Every story has an antagonist, the villain, the big bad. He/she, in essence, is the star of the show, the bringer of conflict and misfortune to everyone they meet. I envision the story through my antagonist point of view. So, I spent the past week writing a 10-page summary, from chapter to chapter, describing what that bad boy is doing behind the scenes and why. I’m not talking about a characterization/bio— that’s only half of it. I’m talking about a step-by-step outline of the villain’s strategy from beginning to end.
Well, what if my main character is the Villain? Then that would make your villain the protagonist. Summarize the Hero’s actions and motive because he/she is causing the conflict. It can go either way. It’s a waltz between cause and effect and both have to be in top form for the sake of the plot. For a good portion of the story, the antagonist has to be a step ahead of the main character. In order for that to work, you as the writer have to know how the villain ticks.
Think about it. The story can’t progress without the villain. Where would Batman be without the Joker, Catwoman, and the gang? The protagonist and the supporting character’s actions work in response to what the antagonist did or will do. An entire story is based on the main character’s reacting to a conflict and decision to resolve it. This is just a good way to make the conflict clear and organized.
So it’s a pretty good idea to know up front what’s going on, lay it out beforehand, then write around those events. Those 10 pages I wrote will never leave my computer, but it serves as a good outline as to what my other characters will have to face.
I know this may seem like common knowledge, but for someone who doesn’t plan, or write outlines, someone who gets in front of the computer and just writes, this is a useful tip that can aid with characterization. It saves a lot of backpedaling in the end and decreases the risk of Deus Ex Machina. And let’s face it, the bad guy is usually the most interesting person in the entire story, so why not get to know them better?