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Hero or Villain, are they all that different, are you either or both?

BearBear

Archmage
I like to have villians and monsters with an anti-hero shade, or even such that they could be the hero or the villian based on different perspectives. I feel the same way about myself.

It's not conflicted or a paradox, there are infinite possible perspectives, even those that would be considered immoral or criminally insane. To me every hero is a villian, every villian is a hero to someone. Imagine that even a civilization itself could be criminally insane from someone's perspective.

Thanos: they couldn't have painted him more of a villian but we see him from that perspective because the author guides us that way. Thanos may be a disturbing individual with an awfully disturbing childhood, and if you've not read that lore I recommend it. Dispite all that, he had a point for those who think there are too many people, and the herd needs to be culled. He had other more profound points if you believe the lore but I like to keep it simple. At least someone thought he was a hero, even if it was only him. He seemed pretty confident about that.

Iron Man: a war mongering, profiteering, playboy. The essence of white, patriarchal, privilege. He wins with money, Batman too. They "save the world" from change. Of course they would, they have something to lose if the status quo changes. They need conflict to amass more fortune.

Heath Ledgers Joker didn't care for money, he didn't care for life, what was his point? I think every hero has a dark side, it's in the nature of picking a side and he found Harvey Dent's dark side. Then Harvey is a perfect example of hero/villian, flip a coin no choice needed, it's completely arbitrary. I think that particular imagening of Joker wanted to point out that heros are villainous too. I like to see the character's actions from those multiple perspectives and understand that no good deed goes unpunished as well as no good deed is good for everyone.

Superman from Superman 3: He was conflicted, not sure if he was up to the task and his negative aspects were strong enough to become a whole other persona. This also illustrates the point that I'm trying to make, there is no pure good or pure evil given enough perspectives.

Now back to me: law abiding, so my characters often are, kind, loyal, but complicated, as I've seen myself in them. Terrible, frightening, a truly dreadful monster, I'm not afraid to admit it, after all, I was once "Angry Bear". I'm happy with myself though, people love me, a lot, I'm fun, quick witted, silly, great with kids and animals, and I understand that I can be a scary person too. This was explified recently by a good friend of mine. Follow me for a moment or end here because this is mostly just for me:

We have a very tight group and one of us has obvious anger issues. She has excess adrenaline and it takes a long time to dissipate. Quick to anger and really hard to talk down. In that state she's illogical, she's cruel, she's Mrs. Hyde no doubt. Uncaring, unfeeling, primal rage, no one's safe around her in that state. She's been called "the berkerker" and she can hold her own around some very frightening monsters. She even scared off an angry pitbull that was certainly about to tear her up--she's a warrior at heart. Tsundere, serious, terrifyingly beautiful, I love her (it's not Aleshe, she's a good friend in our group but she's a kitten).

Keep following if you must: Well we have a wonderful friend in the group. The prince. You can't find a kinder man on this planet. He's the epitomy of empathy, for anyone, and he's genuine. If they love me, they love him 100x over, we all do and it's an honor to be his best friend for real. He loves me like a brother and he sticks up for me often. In our group, I have to say, there are some who you don't want to cross. They're all heros in their own right and if you are their villian, they will not hesitate to take you down. They can be really scary. This is the kind of group you don't leave, you could say they have a particular set of skills.

Anyway, this guy was asked, "who are you most afraid of when they're angry?"

Of all the choices he has, truly worthy choices that are understandable, he pointed at me. Of all the pitbulls and pro-level bad asses around him, he picked me without skipping a beat.

What could I say? I was surprised but yeah. I couldn't ask him why, I trust his opinion though. When you can see yourself in that light, most frightening among the truly frightening, it's surreal. Who asked him was none other than our own hot hothead, and she was baiting him to point her out. She lost that contest and I could see she was dissapointed but she didn't argue either. I'd love to know what was going on in her head at that moment.

My point is, even the superhero doesn't always know he's the supervillian sometimes, and visa versa, so don't be so sure yourself. If you have a despicable villian in your stories, they could very well be a part of you, and I think they are. I also think it's healthy to admit it.

