How Do You Make Villains Likable?

This Week in Writing we look forward to Succession season three and celebrate the unlovable, but captivating, villain.

How Do You Make Villains Likable?
Source: HBO

We’re rolling into October, which means the weather is about to cool down here in Florida. It also means the long-awaited third season of Succession is almost here! If you’re not familiar, Succession is the story of a family-owned multi-national media empire. Each of the characters is a pretty awful human being. That said, they are captivating, and I can’t help but wonder what happens next.

Captivatingly evil characters aren’t exclusive to Succession, of course. There are traditional anti-heroes who are bad people but who you can’t help but root for — Darth Vader immediately comes to mind (in the Original Trilogy, not the prequels…). Some villains are more or less evil versions of the hero. I told my wife that the father in Succession is somewhat like an anti-Jed Bartlet from The West Wing and, while the analogy isn’t perfect, the comparison works.

How do you develop captivating villains? Do you stick to traditional tropes or go all out creating villains dripping with evil? Hit reply and join this week’s discussion.

A version of this article also appeared on Medium.