How to write a villain protaganist that's evil but somehow likable?

by Luke

This type of story focuses on a villain who has an "interesting" moral compass, one vastly different from the rest of society. Because of this, she views most people beneath her ethically and acts such as robbery, murder, extortion, human trafficking, etc. are perfectly legitimate in her eyes. But we can all agree those are pretty heinous actions, right?

Problem is how to captivate reader attention while she's doing these things, and I'm not exactly sure how to do that.

Answer: Your challenge certainly is to make the reader sympathetic to this character, but it can be done.

One way is to make clear that the protagonist, while not a good person, is better than the people she is doing bad things to. An obvious example: soldiers kill, but their killing is justified when it is clear to everyone that the enemy is worse. Enemies are always de-humanized to avoid moral qualms. This is why the Sheriff of Nottingham is always portrayed as more evil than Robin Hood.

A variation is to give your protagonist a noble cause that justifies their actions, such as caring for an innocent person.

Another approach is to make the character charm the reader. This is particularly effective in first person narration, where the character can treat the reader like a confidant (which is flattering to the reader). An example of this would be A Clockwork Orange. It helps if the protagonist is witty and a good storyteller.

Of course the other technique used in A Clockwork Orange is to give the protagonist some redeeming quality which the reader can sympathize with (Alex's love of Beethoven).

Finally, it helps of you can make your protagonist an underdog, always fighting bigger opponents and never quite winning.

Comments for How to write a villain protaganist that's evil but somehow likable?

Click here to add your own comments

the Antagonist
by: Damar Anzig

Antagonists are definitely more interesting than straight-laced protagonists.

Features of the antagonist pointed out by Glen

* better than the people she is doing bad things to
* quality
* an underdog, always fighting bigger opponents and never quite winning

My favourite antagonist is Hamlet..

by: Damar Anzig

I have this thing with the "antagonist" and the word keeps playing like a song in my head but what I meant in the comment was "Anti-Hero" which is what Hamlet is. Sorry for the blunder.

by: Anonymous

Another way to make a antagonist interesting and likeable is to give them a reason that they are the way they are. For example, Super Paper Mario (yes, terrible example, I know) introduced Count Bleck. In the beginning, he seems to be a stereotypical antagonist. But as the story progresses, it is found out that he is destroying all worlds because he lost his love (Tippi) when she was cursed to wander the worlds forever. With his backstory, everyone felt almost sorry for him. Another strategy is to give the villain a mysterious goal. Dimentio (from the same game) Was quite mysterious. He seemed like a wise mercenary for the Count, but it was later revealed through his cunning and clever quotes, That he would let the heroes destroy Count Bleck so he would take over all worlds. His complicated motives and surprising ideas made him a lovable villain.
See, all you need to do is give him a motive for doing what he does. This will make him seem more lovable. Give him a few unusual tags, and you've got yourself an elite antagonist.

Symphatic Villains
by: Seneca

1 - We know who is the villain--he rides into town and kicks the first dog he sees. Thus, let him adopt the dog and feed it.

2 - Or make sure he loves his mother and goes out of his way to help her, even sacrifices something for her. "Boys, Ma needs help this afternoon. We're putting off the bank heist till tomorrow."

3 - He nurtures his 6-year old or his crippled sister.

4 - In the middle of the robbery, he can't bring himself to shoot the elderly guard, who then shoots his gang member. Point? He cares about others.

Antagonist but...
by: TheAnonymousCipherFangirl

I found this page because I was thinking of Bill Cipher from Gravity Falls, so..I say Bill Cipher

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.