Thankfully such villainous fiends are overwhelmed in a healthy and functioning persona.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I don't much like the terms. So long as I have a character who is some good and some bad, or who is good or bad from a certain perspective, my world is still morally binary. I'm mixing black with white, but I end not with gray but with a swirl of two distinct colors.

It's worth noting that gray isn't a popular choice for making an image vivid. Give me colors, every time.

Also, it has never helped me to think this act is heroic, that villainous. It does help to consider what each character wants and how they go about getting it, and how that affects everyone else.

For example, the leader of my troupe of performers can be rough on them. The question isn't why's he so mean, but why do they put up with that? Individual narratives lead from there.
 
I want to bring this down to the level of writing.

there are infinite possible perspectives

Actually, there are two. The author's and the reader's.

Of course, one might have a thousand readers, a million readers. Each of them might have a somewhat unique perspective or at least a unique spin from similar perspectives.

But as concerns the novel, there's the author's perspective and there's a reader's perspective. When I am reading a novel, it's between me and that novel; Uncle Bob, sitting in the next room, is not involved even if he's also reading a copy of that novel. When I am writing a novel, it's between me and my novel. Uncle Bob and I do not collaborate.

(So you see a chink in this armor. If two authors are collaborating, then there might almost be two perspectives. And yet, they must come to some kind of agreement, i.e. form a combined single perspective of what the novel is going to be, so maybe we are back to a single, but unified, perspective? I haven't collaborated on a novel, so I'm not the one to address this, heh.)

There are four relevant terms, in two sets: 1) Protagonist, Antagonist, 2) Hero, Villain.



1.

The protagonist is a main character whose struggle, efforts and perspective we are going to be following in the tale. The plot exists largely to advance the protagonist through the tale.

The antagonist is someone or something that stands in the way of the protagonist's advancement through the tale. Where the protagonist seeks progress and a successful, desirable resolution of the plot, the antagonist has other plans, may be focused on other objectives and desire other things. The antagonist's very being may impede the protagonist. The antagonist's actions and activities will impede the protagonist.


2.

A hero is a character whose values, objectives, method of operation (activities) and general outlook align with a reader's ideals. In stories, heroes are often protagonists—but sometimes, heroes can be antagonists.

A villain is a character whose values, etc., are counter to a reader's ideals. A villain is usually one of the antagonists of a story—but sometimes the villain is the protagonist.



I would say that simply understanding a villain's motivation is not equivalent to agreeing with it and seeing it as an ideal. Similarly, I might understand a villain's activity without being in agreement with it.

The Russo brothers did an excellent job of communicating Thanos' motivations and his method of achieving his goals. This does not mean that I, personally, see killing half of all life in the universe as an ideal approach for accomplishing an ideal result. Thanos is still a villain from my point of view. There's nothing heroic about him. Even if I loved the way he said he liked Peter Quill—"I like him."—and I understand and agree with his love for Gamora, these are not sufficient for overcoming the vast horribleness of Thanos' personal ideals, goals, and activities.

I think Avengers: Infinity War plays with the idea of who are the protagonists and who, the antagonists, by putting so much attention on Thanos.

He sits to enjoy his victory at the end, so he almost feels like the protagonist savoring a successful resolution. Throughout, he is shown having his goal of collecting all the infinity stones, and the Avengers are shown trying to stop him. They are his antagonists. But he is their antagonist. The Avengers have the goal of preventing the murder of half of all life.

I still view the Avengers as the protagonists of Infinity War and Thanos as the antagonist of the tale. Far more time is dedicated to their side of the tale, and I, as an audience member, am on their side seeing Thanos and his henchmen popping up here and there to interrupt their lives and cause general mayhem.

To return to my initial point:

Knowing the differences here is very important for a writer, because the writer needs to make blank pages far less blank. If a writer believes Mary, who is "stereotypically" a story villain in his novel, should become a surprise hero, it won't do to have Mary murder lots of children in the penultimate chapter. The writer must have the single, clear perspective: Mary is a hero. (Even if she starts out doing bad things, she's going to change and by the end of the tale become an example of my own ideal hero type.)

