How do writers create characters readers love to hate? How can you create your own Dolores Umbridge or
You might want to maintain some complexity in even the most dastardly characters, but these tricks will help you ensure that readers will hate them anyway.
Hit Close to Home
Sexism aside (and I know that’s a hell of a thing to set aside), there’s a huge reason why people hate Umbridge more than Voldemort.
Most of us have never battled a magical noseless authoritarian wizard (I think?) but we HAVE likely experienced a cruel authority figure, especially one who’s malice is masked behind a façade of politeness. Umbridge’s everyday cruelty hits closer to home for many readers.
Show the character consistently targeting individuals who are weaker, including the elderly, children, or animals. Have them belittle those who can’t defend themselves.
Make them rude to servers, or exploitative of their staff. Having them kill the dog might be a little cheap, but you get the idea.
Betraying Someone Nice
Introduce a genuinely kind and trusting character whom the readers will like (see my post on cinnamon roll characters) then have this hate-able character betray them. Maybe they cheat on them, or back-stab them, or even kill them.
People hate a hypocrite. Make the character hold others to a high standard while exempting themselves from the same expectations.
They claim to have strong moral convictions but conveniently abandon them when it suits their interests. Although they have a public image as someone who’s virtuous and morally upright, it’s all a lie.
Good Things Come Too Easily
Readers often connect more with characters who face challenges and overcome obstacles. Characters who effortlessly achieve success without facing hardships can remind readers of real life injustices.
Show the character receiving opportunities without having earned them through merit or hard work. They may even be arrogant and entitled because of this.