Double the Danger

Your villain’s goal needs to threaten the hero and the hero’s loved ones. Not only does this ratchet up the suspense, but it also makes us want to cheer the hero even more.

In any good story, the focus isn’t just on the hero’s actions but also on the villain’s actions. Flipping back-and-forth between the hero’s actions and the villain’s actions lets the audience see how your hero and villain are slowly being drawn closer to their inevitable confrontation.

Initially, we’re in the dark about the villain’s goals but as the story progresses, we gradually learn what the villain wants. On the other hand, we clearly see what the hero wants, but we have no idea how the hero will achieve her goals. Gradually as the story progresses, we see how the hero can achieve her goal.

The villain’s physical goal provides the structure for the hero to achieve her emotional goal. In “Star Wars,” Darth Vader’s goal of crushing the rebel alliance gives Luke the opportunity of leaving his dead-end life and have an adventure.

In “Die Hard,” the terrorists’ goal of taking over the building gives Bruce Willis the structure for learning that he does love his wife and needs to get back with her. In “WALL-E,” the Buy N Large corporation’s goal of keeping the human race away from Earth allows WALL-E to find love with Eve.

Your villain has a definite goal. The only reason why the hero wants to stop the villain is because  if the villain achieves his goal, that goal will create some Horrible Consequences that directly affects the hero’s loved ones.

The simplest type of Horrible Consequence is that the villain will kill the hero. In “TheTerminator,” if the freedom fighter from the future fails to protect Linda Hamilton, she’ll die. That by itself is bad enough, but the villain’s goal will also hurt the hero’s loved ones. In Linda Hamilton’s case, this is the whole human race plus her unborn child.

In “Star Wars,” Darth Vader may kill Luke, but even worse is that Darth Vader will also blow up the planet with Princess Leia on it and wipe out the entire rebel alliance at the same time.

In most cases, the villain’s goal won’t kill the hero, but will wreck the hero’s life forever. In “Quiz Show,” the hero has a choice: lie and maintain his reputation, or tell the truth and not only wreck his reputation, but his famous father’s reputation at the same time.

In “Mary Poppins,” if Mary Poppins doesn’t succeed in bringing the family together, not only will the children be unhappy, but their father will be unhappy as well. The villain’s goal always affects the hero and the hero’s loved ones for double the danger. This dual problem greatly amplifies the consequences if the hero should lose, and makes us really want the hero to win and squirm at the thought that the villain might succeed, and that’s the emotion you want your audience to feel.

[xyz-ihs snippet=”Making-a-Scene-book”]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Story Structure

Previous article

Through the Looking Glass