To Know Thy Enemy: Getting Into The Mind Of Your Antagonist

Since the beginning of storytelling, people have had a fascination with the all-evil villain. They commit their cruel deeds simply because they’re evil. Why did the stepmother in Cinderella hate her stepdaughter? The author never tells us. So we assume she does it because she’s evil.

While the classic villains were allowed to get away with the, “because I’m evil excuse,” your antagonist should not. But how does one write a villain that’s not cliché? Why not try out these tips?

Give Them a Backstory

The antagonist’s past is just as important as your protagonist’s history. Like your hero, your villain’s entire backstory won’t make it on paper—only the most important parts—but you should know his (or her) full story. When creating his backstory be sure to answer these key questions:

  • What made him the way he is? (Behind every villain is a tragedy, what’s your villain’s heartbreaking tale?)
  • Why does she want what she wants? (Don’t make a villain who wants the throne for the sake of power. What do they want to do with this power and control?)
  • Why does he or she dislike or have to fight your protagonist?


Tabletop Game Character Creation Charts

Tabletop games involve creating a character to play through whatever world or storyline the game designer created. These are handy because they force you to choose a set amount of strengths and weaknesses.

While any tabletop game with a character creation chart would be helpful, I recommend choosing one that has at least a similar world or theme as your novel. That way you can play the game as your antagonist and learn how to think like them. You can also do this with any of your characters to get to know them better.

Since these games can be rather pricey, I know of some other options that won’t cost as much or result in the game collecting dust. I have found a link to a tabletop character creation chart you can use. Another option is playing any RPG or MMORPG with a character creation setup built into the game. Once again, if you pick one that has a similar world to your own then you can play as your antagonist and force yourself to act like your antagonist would.




This is something that can help you develop all of your characters. Put your novel’s main cast in a room or in a sticky situation and make them converse. When doing this be sure that their own personal characteristics shines through in their dialogue. If you need some prompts to play with here a few ideas you can throw your characters into and get them talking.

  • An awkward Thanksgiving dinner
  • Movie or game night
  • Christmas party
  • Road trip (in a really small car)
  • Lost… (at the store, in the woods,  in the city, etc.)
  • Camping Trip (Did someone forget the tent?)


Write Through Their Eyes

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You spend an entire book with your protagonist; why not try writing a few scenes or chapters through your villain’s perspective? These paragraphs don’t have to make it into the final cut, but they will help you to get inside the mind of your antagonist. If you can’t rewrite your story to make your antagonist a hero (in his own mind) and your protagonist the villain, then you don’t know your antagonist enough.


Other blogs with helpful information:

Another Character Creation List

Six Ways To Make Better Bad Guys




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