5 Ways to Avoid Writing a Cliche Villain

Writing villains can be tricky, especially if you believe that people are inherently good. After all, why would an inherently good being do bad things? If you struggle with that, then you’ll probably struggle with how to write a villain who takes the low road while also remaining realistic.
There are reasons for doing bad things. Here’s a handful of suggestions:

  • wanting to get money or other resources faster (or more of it) by going for higher-risk strategies. Getting a job, then saving up takes much longer than robbing a bank. If your budding villain needs money urgently, what will they be prepared to do?
  • needing to protect someone or something that isn’t obvious to most observers (so their motivations aren’t clear and their actions are taken out of context)
  • manipulation or coercion by another party. It’s a little bit easier to assassinate some poor unsuspecting fool if you were told to by someone who’s keeping your beloved hostage, right? Okay, maybe that’s an extreme example, but you see what I mean.
  • foot in the door syndrome
  • cultural differences. For example, disrespecting your parents isn’t too bad of a thing to do in Western culture, but if you’re seen to do it somewhere like China, the locals will be far more disapproving. A reasonably well-adjusted individual can do awful things mainly (or even purely) because they’re in another culture. Just run a Google search for “cultural differences between” and insert your two different nationalities of choice. In fact, this could extend to different religions, time periods, ages, or all sorts of differences.
Happy villaining!

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