villain be a relative concept depending on what the circumstances are? Right. So that's something to keep in mind. As you're developing your story, this next one has to do with the villains motivations. More evil gets done in the name of righteousness than any other way. So what does that mean for you? Think about why is your villain doing what he or she is doing? Perhaps their noble intentions. Historic villain comes to mind yours of Stalin. His goal was not to destroy his own people. His goal was to create this perfect society. Except people didn't like the way he was going about it. And the more they dislike it, the more the resistance grew. The more force he was using to force people into this perfect life. And of course, we all know what happened at the end. Eso the motivation of these villains is is pretty important. And take a look at this last one. Keep in mind, arrogant that no one thinks himself a villain and few make decisions they think are wrong. A person made this like his choice, but he'll stand by it because even in the worst circumstances, he believes that it was the best option available to him at the time. So that has to do with the personal choices, right in decision making, and again it gives us all three quotes. Give us an opportunity to think about what drives the villain. What drives this villain is a character is a fully developed human being. All right, so think about that and then we'll continue. 3. Villain Archetypes: a good way to start. Creating your well rounded villain is to step away for a second from this focus on the evil doings of this character and think about humor. Her is a well developed as a well rounded is a real human being. So what does that mean? Think about different features of the person, for example, his or her personality? What is this character like in life? Think about quirks and mannerisms that's more superficial, of course, in personality, but it can help your readers picture this character much better. Add some picture and complexity to this villain, so the whole goal of this person is no just to wreak havoc on the world. But maybe this person has other goals. Maybe has some noble motivations in other areas of his or her life. Think about that of descriptors, such as a specific way to talk. Think about this Carrick. There's some thoughts. Think about their emotions. They can look at their childhood background. How did they grow up? Where that they grow up? Those things can help you again. Make this person more well rounded. And the biggest question what made him the way he or she is. And of course, that includes all kinds of environments that they grew up in all kinds of different influences people interacted with. So think about who is this person. All these things don't need to be in your story, but it would really help if you knew all those things about your character. So that way, their actions are more logical in the story that you create. Next. Let's talk about interesting villain archetypes, and it doesn't mean that you cannot straight from them. These air, not rules or laws. These are just suggestions and ways to think about different characters. And maybe one of what may be your villain fits into one of these categories. The accidental villain is one archetype. Then there's the purposeful villain, the over the top villain and the mundane villain. So those air four million archetypes and then the next few lessons we're gonna talk about each one of these archetypes in much more detail. 4. The Accidental Villain: The first type of villain we're going to talk about is the accidental villain, or it can also be referred to as the tragic hero. And this villain could be the main character of the story. Or it could be a secondary character. So what does that mean? Usually want to talk about tragic hero or the accidental villain? It's somebody who has a fatal character flaw that leads to evil actions. Let's take a look at a few examples. One of the most famous ones is the problem Macbeth in Shakespeare, and his tragic flaw is ambition and, of course, all these tragic flaws. They could also be seen as positive characteristics, but that's the flip side of it. So Macbeth was a general. Of course. He had to have ambition to become a general, right. But then what happened is that ambition took over his life and overwhelmed him. And if you want to brief plots, somebody he was walking through the forest. He's still a general, and he meets the three witches who tell him they have this prophecy that he's going to be king, and at this point, he, uh his ambition takes over. He wants to be king. He believes that that would be the case. And of course, his wife's ambition feeds into that. And, ah, eventually it leads him to kill Ah, the legitimate king Duncan. And he becomes a murder Styron. And then eventually he, uh that all of that leads to his own death. So ambition would be that fatal character flaw that gets out of control and, uh, structures the story and also ruins your a tragic hero or that accidental villain. Another example, also from Shakespeare is Hamlet. He his tragic flies very different. His mostly it's his inability to act. At first, he keeps delaying, avenging his father's death. Then he's dealing a punishing Claudius, and eventually it leads to his own death and to the deaths of other characters. So in this case, inability to act right would be that fatal flaw that again takes over the character's life . A more modern example is Anakin Skywalker. You've probably seen the movie. So you know the story. He becomes a super powerful Jedi, has all these powers and connection to the force at a very young age, and that leads him to believe in himself, which is good right self confidence is a good feature, but too much self confidence and self confidence, without any doubt creates arrogance, leads to arrogance and the that eventually ruins that character and somebody different. Lord Baltimore And there's debate exactly what is his tragic flaw is that the unbridled desire for power is it ruling through fear? Is that the belief that being strong is more important than being human? I chose ruling through fear as a, um, his fatal flaw for this little presentation, but you can interpret it differently. But the point is, whichever floor you choose, you're going to see how that flow overwhelms. The character takes over the story, makes the story more interesting and makes that character into that accidental villain or a tragic hero. 5. The Purposeful Villain: The second type of villain we're going to talk about is the purposeful villain, and one of the best examples of a purposeful villain is written about in