Your villain must be an integral part of your story from start to finish. Fail to do that and you’ll create a less compelling story that will simply feel unfinsihed by the end.
Think of the most popular movies like “Star Wars,” “Die Hard,” or “Terminator 2.” With all of these stories, the villain starts off and defines the story from start to finish. The reason for this is by the end of the movie, you’re just dying to see the villain lose.
Now look at what happens when the villain doesn’t start off the story but appears halfway through the original story. “Mary Poppins” is a classic musical where the villain is the children’s rigid banker who gradually learns to play with his children. A similar musical, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” tried to rival “Mary Poppins” and failed. In “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” the villain (an evil king who hates children) only pops up in the second half of the movie. Since the villain played no part of the first half of the movie, there’s much less time to learn to hate the villain and want to see the villain lose.
“Galaxy Quest” starts with the evil aliens trying to wipe out another race of aliens, who have sought out the crew of a cancelled TV show to help them. “Tropic Thunder” follows a similar plot of actors suddenly finding themselves in a real war, but the villain in “Tropic Thunder” (a heroin warlord) plays no part of the beginning of the story. Once again, we only meet the villain halfway through the story and by then, it’s too late.
Now it feels like we’re involved in one story, and suddenly find ourselves thrown into a second story. Since the end of the second story has little to do with the first half, the ending often feels contrived and less satisfying as a result.
Another movie that fails to integrate the villain in the first half is a rather obscure Coen Brothers film called “Barton Fink.” The first half of the story is about a playwright trying to write a screenplay in Hollywood. The second half of the story is about the playwright dealing with a serial killer.
If this makes you scratch your head, you can see the effect when you suddenly introduce a villain halfway through your story. Without a villain introduced from the start, the entire movie feels like watching two unrelated stories back to back. Try reading half of one book and switching to the second half of a completely different book. It doesn’t work.
In “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” we meet the villain right away and we can see his effect on Indiana Jones. In “Star Wars,” we meet Darth Vader right away and get to see how his actions affect Luke. Think of your favorite movie and chances are good it starts off by clearly defining the villain.
Now think of a bad movie you’ve seen and it may be bad because it introduced the villain halfway through the story, making it feel more like an interruption than an organic part of the story. As abrupt introduction of a villain too late in the story simply confuses the audience and diffuses the focus of your whole screenplay.
Tell one story from start to finish with your villain leading the way. Your villain shapes your story and everything else is secondary.