I really enjoy a book with a good antagonist. Why? I think Writer Unboxed put it nicely:
1) It amps up the conflict.
2) It makes things personal.
3) It gives us an enemy to root against.
And boy, do I love rooting against an enemy.
But writing an enemy that is realistic and still worth rooting against is not always easy. So, what kinds of things should we make sure to do when writing the "villain" of our stories?
Well, Writer Unboxed had some good tips on that, too:
1) Bad guys don’t necessarily think they’re bad.
2) There’s often a reason they’re bad. (backstory, backstory, backstory!)
3) Their badness may exist primarily in the eye of the protagonist.
4) Bad guys aren’t all bad – nobody is.
And I have a few of my own...
5) Don't make the bad guy out to be cartoonishly evil. It'll make your reader want to put down the book, and never pick it up again.
6) Give some understanding to the bad guy. This doesn't mean to make them likable or to make them win, but make it so we have a little bit of sympathy towards the bad guy, even if it doesn't last. This will make their evil all that much more impacting.
7) Make them someone the protagonist is close to. The closer they are, the more dramatically (and realistically) things will get messy when the evil starts to show.
How do you write an evil character? I'm always ready to learn more as I try to create inventive, dark characters that don't make you roll your eyes, say "you've-got-to-be-kidding-me" and slam the book shut.