The writer's ideals may not match up with the average reader's ideals. This can easily become a problem. In my opinion, a writer needs to have some understanding of his audience, because it's the writer who decides to fill the blank page with cat-saving or dog-kicking.

Similarly, a reader has her own singular perspective when reading the book. If the author has Mary murder lots of innocent children in the penultimate chapter, no amount of explanation, hand-wringing, or mea culpa delivering will make Mary seem like a hero in that tale, especially also if Mary has done lots of reprehensible things throughout the novel leading to that point. The reader might fully understand why Mary did it, but his understanding doesn't erase the action.

Here's where things might start to get interesting. Not all characters fall into one of those two categories, hero or villain. There are shades of gray.

Also, not all actions can easily be weighed. What if, after all, Mary has been quite heroic throughout the novel, but in the penultimate chapter she goes insane because the magic has finally warped her mind, and this is why she kills those children? What if, instead, our hero Mary was sold a fake magic artifact by someone she shouldn't have trusted—say, the villain of that tale in disguise—and when she activates it to save the children, they are incinerated instead? (I.e., what if the action is an accident?)

In all these cases, we are still playing with ideals. It is important for the author to know what these are if crafting a specific tale is important to him, heh. Similarly, the singular perspective of the reader will recognize what is happening. The anti-hero is seen, not because there's no difference between heroic actions and villainous actions, or between heroic ideals and villainous morality, but precisely because these are recognizable differences. It's just that each action and motivation is taken on a case-by-case basis, is given a peculiar set of contextual circumstances, that muddy the overall mix.
 
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pmmg

Myth Weaver
This feels along the lines of you can always trust a liar to lie, but the ones who have a reputation for the truth are the ones that will surprise you. Its not unusual for members of a group to form such bonds. Its also not unusual, in the context of protecting a group, for an individual to do things that would seem monstrous. I think my group is cool :) but we've kind of out grown that 'I would die for you' stage. Things are not so dramatic.

In fantasy fiction especially, you can have creatures that are in fact, black and white, and are the extremes. I'm mean, sure, an author can write angels as evil and demons as good, or even both conflicted, but Devils and Demons are evil, and I've no additional need to justify that. Being able to use those extremes is one of the advantages fantasy has over many other genres.

Since we most often write about the human experience, humans can be anywhere on the scale, or in some places sometimes, and other places others. I tend to think that there are many sets of qualities, and all of us are set like a thermostat on all of them. Like a thermostat, we can drift up or down, but given time we drift back, because that is who we are.

And in this world, there is no greater monster than ourselves. We can do awful things, that other creatures just cant. And for us all, being a monster is sometimes required. We are required to protect, and we cannot do that if we cannot sometimes be a monster. But part of being a good person, is controlling the monster inside, and giving it only just use. Some dont, and thus heroes and villains emerge.

Since in the world of people, none are really one thing all the time, it is fair to look at things from the perspective of another. But that dont mean what they are doing or have done is not monstrous, and deserved a rightly monstrous response. They can keep their perspective. So you can say, yeah, from Thanos's perspective, Iron man is the villain. Its a nice exercise, but Thanos is still the villain.
 

BearBear

Archmage
The protagonist is a main character whose struggle, efforts and perspective we are going to be following in the tale. The plot exists largely to advance the protagonist through the tale.

I keep coming back to defending Thanos and the whole story arc seems to be supporting his eventual success (spoiler).


The antagonist is someone or something that stands in the way of the protagonist's advancement through the tale.

So from my perspective the avengers are all antagonists.

desirable resolution of the plot

If this was "culling the herd". We humans do this to other species, we're no different than Thanos if you think about all species equal.

