On Heroes And Villains: What Is Right, What Is Wrong?

Good vs. bad is a common theme everywhere. It’s in novels: your protagonist is “good” and no matter what genre you’re writing in, there’s always a “bad” guy who happens to be the villain of the story, your protagonist’s rival, or simply just someone who is mean and considered “bad” by the readers.

This theme pops up (a little too frequently) in real life as well.

It’s probably one of the more common ones and it’s the broadest because there’s so much you can do with it.

But here’s the thing: Everyone has different opinions, different perspectives. So, who exactly is good and who is bad? Who’s right and who’s wrong?


When you think of a hero, you think “good.” When you think of a villain, you think “bad.” We assume the protagonist is automatically good because they’re the “protagonist.” And we assume the antagonist is bad because they’re in competition with the protagonist.

But what exactly is good and what is bad? Who decides?



What makes a character Good?

Their traits

Good or nice characters typically have certain traits that include, but are not limited to:

  • Kind to all
  • Cares about others
  • Puts others before him/herself
  • Brave
  • Patient
  • Forgiving
  • Thankful
  • Respectful
  • Responsible
  • Self-controlled
  • Trusting

And there’s plenty more, but I could create a whole post on traits alone.

Their motivation

What is the ultimate goal for a good character? They want to help others, save and protect others, etc. They don’t want to help people in order to brag that they did a good deed, either. They simply do something good out of the kindness of their heart and because it’s the right thing to do.

What makes a character Bad?

Their traits

Similar to the good guy, they’re personality is made up of many traits that allow them to do the evil things they wish.

  • Jealous
  • Distrusting
  • Cold
  • Impulsive
  • Stubborn
  • Self-centered
  • Brave
  • Patient
  • Impatient
  • Wise

Like the good guy, there’s more that I could list, but these first popped into my head.

Notice that some traits are the opposite of the good guy’s, but some are the same. For example, brave is a common trait because no matter what you do (evil or not) they need to have the guts to carry through with it. I also put “patient” and “impatient” depending on the type of bad guy. I believe it can go either/or, or just one.

Their motivation

What’s the ultimate goal for any bad guy? They want to get what they want. They try to get that in any way they can whether it’s kidnapping a princess or trying to take over the world, among other ways.

Who is right?

The good guy and the bad guy

A key to creating good guys and bad guys that exist together in the same novel is that they should have a few things in common. One major thing they should have in common is that they both believe they’re the good guy.

Both of their reasons for doing what they do are both right. You yourself might not agree so, but both characters must whole-heartedly believe their the good guy, they’re doing the right thing.

Perspective and Opinion

The author may have the good and bad outlined in their mind as they write the story, but ultimately the reader will decide.

Everyone who reads has a different opinion about what they’ve read. They either like it or don’t like it. They either agree with it or they don’t agree with it. They also have a different perspective. You might think something in the book means one thing, but your friend might interpret it differently. And everyone has a different theory about something.

In other news, I’ve challenged myself to read five books between Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26. Feel free to join me and check out my daily updates on Twitter, Tumblr, and my Bookstagram!

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31 thoughts on “On Heroes And Villains: What Is Right, What Is Wrong?

  1. I think creating characters using these traits makes them too one dimensional. I write and when I am writing, I try my best to highlight the good and the bad in both the heroes and the villains in my stories. Everyone has redeeming personality traits and vice versa everyone has bad traits. To judge them on these merits I believe is what adds dimension to them.

    • I agree. You have to actually write the characters and spend time with them before you can decide on anything, or even let them decide for themselves. I do think there are certain traits that add to it, but depending on the situation they’re thrown into as well.

  2. I’ve been taking on this challenge of good vs bad in my latest novel. I am trying to make my bad guy hard to seem like a bad guy all while making him have slight signs of a bad personality at the same time. Oh, the challenge is readl.
    Having the good guys take on the bad guys in any way is always exciting and can make stories feel so great. Especially when an author truly builds up the characters as best as they can.

  3. I’m keeping this post for my Writer Wannabees, if that’s ok. I’d take your challenge, but I’m reading this post on the 21st, so I’d be setting myself up for failure, Ha! Good luck with your venture.

    • That’s totally fine. I’m glad you can use it. 🙂
      I’ll let you in on a secret… I just started the reading challenge today, even though I said I was going to start it two days ago. Whoops.

  4. Interesting post. I’ve been thinking a lot on this theme, especially with all the pins on Pinterest that point out the similarities between Harry Potter and Voldemort and other hero-villain duos. I recently watched ‘The Fifth Estate’, a movie on Julian Assange that portrays both the good and the bad side of him and lets the viewer decide. Definitely loved that angle and also Benedict’s performance. Like you’ve mentioned, it’s all about perspective. I think the protagonist is the one who the reader can relate to the most and is sometimes not the protagonist the writer has picked, especially in multiple POV kind of books.

    • You bring up good points and I honestly thing Harry Potter and Voldemort are excellent examples of such a theme. They both had similar qualities as Voldemort practically lived inside Harry. The difference was that Harry made better choices and fought to be good. I often wonder what would have happened if Harry couldn’t fight it off? Would the world just go to hell or would Hermione and Ron (or Neville-but that’s a theory for another day) been able to save everyone, yet it still would have been a tragic end with Harry gone?
      But now I’m rambling and overthinking everything. 😉

      • I’d have loved to see Neville rise to the occasion, if that ever happened. I always root for the so-called “weak” characters. I love how he did take the initiative and manage to kill Nagini even when they all thought Harry was dead. 100 points to Gryffindor! 😛

        • Neville was awesome. He was always strong, even from day one. He just had bad things happen to him, lol.
          But there is a theory that Neville was also the “chosen one” that I very strongly believe.

          • Me too. If Voldemort hadn’t acted rashly, the events would’ve taken an entirely different turn. But would Neville’s mother have given him the same protection Lily gave Harry in her dying moments? Would Neville have survived? I’d love to write a fanfic with Neville as the Chosen One. 😁

            • Hm… That’s a good question. Maybe Neville’s grandmother would step up and do something to protect him.
              I would too. I’m sure there are plenty out there already, lol. If you ever do, I’d gladly read it!

              • If I do write it, I’ll let you know for sure. 🙂 I’m also interested in writing a fanfic starring Dumbledore. He was a very interesting and flawed character. I hope to see more of him in the new movie series.

Let me know your thoughts!

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