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A Writer's Guide to Writing: Creating Heroes and Villains

Updated on August 16, 2017
John Nelson III profile image

John is a self styled Writer and hopeful author who enjoys doing his writing in his spare time. He hopes to one day be a published author.

Creating Heroes and Villains: A brief introduction

If you've read my other Hub "A writers opinion guide to writing Fantasy and Science Fiction", you've already read a short section on creating Heroes and Villains, but this is a much longer and more detailed piece to hopefully shed more light on a subject that I feel can often times take more work than just the writing itself.

In this piece, I'll cover several key steps to creating both heroes and a villains, using examples from my own writing, and I'll even cover that elusive crossroad of the "anti-Hero" and "Anti-Villain" as I see it.

I've also added links to several books you can find on the topic of Creating Characters for stories, as well as several helpful links.

Without further delay, here is my look at the art of writing in creating Heroes and Villains.

6/13/16 - I fixed some spelling and grammar errors in this Hub as well as added a few new links and expanded on all the previous content.

I also added an opinion poll at the end.

Creating Heroes and Villains: Creating the Hero or Villain

So you want to create your main hero and/or Main Villain?

That's Great, it is probably the first place to start when making a story.

Lets start with the basics and work our way to the final product. for the purpose of this segment, we'll simply say 'main character' for now

The first thing your main character needs is a description that captures the imagination and lets you paint a picture in your head.

Lets say our main character is; 5'7'' with brown hair and green eyes. By itself that isn't very descriptive is it? You can imagine any 100 people with brown hair and green eyes.

Lets add to that: He is slightly muscular, broad shouldered with soft facial features but he bares a scar over his left eye. His hair is shorter, coming down to just over his ears, yet it looks messy.

NOW you have a description of your main character that you can picture, and we're ready to move onto phase 2, personality and Character traits.

Creating a personality isn't easy, as I've struggled with this in the past myself, only to find that sometimes I don't truly know what a personality is and what a character trait is. A character personality is actually a list of several things, that make your character who they are, and can start as simply as there description.

Here is an example using bits from our above example on creating the main character, with a few other things thrown in.

Name: John Doe

Nickname: Johnny

Age: 23

Eye color: Green

Height: 5'7''

Hair color: Brown

A Character trait is something that describes them in one word descriptions, for example, Aggressive, Eager, Hateful just to name 3 off the top of my head.

When you can, you should try to have a delicate but well rounded balance of 'good' traits and 'bad' traits. Even when you're making a villain, you should give them both traits.

as an example for a hero

3 'good' traits: Handsome, Kind, Affectionate

3 'bad' traits: Aggressive, Reckless, Unforgiving

From these 6 traits, we can design a character personality for John Doe as a Hero, he's handsome, so obviously he's good looking, he's kind and affectionate, so he would obviously care for his loved ones and friends. He's also aggressive, reckless and unforgiving, so if one of his loved ones were to get hurt, he might be the type to rush into a fight or bad situation without thinking, and never let go of the anger he feels towards someone who wrongs him.

Now, here is an example for a Villain

3 'good' traits: Unfriendly, Wicked, Evil

3 'bad' traits: Absent-minded, Weak, Clumsy

From these 6 traits, we can design a character personality for John Doe as a Villain, he's unfriendly, he doesn't like anyone and probably sees his 'minions' as expendable. He's wicked and evil, he delights in causing bad things to happen. He's absent-minded, so he forgets things he should remember, hes weak, so he can't really fight, but that can be overcome with character abilities, which I'll cover later, and he's clumsy, so he might end up missing a step or, if he can, casting a magic spell wrong.

It should be obvious that the 'good' traits of a hero should most of the time not be the same as the 'good' traits of a villain, unless your hero is not a true hero, or your villain is not a true villain, in that case, you actually want to make an 'Anti-Hero' or 'Anti-Villain' which I'll cover later.

In the next section, I'll be covering Character Abilities, and how they can help you work against the 'bad' traits of your hero and villain.

Creating Heroes and Villains: Character Abilities

Now, we have an outline of our character, we know what he looks like, he know his character traits and from them we have a character personality. We now know what makes our character tick and we know what drives him personally.

Now, he has some good things going for him, but he also has some bad things going for him. Seeing as I'm a writer of Fantasy, we'll be using fantasy based examples.

We'll start with our hero, who has a 'bad' trait of being aggressive, so now how do we work with that so he can balance that, and use his 'bad' trait in a good way?

Simple, say he is a fighter who uses a sword as his basic weapon, now because he is aggressive, have him use a very aggressive battle stance and fighting style. In this way, he counters his aggressive 'bad' trait and makes it positive. But because he's reckless, he might not always pay attention in his aggressive battle style, and end up getting hurt, or hurting someone else. Because he's unforgiving, he might ignore a plea of surrender from his opponent.

Now our villain, who has a 'bad' trait of being weak, so we can assume that it is physical weakness, so now how do we work with that so he can balance that?

Simple, give him skills and abilities that do not rely on Physical strength, such as Magic. Using Magic, our villain can attack from a distance and never have to get near his opponent, but because he's also absent-minded, me may forget to use his more powerful spells, or because he's clumsy he may cast the spell wrong and have the wrong effect,

Sometimes you can't fix everything with your characters, but that's isn't always a bad thing.

Lets work more on Character Abilities and what that means to me.

To me, as a writer, a character ability is anything your character can do, be in Magic, Fighting style, or as I said, anything your character can do.

Here are a few examples for you:

You character has the ability to use Magic spells, pretty basic stuff in you've ever read any kind of Fantasy novel.

You character uses a variety of weapons, switching to them as he chooses to do so, due to studying various kinds of weapons and various styles for combat with those weapons.

You character can 'Over-Soul' with various types of creatures to take on physical aspects of those creatures, such as a Bear, a Tiger or even a Dragon.

Moving along, I'll cover my thoughts on an "anti-Hero" and an "Anti-Villain" as I see them

Anti-Hero and Anti-Villain

What is an Anti-Hero?

What is an Anti-Villain?

Well, really I think that's a matter of opinion.

Now, to me, an Anti-Hero is someone who wants to do good things, yet goes about them in a bad way, or a way that might not be looked at as good, this character wants to help keep people safe, but does so by bringing great harm to those that would hurt other people. Another way to look at an Anti-Hero, is that they are not totally good, but also not totally evil, they might have a strict moral code, that, while it allows for the breaking of bones, does not allow killing, or may allow killing and justify it with a stance of "The ends justify the means."

People might respect what they do, but it might be more out of fear.

Most anti-heroes lack the qualities of a hero, or share several qualities of a villain.

An Anti-Villain is a polar opposite of an Anti-Hero, if the anti-hero fights on the side of good, with selfish motives or a goal in mind that might not be as noble as it could be; the anti-villain does what villain's do, but for a noble cause in their own eyes. They might be misguided in what they are trying to do, but to them it is right.

Creating Heroes and Villains: Closing remarks

I hope you have found my guide to be helpful to you, but please remember that these are my own thoughts alone and are more of an opinion than anything else.

Good luck with writing, and remember that writing is an art, which comes from the heart.

An opinion poll on Character Creation

When making Characters, which are the most difficult?

See results


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