Brainstorming Villains – Creepy In Layers

1156959_23046151There are some villains we see in our lives, on TV shows, or on the news that are creepy to the tenth degree. Those kinds of villains are easier to splash on the page than the less obvious villain.

How do you build a creepy villain when they are less than obvious to the average person? 

You build creepy in layers.

We often build layers in our characters, but our villains need them to, especially if they are building the impending doom for your characters.

Creepy Layers Every Villain Should Have:

1. Motivations that make them evil. Villains need motivations for what they do, just like our other characters. Their motivations don’t need to seem normal to the rest of us, but they need to have some.

2. Private moments to enjoy their wickedness. In your story include some scenes that show the wickedness of the villain’s thought world or private actions.

3. Power over the hero or heroine in some way. Show how the villain is powerful to impact the hero or heroine’s world. ( I learned this tip from Susan May Warren through My Book Therapy.)

4. Proximity to the hero or heroine who is unaware of the danger they are in. This often adds a lot of conflict to a scene and gives opportunity to build the tension.

5. Public face that hides the truth and often makes those who suspect them seem judgmental. This will allow your hero or heroine to feel guilt when suspecting the villain.

6. Reflect their villain nature in their scene surroundings. If you have a gritty villain, show that in the setting. If you have a serial killer they will have a much darker setting. Build the darkness of your villain in the scene’s story world. This allows you to show the evil without making it easy for the hero/heroine to recognize their darkness.

What layers do you think make a villain creepy? 




About Michelle Lim

Author Michelle Lim is the Brainstorming/Huddle Coach with My Book Therapy Press and the Midwest Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Michelle’s romantic suspense is represented by Karen Solem of Spencillhill Associates and has gained contest recognition in the Frasier, the Genesis, and the Phoenix Rattler, winning the Genesis in 2015 for her genre. Michelle writes devotionals for The Christian Pulse Online Magazine and Putting On The New. Since her nonfiction book release, Idea Sparking: How To Brainstorm Conflict In Your Novel, through public speaking and online chats Michelle helps writers discover the revolutionary power of brainstorming to bring new life to their stories.

10 thoughts on “Brainstorming Villains – Creepy In Layers

  1. Hi Michelle!
    This is so good! I’m filing this so I have it forever. And I’m sharing it.

  2. Gabrielle Meyer says:

    Great tips, Michelle! I think the one where the villain has a facade to hide behind, making the hero or heroine feel guilty for being suspicious, is a great layer. I’m definitely adding these layers to my villain!

    • Michelle Lim says:

      I like that layer, too. A man who used to profile the threats on the presidents says that often when he interviews those who have been threatened, they say a name and follow it by, but they couldn’t have done it. It’s not like them. Inevitably 90% of the time that is the culprit. Crazy, huh?

  3. artbyruth says:

    Excellent article! I am revising my villain now and this list helps. I think a villain works best when there is a connection to the hero: voldemort to harry, Vader to Luke Skywalker…there should be a personal connection.

  4. Great post! I’m working on my villains now…and trying to decide if one of them needs a POV and do I want to keep his villain identity hidden.

    • Michelle Lim says:

      I love POV villains! They have this amazing ability to creep us out. Pat, you absolutely must watch “Safe Haven” in the theaters. There is a scene toward the end that shows proximity to the little girl when the villain arrives in town. The villain has a goal, but wow does it build the tension.

  5. delialatham says:

    When the villain is likable on the surface..ergo, your comment about the presidential profiler. The guy your heroine might choose to date because he’s so charming on the exterior…the woman who loves children, and even manages to make most of them like her – despite the fact that children can usually see through a mask faster than adults; the teenager all the mothers want their daughters to date. 🙂 That wolf-in-sheep’s clothing thing.

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