for writers: characteristics of the evil one on the hero’s journey


Yeah, yeah, I know I teased a different topic last time, but I’ve revised, okay?


Needs a


This is one case where badder is better.  A strong and interesting hero needs a powerful and cunning foe.  Don’t be ambiguous when constructing the bad guy’s personality.  You gotta make the trip worth it.

In a Hero’s Journey, the Evil One is the challenger-in-chief of the hero’s mettle.  Often, the hero doesn’t have direct contact with the Evil One, only encountering his foe’s might through evil minions.  The Evil One might be behind the scenes, but ultimately he’s the one responsible for the hero’s rocky road.

Paradoxically, (if that is a word), the Evil One and the Hero share many traits.  Here are the characteristics of the Evil One, categorized for your viewing pleasure:


1. No special birth or destiny.  He might claim to be the seventh son of the seventh son, but really he’s only the sixth.

2. Motivated by narcissism, lust for power, unholy needs, etc.  The Evil One is totally driven by the need to satisfy his sick ego.  (Squirm.)

3. Never behaves idealistically.  Doesn’t understand the concept.  Maybe something went wrong in his toilet training.

4. Could be a whiny, groveling, obeisant (great word, huh?)  little puke when brought to account.

5. Self-indulgent, he probably cannot be stoic.  Not used to hardship.

6. In the end, he is loyal only to himself.

7. Usually not physically superior.  He has minions for that kind of stuff.

8. Cruel.  ‘Nuff said.

9. Often, the Evil One is lucky toward the beginning of the story.  The poor Hero has to earn every victory he attains.

10. Unforgiving, which can be pretty bad for those incompetent minions.

11.  Could be a quitter, running away when he sees the battle is lost.  This underscores the Hero’s bravery and shows what a sniveling little coward the Evil One really is.



1. He must be intelligent.  If he’s not a worthy opponent, the contest will extremely one-sided, which translates into: DULL.  It’s even more of an interesting situation if the Evil One is actually a little more intelligent than the hero.

2. Might be wounded, like a hero, but unlike the hero, he doesn’t learn anything from it.  He uses it as a reason to be really naughty.

3. Probably overly confident.  A downfall for anyone.

4. Could be a rebel.  Sure, he might be a troll living under the bridge, but he also might be a corrupt government official.

5. Might have a special talent, but of course, it’s used for bad stuff.  The talent might actually be the same one that the hero has.  Through the journey, however, the hero’s talent improves, and the Evil One may become overconfident.

6. Ooooo.  The best Evil Ones are sexy.


Sawyer - Lost


Next time: Something about the Hero’s Journey.  Don’t fence me in, Baby.


About Lisha Cauthen

Lisha Cauthen writes YA novels for guys that girls like to read too.

Posted on September 13, 2008, in hero's journey, writing and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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