How do you make your villains scary enough?


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!

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