Make Your Villain Stronger Than Your Hero

Villains Versus Heroes

So this enormous gunslinger walks into a bar, black hat pulled
down low, six-shooters drawn. He’s all muscle, he’s mean,
his scars have scars, his tree-trunk legs sport bands of throwing
knives, and he has whiskey on his breath and death in his eyes.

He stalks up to the hero, shoves both guns against the hero’s
chest, and says, “I have you now, Slim.”

And Slim, who had one arm around Miss Bitty the Hooker With The
Heart Of Gold, and the other fist curled around a sarsparilly,
arches an eyebrow, puts down the salsparilly, and waves his
hand in a mystic pass…

…And the villain falls over dead.


This is an exaggeration.

Unfortunately, it isn’t much of one.

Writers connect with their main characters. Empathize with them.
Cringe at the idea of them getting hurt.

So any time the hero is faced with some problem, some nightmare,
some villain, he or she manages to escape destruction by
superpower, deus ex machina, the hero’s sudden and
ne’er-before-mentioned twin black belts in judo and jujitsu…
or the villain’s previously un-described deathly allergy to

Hit your hero where it hurts

When you write a story, you commit to hitting your hero
where it hurts. Skinned knees, broken hearts, the occasional
fractured skull or bullet wound.

The villain has to be bigger, badder, tougher, smarter, meaner,
better armed, better fed, and better backed.

Your hero can have a lot going for him or her–but for every
great new tool or nifty superpower he gets, your villain
needs a better, shinier, faster one.

Your hero has to win only AFTER he gets the crap beat out of
him. Maybe after Miss Bitty dumps him for the black-hatted
gunslinger. Maybe after the town turns its back on him
and makes the villain the new sheriff.

Because, quite simply, for winning to mean anything,
your character cowboy-on-horsehas to earn it.

Write with joy,


Tell A Writer
Holly Lisle

Novelist, writing-nerd, dissector of thought processes, writing course creator and site owner here, Holly Lisle has a cat that plays fetch and a whole lotta stuff on for both readers and writers.