We even do this for the sake of conservation.

align with a reader's ideals

So if I'm on his side, then I should think our ideals align? In a universe of who knows how many civilizations and planets, if they're all on a trajectory of overpopulation and the leaders don't care enough about the health of a society and the detrimental negligence that occurs if nothing is done, then yes. Thanos can't possibly convince a galaxtic culture of overpopulation. Countless worlds doomed to suffer the same war torn fate without his mercy.

these are not sufficient for overcoming the vast horribleness of Thanos' personal ideals, goals, and activities.

How would a parakeet judge his owner? Imprisoned for life, stripped of flight and doomed to never feel the wind in his wings again, never have a love, never enough comfort. No wonder birds often go nuts toward the end. I don't think all bird owners are villainous but I can't agree with their actions. If someone were to go on a quest to ban bird ownership, who would be the protagonist?

it won't do to have Mary murder lots of children in the penultimate chapter

Oh but this is exactly the kind of hard choices real heros make. To kill an entire orphanage of children to avoid the spread of a disease that could wipe out whole cities. An AI can't make this choice, it requires illogical, immoral choices.

Life is never so cut and dry. It's dirty, it's painful, it's not fair.
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
I agree that humans typically present a greater range than still other types. I regard that as a failure of imagination on our part. Why can't sprites be capable of great cruelty? Or of a kind of kindness not found among humans?

Here we have these other beings at our fingertips, but mostly they wind up being narrower.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I have heroes who did terrible things. Sir Peter Cortez, one of the MC's of 'Empire,' massacred villages during the Traag War - and a big part of the story is his walk towards redemption.

In an inverse of that, Li-Pang and Silam are avatars of Lovecraftian entities. Yet while they are the principal villains of the series, Li-Pang at least is quite the sympathetic character in his chapters which are set in the distant past.
 

BearBear

Archmage
Demons are evil, and I've no additional need to justify that.


By definition. But I really like the idea that with one group against another group, the other group is always demons. Growing up around devout Catholics taught me something important. The ones supposedly on my side, calling everyone else the devil, were some of the meanest, most spiteful and depraved sinners I've ever known, so basically "good" is subjective. When I was a teen, I spent a year helping one side against another and then my side switched to the other point of view and fought just as feverishly. How confusing that was. It shattered any notion I had of right and wrong and immediately made me lead both agnostic and moderate. The conservatives are careless and the liberals are careless but in a complimentary way. Truth is, they're both careless. So why pick any group at all?

Therefore there are no true evil or true good characters. Everyone has flaws and weaknesses.
 

pmmg

Myth Weaver
Well, I doubt you can be persuaded out of it, but your reasoning is not sound.

Just because some people do, therefore this becomes subjective does not logically follow. And while your anecdotal experiences may have shaped you, they do not necessarily equate to proof of anything. Perhaps only that you became wise that we are all sinners. And while I might challenge you on why pick sides in a conservative vs liberal stance (which is not the same as good vs evil), I dont think there would be much point. You seem to want to go through life believing in the relative nature of things, and so you will. Also, we dont do politics on the site.

The statement there are not true good and evil characters is only that way if you define it such. If I say my demon is evil, he is. I need provide no further justification. I can if I choose show it to be different. I do not think you are objectively approaching the possibilities, or the greater implication of the current path you are investigating. If you say 'Good is subjective', I say there is no such thing as good at all.
 
Things like this,

If this was "culling the herd". We humans do this to other species, we're no different than Thanos if you think about all species equal.

We even do this for the sake of conservation.

...are not in the actual movie.

I recall no argument from Thanos that humans do it all the time. I don't recall anything else within the movie making this argument by, for instance, showing herd-culling as a thing that is simply done by people, and that all species are equal.

Will most viewers feel the same about culling sentient beings as they feel about culling other types of animals?

Similarly, this,

In a universe of who knows how many civilizations and planets, if they're all on a trajectory of overpopulation and the leaders don't care enough about the health of a society and the detrimental negligence that occurs if nothing is done, then yes. Thanos can't possibly convince a galaxtic culture of overpopulation. Countless worlds doomed to suffer the same war torn fate without his mercy.

is not an argument given by the movie. Are all planets on that trajectory and do all the leaders not care enough about this?

