When you think of a villain, it’s easy to think of somebody like Darth Vader in control of a Death Star that can wipe out an entire planet. However, Darth Vader isn’t the best villain for every hero. First, Darth Vader is too powerful for most heroes such as Bruce Willis in “Die Hard.” Second, pitting a hero against a random villain may seem like a good idea, but here’s a better way to create your villain.
Your villain is your hero’s worst nightmare.
In “Rocky,” Rocky’s goal was to gain respect in his own eyes. To do that, he had to prove he could fight when everyone else thought he was washed up. But just fighting against anyone is kind of boring. Rocky needs to fight his worst nightmare and that’s the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed.
Think of Rocky just fighting another boxer. Not as exciting or important. Think of Rocky fighting someone powerful like Darth Vader. Too unbalanced and impossible. Rocky’s best villain is someone as close to the hero as possible and someone who represents the hero’s worst possible enemy who makes the hero’s life as hard as possible.
In “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart is the hero and his big problem is getting out of his little town and living life for a change. His biggest nightmare is Mr. Potter, who can wreck Jimmy Stewart’s town if Jimmy Stewart wasn’t around to protect it.
In “Terminator 2,” the hero’s biggest nightmare is a better more advanced Terminator. In “Toy Story 3,” the villain is another toy who has convinced an army of toys to oppress the other toys. In E.T.,” the villains are the adults who threaten to take E.T. away from Elliot, the little boy.
Your villain isn’t the biggest, baddest villain you can think of or else you could use Darth Vader as your villain for every story. Instead, your villain is your hero’s worst nightmare, the one person the hero would least like to battle.
Your hero has an emotional goal that he wants to achieve and to do that, he has to achieve a physical goal of stopping the villain. Therefore your villain has to be the worst possible person for your hero. If your hero is afraid of heights, then your villain has to be someone who’s comfortable with heights to rip open your hero’s weakness and pour salt in the wound.
The more your villain can torment your hero, the more we’ll root for your hero to succeed and cringe when we think the villain might succeed. If your villain is just a random bad guy, your hero is battling a shadow puppet of no consequence. Pick a villain who can make your hero suffer the most. That’s the type of villain that will strengthen your story.