Your villain’s house is on fire: what three things does he or she save?
Asking yourself this question is a very useful exercise because you will learn a great deal about your villain and what he or she cares about most. You will also find out if your villain is innately evil enough to carry your movie to the end.
So, find someplace quiet, get into a comfortable position, take a deep breath, and imagine yourself in some beautiful locale. When you’re ready, open your eyes and set a timer for five minutes. Now, imagining that you are your villain or obstacle, write about what his or her home is like, what happens in the fire, and what he or she chooses to save.
For example, I’m working on a new story and in it there’s a fight scene between two mafia hit men. I wasn’t sure what the outcome would be, so I did the exercise for both characters. In my exercise, the first hit man failed the villain test because, when I put him in his McMansion, what he saved was his three children. This told me that this character was going to be useless as a villain because, in the end, he would always do the right thing.
So I turned to my other hit man, who also lives in a McMansion, and he shaped up wonderfully because he didn’t think about his family at all. He just opened his safe, pulled out a pile of money, grabbed his guns, and split. He even left his dog behind!
I immediately knew he was the perfect villain and would definitely carry my story to the end.
To recap, this exercise is a quick way to find out where your villain or obstacle lives, and what he or she cares about most when cornered.
Here’s to Your Successful Writing!
Professor Marilyn Horowitz