Thanos simply says, "They're all DOOOOOOOMED!"—I'm paraphrasing—and we are meant to buy this as a fact. In no way is this "fact" supported in the movie. The only example Thanos gives is a glimpse of his homeworld before and after whatever disaster befell it. We are told by him that Titan suffered and could have been saved by a culling. What, within the movie, leads us to believe him? A culling was the only way Titan could have been saved? Even if so, it does not follow that the whole universe requires a culling.

What you are describing is another movie, not the one actually put in theaters. If the storytellers had chosen to do things differently, they could have made these arguments a central part of the tale and really promoted sympathy with Thanos. They did not.

I've watched a lot of videos on YouTube of people reacting to Infinity War for the first time, and then after, Endgame. Two comments come up repeatedly:

Why not just double all the resources in the Universe! Duh.

What's going to happen when the population doubles again!?


These arise because Thanos' actions are not viewed sympathetically. They're madness more than logic. People can't get behind him. Most people, anyway. ("Thanos was right" has appeared in the MCU also.)

How would a parakeet judge his owner?

The plight of parakeets isn't addressed by Thanos, other than perhaps his strategy for clearing up some space in the cage.

But it could be addressed in some other tale. Is the parakeet's owner a villain or a hero or neither? How am I to judge that without reading the story? How is the author going to present that parakeet owner?

Whether a single action or activity can turn a character into a villain or hero is a good question. I would say it doesn't unless that character only appears that one time in the novel, and even then context will play a huge role. (Edit: OTOH, maybe sometimes a single, particular activity that is ongoing, or else repeated, will be enough.)

Maybe the character is nursing parakeets back into health, or else the planet he has recently landed on has parakeet-eating predators, so the ventilated glass cage is a very good idea. When writing a story, one isn't always writing a treatise or a manifesto.

You have told a different tale:

Imprisoned for life, stripped of flight and doomed to never feel the wind in his wings again, never have a love, never enough comfort. No wonder birds often go nuts toward the end.

And again, here:

Oh but this is exactly the kind of hard choices real heros make. To kill an entire orphanage of children to avoid the spread of a disease that could wipe out whole cities.

I had mentioned context in my previous comment in this thread. There it is. In your way you have exemplified what I wrote before. The writer chooses a single perspective and makes the page less blank. He shows the parakeet suffering or the hero agonizing over the fact that there's no other way to save millions of lives than by wiping out an orphanage. Or else he shows the parakeet healthy and fine while the predators are kept at bay, and the villain wiping out the orphanage to hide all proof that he's been experimenting with deadly viruses.
 
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BearBear

Archmage
Well, I doubt you can be persuaded out of it, but your reasoning is not sound.

What's great about being a Bear is, you don't need sound reasoning outside of math or debate club. Internet trolls and ex-girlfriends never use sound reasoning so why should I?

But I appreciate the effort. Frankly I got bored half way through and just said what I wanted to say.

they do not necessarily equate to proof of anything.

This is an excellent point. Most of what I say is both heresay and heresy.

Perhaps only that you became wise that we are all sinners

It's more of a feeling of dissapointment rather than wisdom. Doesn't feel as good.

You seem to want to go through life believing in the relative nature of things, and so you will.

Because I'm choosing to believe that reality is subjective. So I can believe whatever works best for me. I see the extremes as clowns in a circus and beyond the frightening and entertaining aspects, they don't interest me. Barking dogs on a bright moonlit night do not bother me, neither would I join them.

If I say my demon is evil, he is.

If I asked him, would he say he is evil? If he did, would he say he liked it? Would he choose that freely or is he torn? If he liked it then even evil is at least intriguing or a driving force in his life, so how can it be pure evil? I would consider him pure evil if he was both choosing freely to do evil and tortured by internal conflict, because true evil knows no bounds, so why would he not be affected by his own evil? If there is no internal conflict, then does he really have a choice? Is he even aware of it? Is he purely hedonistic and if he was even that is not purely evil from every perspective and by chance he may do things that inadvertently helped others. Say he killed an old man at random. This old man was himself awful and his death brought relief to many. Now he's an anti-hero. They may even rejoyce his actions. They don't know he's pure evil. That's the perspective in which he's not.

