Just like your protagonist, your villain needs to be a rich, fully fleshed-out character. Here are three easy exercises to help you get to know your villain quickly.
First, interview your villain. Try to be neutral, as if you were a newscaster: “Where were you born? What’s your interest in this conflict? What do you have against the hero?” Be careful not to treat your villain as a one-dimensional “evil” character. Instead, try to get to the bottom of his or her feelings and motivations, making them as legitimate and relatable as possible. Set a timer for 15 minutes. When you’re done, move on to your writing, then come back later and take a look at what you wrote.
Second, write a monologue as if your villain were Hamlet standing on a stage. But instead of starting with “To be or not to be?,” your villain should ponder, “To kill or not to kill ____?,” filling in the blank with whoever your hero is. Then go from there. Again, set a timer for 15 minutes and let your imagination fly, writing in the first person as if you yourself are the villain of your story.
Finally, send your villain and your hero out to dinner together. Imagine what kind of restaurant they would go to, what they would order, and what they would talk about. Again, take 15 minutes and write this out as a scene. This is one of my favorite exercises, and I guarantee that you will discover things about your story that you did not know. So try it and see what happens!
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz