Plot Villains Readers Love to Hate with the Villain’s Journey

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Great villains leave an indelible mark on readers’ minds. They’re the characters who haunt our dreams, challenge our heroes, and make us question the boundaries of good and evil. 

Crafting such villains requires a deep understanding of their motivations, conflicts, and transformation throughout the story. That’s where Plottr’s Villain’s Journey Plot Template will help you build credible arcs for baddies. Keep reading to learn more.

What is the Villain’s Journey Plot Structure?

The Villain’s Journey is a powerful narrative structure inspired by Joseph Campbell’s influential Hero’s Journey. It takes us deep into the dark side of storytelling, offering a framework focused on the obstacles that villains face as they pursue their cunning goals.

Who is the Villain’s Journey Plot Template for?

The Villain’s Journey plot structure is a valuable tool for writers who want to delve into the minds of complex and compelling antagonists.

Whether you’re writing a gripping mystery, a chilling thriller, a fantastical adventure, or any other genre that features a captivating villain, this template will guide you in shaping their character arc.

For both pantsers or plotters, the Villain’s Journey plot template helps you create villains who are compelling, dynamic, and unforgettable. It provides a roadmap for writing antagonists who evolve and captivate readers — from their first introduction to their ultimate downfall.

The Plot Points in the Villain’s Journey Template

The Villain’s Journey mirrors the Hero’s Journey in many ways, showcasing the antagonist’s progression along a similar path — though the hero and villain make contradictory choices.

Let’s examine each stage of the Villain’s Journey plot structure with examples from the novel Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (spoilers ahead!).

Beat 1: Ordinary World (Beginning of Act 1)

The villain is introduced in their ordinary world, where something is amiss.

Example: Amy Dunne, the villainous character in Gone Girl, starts in her ordinary world, but something’s not quite right. She feels betrayed by her husband and decides to meticulously plan her revenge.

Beat 2: Call to Adventure (Middle of Act 1)

This is the event that upsets the villain’s world and becomes their call to adventure.

Example: Amy realizes that her husband is having an affair and decides to frame him for her disappearance, orchestrating an elaborate scheme to make him pay for his betrayal.

Beat 3: Refusal of the Call (Middle of Act 1)

The villain hesitates or refuses to act immediately. Make sure you have a good grasp of their reasons for hesitating, and why they’ll eventually overcome them.

Example: Amy hesitates to act immediately and considers other alternatives. She contemplates going to therapy or confronting her husband directly instead of executing her plan right away.

Beat 4: Meeting the Mentor (End of Act 1)

Here, the villain encounters a mentor who provides guidance or assistance and encouragement to move forward.

Example: Amy meets Desi Collings, an ex-boyfriend, who becomes a mentor figure. Desi provides her with financial assistance and shelter while she plots her revenge against her husband.

Beat 5: Crossing the Threshold (Beginning of Act 2)

The villain takes action and commits a serious offense, solidifying their role as the story’s antagonist.

Example: Amy officially crosses the threshold into villainous territory when she stages her disappearance, leaving behind evidence that incriminates her husband, Nick. This act solidifies her role as the story’s antagonist.

Beat 6: Test, Allies, and Enemies (Middle of Act 2)

The villain faces challenges, seeks allies, and encounters enemies.

Example: Amy faces various challenges as she evades capture and manipulates the media narrative surrounding her disappearance. She also gains the support of a group of women who sympathize with her and see her as a symbol of empowerment.

Beat 7: Approach (End of Act 2)

The villain prepares for their ultimate plan or confrontation.

Example: As Amy’s plan unfolds, she carefully sets up her husband to be exposed as a murderer. She creates a situation that leads to his public humiliation and potential imprisonment.

Beat 8: Ordeal, Death, Rebirth (Act 3)

The villain faces the hero, leading to the antagonist’s defeat, death, or transformation.

Example: In the final confrontation of the novel, Nick discovers Amy’s true intentions and confronts her. The power dynamics between them shift, and Amy’s plans begin to crumble. She is faced with the reality that her meticulously crafted scheme may not yield the desired outcome — and she is trapped in even worse circumstances than those that originally spurred her to malicious action.

How Do You Use the Villain’s Journey Plot Structure in Plottr?

Want to plot villains who are compelling in their dastardly deeds? Dive straight into unleashing the full potential of your antagonists and exploring the depths of their darkness in six simple steps.

First, make sure you have an active Plottr plan or get started with a free sixty-day trial. Then proceed with these steps:

  • Step 1: In the Files section of the Plottr Dashboard, select Create From Template
Using a Plottr plot template - step 1
  • Step 2: Select Villain’s Journey from the list of templates (scroll to the bottom), then click Create New Project
Villain's Journey Template - Step 2
  • Step 3: Give your project a name. The name will be included on your list of projects so you can return to it at any time, and will open in timeline view
Villain's journey template in Plottr - timeline view
  • Step 4: Click any of the beats’ scene cards to start adding your own ideas (you can delete the placeholder guidelines or keep them as reminders)
Villain's journey scene card example

Plottr also lets you use multiple timeline templates at once. For example, you can combine the Villain’s Journey with the Hero’s Journey. Just click the + and select Templates on a new timeline to add a subplot or plot sequence that unfolds in parallel.

Templates that work well with the eight beats of the villain’s journey plot structure include:

Create the Biggest Baddies Around

Once you’ve tried the template, please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments section. Explore the depths of villainy now and get a free Plottr trial.

Villain's journey plot template
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