Villainous Names

I recently asked my writing group to help me pick out my villain’s name for my current book. I had a small list of options and I liked one better because when my husband said it in a deep voice it sounded sinister. Great reason right? I got the gambit back in comments. The most important realization being the name does not make the character but the character makes the name.

Some great examples of names that at first glance do not seem sinister but after reading are terror inducing include:
Moriarty, The Final Problem
Long John Silver, Treasure Island
Bill Sikes, Oliver Twist

While other character names give away their evil intent right from the start:
Captain James Hook, Peter Pan
Cruella De Vil, 101 Dalmatians
Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter series

So how do you pick? Do you go with something obvious or more covert? I think the answer is deeper than first glance. Here are some other factors to consider when selecting the right name for your characters:

1. Your Audience: Younger readers usually prefer to have a clue to the bad guy (or gal) in the name while older readers are more willing to wait it out. Example Captain Hook, he has a hook for a hand, doesn’t get more obvious than that. While Bill Sikes sounds like a totally normal guy from the rural Midwest.
2. Your Genre: For certain book types the villain may remain a mystery right up to the end. While others the battle rages from the first chapter. Example Moriarty, sounds like a Victorian academic but it takes awhile to work out he is the bad guy. While Lord Voldemort is declared the bad guy right from the start of the series, even though we don’t meet him until the end of the first book.
3. Your Character: Villains can be a bully or a serial killer, and anything in between. The profession, location, era, and age of your villain can give you a peak into possible name ideas. Example Long John Silver, sounds like a happy pirate, even though he is plotting the whole time.
4. Your Intent: Ofton the degree of obviousness in the name can make the villain less human. Use your name to start an understanding of the level of evil your readers are dealing with.  Example Cruella De Vil, her name literally says cruel devil, and the book shows she is.

Did you find this helpful? What are some examples of villain names you have come up with. I’ve added my villain’s name below.

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