The protagonist is usually thought of as the hero of the story. They might have flaws or make poor decisions, but over the course of their journey, they generally right their wrongs and triumph over evil.\r\n\r\nAs readers, we connect with the protagonist's internal motivations, wants and fears. We understand why they are the way they are, and we root for them to achieve their dreams and make the world a better place.\r\n\r\nBut what if your main character possesses 'evil' qualities? What if their internal motivation is to gain power by any means, or to steal something rare and beautiful for the sole purpose of obtaining wealth?\r\n\r\nWill the readers connect with them? Or will they be too disgusted to continue with your story?\r\n\r\nCan a protagonist be evil? Can a villain be the main character of a story? Let's find out.\r\nThe villain protagonist\r\nShort answer: yes, a protagonist can be evil. Villain protagonists are nowhere near as common as heroes, but can be done well if you do the necessary character-building, which we'll go into shortly.\r\n\r\nSometimes the villain protagonist will start evil and become a better person at the end. Other times they will remain evil throughout, stuck in their ways.\r\n\r\nSometimes they might even start out as a hero and descend into villainy. The possibilities for different character arcs are wide-ranging.\r\n\r\nWhichever you choose, remember: a character cannot be evil for the sake of being evil.\r\n\r\nLike a real human being, an evil protagonist should have a backstory, a reason as to why they hold certain beliefs and make certain choices.\r\n\r\nIf you don't explore why they are the way they are, your protagonist will fall flat and readers won't understand why they should invest in the story. Don't give them a reason to put your book down.\r\n\r\nBooks with villain protagonists aren't for everybody. Some people prefer to read about protagonists they can relate to and root for, and that's fine.\r\n\r\nOther readers may enjoy the challenge of picking up a book with an 'evil' protagonist to read a story from an unusual point of view. It's those people for whom you'll primarily be writing.\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nBooks with villains as the main character\r\nSome examples of books with villainous or evil protagonists include:\r\n\r\n \tA Clockwork Orange \u2013 Anthony Burgess\r\n \tAmerican Psycho \u2013 Bret Easton Ellis\r\n \tGone Girl \u2013 Gillian Flynn\r\n \tPrince of Thorns \u2013 Mark Lawrence\r\n \tPicture Perfect \u2013 Jodi Picoult\r\n \tVicious \u2013 Victoria Schwab\r\n \tHow The Grinch Stole Christmas! \u2013 Dr Seuss\r\n \tPerfume: The Story of a Murderer \u2013 Patrick S\u00fcskind\r\n \tThe Picture of Dorian Gray \u2013 Oscar Wilde\r\n\r\nHow to create the ultimate evil protagonist\r\nWe have four important tips to help you create a compelling villain protagonist for your story.\r\n\r\nThey all revolve around one vital guideline: don't let your protag fall into the cage of two-dimensional evil.\r\n\r\nBuild a three-dimensional character who is nuanced and multi-layered and your readers will thank you.\r\n1. Build the evil protagonist as you would any main character\r\nEvery great villain believes they are the hero of their story.\r\n\r\nExplore your protagonist's backstory to help you and your readers understand why they've become so evil, and why their core beliefs are so messed up.\r\n\r\nOther areas to examine include the protagonist's personality, likes, dislikes, dreams and fears.\r\n\r\nAs you would with a typical 'good' protagonist, it's important to build your villain's character profile and get to know them inside and out.\r\n\r\nWhile exploring the character as you prepare to start drafting, you will learn a lot that will most likely assist with writing the story itself. So it's a win-win!\r\n\r\nA compelling backstory will help your readers understand your evil protagonist better. We don't need to agree with their choices, but it helps if we understand why they make them.\r\n2. Study real-life villains\r\nIf you're at a loss for how to create the ultimate evil protagonist, fear not! You can look to villains in real life for inspiration \u2013 for example, perhaps the world's most well-known villain, Adolf Hitler.\r\n\r\nIt's easy to write Hitler off as evil personified, but what's perhaps even scarier to consider is that, like so many other people, he had a mother, a childhood, hobbies and interests (art and opera, to name a few)...\r\n\r\nHe was still an objectively heinous person, but there were layers to him. Fiction readers are intrigued by characters with layers.\r\n\r\nAnother infamous villain is Ted Bundy, an American serial killer who kidnapped, raped and murdered numerous young women during the 1970s.\r\n\r\nDespite Bundy's horrific acts, there were 'likeable' characteristics about him, such as his charming personality and attractive appearance (both of which made it easier for him to trick and take advantage of people).\r\n\r\nPair this with what appeared to be his genuine affection for his partner and her daughter, and you have a complex, multi-layered, three-dimensional character rather than a cardboard cut-out villain.\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\n3. Give them human interests\r\nIf you give your evil protagonist an interest or hobby that most people like or can relate to, it will add to their complex character profile.\r\n\r\nPerhaps they have a pet dog. Perhaps, like Alex from A Clockwork Orange, they like music. Perhaps they love playing the flute.\r\n\r\nOr maybe they have a child whom they genuinely adore and take to the park every weekend. Who they push on the swingset and bake brownies with.\r\n\r\nReminding readers that your villain is a human, with whom they might even share a common interest, will better reflect the real world and instil them as a 3D character in readers' minds.\r\n4. Are they relatable?\r\nFollowing on from the above, it can be a good idea to give your villain some experiences that are relatable, like getting stuck in traffic or being late for work.\r\n\r\nMaybe they have a partner who they buy flowers for every Friday. Maybe they meet with friends for coffee on the weekend.\r\n\r\nThe contrast between ordinary acts like this and the character's evil actions will build a complex villain protagonist who readers will relate to in some way (even if they don't want to).\r\nIs an anti-hero an evil protagonist?\r\nYou might be wondering if an evil protagonist is the same as an anti-hero.\r\n\r\nNo sirree! An anti-hero usually has a role more similar to that of a hero, but with a darker side.\r\n\r\nThey might start out 'evil', but over the course of the story, turn into a good guy and save the day. Or they might achieve good results through nefarious means.\r\n\r\nWell-known examples of anti-heroes include Deadpool, Wolverine, Severus Snape and Jaime Lannister.\r\n\r\nA villain protagonist, on the other hand, is generally evil, with no guarantee that they will turn into a hero by the end of the story.\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nCreating an evil protagonist is a skill you can work at, just like any part of creative writing. But before you venture forth, make sure the villain is the perfect choice to lead your story.\r\nAsk yourself: how can the story be told in the best way? Through the eyes of an evil character, or a more typical 'good' character?\r\n\r\nThink about which character has the most to say, or which you find most intriguing and want to explore further. If your answer is the evil character, then you have a potentially interesting story to tell.\r\n\r\nYour readers will invest a lot of time, energy and emotion getting to know your main character, so it's important you choose the right pair of eyes through which to tell the story.