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  • Writer's pictureMelanie Roussel

Review: 13 Steps to Evil – How to Craft Superbad Villains by Sacha Black

Do you need help to craft your villains? Do you find your bad guy lacks a certain something? Are they bad, but not quite evil?

 This is a book I’ve wanted ever since I stumbled first discovered the author, Sacha Black’s website. I received a free ebook copy for an honest review, but truly, I loved it so much I’ve already bought my paper copy.

13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft Superbad Villains by Sacha Black has been in the works for about two years and you can tell the sheer amount of work that’s gone into it. She covers the subject with great skill and contemporary examples. Sacha demystifies villainy and lays it out for us in thirteen well thought out chapters. As the book says, there are several reasons to pick this up. I fell into the “your villain isn’t cutting the evil mustard” camp so I approached the book, hoping to at least understand why my villains were feeling so flat. The book delivered on that and so much more.

There are a few sections that really stood out for me.

The commentary on why there are so few female villains really struck a cord. A few months ago I completely rewrote my female villain out of my work in progress, as she just wasn’t what she deserved to be. The book lays out the key elements you need to create a believable villain, female or otherwise. If you’re looking for help to craft a female villain but don’t know where to start, I’d say this section is your must-read.

Another standout is the insight into the mental health of villains. It’s a fantastic chapter for all us writers who want to explore this area, but desperately want to avoid the many cliches in this area. Sacha has six years of psychology under her belt (as it says in the appendices – yes, I’m the girl who reads a book COVER to COVER, thank you). The list accurately and understandably explains the major mental illnesses that your villains may be afflicted with, suitable for the layperson.

Is your villain a secret squirrel?

Sacha writes in such an engaging style that it made the book impossible to put down. The humour she writes with, like ‘The Secret Squirrel Villain’ or ‘The Revenge Whore, some villains just can’t let shit go’, made this so much more than just your standard villain creator textbook. It had me cracking up on the tube all the way to work.

At the end of each chapter, there’s a brilliant summary of all the different facets of the section’s covered which you need to be thinking about. These are useful references for when you go back to fine-tuning your villain. As are the lists at the back of the book of example characters, soul scars, traits and values.

If I had any criticism, I would have loved more! It’s a massively useful launching pad into antagonist creation or as a way of kick-starting your own thought process. But the way Sacha intelligently explores her subject made me feel there was definitely further it could delve. But I understand that every book, eventually, has to end. 🙂

A word to the wise

The last thing I want to say is that books like these are easy to use as just a reference guide. But in this case, that would be a real waste. The book is well written, informative and hilarious – you’d be missing out if you didn’t read it in its entirety. Anyone who’s worried about their villains, doesn’t know where to start, or even if you’re looking for another insight into characterisation, this is definitely a book to read.

13 Steps To Evil – How To Craft Superbad Villains is on Goodreads and Amazon.



I published the above review when the book first came out and since then, there’s been a further workbook created! This is used in connection with the guide and serves as a wonderful way to put theory into practice. This workbook is also available on Amazon.


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