I wrote a short story during Christmas break about a little sheep who follows her shepherd to find Jesus in the manger. It wasn’t very good, but it gave me the chance to try and learn what I need to do to get better as a fiction writer.
The biggest thing missing from the story, in my opinion, was a villain.
There was no bad guy.
The main character had a clear desire (find her shepherd), but there wasn’t a villain. This made Act 2 of the story (if there was one) quite boring and the payoff in Act 3 (if you could call it that) pretty empty.
Steven Pressfield has some great advice about Act 2: make it about the villain.
Once you learn this, you start to see it in every story you encounter.
My wife and I watched The Truman Show the other day. You could probably summarize the plot like this:
- Act 1: Meet Truman (the hero)
- Act 2: Meet Christof (the villain)
- Act 3: Truman meets Christof (hero confronts the villain)
The opening scene of the movie begins with the villain, but you really don’t meet him and get to know his motives until Act 2.
The writing lesson here: Make Act 2 about the villain.
(By the way, the villain could be either internal or external. The bad guy could be attacking from the inside of the hero. I’m a beginner, though, so a villain character would probably work better.)