the book In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. The brief summer of the story is that there to ex convicts who believe that there's a safe with a large amount of money in the house off herb clutter. So they break into the house and they don't find the safe. And they realize that he doesn't keep any cash at home because he does most of his business by check. But of these two ex convicts are always in the house, and they're bent on committing this crime. So they kill the whole family, and they leave with a few random objects, something like a pair of binoculars. Ah, a little radio and maybe $50 worth of cash. And the whole story is a just justification of their actions and their explanations off why they committed the crime. Three things make this the story very compelling. One is that the pain, severe, deep and insightful, multifaceted psychological portrait off the killers. It's ah, written in the characters in the villains in the criminals point of view. And, of course, these two have to go together. Psychological portrait is best done if you're using the villains point of view, and the July's a lot of self justification. So if you haven't read this book and if you're interested in creating the purposeful villain, definitely check it out. Another writer to take a look at is Edgar Allan Poll. While his villains are not always purposeful there quite often madman committing these crimes because they believe that this crime somehow is going to help improve their condition. But you can look at self justification in the Edgar Allan Poe's stories and that he was definitely master of painting the psychological portrait, Sof villains and madman. So that's another author to check out. 6. The Unexpected Villain: The next type of villain I'd like to talk about is the unexpected villain, somebody that your readers don't see as an evil character at the beginning of the story, but who turns out to be the bad guy, so to speak. By the end of it, to create the A good, unexpected villain, you need to think about a couple of things. One is You should not make this character your point of view character, because you have to be honest with your readers, right? And you don't want this villain to be kind of hiding and at the same time to have scenes from his or her point of view and not reveal the character's intentions that might come across as disingenuous to your readers, but at the same time, And that's the challenge here. You do need to include some hints and foreshadowing so that the ending, even though it's a surprise ending right a surprise reveal, is not completely unbelievable and unexpected to the point that your readers don't see how this character could have become a villain. So how do you do that? The change in the character needs to be logical, and it works on Lee with certain types of characters. Let's take a look at an example here. If somebody goes from charming and beautiful, too manipulative, that's a change, right? But it's a logical change. You could see how that same character could go from charming to manipulative, smart, too cunning. Again, it's two sides of the same coin, so to speak. The character who is smart could be using his or her smarts to some evil purpose. And if you want to see specific examples, look up. Farm fertile. Ah, lots of movies, lots of books with that character, and that's probably a very typical, unexpected villain type character. 7. The Over-the-Top Villain: the last type of villain I'd like us to discuss is the over the top villain, and the you can probably guess already that we're gonna discuss one of the most famous villains in the history, which is the Joker from Batman. His legend described him a psychopathic, mass murdering schizophrenic clown with zero empathy. Well, that's quite a character. How do you make that character relatable to your readers or a least interesting to the readers? While in the case of Joker, he enjoys being the villain, and that's interesting to the readers. He so openly enjoys it that it's unusual and that draws the reader's in. He also seems to be a physical incarnation off madness and insanity, even though he was never diagnosed with any specific psychological problem. And perhaps he has skills and his abilities. He doesn't have any superpowers. He just has, ah, lots of skills and lots of knowledge. And maybe that makes him interesting and unusual as a villain to so that's definitely a type of villain that you could try and create for your stories. It's another challenge. It's a new challenge to create somebody like that, but it's definitely possible to do, and it will make your story more exciting 8. The Mundane Villain: one of the most difficult villains to right. It's probably mundane villain. The mundane villain means that it's the person probably like most criminals in real life, somebody who is stupid, weak or selfish. It's not the very attractive or interesting portrayal, and sometimes it's hard to write these villains well. But there at least a couple of examples I can think off where these kinds of villains are very memorable. One of them is Bob You'll in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. He's described as a low down skunk with enough liquor in him to make him brave enough to kill Children. And that's a memorable character, done very well in that book. If you would like to create a villain like that, I do suggest that you look at that book and see how he's described, how he has developed in that story. Another example. This is from Michael Crichton, said Jurassic Park, a character named Dennis Need Re who sells out his employers and exposes researchers to dinosaurs who are roaming of without defense. And that, of course, creates a lot of danger of four people, and we all know how that story ended. So those are the characters that they could look at if you're looking to create this mundane villain and don't overlook it because people can relate to villains like that. As I said, these air like criminals in the real life. 9. Villain Exercise #1: I hope that the previous lessons give you an idea of how to create a villain, what kind of villains you could create. We looked at the four different types and give you also the idea that you need to develop your villains in their journey. A lot of times we only think of heroes, the protagonists as heaven, the inner journey. But if your villain is going to be a well rounded character here, she needs to have this inner development and take a look at this quote. Nobody is a villain. Their own story. We're all the heroes of our own stories, right? So if you approach your creation of the villain from that point