Writing Excuses Notes: Villains

Here are some notes I took after listening to Writing Excuses.

It is an educational podcast that helps novelists/writers.

The topic is about villains.

It comes from Season 1, Episode 7.



A good villain needs to be understandable & has something in common with the reader.

They can have flaws, but not in every case. Some are irredeemably evil.

  • They need to best the heroes by using their flaws/weaknesses against them.


Understandable Every-man VS Superman Villain

1. Sauron is a force of nature and Gollum is interesting
2. Are you looking for an interesting conflict or an interesting villain?
3. All powerful villains provide excellent obstacles, but you loose the personal connection.

      • You also loose the possibility of redemption for the villain.


Sympathetic, Relatable Villains

Are their flaws the ‘good parts’ that hold them back from being truly evil?

  • They need to go against the protagonist’s plans but think that they’re the hero.

They could be a friend of the hero with flaws that they can’t overcome and become evil.

  • A hero works to overcome their flaw. A villain is conquered by their flaw.



A villain filling a heroic role.

    • Ex.) The Punisher

Taking a flawed hero to the extreme. For them, the ends justify the means.

  • It all depends on how the light is cast on them as a main character.


KEY: Villains have their motivations, but their ideas need to be logical (unless they’re insane).

Try to find was to give your villains weaknesses/motivations that don’t suck.

  • Don’t make them an idiot (unless played for comedy).
      • Avoid the tropes. Make them smarter.


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