I hadn't thought about it before, but today I came across a writing prompt that involved hate. My mind kept running up against walls. It's not a skill I have ever worked at fostering. I can't think of a reason good enough to hate someone nor can I think of hateful things to do or say to someone. As a writer I know that I will eventually have to write characters who have this problem (there are villains after all) and I'm concerned that I won't be able to when the time comes.

Has anyone else had this problem, or do you have suggestions of what I could do to help me write these future characters?

Edit: Adding the villains bit was mostly just a silly thrown in statement. I know they are not the only ones to feel hate, but I've noticed that in some fiction the emotion is thrown on them. Sum up of that: it was a silly, superfluous, parenthetic statement.

A lot of good points have been made, and I appreciate all of them. The idea that hate is just dislike blown out of proportion (due to various contributing factors) makes sense, and I believe that I can build a character that hates something/someone using that knowledge.

I have noticed that even when I was very young I tended to be unwilling to make concrete decisions about certain things I disliked because there were too many variables in play to make a definitive decision on it. The upshot of that is that I am saddened by actions and occurrences that cause harm to me and mine. I know that these types of things end up hurting the harmers -sometimes- more deeply than the harmed. I have not experienced the hurt of being a harmer myself specifically, but -being an observer- I watch it happen to them. It's hard to watch, and I hope that they can move beyond it; forgive themselves, and make steps to be kinder in the future.

To me it makes no logical sense to foster deception, harm, and so on since the long reaching ramifications are so horrid. Fortunately, you all have pointed out to me that hate is not necessarily logical so that helps as well.

Thank you.

7 Answers 7


Perhaps you understand hate, you just call it something else.

Anger, distain, avoidance, disappointment, shock...these can all have elements of hate in them. Anger especially. The word "hate" has been used a lot in recent years and has picked up connotations it didn't really have before. Now there is a sense of moral judgement on hate and we have the common word "haters." Try to think of the word in an older sense, as something or someone you dislike in a very strong way.

If you're thinking that only villains can hate then you're using a very narrow definition of the word.

Everyone can hate and probably everyone does hate to some degree. Maybe you don't hate anyone you know, but you might hate a public figure who has used her/his power to do hateful things. Or you could have general hate for people who throw their cigarette butts out car windows. Or you might really hate coconut. It doesn't have to be profound and life-altering to hate something.

If you really can't relate to it, then find people who can and talk to them.

Treat it like you would learning about people who do or are things you have no experience with. Like drug addiction, or being a victim of trauma, or traveling to another country, or having parents who divorce. Or even small things like working in an ice cream shop or getting an F on an essay or owning a dog.

Talk to people. Your friends and family and people you don't know well. Reaching out on the internet was a good step. Learn about how different people can be inside. What makes them tick, what makes them special, how do different experiences shape them? This will make you a better writer.


You say you've been lucky - nobody has given you a cause to hate them. Now imagine someone, or some group, laid deliberate, continuous, unjust abuse on someone(s) you cared about. Or imagine your own welfare and happiness being continually put under threat by a person's or group's deliberate actions. And the system gives you no way to do anything about it - in fact, the system might be the perpetrator, or it might be tacitly supporting the perpetrator, leaving you helpless. Those are the keys here: harm is deliberate, unjust, and "justice" isn't being meted to the perpetrator - they can continue perpetrating, and enjoying the profits thereof. And it is personal - you or somebody you care about are threatened, or actually harmed.

(Harm can be perceived. Blood libels were a common excuse for anti-Semitism, never mind that they were libel - surprise, surprise, we do not, in fact, eat children.)

Because there is no legal recourse to your fear and pain, a boiling need to change things rises in you - to hurt those who have hurt you, to make it so they can't hurt anyone ever again. Only, you can't, at least not without paying a heavy price. And that too is unfair. This boiling cauldron is where hate is born.

That's something you need to understand, when writing: hate is a strong emotion. Hate is passion. Hate is a fire inside you.

There is another element: each character, like each person, has an "inner narrative", within the framework of which they understand the world. Evidence that doesn't fit into this narrative gets tossed away as "a lie", "pretence", etc. So, if a person from a hated group suddenly helps your character, it's "clear" to your character they're only doing this for some nefarious hidden agenda of their own. Basically, hate colours their inner narrative, and they understand the world in light of their hate. Even a cry of pain can be construed as "they're trying to manipulate me, they should be punished for this."


To me, hate has always been an intense desire for something to change, while believing it is resistant to that change.

Good people can hate many things. They hate the villain. They hate their past. They hate that people are starving, or abused, or ignored. They hate it, because it doesn't have to be that way and yet it still is.

If you want to change something and it is easy to fix, it's just annoying.

A lightbulb is flickering in a room and that's annoying, so you change the bulb, but then it still flickers which is frustrating so you get an electrician to look at it, but it still flickers and now you hate that lightbulb.