of view, you're a villain. Thinks that the humor she's is a hero and they're pursuing their own goals, and they're thinking this is going to benefit themselves or society in some way. Then you're going to be creating a more interesting character. Now that you have all this information, let's try to apply it and let's try to make it more practical. So we're going to do a bunch of different exercises. We're gonna do four of them and please feel free to post up any of the four or all four in the project gallery, so let's take a look at the 1st 1 The goal of this exercise is to get the villain involved in the story more. You don't want your villain just to show up once in a while, do some bad stuff and disappear again. You want your villain to be fully engaged in the story, and what you're going to do is think about your protagonist and fined five specific ways and times where your protagonist and your villain will directly interact with each other. All right, so think about that. Jot down some ideas and please post them in the project gallery. I'd love to see what you come up with. 10. Villain Exercise #2: while I hope you that first exercise was useful to you and I look forward to seeing what you come up with. Let's try another exercise. And the goal of this one is to avoid a stereotype. Avoid creating a cardboard cartoon like character. So what we're going to do is we're going to start by defining your villain. Who is that person? Maybe a boss, maybe a senator and mother in law once you define it. Villain in that simple, simple way list five stereotypes for the type of person. Just five things that come to mind. First, things that come to mind the boat that type and then find at least one way. Actually, just one weighs enough, in which your villain is the exact opposite off that stereotype that will make him or her stand out and be different and be unique all right, and again, once you finish this exercise, police spoke posted in the Project gallery. I would love to see what they come up with a left glove to see how you're breaking that stereotype 11. Villain Exercise #3: this next exercise is probably one of my favorites. It's an exercise again that's intended to make your villain more a likable in certain ways and more multidimensional. And our goal here is to avoid creating a pure, evil villain. Unless again, that's your goal. And in most cases, it shouldn't be so. What you're going to do is create for actions that will make your villain warm and sympathetic and use them in specific scenes in your story. If you can think of an example, here's one Mafia boss who loves his family right, his loyalty to his family that makes him sympathetic. But at the same time he's a Mafia boss. Or think about examples in the news. Somebody commits a crime and the neighbors come out and say, Oh, we never could have guessed that this person was so, so horrible He always helped us take out the garbage or hit the care of our lawns or did something else that was helpful. So go ahead and try that. And when you're done, please post it in the project gallery 12. Villain Exercise #4: So now we're coming to the last exercise and probably the most interesting one. So this is an exercise when you're going to try to make your villain more believable and also more frightening by providing justification for his or her actions. And this exercise may involve a little bit of research, but you can definitely make it a fund research and interesting research. And you'll absolutely love the results when you see how richer and how much more interesting your story is going to get. So how do you do that? Well, first you find the passage or an idea from theology, philosophy or folk wisdom that supports your villains. Outlook. So what do I mean by that? While theology could be, for example, in life or an I, the idea that punishment must fit the crime. But of course, your villain is going to interpret it this statement in a different way, in his or her own way. That probably will not mean that the punishment is suitable for the crime. It will probably be too much right. He could go on some kind of a killing spree based on this idea from theology or maybe an idea from philosophy. We talked about Joseph Stalin earlier, and there's an idea in philosophy that supports, while not supports, that could support what he was doing or that you could use as justification for his actions , which is idea of the greater good for the good of the main many for the good of the humanity. We're gonna destroy a few people here and there, even though, if you might mean millions. So for the greater good of the government takes away property, sends people to labor camps. The exile executes them for this Ah, beautiful, supposedly future that everybody else, whoever is left over is going to have. So there's Ah, there's your support from philosophy or just folk wisdom. Something like your villain says it Chain is as strong as its weakest link, and he goes and kills everybody who is weak or all this fear in love, in love and war. So all methods would be acceptable in the accomplishing his goals, so interesting things. So you could look into those three areas, not all 31 of them, and see if you can use that thinking in a scene and show how it support civilians. Outlook But the second part of this exercise, I think, is even more exciting in what you're going to do is look at your protagonist. Your protagonist could believe in the greater good, right? Your protagonists could believe in a knife or an eye or that all this fear in love and war . But the way that your protagonist implements those ideas would probably be very different. So if they agree on the the general principle but then disagree on how that principle is implemented, you could write a really fund seen with the lots of tension, lots of disagreement there. And, of course, it doesn't have to be a protagonist. Could be another character. And maybe your villain even convinces that other character to take on, um, you villains perspective. So do the fund exercise. I hope you do it. And I hope you posted in the projects a gallery, and we're gonna finish for this wonderful quote from Alfred Hitchcock. The more successful the villain, the more successful the picture and anarchist we can probably phrase it and say the more successful the villain, the more successful the story 13. Conclusion: Congratulations. You finish the class. So now we have some new techniques that will help you develop the best possible villa for your story. If you have done any of the exercises on creation of Avila, please post from the project gallery. I look forward to see what you come up with.