The Hero and Villain’s Story Structure

In a good movie, both your hero and villain have clearly defined goals. Ideally, both goals will eventually smash into each other to the point where only one person (the hero or the villain) can win in the end.

Every story has four basic parts that fluctuate between positive and negative. For the hero, this four-part story structure looks like this:

  1. Dead-end life
  2. Initial success
  3. Setbacks
  4. Battle the villain

Parts 1 and 4 are linked together because in part 1, the hero states a clearly defined emotional goal and in part 4, the hero finally achieves that goal.

However, the villain’s four-part story structure is slightly different:

  1. Initial success
  2. Setbacks
  3. Major victory
  4. Battle the hero

Since the hero and villain’s stories happen at the same time, this is what it looks like:

Hero                              Villain

Dead-end life              Initial success

Initial success            Setbacks

Setbacks                     Major victory

Battle the villain       Battle the hero

In the beginning, the hero is stuck in a dead end life but the villain has already put his plan into motion. In part 2, the villain suffers unexpected setbacks due to the hero’s interference. In part 3, the villain achieves a major victory. In part 4, the villain tries to complete the goal initially defined in part 1.

Notice that in both parts 1 and 4 of each story, both the hero and villain have a clear goal and by the end of the movie, they strive to achieve it. For example, in the beginning of “Star Wars,” Luke wants an adventure and by part 4, he gets it. In part 1, Darth Vader wants to retrieve information about the rebel base and by part 4, he finally finds them.

Both your hero and villain have a simple goal in the beginning and by the end, they get it.The beginning is linked to the end.

In “The Terminator,” the terminator’s goal in the beginning is to find Sarah Connor. In the end, his goal is to kill Sarah Connor.

In “Terminator 2,” the bad terminator’s goal is to find John Connor. In the end, his goal is to kill John Connor.

In the beginning, the villain’s goal is nearly complete, then by the end, the villain gets one last chance to finish it off once and for all. Ideally from the villain’s point of view, he would achieve his goal right away, but that would make for a dull movie. So in the beginning, the villain has to strive for a goal and fail. Then by the end, the villain gets a second chance and succeeds.

In “Star Wars,” Darth Vader would love to find the rebel base, but he has to settle with just capturing Princess Leia. By the end, he’s found the rebel base and now his final goal is to destroy it.

When writing your own story, think in terms of the four-part story structure between both your hero and villain. Your hero and villain must have their own story structure that intertwines somehow where the beginning and end of each goal is related. If you villain doesn’t have a goal, your story will be weak. If your hero’s goal isn’t related to his dead-end life, then your story isn’t complete.

Focus on both your hero and villain and you’ll create a more rounded story than just by focusing on your hero alone.

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