From that, my advice is:

  • Consider how the character's hatred has evolved.
    • It probably started as a petty annoyance, but it has become a real block in their life, why is that?
  • Consider how the character's hatred affects them.
    • Is it a motivator in their life to do something? Is it a demotivator? What does it do to them?
  • Consider how the character's hatred manifests in their day to day.
    • Do they mutter to themselves every time they pass their rival in the street? Do they refuse to help someone because of some prejudice? What does it make them do?

That being said, hatred is not always rational and can quite easily crop up with very little rhyme or reason. But if you can understand the character's mindset, it makes it much easier to write about them.


First, I commend you for having gotten past hate in your own life. But that's a pretty mature attitude. If you search your memories carefully (perhaps back to early childhood, if necessary), I'd be surprised if you can't find someone that you hated, at least for a little while --enough to give you the emotional taste of it. If you can't, you might consider that you may be mentally censoring yourself --even good people feel bad emotions sometimes.

It's worth noting that you can write about hate without understanding it. Just write from the close POV of character who feels similarly mystified.

Finally, you don't necessarily need to take hate as a subject at all. Even villains don't always hate. Sometimes they love too much, or too selfishly, or too blindly.


As a writer I know that I will eventually have to write characters who have this problem (there are villains after all) and I'm concerned that I won't be able to when the time comes.

If you want to understand hate better, first you need to realize that 'good people' hate as well as 'bad people.' Hate is a human emotion, and if you want to understand how to write a character that hates, first, you need to understand in your mind that this character is human. You need to be able to step into their shoes and understand why they feel as strongly as they do. It's a cliche but still holds true that every villain is a hero of their own stories.


Hate is not just over-blown dislike. Hate is visceral, a wish that somebody else suffer harm, often for the harm they have actually done, in other cases for the harm the hater truly believes they have done, or will do, either to the hater, or to people the hater cares about.

Hate can be addictive; it is an intense emotion and has its rewards: For example, if Jill believes another person or group is responsible for the death of her brother, or father, imagining the harms that could be done to those responsible can be a salve to her, imagining them getting their just rewards of pain and grief can feel satisfying.

If she believes their evil is an ongoing enterprise (and for some criminals that can be reality), her hatred may even enable her to scheme to inflict that harm and bring her imaginations to reality, and she may feel justified as a vigilante in doing so to prevent the perpetrators from doing any further harm, to people like her. Jill may believe they would thank her, if they knew she was responsible for hurting them, or killing them. She may be proud of her contribution.

Hate, like love or lust, does not have to be rational. We can reason about it (as I have done above), but the emotion itself is not based in logic, it is not like "X is true and Y is true, therefore I hate." Dislike can be based in logic and reasons. Like can be too: Josh is competent in his job, he's civil and doesn't insult people, he can be funny without racism or sexism, those are reasons I like working with Josh. No conflicts.

Love isn't like that, lust isn't like that, and hate isn't like that. Hate is a visceral feeling, usually felt because one is certain the person hated is a personal harm, or causing harm to others, or is in general a harm to society, and therefore unworthy of any enjoyment or success they (the hated) has in life, and the hater or society in general would be better off rid of the hated person (or group).

Hate may not be strong enough to actually break laws in order to harm the hated, but it can be that strong: the hater can believe the laws are mistaken and should not apply to this particular circumstance, that the hated is guilty and true justice demands they be punished, no matter what the cost.


All of the answers here already are good answers. It's a complex topic, and all three answers addresses key points the others miss or touch too lightly. But I feel there's a few important things that have not been said. I doubt I've covered them all.

The lack of a reason good enough to hate someone hasn't stopped... just about everyone.

Most of the people I've talked to who claimed to be free of all hate did, in fact, hate someone, and this came out after talking with them for a while. The person they hated was themselves.

This is not a big statement about people hating one thing or another; it's a statement about people tending to encounter others who are like themselves. I've talked to a number of other people who noticed this and thought it was a great power of the universe, but it isn't. It's us. We prefer to be around the familiar, and we are the person with whom we are most familiar. For some of us, this is harder than others; different people are different, and some of us are more different than others.

Hating onesself doesn't have to continue; I've more or less made amends. I have my problems and I try to worth through them, same as anyone else. It was easier for me, because as a straight guy in the US, I haven't been taught to hate myself, I just did. Many people in many cultures are taught to hate themselves, and that can run deep. Most people can't work on fixing it until they notice it.

If self-hatred is also not your thing, understand that even dislike is similar to hate in many aspects. Start with dislike, and add frustration. This thing that is disliked is always there, there's no getting away from it. Most people who hate others but not themselves do so by blaming any inadequacy they feel on the target of their dislike.

Galastel mentions injustice. That's almost a distraction. Justice is a refined concept and hate is a raw emotion. But if you understand the concept of justice, you can harness it to feed that raw emotion, regardless of whether it is properly applied or not. I've seen someone physically assault a police officer and then claim that his subsequent arrest was unjust. I'm sure they were angered by their arrest more because of that thought, regardless of how false it was.

Galastel's mention of blood libels is also an especially good point. Most of the people I've had extensive discussions about why they hated one thing or another have had a significant amount of misinformation about the subject of their hatred. This misinformation was rarely enough to be the source of hatred, but always a significant contribution to it when it was present.

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