How do you have a villain people can relate to?

jayne bad guys

Some stories make them suffer–so you can feel empathy or at least sympathy for their past. This seems like a cheap way out to me. Painful events don’t give you an excuse to be a terrible person.

Another option is to make them misunderstood. They’re not really bad, they have really good reasons for their actions.

But what other options are there? How can you make a truly wicked villain likable?

I think it can be done another way–by making the world a truly terrifying place to live, so a practical sociopath can make the decisions that allow the most people to survive. But how terrifying does it have to be, in order to partially excuse those choices?

What do you think?

About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

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