The essential traits of an effective fantasy fiction villain are components of a remarkable sci-fi novel.

Your hero is only as big as the adversity that stands before him. A great hero needs a great villain. Creating an effective villain is a crucial task in any given genre. Designing the essential traits of an effective fantasy fiction villain can be complex. Aside from the out of this world skills and powers that villains may possess, writers have to create a persona that somehow the readers can relate and understand. A villain is not simply someone who makes the hero’s life miserable. He or she has attributes, an origin, and deep motivation. No one is born a hero. We can say the same of villains. Both heroes and villains are products of time, conflicts, and circumstances. Below are the essential traits of the second most important character in any science- fiction literature.

Villains are purpose-driven and principled.

Lord Vader was once Anakin Skywalker. Source:

The most memorable villains are those driven deeply by purpose. Darth Vader’s quest to become the most powerful Jedi came from wanting to desperately protect those he loved. Khan wanted to free his crew and to avenge his people. In Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy, the Mule is motivated by hatred towards the galaxy which viewed him as a criminal because of his mental powers. As I mentioned earlier, every hero or villain is a product of the circumstance, and as such their actions are motivated by deep emotion, core values or principles, and the belief that what they are doing is right.  

They should be more powerful than your hero.

Your hero is as important as your villain. But the villain should possess something more. This is the very adversity a hero must overcome. Whether it’s brute force, superpowers, resources, or many allies, a fantasy fiction villain must be portrayed as having the upper-hand. All stories are built by conflicts, and the conflict between the hero and the villain can only be sustained if the villain stands out as a worthy opponent. Imagine a villain who doesn’t have an army, a superpower, vast wealth, or knowledge. Imagine a villain weaker than the protagonist. While the villain is only the second-most important character in your book, it does not mean that he shouldn’t cast a shadow larger than your hero. The foremost significance of a villain is to be a challenge, a force to reckon with. And that can only be achieved if he or she possessed an advantage over his counterpart.

Your villain and hero should be connected.

Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. Source:

Like it or not, a hero will always have this unique bond with his nemesis. Kirk and Khan, Batman and Joker, Harry Potter and Voldemort, all share a deep connection with their respective counterparts. A random villain is a poor character. An effective villain is one who can get into the nerve of his enemy, who knows his passion, his weakness, and at times, can sympathize with the hero. This way the villain is not a random stranger or a passerby. In fantasy fiction, the hero and villain may share the same power, or come from two warring planets, or pursue the same goal. Commonality and attraction are essential in building a strong antagonist.

A powerful villain is both charming and clever. 

Senator Palpatine a.k.a. Darth Sidious is perhaps the most charismatic villain in fantasy fiction. Source:

The most effective fantasy villains are those who can charm other people and convinced them of the worthiness of his or her cause. An effective villain can conjure the evilest of all plans and can put a hero in a difficult situation. On many occasions, the most remarkable of villains possess not only destructive powers but are also able to test the hero’s character. Only villains with superb IQ and wit can do so. A dumb villain is a lousy villain.

The Villain should be your hero’s antithesis.

This is often the most overlooked part. An effective villain is a study in contrast to its hero. What would be my hero like if he turned over to the dark side? Just like a hero has passion, a villain is also determined. Just as a hero is patient, the villain also practices discipline. In fantasy fiction, we can site Saruman and Gandalf. Both are wizards, both are powerful. The only difference is that Saruman fights for Sauron, Gandalf for Middle Earth. Again, your villain is the second-most important figure and as such he must appear big as your hero, only in stark contrast as far as characters and values are concerned.