How to Write Characters – Everybody Has a Backstory, Even Bad Guys

It’s crucially important (if you know how to write characters) that you give your villain a compelling reason for doing the things that they’re doing – they can’t just be there “just because.” Remember, villains don’t see themselves as villains – they see themselves as misunderstood heroes, and as such, they don’t think that what they’re doing is wrong at all.
We’ll go back to Loki for a moment – the more you think about it, can you really blame Loki for being angry? His actual lineage was concealed from him by his adopted family, and when he (the older brother) is in line for a promotion to the king of Asgard, he loses the job to his younger, less qualified, prom king brother. Wouldn’t you be at least a little bit annoyed too? Of course, you would – that’s human nature, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to recreate on the page here (which shows that you know how to write characters). Now take a few moments and come up with a compelling villain whose motivations are also completely understandable – not necessarily sympathetic, but understandable.

How to Write Characters – Give Your Villain A Memorable Calling Card
Think about some of your favorite villains right off of the top of your head – Darth Vader, Blofeld from the James Bond series, Hannibal Lecter – and you’ll realize right away that they all have one thing in common – a super memorable calling card (this is a great way to show that you know how to write characters). What exactly do I mean by that? Well, a calling card is basically anything a character does that is repeated over and over again (musicians call this a motif). Darth Vader has his unique costume and voice, Blofeld has his shaved head and white cat, and Hannibal has his cannibalism and eloquent speeches – and the characters wouldn’t be the same without those. Plus, from an acting standpoint, those are the kinds of little quirks that draw an actor to a part like a moth to a flame. You’ll greatly increase your chances of getting your film made if you work those little things into your script and also show off that you know how to write characters.

At this point, I’d recommend doing the same exercise you did at the end of the last chapter again, only this time with your favorite movie bad guy (or girl). Try and walk that character through the steps I’ve listed here, and you’ll find that that they fit like a glove, and for a good reason – we’re pulling from examples that have endured the test of time, and rightfully so – if something isn’t broke, why fix it?