Most screenwriters focus on creating a story from the hero’s point of view. However, you should also create that same story from the villain’s point of view to give your script a deeper, more complicated story structure.
The typical way of creating a screenplay is to think in terms of the hero. Of course, there’s another way to think of your story and that’s from the point of view of the villain.
This is the structure of a typical screenplay from the viewpoint of the hero. In Act I, we see the hero stuck in a dead-end life and given a glimpse of the future. However, from the villain’s point of view, Act I is where your villain gets the story started by beginning the pursuit of his own goal.
Remember, the villain, like all characters, have their own agenda. They aren’t just puppets existing solely for the hero’s benefit. Sometimes the villain as a person starts the story off, but sometimes an obstacle that represents the villain starts the story off.
So Act I introduces the hero stuck in a dead-end life, but introduces the villain as starting the pursuit of his goal. In “E.T.,” Elliot is the hero, stuck in a joyless life, while the government workers looking for E.T. are introduced early as the villains. In Act I, the hero is at his weakest while the villain is at his strongest.In Act IIa, the hero enters a new world, but the hero’s entrance into this new world inevitably upsets the villain’s goals, although the villain may not even know about the hero’s existence at this point. However, the villain will know about the hero’s influence.
In “WALL-E,” the WALL-E robot enters the star cruiser and tries to get in touch with Eve, but “Auto” the shipboard computer, has its own agenda, which is to get rid of the plant that Eve brought back with her. Essentially, the villain in Act IIa is dealing with the indirect threat that the hero’s appearance has created.The villain and the hero’s goals are almost always intertwined. In “Up,” the arrival of the old man and his house coincides with discovering an odd bird that’s being hunted by the villain. At the time, the villain is completely unaware of the hero, but the hero still makes his presence felt. In “Up,” this occurs when the hero befriends the bird that the villain is hunting, thus indirectly protecting the bird from the villain.
During Act IIa, the hero gains strength while upsetting the villain’s goals. The first part of Act IIa starts off with the hero seemingly winning, but the second half concludes with the hero in peril. In “Up,” this occurs when the villain’s dogs corner and force the hero back to the villain’s dirigible. Now in Act IIb, the villain knows exactly who the hero is and vice versa. Act IIb is where the villain unleashes his greater power to thwart, corner, and trap the hero. Just like Act IIa that begins with the hero succeeding and ending with the hero in peril, Act IIb follows the same template.
In Act IIb, the hero achieves a minor victory against the villain. In “Die Hard,” this occurs when Bruce Willis rescues the inept police as they try to storm the building, and concludes when the villain gets the detonators back from Bruce Willis and wounds him by shooting the glass and cutting his feet up as he tries to get away from the machine gun fire.
In “Up,” Act IIb occurs when the old man escapes from the villain, but loses the bird. He manages to get his house to the falls, but then Russell, the wilderness scout he’s stowed away on his house, decides to take off to rescue the bird by himself. That leaves the old man alone, but he regains his enthusiasm after seeing that his wife had left him a message, thanking him for the adventure of their shared life, and urging him to go out and have another adventure.
Just as the hero makes a conscious choice to enter a new world at the beginning of Act IIa, so must the hero make another conscious decision to confront the villain at the beginning of Act III
In the first part of Act III, the hero must defeat the villain’s allies. then in the second part of Act III, the hero must defeat the villain himself. Since both the hero and the villain have opposing goals, only one of them can win, and that’s what makes a good movie.
In bad movies, the villain exists solely to oppose the hero, but there’s no logic behind why the villain wants to bother opposing the hero. Such generic villains ultimately make unsatisfactory stories. Think of “Jaws 4” where the shark serves no other purpose than to keep attacking one woman’s family out of an ocean full of people. Why is the shark specifically targeting that one woman? No reason. As a result, “Jaws 4” fails spectacularly. Unfortunately, many movies make the same mistake of a generic villain, lessening their story’s impact as a result.
Act III is the final battle between the hero and the villain. This is the most action-oriented part of the movie as the hero and villain get closer and closer towards the ultimate showdown where only one can emerge victorious. Both the hero and the villain’s goal must be crystal clear at this point and directly opposing one another. If the hero loses this battle, the hero loses for good and there will never be another chance to win again.
The hero and your villain both are equally important to your story. The stronger your villain and the weaker your hero, the more obstacles your hero must overcome to meet the villain on equal footing. The hero is always the underdog. By thinking of your screenplay in terms of both the hero and the villain, you can make a stronger, deeper than just a one-sided story that focuses only on the hero.
Act I: Introduce hero in dead-end and show villain initiating the story.
Act IIa: Hero blunders into new world while villain achieves victory towards goal.
Act IIb: Villain fights back and temporarily defeats the hero.
Act III: Hero and villain battle it out.