How to Create Characters — Villains and Heroes in Screenplays

Your Villain Needs to Be Proportionally Strong to Your Hero – How to Write Characters

This is, I think, one of the trickiest things for beginning screenwriters to get down (no one said knowing how to write characters would be easy), and understandably so. Achieving balance in almost anything in life is a challenge, and screenwriting is no exception to that rule. In order for us to be fully invested in the story (and for you to prove that you know how to write characters), we need to not be able to know who’s going to win the fight from a mile away. By the way, there are exceptions to this rule – if you’re doing a Marvel superhero movie or a James Bond movie, those guys are always going to win the fight at the end of the day.

Personally, I would suggest having your villain be stronger than your hero by some visible degree, but not to where it strains the believability of the story. The reason being is that if your villain is an immortal, a god-king type character of some sort, then when it comes time for him to finally meet his doom (whether metaphorically or literally), it’ll feel like a cop out – what made your protagonist special was that he did this one thing that no one else could? I’ll use the Hobbit as an example here – you can totally have your villain be a dragon, but you better not forget to put a weak spot under his belly.

Also, I want to take a moment here to cover something that is important to understand when we’re talking about how to write characters for both hero and villains alike while we’re on the topic. If you have a character that has a special set of skills (i.e. fighting or using weapons or a working knowledge of nuclear physics), you need to explain where your character got that knowledge from. I love action movies, but I cannot stand it when they cast some Hollywood pretty boy (who I know has never been in a fight in his life) in the role of an action hero while expecting the audience to believe it without any explanation. If your character has special skills, make sure they have a background story to go with them, and a good one at that.