Think of a really bad movie where the villain just seems to want to hurt the hero for no apparent reason. Boring, right? Now think of a great movie. What’s the difference? In a great movie, the villain and the hero are intertwined somehow.
Most screenwriting books teach you to define your story in terms of your hero’s goal, but that’s flat out wrong. If George Lucas wrote “Star Wars” based on Luke Skywalker’s goal, Luke would have just been happy getting off his dead-end planet. The real story is defined by your villain’s goal. In “Star Wars,” this is caused by Darth Vader wanting to destroy the rebel alliance from the start of the movie to the end. Luke’s goals have nothing to do with Darth Vader’s determination to hunt down and wipe out the rebel alliance.
The villain’s goal drives your story and provides the physical challenges for your hero to struggle against, which allows your hero to achieve his emotional goal.
Since your villain has a goal that has nothing to do with the hero from the start, you need to tie your hero into your villain’s goal somehow. At any point in your story, your hero can just walk away and avoid the villain entirely. Bruce Willis could have just stayed hidden in the building in “Die Hard” and the terrorists would never have found him nor would they have a reason to if he just stayed hidden.
The reason the villain and the hero’s goals get entangled is because of the growth the hero goes through.
Initially, the hero basically wants a selfish goal. In Act I, the hero is stuck in a dead end world and wants something, but it’s a goal strictly for himself.
In Act IIa, the hero enters a new world and gets a chance to achieve his goal, but it’s a False Victory because it doesn’t really solve the main problem of the hero.
In Act IIb, the hero faces setbacks and through these setbacks, the hero gradually learns to widen his goals beyond his own selfish needs. Instead, the hero starts caring for others, which represents part of his growth.
In Act III, the hero confronts the villain, not for his own sake, but for the sake of his friends and/or loved ones.
In “Die Hard,” Bruce Willis battles the head terrorist to save his wife and indirectly, her co-workers as well.
In “Star Wars,” Luke is fighting Darth Vader to protect his friends from getting killed.
In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart realizes that his own life has affected so many people for the better, and he struggles to exist again so he can be with them and live once more.
The hero’s growth is always from being selfish (Acts I and IIa) to caring for others (Acts IIb and III). By caring for others, your hero has to face the villain. If the villain succeeds, some Horrible Consequence will occur that’s bad enough on its own, but it will also hurt someone the hero now loves and wants to protect.
By fighting for not himself but for the sake of others, the hero grows from a selfish person to a more mature and whole person, and this growth is what allows the hero to get what he really wants in the end.