What is your villain’s earliest childhood memory?
Our earliest memories often shape the way we behave for the rest of our lives. In the following three-part exercise, you will circumvent a lot of unnecessary writing and biographical sketching and take the fast track into the heart of your villain.
To begin, find a quiet place, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and imagine you’re somewhere beautiful. Now open your eyes and set a timer for one minute for part 1 of the exercise.
Now write about your own earliest memories and why they matter to you. Are some heartwarming, like opening your Christmas presents with your family? Or frightening, like the hand of an abusive parent? Perhaps some are simple, like a haircut or the first day of school. Write as many of your earliest memories as you can come up with in this first minute.
Once you’ve done that, re-set the timer, this time for five minutes. Now write as if you were your villain, recalling his or her earliest memories, good and bad. Since you’re writing a movie, it’s helpful to emphasize the bad memories because your villain is going to do bad things in your story, and you need to know what dark events shaped his or her development.
Next, quickly grab a piece of paper and write a scene in which the villain reveals one of his crucial childhood memories to another character in your script. Very often, this third and final part of the exercise is so powerful that it will end up becoming a pivotal scene in your screenplay.
To recap, by delving into your villain’s earliest memories, you will learn a great deal about why he or she does sinister things. And by delving into your own memories, you will have a basis for comparison that will give you greater compassion for your villain, helping you understand that he or she is not necessarily the one-dimensional character you may have thought.
Here’s to your successful writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz