Many writers, myself included, tend to spend hours crafting their main character or protagonist, but fail to fully shape their villain or antagonist. However, it could be argued that your novel's villain is your most important character. After all, without a villain to create conflict, there's no need for a protagonist to save the day. Therefore, you want to devote just as much as time, if not more, to developing your novel's antagonist as your do your novel's protagonist. How?
-Development: Why is your villain evil? What's their backstory? Is your villain a believable character? Take some time to create a backstory for your villain and develop their character arc. Understand why your villain is doing what they're doing. Think about what big events might have shaped their past and made them who they are today.
-Flesh Out Goals and Motivations: Just as your protagonist needs a goal and motivation, your villain does too. What does your villain want and why does your villain think they deserve it? Once you flesh this out, it's easier to plot out your novel's conflict. And, once you plot out your novel's conflict, it then becomes easier to understand what your hero needs to do to save the day. (See why it's important to think about your villain?)
-Speaking of Conflict: How exactly will your villain strike? At what point will the antagonist and protagonist meet? Do they already know each other? Did they have similar backgrounds but go in two different directions? Why are they against each other?
-Make Your Villian Worthy: Don't make it easy for your protagonist. Your villain needs to be epic and your readers need to believe that he's practically unbeatable. In fact, your readers need to love your villain; don't do the injustice of making him clichè. How? Your villain should be convinced that he's the good guy. In fact, he should be likable enough and have redeeming qualities that draw your readers to him, but he should also be merciless, vengeful, manipulative, deceitful, and stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Need some inspiration? Try watching scary movies or reading psychological thrillers. As you do so, ask yourself why you're scared. What senses is the director or writer using to get your heart racing? Also, try watching true crime documentaries or interviews. How do these true-life bad guys act? Why did they do the things they did?
Remember, spend just as much time developing your villain as you do your protagonist, and your novel will thank you for it. Your villain will become relatable, well-rounded, likable, and give your story's hero something worthy to fight against.
Do you have any other tips for crafting epic villains? Need me to expound on something further? If so, comment down below.