Anti-heroes and Villains: Crafting Flawed Characters We Love to Hate 2019

About This Event


Create deep veins of backstory and characterization to shape villains and anti-heroes in middle grade and young adult novels.

Antagonist, anti-hero, anti-heroine, whatever the term, a novel must have opposition. Who better to infuse conflict than a well-crafted villain?

To make a villain believable, they need motivations and guiding rules that readers can appreciate. Today’s best villains, even in all their wicked whims and power plays, also read as sympathetic.

Join authors Patrice Caldwell and Julie Dao in this engaging workshop to deepen the shadow-side of your novel.

Writers will have the opportunity to submit the opening chapter of their work-in-progress for review.

What You’ll Learn

In this workshop, we’ll:

Look at some iconic villains and discuss what goes into the creation of a really GREAT villain.

Examine your main character’s dreams and desires, and then find out who would OPPOSE those. Patrice says: “It could be a “villain”–but it could also be the hero’s best friend.”

Look at how villains serve as catalysts for the protagonist’s action.

Find out how to create sympathy for your villain, for his/her goals and dreams.

Discover where your hero and villain’s goals intersect, and how that sets up conflict in your story.

Create a powerful backstory for your villain. Julie says: “I haven’t met a single villain whose origin story I didn’t want to tell.”

Hear what an editor and an agent look for when discovering villains in submitted manuscripts.

Get faculty feedback on the opening chapter of your work-in-progress.

Who Should Attend

This course is open to beginner, intermediate and advanced writers of middle grade and young adult novels.

If you have an idea for a novel or have just begun framing your story, this course can help you sketch out a well-crafted villain.

If you have a finished draft and are in the revision phase, this course will help you examine your villain and his/her story arc.

If you have taken one of these other workshops, you may find this course of special interest: Books With Bite; Writing the Unreal; Retell, Revisit, Reimagine; Fairy Tales Revisited; and the Beginner’s Class in World Building.


Day 1

Arrival, check in, orientation

Appetizers & dinner

After dinner: Introductions, what’s in progress, what do you want from the workshop?

Day 2

Kick-off: morning writing prompt

Session 1: Crafting Antagonists

Session 2: The Business of Writing Unsympathetic Characters–Pitching Books with Anti-Heroes

Round table critiques with professional and peer feedback

After dinner: fireside Q&A

Day 3

Session 1: The Building Blocks of Villains

Session 2: Why are Retellings so Popular? Adding richness to your retelling

Session 3: Editor/Agent Presentation: Great Heroes Are Defined by the Quality of Their Villains

Session 4: Full Faculty Presentation: The Life of a Book–a book’s journey, the role of writers, agents, and editors at each stage.

After dinner: Villain movie session

Day 4

Critique sessions

Wrap-up session

Lunch & farewells


Julie C. Dao: Women I Write Should Never, Ever Be Underestimated

Julie C. Dao Talks FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS At BookCon 2017

Write or Die Podcast: Julie C. Dao‏ & The Secret Harry Potter Fan Fic

Patrice Caldwell’s Manuscript Wish List

The Writer’s Digest Podcast, Episode 5: Children’s Literature and Diversity in Publishing — Interview with Patrice Caldwell

Faculty Interview: Julie Dao and Anna-Marie McLemore

6 Villains In Literature And Film Who Deserve Their Own Spin-Off Stories

How to Plot a Book: Start With the Antagonist


This workshop is new, so we have no testimonials yet.

Cancellation Policy

100% deposit refund for cancellation 30+ days before event.
50% deposit refund for cancellation 15-29 days before event.
0% deposit refund for cancellation 0-14 days before event.
The remaining balance (total price minus deposit) is due upon arrival.
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