10 Questions To Ask Yourself When Creating A Villain For Your Screenplay
Villains… Antagonists… Anti-Heroes… Evil Doers…
Creating memorable villains is a difficult challenge to overcome but it’s not impossible if you put in the work. There is no hindrance greater than your own imagination when it comes to your screenplay’s big bad. You can create a complex and engaging villain worthy of your story’s hero.
So where do you start? There are millions of questions worth exploring when you set out to create a villain. Below you’ll find 10 to help you get started. Answering each of these will undoubtedly open up more revealing questions as you continue the development process. The most important of which?
How deep are you willing to go to create the perfect villain(s) for your screenplay?
XTRA SPARK | THE SCREENWRITER’S GUIDE TO MOVIE VILLAINS
1. WHO IS MY VILLAIN?
Giving your character a name doesn’t mean you know who he/she is. The exciting first step is all about originality. What makes your villain special? Once you’ve covered the basics, you’re ready to move on to question #2:
2. WHO IS MY VILLAIN… REALLY?
What makes your villain tick? What’s going on inside? What sparks the engine that drives them?
3. WHAT DOES MY VILLAIN WANT/NEED/LOVE?
What makes a villain complex and three dimensional starts with this question. Every villain is the hero of their own story. A villain’s happy ending might be wretched but they believe it’s worth fighting for.
4. HOW FAR IS MY VILLAIN WILLING TO GO TO REACH IT’S GOAL?
How long will they fight? Strength, determination, courage, creativity, patience and more can steer your villain in different directions. Does your villain give up easily? Or will they stop at nothing to win?
5. WHAT IS MY VILLAIN’S RELATIONSHIP TO MY HERO?
The best villains are either connected to the hero when the story begins or develop that connection throughout the story. Either way, without that connection, how is the audience supposed to connect to your story?
6. WHY IS MY VILLAIN A FORMIDABLE FOE?
What are your villain’s weapons? It is emotional manipulation? Physical abilities? Technology? Intelligence? Strategy? All of the above?
7. HOW DO I WANT THE AUDIENCE TO PERCEIVE AND/OR RELATE TO MY VILLAIN?
The answer to this question can be simple or complex. Regardless, it’s extremely important to know the answer because it informs every action your villain makes. If you want your villain to appear redeemable, would it make sense to make them relentless and violent to a fault?
8. WHAT MAKES MY VILLAIN ENTERTAINING?
What if, gulp, your audience finds your villain boring? You cannot ignore this question. Movies are made to entertain after all. Is your villain predictable? Clichéd? Stereotypical? Derivative? Boring!? These are the scary words to hear let alone discovering they are true for yourself. Luckily, you have the power of rewrites on your site so avoid them at all cost!
9. WHAT MAKES MY VILLAIN MEMORABLE?
You can be entertaining throughout your screenplay but to truly resonate with audiences your villain has to be memorable. A physical villain blessed with remarkable combat skills might be entertaining during fights but you have to raise the bar. Take your villain to the next level. The simple way to achieve this is to ask the last and most important question on this list:
10. WHAT CAN I DO TO MAKE THIS VILLAIN BETTER?
Develop. Write. Rewrite. Repeat. Always ask yourself if there are any details you missed. What can be done to reach that next level and create a truly entertaining and memorable villain. Ask yourself the questions on this list but don’t stop there. Your screenplay is only as good as the effort you’re willing to put in.
Passion and dedication are easy to spot in a screenplay. Ask yourself a million questions if you must. It all pays off when you finish your screenplay and smile.