Ever notice how they build up this amazing villain who you love to hate, only to kill them off? What’s the point of that? Some of the best stories ever told are with villains who ‘get away to live and fight another day.’

When you do it right, your reader will not only want your villain to survive, they will begin to sympathize with them. Professor Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes is a great example of this. He is the anti-Sherlock, yet, they have a lot in common. He’s brilliant and oddly polite. Except for the fact that he’s driven to destroy, he’s just peachy. In another life, he and Sherlock may have been close friends. They kind of are, playing their little game, that’s what friends do, they play together. If you read him right, you want to feel for the guy. He reminds you of that song: ‘Behind blue eyes’ by the who. ‘No one knows what it’s like to be the bad man, to be the sad man, behind blue eyes.’

How about Dracula? Did anyone else get this is a love story? Put yourself in his shoes. He goes to war for his faith. Word comes back to his wife that he’s dead. He bathes in the blood of the enemies of the church and returns to find she has committed suicide. He drinks the ancient blood of the black cross and becomes Dracula. Much time passes. He meets a woman who is the reincarnation of his beautiful love. The whole world is trying to keep them apart and even trying to kill him. You can’t get more romantic than that. Yet, through all this, they are the ones keeping them from finally finding peace in their embrace, two wanting souls who hunger for each other. They call him the monster, they prey on his children and murder him. In this tale, you can learn to identify with the villain.

Don’t kill off your villains, and if you feel that it is absolutely necessary then for the love of everything that is sacred to you, introduce a bigger baddy that your once big bad villain was actually working for. Another great way to tackle this situation is to make someone pick up the torch to get revenge on your hero.

Every person is capable of good and evil. Some teeter to one side or the other. What if a villain became good? What the hell is the hero going to do then? Their whole life they’ve been fighting and now it just ends? No, we make someone even worst then the previous villain.

Killing off your villains without cause or just for a simple shock effect is lame. You have to do better than that. Too many writers forget to put villains in their stories. If there is no struggle, there is no story. A great writer once said: “In writing, you must kill all your darlings.” ― William Faulkner

I don’t take this to mean: ‘Kill all the characters you love.’ Maim them a little. Remember, scars build character. Make things hard for them. They need to struggle to get to where they need to be so they can grow to be great. If your heros never become great then your reader doesn’t become great. Get it? Creating great villains are an easy way to get them there.

You gotta reach, go bigger than your original idea. Always strive to be and do greater than you intended. Make us care about your villains, better yet, YOU gotta care about them. Don’t half-ass it and make some generic prick who is kind of snarky and greedy and expect me to like it. You better bring your ‘A’ game when you write your villains because you know I will. I pour my heart and soul into every character, good and bad. If I can’t feel something for each one, then what’s the point?

Ivan Desabrais