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Introducing villains

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Dwarven Gold, Jun 8, 2011.

  1. Dwarven Gold

    Dwarven Gold Minstrel

    When introducing a villain I like to show them doing something really vile from the start. That's not the only approach, though. I've seen stories where the villain is first seen doing something positive or friendly, and only appears evil later.

    How do you introduce your villains? Do you have them make an impression?
  2. JCFarnham

    JCFarnham Auror

    I've never really had a clear cut villain in my works, only unhappy situations, but I am planning a villain [if she can even be called a villain though, she's not that black and white if you know what I mean].

    Her introduction as a villain, to this end, will be a slow one. I'm hoping for the reader to not realise she's the one pulling strings until caught at it, but for it to be as seemless a transition as possible. What I should have at the end of it all is a character who seems incredibly natural [perhaps even normal and sane] for the setting and story, but is one hundred percent the one making the protagonist's life a misery.

    In the same story, I have a rogue millitary commander. His villainy will be ... obvious. He intends after all to use new technology to start a war so. Plus he isn't going to be much of a nice man. ;)

    In either case both should be an impression, but first as characters, only secondly as the villain.
  3. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

    For me, my villains are just people trying to get by. They just run contrary to my protagonists. There are a couple of bad people but they are that way because that is where they are.

    My protagonist will become my main villain.
  4. BeigePalladin

    BeigePalladin Sage

    Mine's going to be inviting the heroes to dinner, and then going to continue popping up to tiehr help, hinder or just be there throughout the story.

    the hero's know who he is the whole time, however :D
  5. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    It depends on the POV being used, and the story being told.

    Often the villian may not be known to the POV character. It may simply be they come to crossed paths.
  6. Derin

    Derin Troubadour

    I've never been a fan of the vile introduction. It always looks too much like "hey, this is the guy you're supposed to dislike! See? I'll prove it!" on behalf of the author to me. But that's just me; a lot of people seem to favour that approach.

    I prefer to introduce them as just another guy and have it gradually revealed that their plans run contrary to the protagonists'. This works especially well if you introduce most new characters like this, and they don't all turn out to be villains.
  7. Waltershores

    Waltershores Dreamer

    I enjoy having my villains appear to be your best friend and then striking at the heart of the hero. That being said, I also enjoy showing them being absolutely vile and disgusting right off the bat. For me it just depends on the mood I am in. I usually have a couple stories going at the same time so I can jump between them depending on my mood.
  8. Stephen King compared the writing process to the cliche of the sculptor - the statue is already in the stone and the artist just chips away a piece at a time. In that thread, I like my characters to reveal themselves and just see what happens; I don't overplan. For the novel I just published, my villain is shown in normalcy and he 'evolves' (in more ways than one).

    That being said, I do like some stereotypes and have used them in my short stories from time to time. I like the dastardly and evil/corrupt bastard as much as the ruthless and coniving creep. In my favorite short, I co-created a villain who seemed kindly and helpful, but was using an entire population.

    I say let your villain be whatever you want them to be. Sometimes plan them, other times chisel away a bit at a time.
  9. Digital_Fey

    Digital_Fey Troubadour

    Agreed, although goodness knows I've used that approach often enough myself >.> In an attempt to steer away from such cliches, most of my recent stories don't really feature a definite 'villain'; I'd like to write more about ordinary people doing good things as well as bad for different reasons.

    That said, I don't think it matters that much how a villain is introduced so long as it's clear that there is some complexity to their character, something more than meets the eye which will hopefully be revealed more fully as the story progresses.
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2011
  10. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    Well, in what I'm working on right now, I'm introducing the "villain" in exactly the way Derin doesn't like: his repuation precedes him, and when my main character does meet him, the first things he does seem to confirm this. He is established as the villain early on precisely because I aim to subvert the idea of good vs evil. The course of my story is about my protagonist learning that there is more to this man than meets the eye, that he is more than the evil being she has heard about and that his actions are as much driven by his goals as her actions are driven by her goals. Thus I am using the vile introduction to provide a point of contrast between the stark black and white view of the world my protagonist has at the start of the story and the shades of grey she realises exist by the end.
  11. Derin

    Derin Troubadour

    I can see that working. I guess my big objection to the "look how vile he is!" introduction is 1) it's used so often for shallow villains that look thrown in to give the hero something bad to fight and 2) it gives the villain's development nowhere to go. You've clearly averted both problems. I try not to use the vile introduction myself, because I usually start with the "everyone has their motives" thing that you're ending with and move in the other direction. Too many people, IMO, do the "look how evil he is" introduction to introduce a sadistic sociopath of a villaim, which I find boring.
  12. Amanita