If you say 'Good is subjective', I say there is no such thing as good at all.

Good is conditional. No good is pure, no matter how hard you try, someone is potentially harmed by any given good deed.


I recall no argument from Thanos that humans do it all the time. I don't recall anything else within the movie making this argument by, for instance, showing herd-culling as a thing that is simply done by people, and that all species are equal.

I didn't respect the lore in my arguments. I projected my own examples for reasons why it's not necessarily all bad.

We are told by him that Titan suffered and could have been saved by a culling.

It was based on this, but it didn't have to be. I'm only really playing with ideas.

You both had good points, I liked them.
 
I think with almost all successful fiction you will read characters that are made up of various complexities, and I think it’s our responsibility as writers to explore and ask questions about the moralities of the characters we create. And context is also everything. The characters also need to be genre appropriate. The cultural and traditional landscape two hundred years ago looked very different today in terms of morality. I write historical fantasy fiction, so the morals that I give the characters need to be appropriate to that time scale. And the same applies to the historical fiction I read, especially if it’s meant to be historically accurate. In fantasy I suppose there is more free reign to be explorative, if you’re making your own world then you can invent the moral code. I also think it’d be very boring to read black and white good or bad characters…

I feel like you’ve probably already watched Deathnote, which asks interesting questions about morality, and I’d recommend you watch/read Good Omens, along with The Good Place on Netflix. All ask direct questions about morality, what makes someone good, bad or both.

Also, on the subject of your monologue, from my perspective, if someone leaves you feeling bad, then they’re probably toxic, and you don’t have to keep those people in your life. Conversely, if all your relationships feel strained or difficult, be that with family, friends or intimate relationships, you are probably the one who is toxic. I think most people have the capacity to grow / learn / change, but the more a person responds to their id / inner ego, the less likely it is that any meaningful change will occur, in my opinion.
 

BearBear

Archmage
from my perspective, if someone leaves you feeling bad, then they’re probably toxic, and you don’t have to keep those people in your life. Conversely, if all your relationships feel strained or difficult, be that with family, friends or intimate relationships, you are probably the one who is toxic.

Yes, both have been experienced by me. I became estranged from my family over a decade ago. It's disheartening that I had to also cut ties with people I liked to avoid the worst of them.

In 2017 I realized exactly what you said, everyone around me was on edge and "attacking me." I was seriously depressed (undiagnosed and I didn't recognize it) and I finally realized that they're on edge because of me. I had anger issues. In 2018 I knew I was depressed and my anger had turned inward. Thankfully a form of meditation brought me put of it by October that year. It took until 2020 to get over the trauma of being depressed. I still have certain toxic aspects and I have to accept at least some of that, so I do. I have improved 10-fold as a result of shadow work.

I'd like to write something like that into a character.
 
I think giving heroes flaws is not only possible, but it's usually required for a good story.

The belief that heroism and villainy in fiction require purity misses the target. Well aren't most people in real life...flawed? Is anyone entirely evil, without any redeeming qualities whatsoever? Most, although not all, people over a certain age already know the answers to these questions. (The age limit varies.)

Our image of a person is multifaceted. Warts and all, as the saying goes. Even so, most people have a feeling at least for what is heroic or villainous.

Overcoming their darker selves, or flaws, or limitations, or handicaps can make a hero seem more heroic. This overcoming might itself be considered a heroic act.

Killing or turning away from one's inner light might seem to be a villainous act, particularly if doing so is in service to some much darker side or activity. Cowardice in the face of one's own flaws or limitations might lead to villainy if the character then lets bad things happen to people or overcompensates in negative ways.

On some issues, or aspects, or qualities, or actions, there will be disagreement.

Additionally, misunderstandings may occur because the creators of fiction don't always stick the landing.

