Why My Readers Fell In Love With My Bad Guy

I certainly didn’t intend to write a bad guy that my readers would love, but he just wouldn’t stay in the background. I’d intended for him to be low-key, dangerous, and despicable. However, as I added layers and brought dimension to his character, he stole the show!

If the good guys were on the page with him, I had to ensure they were bringing their A-game because his villainous personality shone so brightly that all the attention was on him whenever he appeared.

Of course he lived and dressed well and had tons of swagger. In one scene, as he leaves the heroine after sparing her, the wind catches and swirls the folds of his long coat around his legs. He turns and salutes her, fingers to forehead, before casually walking away.

My beta readers almost fainted. They wanted more of him. These crazy people even suggested that my heroine fall for him in a sick triangle where he would take her away from her husband. I had to explain the romance formula rules to them. The heroine must always, always remain faithful.

Besides, I couldn’t have him be more popular than my heroine’s beloved, play-by-the-rules husband. So, I purposely made the bad guy unattractive. I gave him a large forehead that protruded well over his cosmetically modified, bizarre blue eyes—eyes that appeared almost neon against his dark skin color. Even his muscled physique was medically enhanced by body sculpting and not by an honest workout routine. And still they loved him.

What did I do to make him so popular?

I tried to create a character who was interesting and complex, but certainly not one that my clean-cut, married heroine could love. This guy was attractive, though in an arrogant, condescending kind of way.

Before I even introduced him to the reader, I had other characters talk about him in ominous anticipation of what the looming meeting between him and my heroine would be like. Characters described him as forthright, yet not sneaky. Still, they didn’t sympathize or admire him since he was a heartless, manipulating bastard who acted in his own best interest.

He was given conflicting character traits. He wasn’t honest, but he wasn’t dishonest. He wasn’t murderous, yet he’d kill when he had to or when he was provoked. He had reasons for who he was, which I buried in a scene that allowed the readers to glimpse his impoverished childhood and, at the same time, expose that childhood to the heroine.

He saw himself as a righter of wrongs and a protector of what was his. He even thought that in most ways what he was doing was noble. Yet, the reader knows that he is motivated by revenge and greed. I hope they understand where that comes from.

How did I create him?

I had to become a bad guy, myself. Though I patterned my bad guy after actual criminals I’d read about or seen on television, that wasn’t enough. I really got inside my head. I wrote as if I had not been raised by parents who taught me to think before I acted or to consider the consequences of my bad behavior.

If I went rogue, how would I do it? I let my mind go as far as it would go. The process was interesting and it helped me create a bad guy who was multi-faceted. No flat, springing up out of the woodwork villain for me. I put him right out front and wrote about him as though I understood what drove him.

When creating your own Bad Guy think about these things:

  • Is he a worthy adversary? Is he smart enough to make your protagonist work for the solve?
  • Make him worthy of every scene he’s in. Make him a scene-stealer.
  • He doesn’t have to be evil. Perhaps the readers can empathize with him even if they can’t sympathize.
  • Is there a motivating factor or cause for his bad actions? Is he seeking revenge, righting a wrong, or taking the law into his own hands? Is he greedy or jealous?
  • How did he become bad? What’s his history?

**Spoiler Alert** The Bad Guy I’ve described above isn’t my novel’s only villain. Since everybody loves him so much, I wonder if he did it? Ha-ha!

Linda C. Mims

**The Neon Houses**

Available on Amazon  http://amzn.to/2ly7lGe


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Educator, Author, Blogger, and supporter of Independent Writers. One mystery novel, The Neon Houses, http://amzn.to/2kSqdPX. Find me on Twitter @boom_lyn.

13 thoughts on “Why My Readers Fell In Love With My Bad Guy

  1. Nothing like a well-rounded bad boy! 😛 Premium antagonists do need to have a certain amount of charisma so they fascinate and invite at the same time as they disgust and repel! 😀 They’re certainly a lot more fun to write than ‘straight A’ characters – it’s gooood to have your main protagonists to have some anti-hero traits as well… 😉

    1. I’ll take your word for it, Kim! He was my first and I guess I fell a little bit in love with him, too! Maybe next time I’ll have more luck making him utterly despicable.

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