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There is one really surefire, patented quick way to create instant hate for a villain in a reader. Now, while there are no formulas in writing, there are still good ideas… and conversely, there are bad ideas.

If you want instant hate, here’s the quick simple way: Have the character who must be hated be cruel or unkind to a harmless and/or helpless character, like a child, an elderly lady, or an animal that can’t defend itself.

There are other ways of doing this, though, but they take time. I suppose you could go the way of hate by association, or use the opinion of a main or more-beloved character to sway that of your readers’, but this is the best way. It’s especially brilliant if the main character starts out rather pathetic and helpless, because then you can kill two birds with one stone; introduce the main conflict AND get the hate started at one time! Jude Watson does this in the Jedi Apprentice books; she has Xanatos sell a young Obi-Wan into slavery in the second book. WHILE HE IS UNCONSCIOUS. Whoa. Instant evil. Instant hate.

Dave Wolverton, in the first book of the same series, introduced Bruck Chun differently; I always thought Bruck was redeemable, because instead of pulling the wings off of baby birds, the first time we saw Bruck he was engaged in a semi-serious rivalry against Obi-Wan. And Bruck Chun always struck me as ultimately redeemable. Nota bene: Bruck did not torment a “helpless” creature. We did not hate him, just disliked him. Hence, dislike and perhaps disgust, but not hate. Ultimately redeemable.

But then when Jude Watson came back with the same series, later on, Bruck threatened a young Bant Eerin who was chained to the bottom of a pool and drowning. Extremely helpless. Now, we hate him.

When we see Feragho the Assassin the first time, he’s just murdered the parents of two young badgers, and says “leave them to die.” Evil. The second time we see him: he chops a grasshopper in half and laughs cruelly. Despicable. Instantly hated.

This is harder to do in stories in which we don’t meet the main villain until we’re in the second act of the story, but it’s still possible. An evil minion torments a helpless creature. Voila! Hatred by proxy!

Now, why am I saying this? It’s simple. As authors, part of what we do is we manipulate our readers’ emotions through word choice, slight expressions, other little tricks such as using shorter words to lead up to confrontations, leaving our readers breathless. We put our own twist, our little spin, on simple, objective situations, give them objective meaning. We play around with people’s feelings, and then they thank us for it (though, to be absolutely honest, it’s kind of a love/hate relationship.) We are the masters of how the reader perceives our little worlds, and they only doubt us if we do it poorly, so it’s well worth while to do it right.

Instant Boxed Hate Mix: Just Add Water.