Happy VILLaintines – Why your villain needs a heart #amwriting #ValentinesDay

At festive periods, there’s usually a slew of charitable adverts and campaigns to encourage our altruistic sides, (something I believe we should do more of).

But today, for Valentines, I’m proposing a rather more alternative form of giving. To appease my villainous rants, I need y’all to be a doll and give your damn villain a heart.

Don’t screw up your latest villainous scribbles just yet. Indulge me, and I’ll explain why your villain needs a heart.

Oh, and should you want more detail, this is a topic I cover in my book 13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft A Superbad Villain

Everybody Loves To Hate A Villain

Readers love to hate villains, it’s a fact of life in the same way my need for caffeine the instant I peel my eyes open in the morning is. They want to swim into your story-net and throw themselves onto your hook and all so they can fall in love with their badassery and then be horrified when they realize he’s so cruel and nefarious they couldn’t possibly have sympathized with him. Only we know they did because we designed our villain that way.

Your job as a writer is to:

  • Make the reader feel for your villain
  • Make the reader agree with their insane ideas for a nano second


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Why? So you can bitch-slap them back to reality with a side salad of villain crazy. 


Making your reader empathize with your villain before they do something awful to your hero makes the emotional turmoil the reader feels that much more compelling

The point? Getting your audience to ‘love to hate’ your villain is VITAL. It’s reader-crack, which also means it’s winner winner chicken dinner for your KDP Sales dashboard!

But how do you get them to fall for your villain in the first place? 

Include at least one positive trait.

Rookie mistake number #1 when creating a villain is to have a ‘bad dude hell bent on ending the world with no fucking idea why he wants to do it.

No children. Just no.

To make a villain realistic, you gots to include at least one positive trait or redeeming quality. I know, I can feel your scrunched up faces from here. “But Sacha, villains are evil, they can’t have a heart.”

Yes, yes, they can. Why? Because even a villain has mommy.

Look, if you don’t give your villain at least one positive trait, they’ll turn out to be one track minded, hell bent on destroying the world (and your hero) but without any substance behind them. What does that lead to? A flat villain. And a flat villain = flat conflict. And THAT is tantamount to story death.

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But you also need them to have a positive trait because no one is pure evil. Giving them a positive trait makes them far moe realistic as a character. You go from flat pancake to chubby panda.

Nobody Likes To Be Cheated

There’s a danger when getting your readers to like your villain that they get lulled into a false sense of security. They end up liking your villain a bit TOO much. Don’t do that, cause you’ll cheat your readers. Cheating readers is bad. BAD-BAD. Like turd burger bad. Okay, you get the point.

If you set your villain up to make the reader empathize with him early on, be sure to plant a seed of doubt in their mind about his or her ‘goodness’.



So there you have it. Be loving this VILLaintines and give your bad guy a heart.

Who’s your fave villain with a heart? Let me know in the comments.


If you liked this post, why not get even more awesome writing tips in the book 13 Steps To Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains. Click this link and just tap the logo of your device or regular bookshop and it will take you to the right page. You can also get a FREE villains cheatsheet by joining my mailing list just click here.

Read Keepersthe first book in my Young Adult fantasy series nowOr to hear more about the release of the sequels as well as get regular CogMail updates you can do so here.

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  1. Help me here. I decided to try finding a heart in one of the worst if not the worst (real, live) villains on Earth today, and I tried real hard to find Trump’s heart but I could not find one beat. I then tried Hitler and I actually heard his heart beating (and he’s dead) because he was nice to his dog, but I can’t find any heart beat for Trump.

    1. WELL. You have me there Lloyd (hey by the way :D) But I guess I am talking about fiction and there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. Trump is next level. A cosmic joke as it were

  2. People who do terrible things have often persuaded themselves at least that they are good and doing it for a higher cause. To pick up on the Trump comment above, this is clearly a man who think he’s a hero and exactly what America needs – he wouldn’t act as he does if he didn’t think that.

      1. I would say that Trump is a perferct reflection of this post, since he convinced so many americans to think he was the right guy to fix their problems and then Boom! I am SuperHaterMan! I’ve got acces to the Big Red Button! Mwahahahah!

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