The Villain’s Perspective

 Why do good girls love bad boys? Because good boys are boring! Villains are the cause of the story. Heroes are just the reaction. The actions of the villain are wild, spontaneous, and jaw-dropping. But their motives are even more interesting. Whether it’s sadistic killer or a ruthless gangster, stories from the villain’s perspective are fun, fascinating and frightening.

Villain horror, as I call it, is a form of psychological horror that takes you deep inside the deviant mind, where paranoid delusions, psychotic rantings and reptilian calculations run rampant.

Standard horror follows the vulnerable, the scared, the sympathetic as they run, trip and fall, or fight back against evil. The danger is often cloaked and mysterious: a malevolent spirit, a stalker in the shadows,  a possessed child. It plays on our empathy and our fear of the unknown to create tension and thrill.

Readers often compare these two forms without fully understanding that the goals, the tone and the emotions evoked are quite different. Writers (like yours truly) often try to compensate for these differences instead of embracing them, or even understanding them.

So what are they? Let’s take a look:


You can’t fear for the single lady in Apt. 3 while inhabiting the rapist leering through her bathroom window. To him-to you-she’s that selfish bitch who rejected you. She’s a whore that deserves to be slaughtered. She looks like your mother who poured boiling water on you as a toddler. Or, in the words of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho, “She’s just a shape. She’s meat. She’s nothing.”

We are dehumanizing the victim as the killer would, and this process detaches the reader emotionally.

You cannot think like a sociopath and care about the victim the same time.

In most fiction we root for the protagonist. You still may root for the villain to achieve his evil goals, and you might revel in the spectacle of their behavior, but you won’t truly fear for an unsympathetic character. You won’t cry at their funeral.

Ride The Crazy Train

The Shining, even with all the spooky ghosts in the Overlook, wouldn’t be much of a read without the spiraling madness of Jack Torrance. Whether Alex is committing the ol’ ultra-violence in A Clockwork Orange, or Iceberg Slim is beating his whores with a coat hanger in Pimp (a true story), it’s not the actions but the sick thoughts and twisted motivations that drive our fascination.

The psychology of the serial killer with multiple personalities, or the mother who poisons her own child for attention. We seek to understand these people as a primitive survival technique. The more we understand about dangerous people, the greater our chance of survival, or so our lizard brain things. So we are wired to enjoy gaining these nuggets of insight.

Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment explores the rationalization of violence as a means to an end, as well as the value of life and the guilt riddled conscious. Oscar Wilde’s The Portrait of Dorian Gray studies the maddening obsession with youth and beauty.

The Blackest Mirror

In Villain Horror, the reader may become disturbed by their own enjoyment of the mayhem and harm inflicted on innocence. This is the true horror caused by this type of story. It’s not your fear for the safety of others, but the fear in discovering you enjoy their pain. Villain horror awakens the primal, the violent, the sadistic in the reader, then it makes you digest your own reaction.

American Psycho takes it a step further by arousing the reader with raunchy sex scenes that suddenly become grotesque nightmares of torture and murder. The result leaves the reader horrified at their own bodily response. This is disgusting! Why won’t my erection go down? 

Crash and Burn

Okay so maybe you won’t lust for the kill. Maybe you will grow to loathe your villain protagonist. That’s okay. Villains usually still lose in the end. They often end up dead or in prison, as they should.

Following a villain you despise can build immense anticipation for that glorious moment when they plunge to their doom, or tie their own noose. It can be a corrupt politician caught in a scandal or a Wall Street swindler getting sent to prison. You can root for them, root against them, or feel conflicted.

Bad Meets Evil

Villains come in all shades of moral ambiguity, often paired with positive traits or good intentions behind their wicked deeds. The drug kingpin who gives to the poor and builds schools and playgrounds.

Sometimes the hero, or anti-hero, is pitted against something worse, or at least more dangerous. While the story doesn’t take on villain perspective, Hannibal Lector famously helps catch Buffalo Bill will plotting his own brutal escape in The Silence of the Lambs.

Two Sides of the Coin

Some novels flip between the hero and the villain perspective. In these cases, the reader never goes as deep because each switch in perspective is a reboot. Pause the movie, turn on the lights and get reoriented. This is often simply to show events occurring in multiple locations.

