How To Make Your Villains Scary

I’m very pleased to welcome master craftswoman Rayne Hall back to my blog. Today she shares some tips on creating excellent villains. She’s also offering a free mini-seminar this weekend on creating suspense and her Scary Scenes workshop starts in October. Details on these must-attend events available after the article.

Special Guest: Rayne Hall on Making Your Villains Scary

Most novels and short stories have an antagonist (someone who opposes the protagonist), and this person or creature is often dangerous and perhaps evil. Here are ten professional techniques for making them truly scary.

1. The villain thinks of himself as a good guy who will do anything for what he believes is a noble cause.
2. He has a genuinely good side – perhaps he is a loving son who cares for his ageing parents, or he goes out of his way to protect children from harm.
3. During the first encounter, he seems pleasant and likeable.
4. Describe his voice. (“His voice sounded like a ….”)
5. He smiles rarely – but when he does, describe the smile in detail, comparing the shape of his mouth to something dangerous.
6. Describe his hands, the way they move, the texture of the skin, the shape of the nails.
7. Describe his eyes by comparing their colour to something unpleasant or dangerous.
8. Describe the way he moves. To increase the suspense, give him slow, deliberate movements.
9. What does the villain smell of? Innocuous smells, such as mothballs and peppermint toothpaste can work well.
10. Avoid clichés such as maniacal laughter and hot stinking breath.

Although this article uses the word “he” for the villain, your antagonist can of course be a devious female!

Free Suspense Mini Seminar
Rayne Hall will teach a free mini-seminar “Creating Suspense” on September 29-30, 2012. You need to have an account with Coffee Time Romance to join; creating an account is free.

Book Cover “Writing Scary Scenes” – Online Class
Are your frightening scenes scary enough? Learn practical tricks to turn up the suspense. Make your readers’ hearts hammer with suspense, their breaths quicken with excitement, and their skins tingle with goose bumps of delicious fright. Whether you’re working on a ghost story, a thriller, a paranormal romance, an urban fantasy or a romantic suspense, this workshop is perfect for planning or revising your scary scenes. One month, twelve lessons, twelve assignments, individual feedback. If you wish, you may submit a scene for critique at the end of the class.
This class requires that students have mastered basic fiction writing techniques. It is not suitable for beginners.
October 2012, $20: Hearts Through History

“Writing Scary Scenes” – Ebook
This book contains professional techniques for creating suspense and fear in all kinds of situations: from escapes and chases to encounters with devious villains. The book contains more material than the class and is suitable for reference or self-study.
Available on: Amazon.com | Kobo | Barnes&Noble | iTunes | Smashwords

Rayne Hall Wizard Portrait by Leah Skerry About Rayne Hall
Rayne Hall has published more than thirty books under different pen names with different publishers in different genres, mostly fantasy, horror and non-fiction. Recent books include Storm Dancer (dark epic fantasy novel), Six Historical Tales Vol 1, Six Scary Tales Vol 1, 2 and 3 (mild horror stories), Six Historical Tales (short stories), Six Quirky Tales (humorous fantasy stories), Writing Fight Scenes and Writing Scary Scenes (instructions for authors).

She holds a college degree in publishing management and a masters degree in creative writing. Currently, she edits the Ten Tales series of multi-author short story anthologies: Bites: Ten Tales of Vampires, Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts, Scared: Ten Tales of Horror, Cutlass: Ten Tales of Pirates, Beltane: Ten Tales of Witchcraft and more.

Her short online classes for writers are intense with plenty of personal feedback. Writing Fight Scenes, Writing Scary Scenes, Writing about Magic and Magicians, The Word Loss Diet and more.

For more information about Rayne Hall visit her website.

Image Credit:
Wizard portrait of Rayne Hall by Leah Skerry. Used with permission of Rayne Hall.

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5 thoughts on “How To Make Your Villains Scary

  1. What great tips. I also like that the villain is the hero in his own story. These tips go into my save for reference file. Thanks

  2. Hi Mary,

    Yes, the villain is indeed the hero of his own story. He has goals and motivations, obstacles, failures and triumphs on the way. I think this is connected to “The villain thinks of himself as a good guy who will do anything for what he believes is a noble cause.”

    Few villains have the goal “I want to be the most evil guy around” – instead, they aim to do something good, perhaps motivated by nationalism, religion or scientific research. From their own perspective, religious fanatics who slaughter unbelievers are saints, researchers who experiment with slow deaths are scientific pioneers, and the invader who burns down villages is a champion of his queen and country.

    It also depends on the perspective of the other people. The same person can be hero and a villain, depending on who you ask. For example, to the ancient Greeks, Alexander the Great was a hero because he fought on the Greek side, which for them was the good cause; to the Persians, he was a villain because he fought against the Persians which to them was the evil cause.

    Writing villains is fun, isn’t it?

    Rayne

  3. Pingback: Rayne Hall Shares Funny Book Reviews « celiabreslin

  4. Pingback: Creating A Villain We Love To Hate | Young At Ink

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