7 Tips to Writing Evil Versions of Heroes

Street Fighter Mirror Match

I can’t write much about that evil Clyde running around War of Nytefall: Eulogy without giving stuff away.  Pretty sure many are rolling their eyes at the use of this trope too.  Yet, what else would pose a great final threat for Clyde except for a suspicious copy coming out of nowhere?  To be fair, I grew up in the 1980’s where the ‘evil version of a hero’ was everywhere.  I still enjoy these stories when they’re done with a twist, but you typically have to get through it all to find it.  Far too easy to stick to the standards, so what can you do to make it original?

  1. An evil copy shouldn’t be identical.  I know this goes against the concept, but that’s how it works out best.  The hero and villain can share appearances and powers to confuse people.  Their actions and personalities need to be different, but not only in that they do evil.  Of course, this can happen over time as they copy’s psyche degrades and they make the differences more apparent.
  2. One of the best ways to make this concept unique is to come up with an original origin story.  Rough sentence there.  The copy doesn’t have to be a clone or pulled from a mirror world.  You can step back and examine the rules of your world to see where such a being would come from.  The more unique the origin, the less dry the cliché comes off.
  3. If you’re having trouble with #2 then you may want to think about their motivation first.  Why is there an evil copy of the hero?  They could be a creation or servant of the main villain.  Maybe they’re a minor character from earlier who was slighted and wants revenge by ruining the hero’s reputation. There really isn’t a limit to this as long as you have it make sense.  Of course, many options do require some foreshadowing and planning if you’re doing this in a series.
  4. The imposter doesn’t have to stay as a perfect copy for the entire duration of the adventure.  Most times, they start this way through mystery and vague sightings to keep everyone guessing.  As you see more of them, you begin to see that they aren’t perfect copies.  For example, their powers might be slightly off or their costume is a little different.  Enough small differences can build up to make it clear that this evil copy isn’t identical.
  5. The original and copy can interact only so many times before the audience loses interest.  Aside from the initial and final, you might not want to go more than 2-3 times.  At some point, readers will wonder why the two keep letting each other escape instead of ending the story.  Something else to consider here is that the copy be actively avoiding the hero.  This is an easy way to explain why they aren’t constantly battling each other.
  6. Try your best to avoid the long lost twin trope.  If you do this then you better be coming with an amazing twist.
  7. A big factor in the ‘evil copy’ storyline is how the other characters react.  If everyone believes that the hero has turned into a villain then it increases the tension and reduces their allies.  If nobody believes it then you have a mystery on your hands.  Either way, the other characters need to have an opinion and react.  This can make or break an ‘evil copy’ story because the audience won’t care if the rest of the characters are shrugging the situation off.  After all, there needs to be an impact from the evil actions and the main target is reputation with close allies.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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21 Responses to 7 Tips to Writing Evil Versions of Heroes

  1. L. Marie says:

    Had to laugh at your mention of the 80s since as you mentioned the evil doppelganger was a trope in use a lot. But we still loved it. 😁


  2. Great tips. Evil twins or copies make for great reading. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like your tips. This is one I hadn’t considered, but your hints make a lot of sense.


  4. ospreyshire says:

    That’s some good advice. I did see that trope with some shows I watched, too. One interesting variation I think is fascinating is the mirror universe analog that’s used as a villainous stealth parody of a pre-established character.


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