Examples: Stephen King’s Misery, Dean Koontz’s Intensity.


I love writing from the villain’s perspective, and I love reading about them, learning about them, trying to understand how they see the world. It’s a different type of journey that you should try… if you’re not afraid of what you might learn about yourself.


Here is a list of Villain Protagonist Novels on Goodreads

My Novel Speed Writing Formula

I don’t believe in long introductions, so here it is:

  1. Pencil and Paper.
    Scrawl down outlines, notes, dialog chunks, scenery, lists of action beats, stream of consciousness, thoughts about the novel, whatever. This is often right before bed.
  2. Rewrite in word processor
    (Scrivener for me). Organize by Chapter > Scene > Scene Notes. Record from paper into more organized scene notes files. Set the scene color to yellow. As I record, embellish, clean up, or write new content if an idea spins off which happens frequently. Follow the thoughts wherever they lead. Strike through paper as it’s recorded so nothing gets lost. This is often done the next morning.
  3. Formulate
    Build scenes from scene notes with two files open side-by-side, copying in and filling in gaps. These three steps may get repeated several times on a single scene. This part is the most thought intensive so it should be done early afternoon, at my mental prime. But it can happen whenever
  4. Edit
    Do a quick read through as I complete each scene. Change the scene color from yellow to blue when it’s complete. Then compile to MS Word, do a read through track changes and edit. Then go back to Scrivener to put my edits in.
  5. Listen
    Put each chapter in a Google Doc (yay extra backup) Listen with Natural Reader. Pick up more stuff. Edit and Compile.
  6. Chapter Critiques
    Send to a local group, post to a site like Scribophile. Don’t solicit critiques or focus on them. Whoever finds you is fine. I want motivators mostly. Cheerleaders.
  7. Fix
    Fix glaring spelling, grammar, and emergency issues but don’t spend much time on it. Don’t over think and don’t try to perfect sentences. Keep going forward to the next chapter
  8. Full Beta Critiques
    Finish the book and do full beta critiques, not per chapter. Use Natural Reader to read novels quickly and give broad advice. Don’t zero in on line edits unless requested.
    Also it is advised to take about 3 months away from your manuscript. You deserve it. Finishing a novel draft is a huge accomplishment. Also, you need to step away to gain perspective.
  9. Review
    After half a dozen beta critiques, look for common issues. Major character flaws, areas where the pace lags, or large loop holes
  10. Structural Changes
    Get the large pieces in place, outline new scenes and what scenes will get cut or overhauled.
  11. Repeat
    Start the whole process over for the next draft. Don’t try to fix everything or you will never begin. But aim to fix 80% of the issues.
  12. Polish
    Now we want to fine tune. Do chapter critiques. Get people scrutinizing every line. Make sure the voice of the character is consistent. Make every word count.
  13. Send to professional Editor, Query an Agent and Publish!
    Ok so that’s a whole process that requires its own system, but I’ll summarize here. Only 1 in 1000 novels get this far. Best of luck!

Yes this makes it sound too easy. I skipped the nights of fussing over issues, months of rearranging scenes, struggling with plot holes and character flaws, and I haven’t even gotten to the rejections. But hey, let’s stay positive!

Fixing Plot Holes

Here’s my process.

Normally critics point out the holes, but sometimes you just realize things don’t add up..

1. Plot Holes: he couldn’t have gotten there in time, or I’m a professional X and this is not how that works. or, it seems too coincidental that this showed up at that time.

2. Character Holes: why doesn’t she just call the cops? He doesn’t seem like the type of guy to do that.



ok several people noticed this so it needs to be fixed. Only one person had an issue with that because they had some obscure knowledge.



I break it down like this:

Hole: The police would have gotten a record of that cell call

Option A: he never makes the call (pros, cons, new holes caused by this)

Option B: he used a different phone

Option C: the call does get brought up but there’s another explanation.



Don’t make a choice right away, let it marinate and stir, or else you can get swallowed in an endless loop of despair when each fix causes a new problem. Normally one choice will outweigh the others, then write it.