Creating a Character – Super Engineering a Super Villain for Your Screenplay

In order for your screenplay to carry any sort of emotional resonance (and therefore be exciting to an audience, which means you have to know how to write characters), you need to have an antagonist who challenges the entire mission of the protagonist. They don’t just need to be in contrast to one another; they need to be mirror opposites of one another. Take Loki from the Thor movies – he’s not anywhere near as intimidating, physically, as his brother, but he’s far, far more intelligent. As a result, Thor knows that he’s in danger if he takes his eye off of Loki for too long. In turn, we, as the audience, love him for it (and that’s why Joss Whedon is a master at knowing how to write characters).

Your Villain Needs to Be Everything Your Hero is Not – How to Write Characters

Simply put, if you know how to write characters, you understand that your villain needs to be the Yang to your hero’s Yin. If the hero is a cop, the villain needs to be a criminal. If your hero is superpowered, then your villain better have some tricks up their own sleeve. Otherwise, that’s going to be a Ronda Rousey fight of a movie, and no one wants to pay $15 to see a hastily resolved story. Your villain needs to be able to challenge the very core of the hero’s being at every available opportunity, and at the same time provide them with a sense of structure. Think about how many times the Joker has had the opportunity to kill Batman over the years, and yet he can never actually bring himself to go through with it – why? Because he wouldn’t have anything to do all day – any less of an opponent simply wouldn’t be a challenge for him. Without Batman, there is no Joker. They are two sides of the exact same coin, and if you get rid one of them then the other one has to go as well (this is essential to understanding how to write characters).

Also, I want to take a moment here to define antagonist (and further your understanding of how to write characters) – it doesn’t mean “monster” or “evil;” it simply means “opponent.” Your villain doesn’t have to be the most menacing creature ever to grace the silver screen. At the end of the day, they just need to provide a visible contrast to the protagonist. Worry more about making them diametric opposites then about the intimidation factor of your antagonist, and you’ll find yourself with a much stronger character when all is said and done.