Sean Hinchey, script consultant, describes the various types of villain.
After you’ve worked on creating a solid protagonist, don’t take a break and let the villain in your story wither away and die. There needs to be a person that the audience will love to hate.
There are three important elements you need to remember when you craft your villain. First, their level of evil needs to be in proportion to the story you are writing.
In Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan, the antagonist was out to kill a wide variety of people from Star Fleet because he held them responsible for the death of his family. However, his hatred was focused on Kirk. Khan’s quest was one of revenge. Khan does some sinister things to other people that stand in his way; he is not above torture.
Khan’s acts of vengeance are in direct proportion to the tone of the story.
In the original Die Hard, the villain — Hans — is an intelligent and cunning man. He is not above killing someone who gets in his way, but torture and the gleeful celebration of murder is not what he is about. Killing is a business transaction; either someone can help you, or they or in your way and must be removed. The actions of Hans are in direct proportion to the tone of his story.
In a comedy, such as The Devil Wears Prada, the villain — Miranda — is a person who simply makes the protagonist’s life a living hell. Death, murder or other severely evil actions don’t exist in this realm; it wouldn’t be proper for the tone of the story. Once you’ve established the proper reaction to the events around the villain, you have to layer in the second aspect of their character.
You need to make sure the audience will admire your villain. Despite their flaws, warped sense of values and level of ruthlessness, there needs to be a spark in their personality that makes us want to like them. Hans is arrogant, Khan is brutal, Miranda is cunning and disconnected — and yet, you can almost imagine yourself having lunch with them so you can engage them in conversation because they are charismatic. You want to hate them — and you do — but you can’t stop thinking about how focused and driven they are in their quest.
Finally, you have to make sure that the character believes that what they are doing is right. The bad guy in the second X-Men movie; X2, has a wonderful villain in William Stryker. He is so bent on wiping out the X-Men, that he is willing to sacrifice his son to the cause. He truly believes that his mission is a just and noble one.
Develop your villain just as you would your main character. The only thing screenwriting judges love better than a great, good guy; is a bad-to-the-bone, bad guy. Give us a character that we’ll relish hating.