    Amanita Maester

    The first question someone who writes a villain has to answer for themselves is the question if the protagonist is supposed to know who the villain is right away or not. This, like everything depends on the story. If it is something about intrigues and the suspense lies in the main character not knowing who's the one plotting against him, it wouldn't make much sense to introduce the person in question beating to death a helpless servant or something along those lines.
    If the protagonist is supposed to know who his enemy is, the "vile introduction" might really work and probably better than other people just telling him how evil the villain ist. (The latter could add interesting twist if those "other people" aren't telling the complete truth and the situation isn't as black and white at all.)
    If the vile introduction is chosen, it shouldn't be something completely over the top though. The villain commanding his army to attack a village, kill the men, rape the women and set the village on fire later because they're supposed to hide rebells/enemies etc. would work for me, this kind of thing is happening in real wars all the time and it would make sense if it happend in the fantasy world as well.
    A villain who's abducting a child, cutting it into parts while still alive, roasting them over the fire and eating them/feeding them to his pet monster would be very likely to make me put the book down and stop reading. Not because I couldn't stomach the cruelty but because I can't stand such bland attempts to involve the readers' emotions that don't make any logcial sense. The same goes for the random killing of supporters, plenty of fantasy villains seem to be so fond of.
  13. Telcontar

    Telcontar Staff Moderator

    Takes all kinds of villains to make a story - though I have to say, the full-immersion introduction is a bit too easy for my tastes. I might use it for a secondary villain, but I like to think that my big baddies have more class. I especially like the characters who don't reveal themselves as villains until the reader has already gotten to know them a bit.
  14. srebak

    srebak Troubadour

    When i introduced my main villain, it was something of a vague description, i don't fully (or at least slightly less vaguely) explain their origin until later.
  15. myrddin173

    myrddin173 Maester

    My main villain is going to be introduced fairly early in the first book, however it will not be revealed that she is "bad" until later in the series. She is also not actually evil, just motivated by jealousy. Seriously her triplet brothers are kings and she's just a princess?
  16. sashamerideth

    sashamerideth Maester

    As I have scrapped my story, again, I think the villain always being there, and perhaps a friend is a good approach in my story. Started a new work with no villain.
  17. Kate

    Kate Troubadour

    My villain arrives front and center, first scene. Bang! Nastiness. But still mysterious enough to know nothing about him or his motivations. And then I'll leave him for a while and go off to develop the good guys and the sub-villains, joining everything up in the middle to play out in the end. Yes, I have only written the first act (can you tell?)
    I'm hoping that the menace of the first scene will contribute to the overall tone I'm shooting for.
  18. In my first novel, Firesoul, the villain is revealed slowly...and as he 'transforms' into the villain both in form and power and obvious nature, readers will hopefully get it. The published version is something to the tune of 436 pages for book one, and he surfaces as a villain no earlier than a third of the way through. However, a more dramatic conflict runs the plot up till that point.

    However, my follow-up, Shadow-Walker (not yet published...but Contracted!!!), starts with the villain from Book 1 causing crap right at the get-go.
  19. Dante Sawyer

    Dante Sawyer Troubadour

    Firstly, sashamerideth, that's a very interesting concept of your protagonist becoming your main villain.

    The way I approach the subject of antagonist is not necessarily to make the person (or creature or whatever) evil. I personally don’t like the villains in literature that are evil just because. I want to know why they are that way. I hate stories where there’s good and there’s evil, there’s no real middle ground, and even the evil side believes their intentions are less than moral. When I’m making an antagonist, I craft someone who will stand in the protagonist’s way. They have different views and/or goals than the protagonist and there is thusly conflict. I don’t really like a stereotypical evil villain who just wants to enslave the world or conquer it. I want someone who has more depth than that. Thusly I offer one bold suggestion, don’t make a real villain, just make some whose morals are polar to that of your hero and, more than likely, you have a more realistic villain. Someone who may be seen as a villain in real life, because, come one, you’re not going to see many Saurons or Voldemorts in real life.
  20. I think that the introduction of villains all have to do with where in their lives they are and what you are trying to prove with them, if anything.

    So assuming that your villain is well established in his villainy. Like for mine he is a nasty magical non-jihadist terrorist that has been in power for years. Seeking to reverse the order of things. So where I am at in my story he would be evil to a sharp degree. Not only because of his experience in the organization but due to a series of events that changed him from what he was to what he now is.

    Also if you are trying to prove that perception is everything then the villain should not appear "evil" but simply against the perceptions of the her.

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