Evil, Insane, Envious, and Ethical: The Four Major Types of Villain

Evil, Insane, Envious, and Ethical: The Four Major Types of Antagonists

Today, I’m guest posting over on Fiction Notes, with the post “Evil, Insane, Envious, and Ethical: The Four Major Types of Antagonists.” Here’s an excerpt:

Jane Eyre: Writer's Digest Annotated ClassicsOoh, bad guys. Where would our stories be without their spine-tingling, indignation-rousing, hatred-flaring charm? It’s a legit question. Because, without antagonists to get in our heroes’ way and cause conflict, we quite literally have no story.

So write yourself a warty-nosed, slimy-handed dude with a creepy laugh. No problemo, right? Bad guys aren’t nearly as complicated as good guys. Or are they? I would argue they’re more complicated, if only because they’re harder for most of us to understand (or maybe just admit we understand).

The best antagonists in literature are those who are just as dimensional and unexpected as your protagonists. They’re not simple black-and-white caricatures trying to lure puppies to the dark side by promising cookies. They’re real people. They might be our neighbors. Gasp! They might even be us!

That raises some interesting possibilities, doesn’t it? It also helps us realize that antagonists can come in many different shapes and sizes. While studying Charlotte Brontë’s rightful classic Jane Eyre (which I analyze in-depth in my book Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic), I identified four major types of antagonists.

Keep reading!

Evil, Insane, Envious, and Ethical1

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland lives in make-believe worlds, talks to imaginary friends, and survives primarily on chocolate truffles and espresso. She is the IPPY and NIEA Award-winning and internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel. She writes historical and speculative fiction from her home in western Nebraska and mentors authors on her award-winning website.


  1. I’m sure you’ve heard the expressions “He was his own worst enemy?” Does this mean it’s possible for the Protagonist’s character to be a ‘hidden’ antagonist?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says:

      Definitely. “Man Against Himself” is a classic plot line. Indeed, it’s at the heart of all great character arcs. But *usually* there will also be an external, physical manifestation of the antagonistic force as well.

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