‘John Wick’ shows how to write a terrifying protagonist

What if people tremble at your character’s name?

I remember how happy I was when I left the theater after seeing it John Wick. It was a movie about a legend I’d never heard of before. It led the audience into a realm of the unexpected. We have really traveled to a world that we have never seen before. It was one beneath the surface of our consciousness, where gold coins were legal tender and weapons were the way to resolve any dispute.

I saw the sequels on opening night and they go to great lengths to live up to that level of worldbuilding and excitement. So how do you do it? How did a story come about about a character who seemed to know the film world but the audience didn’t?

Check out this video from Wild books, and let’s talk after the jump.

John Wick Shows how to write a terrifying protagonist

When writing a main character or protagonist, you need to think about how the audience will engage with you in each scene. When trying to write a character that everyone is scared of, there are a few other things you need to think about. Let’s dive into it.

Worldbuilding that comes from a person

The first thing you want to do when writing a terrifying lead character like John Wick is to let the world build out of them. When we enter the Wickaverse, it looks like our world. We know of a veterinarian and a man with a dog who lives in a villa. This is a world that we know. But when he is attacked and that dog is killed, we build outward.

What Wick does differently is that the world is built on its legend. When we first see someone react to the name of John Wick, they call him the Baba Yaga or Boogeyman. We see a criminal underworld building out of this legend. When Wick then takes us into the world in search of the people who killed his dog, we begin to understand him while we learn where he came from. Man and the world are interconnected.

Put them in scenes in Excel

One way to show us how scary someone is is to put them in scenes where they can be scary! In Wick, we see him take on all the guys in his house, kick his ass and prove how more elitist he can be. In the remainder of Act 1, we continue to see Wick on a rampage carrying people out and showing us why people are actually scared of him.

If you are trying to write any of these characters, you have to have them excel in similar scenarios. It’s the old saying “show, don’t tell”. Show us that your character is a badass that people should fear.

What is the difference between them?

Okay, besides being terrifying, what makes your character different from the rest of the people in this world?

For Wick, it is that he was able to get out. He left this whole life behind and how he was brought back. He has also found the love that makes him more human and therefore more vulnerable, even if he is the most efficient killer in the whole group.

How can you show the inner depths of your character?

Summing up terrifying characters

Writing characters who are scary in their own world can be great fun. It enables you to undermine tropics, reverse engineer your world, and ultimately provides you with an exciting person who can help shake up the status quo and earn your audience’s respect when we are on a mission with them.

They are not easy to write, but they are a lot of fun.

These are just a few tips for writing these types of characters. Submit your own knowledge in the comments.

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