The one most important characteristic in every villain.

Bad guys.

Every show has them.

But how do you make sure that your bad guy isn’t . . . well . . . bad.  (And I’m not talking Michael Jackson “Bad,” btw.)

I’ve seen a few shows and read a few scripts lately, which have all suffered a similar flaw in the construction of their “bad guy”.  So I spent some time over the holiday weekend thinking about some of my favorite bad boys and remembered why they were my favorite . . .

And you know what it was?

No matter how bad they were, I loved them . . . even just a little.

It’s a simple rule, but it’s easily forgotten.

Think about your favorite evildoers in your favorite stories  . . . Javert, Dracula, Darth Vader, Hannibal Lecter . . . there is something about them that no matter how villainous they may be . . . no matter how many things you wish they hadn’t done . . . you still love them just a bit.  (A quick tip on telling whether a villain has made its ways into the hearts of audience members?  If people want to dress up as the character for Halloween, the Author has done his/her job.)

Fail to make sure your audience feels this way about your villain, and, well, you’ll end up with a moustache twirling cliche that won’t move your audience and won’t move tickets.

(For more classic storytelling techniques, check out this book – it was written for screenwriters, but I find it to be a bible for writing musicals especially).

Who is your favorite villain?


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Ken created one of the first Broadway podcasts, recording over 250 episodes over 7 years. It features interviews with A-listers in the theater about how they “made it”, including 2 Pulitzer Prize Winners, 7 Academy Award Winners and 76 Tony Award winners. Notable guests include Pasek & Paul, Kenny Leon, Lynn Ahrens and more.