There's a current excellent television series on Disney+ called Andor that makes one biggish mistake (in my opinion), and this error has led to some controversy. I won't spoil anything about the show, but only say that an important character did something in the past that can be viewed as heroic or villainous depending on 1) whether you extrapolate from a handful of off-hand clues a particular contextual justification, and 2) whether you bring a certain preexisting understanding and point of view to the show and maybe miss seeing that context or think it's simply no justification. I'm in the first camp, barely, because I think the showrunners sprinkled some important context here and there that makes the character's action seem more heroic. I think the showrunners really should have put a bigger spotlight on that important context. The clues are a bit too thin and subtle, and this has led to that controversy.

That character is later shown to be heroic in other ways, but for some this single act in the past is hard to overlook.
 

A. E. Lowan

Forum Mom
Leadership
They say that everyone is the hero in their own story, villains included. No villain is going to get up in the morning and tell the reflection in the mirror that they're going to be evil today.

In our series we don't use the terms 'hero' or 'villain' much. It's 'protagonist,' 'antagonist,' and 'monkey in the middle.' Like with most people, relationships with others and with the world itself change over time, and so do our characters. We have good people who make bad choices for good reasons, bad people who make good choices for bad reasons, and everything in between. It's just people being people.
 

Malik

Auror
I've mentioned this before, but in early novels set in my series world (submitted, never published), my hero and villain were switched. It was originally the now-villain's story, but the then-villain (now-hero) was fun to write, and the story was so much more interesting from his point of view.
 
I personally feel that people tend to forget real-life definitions of good and bad when they're deep inside a work of fiction. They don't really matter and people will go along with the viewpoint characters and their ideas about good and bad.

Just look at all the tv shows and books that follow criminals around. I'm sure that everyone watching Ocean's 11 was cheering for the protagonists to pull of their daring heist, while no one stopped to think about that these are just a bunch of thieves robbing a place. Same with Lies of Locke Lamore. Or in tv shows like Hawai 5-0 the protagonists torture criminals on a regular basis. But it's okay, because they're criminals / terrorists who want to blow up something or have some weird plan or have kidnapped a kid of the protagonist or whatever.

In real life these things are never okay, but in fiction we cheer them on because the viewpoint characters consider their actions just. It's also why morally grey stories usually require viewpoint characters on both sides.

I had a similar realization in my own writing at one point. It's very easy to have your protagonist run in and simply kill a bunch of guards to get access to some place. No reader will think badly about your protagonist if he does this. But those guards are probably innocent people, just doing their job, with their own lives and families. They don't deserve to be butchered just because your protagonist is in a hurry. Again, in real life, people would hesitate to just kill a bunch of people for convenience, and people would hesitate to cheer someone on who does so on a regular basis. In fiction it's fine. Though it does offer you a chance to develop your character, if he actually consciously decides not to kill people but look for a different solution.

That being said, I do enjoy stories where the heroes are heroic and the villains are evil. Sometimes you don't want the villain to be the hero of their own story, you just want them to be the bad guy.
 
I’ve read and watched countless book / series / movies where I end up rooting for the characters that do horrendous things. It makes me think of Killing Eve or Breaking Bad where I’m there rooting for the psychopathic assassin or the power mad meth maker. It makes me think of how clever The Wire is where there are some complex layers. At all levels of society you have ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’. Maybe the lawyer has just as much integrity as the guy who rips off drug dealers.
 

Queshire

Auror
Well I do generally agree with saying 'everybody's the hero of their own story,' I think there's some untapped potential in someone who embraces being a monster for one reason or another.
 

Malik

Auror
Well I do generally agree with saying 'everybody's the hero of their own story,' I think there's some untapped potential in someone who embraces being a monster for one reason or another.
I was with a unit who'd adopted a great line from Deadpool as our unit slogan. You walk into the team area and there's a big banner with the unit logo and the words

BAD GUYS
DOING BAD THINGS
TO WORSE GUYS​

i can say with confidence that the "worse guys" sure as hell thought we were the bad guys. I have countries I can never travel to, now. And a very full therapy schedule.
 
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