I am by no means an expert on this subject, but it's been on my mind. As this picture says, you have to know your enemy, and you have to make sure your readers know your enemy. If the reader is confused as to why they should hate your villain or why he IS the villain, you're not doing your job. (Unless your villain is supposed to seem like a good guy, in which case you're doing exactly what you need to do until you reveal his treachery.)
But I'm talking about the villains that you KNOW are villains, from the first time you see them. They may think what they're doing is right or better, but to the readers it is glaringly obvious that they are NOT the good guys. Like the first time my villain, Captain Lewin, appears, he tries to kill Kenna, my main character. That's a red flag for a reader.
So how do you make your readers hate them as much as you want them to? I struggle with this, because I often happen to like my villains and feel sympathy for them. Something made them this way. But in the end, what matters to your readers is how they are now, not how they got there (except in some cases...)
As you can tell, this post is very subjective, but in my writing I tend to have three types of hate-worthy villains:
1) The Killer
2) The Plotter
3) The Best Friend
1. The Killer
|Colonel Miles Quaritch from Avatar|
I find Killers some of the easiest ones to hate. Reason one: they're killing people themselves, not just ordering their death. Reason two: they're usually very rough, unattractive people. At least that's the case in my stories. When he has a vendetta against someone, that person merely dying is not good enough. He wants to be the one to kill them.
See? Easy to hate.
2. The Plotter
The Plotter is someone who has everything planned out perfectly. He's the mastermind behind all the action. Usually, he likes to keep his hands clean, but he's not above stepping if his cronies fail him. He loves toying with people's emotions. When he himself does get involved, it's more mental than physical. But his cronies are one hundred percent walking battering rams.
While Killers are easier for me to hate off the bat, Plotters scare the heck out of me. If someone is able to get into your brain and manipulate your thoughts, even when you escape you're not safe. It's still your brain. The thoughts are still there. To me, they are the most dangerous villains, and they employ the Killers. Not always the case, but it is in my book.
3. The Best Friend
Best Friends can sometimes be the most hated of the group. You put your faith and trust in them, and they let you down. Even when Laurent in Twilight tried to kill Bella, I felt this way. I was like "Wait, you helped them in the last book!" Imagine how I feel when it's actually the character's best friend! Betrayed. Hurt. Angry.
So that's what I've been thinking about lately. Hardly refined thoughts, but definitely an important point in writing your novel. If your MC doesn't have a villain worth hating, there's not enough conflict.
What are your favorite kinds of villains to write? To read? What kind of villain makes your skin crawl?