Whose the Hero Here?
While filming Firefly, Adam Baldwin asked Josh Weldon how he was to act as Jayne Cobb. Josh said to play him as if he were the hero.
Malcolm Reynolds was the hero, which was something Jayne didn’t know. He thought he was better and smarter than Malcolm and had no idea that he was the idiot.
Jayne was loud and opinionated, and ready to take command whether it was his to take or not.
Characters play their role from who they are, and what they believe about themselves. In his book on writing, Steven King wrote if he crated a character who kicked a puppy, that character must kick the puppy. Even though Steven King would never do that himself.
Characters must be written from who they are not from who the author is. They must believe they have the right to do the things they do.
An evil character doesn’t know he’s evil. He believes he is in the right, at all times. In his mind, he never does an evil deed. He does what is necessary.
He who must not be named, Lord Voldemort, believed he was the greatest wizard of the past, present and future. He believed, wholeheartedly, he had the right to live forever. To him, this was the absolute truth. And he played his character accordingly.
Voldemort was justified in whatever actions he had to take to preserve his life. All other lives were his to command, to use, to kill, or to sacrifice as needed. Harry Potter was the evil one who must be destroyed so Voldemort could rightfully take his place as ruler of the world.
Harry Potter believed Lord Voldemort was evil and must be stopped at all cost. Harry believed he was the chosen one to kill Lord Voldemort. But he refused to kill or harm anyone to fulfill his mission. He always chose the higher road even if it meant losing a battle. If he had to, he was willing to sacrifice his life to stop Voldemort.
Both characters believed they were absolutely right and the other was pure evil.
Even though the author, JK Rowling, knew Harry was the hero and Voldemort was the villain, she wrote Voldemort from his point of view. Voldemort was the hero; Harry was the villain.
You must know who your characters are, what they believe about themselves, and what their place in your plot is, then they will act accordingly. It doesn’t matter if you’re not the puppy kicking kind or a true villain, if your characters are to be true to themselves, they must kick the puppy, or do villainous deeds, with the full conviction that they have the right to so.