The Challenge of Creating A Good Villain

By Katherine Sharma

Today we want to introduce and welcome our latest new blogger, author Katherine Sharma. She spent more than 15 years as a newspaper writer and editor, but is now focused on writing her own fiction. Her latest mystery, “Lies Agreed Upon” has received high praise from critics. Her blog, Novel Viewpoints, explores the love, life and the challenges of fiction writing.

A traditional mystery, especially a murder mystery, requires a proper villain or two. Like a spider in a web, these antagonists are the prime movers at the heart of the mystery — murdering, abetting, lying, betraying, and generally causing pain, grief and turmoil. Usually, the protagonist, who seeks to solve the central secret of who did what and why, can be flawed or tortured but must ultimately be on the side of justice if not the angels. And the villain can be sympathetic, even admirable, but must ultimately pay for choosing the wrong/evil path. So creating a foil or nemesis of the protagonist is central to my plotting, and crafting “evil” motives and characters is always the most challenging start of my writing process. The deadly sins are always handy motives — wrath, greed, pride, lust, and envy being trusty root causes of many criminal downfalls. Or, antagonists can simply be monsters driven by insane or amoral cravings.  But I find such baddies too simplistic; interesting villains are more complex and more conflicted. They are guides to the darker corners of our own psyches where we can understand the allure and power of immoral choices. It is disturbing to see a common experience — injustice, insecurity, manipulation, grief, love, fear, shame, lust — unite with a common character flaw, such as selfishness, impulsiveness or ego, with tragic results. It implies that there is a potential villain in all of us. However, the most fascinating adversaries also have an X factor, a character trait that raises them above the ordinary sinner and makes them especially dangerous. Ironically, it is often a quality of greatness: charm, intelligence, beauty or courage. For more on creating villains, see


Katherine Sharma’s family roots are in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas. But after her early childhood in Texas, she has moved around the country and lived in seven other states, from Virginia to Hawaii. She currently resides in California with her husband and three children. She has also traveled extensively in Europe, Africa and Asia, and makes regular visits to family in India. After receiving her bachelor’s degree. in economics and her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Michigan, Katherine worked as a newspaper and magazine writer and editor for more than 15 years. She then shifted into management and marketing roles for firms in industries ranging from outdoor recreation to insurance to direct marketing. Although Katherine still works as a marketing consultant, she is now focused on creative writing.

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