Intro- Hero’s and Villains are often times the main points of a story. Some heroes are so well written that you could move them from one story and world and into another and they would still feel able to handle themselves. Because they feel real. Some Villains remind us of the troubles we face in our own reality every day. Writing a good hero and a memorable villain is hard. You want to create someone people love or hate. Someone they admire or despise. But how do we make these characters feel real? How do we make them memorable?
Motivation- Hero’s and villains have a few things in common that most don’t realize when they first start crafting villains. Both heroes and villains have the belief that their path is righteous or that their path is morally correct. They are acting towards their own good. Even if the villains version of good is actually very evil in the eyes of the common person, in their point of view, or their philosophy, the villain believes they are doing the right thing. No one is evil to be evil. There’s motivation behind it.
Much like how the hero is not good simple to be good. There is a motivation behind it. A difference in belief systems.
The good guy and the bad guy need opposing motivations.
- The villain may want to conquer a portion of the world, possibly destroy a kingdom out of vengeance because they believed punishment is their only form of justice but they aren’t considering all the innocents that are lost in their struggle. They only think of destroying the other king, who has wronged them. Whereas the hero might be thrust into action to stop the villain from destroying their home. The hero doesn’t care if his king committed an atrocity in the past causing the villains need for vengeance. The hero’s concern is for the present and the future and the lives that are currently being lost. He may not agree with what his king did, but he can not stop that. He can however, stop the villain from destroying his home and the people he loves.
The reader needs to be able to identify with the hero and the villain
- This doesn’t mean that the reader should sympathize with the villain. It means more so that the reader should be able pick out things about the villain that they wouldn’t like in their own reality. The villain could be rude or outlandish. The Villain could be over the top in terms of personality or the hero could be nothing but sadness and rage. Raw emotion forcing it’s away against the world. Give the reason someone real to hate.
Maybe the hero could be the same kind of person. A hero typically has a lighter, more identifiable attitude. They are more grounded and less outlandish or less drastic. Instead of being prone to bouts of brash anger the hero is more prone to control anger. The hero needs to feel something. They need to have emotions. They need to be the type of person that you root for. They have to be real. Real meaning that they can fail. Like the villain they are flawed.
Your hero and villain could be almost the same person with the same traits with opposing motivations. Too often, writers create villains that are bad guys just to be bad guys.
- The hero and the villain could have a similar background to breed commonality between the two opposing forces. Maybe they were moth farmers who reacted to their circumstances differently. One was soured by failure and gave up while one persevered and found a new way past their hardships.
- Maybe the backgrounds of your hero and villain are completely different. One comes from riches and does not understand that what he is doing is even evil, because to them, it’s just the way they’ve always lived. Then you show the hero being dirt poor fighting against their poverty and trying to escape their constant struggle for survival.
- However you set up your background, it needs to be realistic and believable. Your villain likely wasn’t a murderous child who has only ever done horrible things. Your hero wasn’t the best at everything. No one is. Everyone, even those we think are on a pedestal in our own lives, has faced struggle. Your hero’s and your villains must struggle as well. What events made them who they are?
The Hero’s Journey is one of the most commonly used plotting methods. This plotting method has been used in stories like Starwars, the Matrix, Startrek, Hercules, and thousands more stories. Click here to learn more about writing the Hero’s Journey.