Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Writer Wednesday: Heroes and Villains 4

Last week we went through a writing exercise about how to make a good Hero out of a personal wound or trauma.  This week we will look at an exercise to make a fitting villain as a worthy opponent to your hero. Like I went over before writing exercises aren't about you being a good writer. It's about getting the juices flowing and giving you an idea. If the writing is bad don't worry, it's expected to be.

But first let's make some lists...

Take those lists and the exercises that you worked on last week. Today I want you to make a few lists about that hero that will give you all the inspiration you need to make a matching villain. Just get your pencil and paper ready, set the timer to ten minutes and start thinking about your character's...


  1. Physical Attributes: What does your character look like? Are they skinny or fat? Are they weak or strong? Pretty or Ugly? Think in broad, epic strokes. This isn't about specifics right now.
  2. Social Attributes: Where does your hero stand in society? Are they rich or poor? Are they famous or unknown? What race are they? Where do they come from? What do they find socially unacceptable?
  3. Psychological Attributes: What does our hero want more than ever? What makes them happy? What makes them sad? What scares them to death? What hurts them to the bone? 
  4. Moral Attributes: How far will your hero go to get what he wants? What rules will they never break to win the battle? What rules are they willing to give up? 

Now go to the opposite end of the spectrum

Now that you have this list I want you to take ten minutes to think on the opposite end of the spectrum. You're going to make these lists again and this time you're going to think the opposite. This list is going to craft a character that is so opposite your hero that he will have no choice but to be in conflict with him. 

  1. Physical Attributes: If your hero is big your villain will be small. If one is athletic the other will be a weakling. Remember think in broad strokes.
  2. Social Attributes: Where ever you hero came from your villain came from the other side of the tracks. If your hero doesn't have a penny to his name then the villain will be super rich.
  3. Psychological Attributes: You are your villain are going to want completely different things out of their world, their life, and their society. They will each be driven by separate things, will each have their own fears and desires. The goal of the villain is to destroy the psyche of the hero.
  4. Moral Attributes: The villain will scoff at the morals and the rules of the hero and push him to break them. The goal of the villain is to unmake the morals of the hero.

One exception to the rule...

One variation to this is to make the hero and the villain very similar in physicality and social status. This is very fine. Sometimes your worst enemy is the guy that grew up right down the street from you and was your best pal two years ago. They key factor is to make these two as morally and psychologically different as possible. These are the factors that will cause conflict.

Exercise: Evil Speech of Evil

Now it's time to write a monologue in the voice of your new villain. I call this the evil speech of evil. In ten minutes I want you to let the character outline every evil thing he does and how he plans to do it. But I want you to let the villain justify everything that he does. The important thing to remember is that the villain is always the hero in his own story. He always thinks that the things that he does are morally right. Remember to give your character plenty of action words and let him describe things. These give you a better idea of the characterization.

Exercise: Actions Speak Louder than Words

Next take that monologue and make your character do something... Write a description or long stage direction that shows your villain accomplishing as task. How does he hold things? How does he see people? How does he walk or look around? What does he notice? All of these things will give you practical information to help you write your character interacting with the world of your play.

Final Thoughts

Again this is just an exercise aimed at getting your juices flowing about a good character. Whatever you wrote isn't supposed to be "good" yet. You're just digging around to find things that you can use to write your story. Again I encourage you to destroy or lock these exercises up when you get ready to write the story. You'll always remember what you like and want to use. And as you right the story you'll be rewriting and revising as you discover knew things about your characters.

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