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Would a story without a bad guy make sense?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Deleted member 4379, Jan 25, 2016.

  1. The title asks it all.
    I have spent some months writing a novel, where there isn't any "bad guy." It is essentially what you'd call a normal fantasy adventure, but the story has no enemies. The idea is basically about a series of events that aren't caused by any enemy, but rather things that just happen and the protagonist thinking that someone has done all of them.

    Would that kind of idea make any sense? Any thoughts? Experiences? I have been studying plots and noticing that "neutral" books don't really exist. It is always the one bad guy.
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

    Every book has an antagonist. The antagonist doesn't have to be a person. It might be the MC's own insecurities, or interpersonal relationships, or the pressures of society, or even the forces of nature.

    What conflicts does your MC come up against? More importantly, what are they caused by? That is your antagonist.
    kennyc and Devouring Wolf like this.
  3. Incanus

    Incanus Auror

    Lots of stories don't have an antagonist in the form of a 'bad guy'.

    My current novel WIP has no such person. There are characters with a goal, and obstacles that must be overcome, obstacles that could make the goal impossible to achieve. Pretty simple, really.

    This is just my own opinion, but I don't often care for the 'bad guy' as antagonist (though many stories I like have them), for my own stories. To me, it's just that sooner or later, one way or another, such an antagonist always seemes to boil down to the guy twirling a handle-bar moustache and tying a hapless damsel to railroad tracks. These types are usually at their worst when giving speeches delineating their goals/desires/plans.
    kennyc likes this.
  4. Drakevarg

    Drakevarg Troubadour

    That's actually a bit of trouble I've got with a game I'm working on. It's a (very, very) loose adaptation of an old-school RPG with a stereotypical evil overlord, but I want my antagonist to be more of a primordial being whose fundamental nature just happens to be naturally antagonistic to the civilization its encroaching on. Trying to find a balance of "antagonistic just by existing" and "not actually actively malicious" is harder than it sounds. It's like trying to write a morally neutral sentient plague.
  5. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    Look at the Xenomorphs from the Aliens franchise. They are doing what their evolution has dictated, though that does entail killing other beings to perpetuate their own existence.
  6. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think your question has two parts. The first, you can absolutely write a very good novel without a villain. Villains do rather play into the strengths of the fantasy genre, but you can still go without one.

    The second part of the question . . . .

    ^This to me is a red flag. I think a good novel still needs to have a throughline, and based solely on the way this sentence describes it, I would suspect that your plotline may need more focus and coherency.
    kennyc and Ireth like this.
  7. goldhawk

    goldhawk Troubadour

    Toy Story does not have an antagonist. Woody is his own worst enemy. This is typical of character-oriented stories.
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  8. TheKillerBs

    TheKillerBs Inkling

    This sounds hilarious.
  9. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    Makes me think a bit of "Chuck and Dale Vs. Evil".... Two guys in the woods think that some teenagers are out to kill them, and the teenagers think Chuck and Dale are out to kill them and all the horrific things that happen are purely coincidence. It is actually pretty funny.
  10. Legendary Sidekick

    Legendary Sidekick The HAM'ster Moderator

    Burke (Paul Riser with 80s "feathered" hair) is the bad guy in Aliens. He tried to kill Newt and Ripley.
    The bad guys in Alien[SUP]3[/SUP] are the writers who killed Newt and Ripley, and tried to kill the franchise.
  11. psychotick

    psychotick Auror


    Make sense? Depends on your plotting. But yes stories don't need antagonists. They do need challanges for the MC to overcome. Two examples spring to mind. Shipwreck by Charles Logan - a story of survival (and ultimately not) on an alien world. Gripping reading. And Catch 22. Who's the bad guy? The system really. And in the end a wickedly good read.

    Cheers, Greg.
  12. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    He's an antagonist but overall his threat to the group that went on the mission is far smaller than the threat the Xenomorphs present. It's the token corporate scumbag that the writers of the original Alien movie did not want in the first place. They thought it cheapened the movie by supplying a generic bad guy.

    He's sort of a side villain I guess. They needed an ulterior motive to get the funding to send everyone to LV-426. His mission is to bring the Xenomorphs back for scientific research, which in itself isn't necessarily evil, it's just his greed that makes his decision reckless. He wasn't around to see what the creatures can really do until it's too late.
  13. Zara

    Zara Dreamer

    I'm kind of doing one myself.
    So you still have a "bad guy" its just not human like an asteroid or freak weather.
  14. Well the funny part is that I have two protagonists. They both are on a quest to save a kingdom, but they are also each others enemies. Neither of them is the real antagonist, since they are both thinking each other as their enemies.
  15. I might have written that a bit badly. (too late lol) Basically two protagonists are each others enemies and making each others journey harder. And all that happens in a middle of a civil war. I personally would call the war the actual "antagonist", but it doesn't affect the story enough to be the real enemy.
    Devor likes this.
  16. There definitely are some points at which different people are the protagonist's enemies. In the end, every single character in the story has good intentions, but they are all each others enemies in a way. I think the reader has to "choose a side." Something experienced in Game of Thrones for example.
  17. I really should look into that one.
  18. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Hey, there. Your antagonistic force doesn't need to be a person. It can be an idea, a moral dilemma, a company, nature or animal related, etc. Conflict challenges your protagonist into character growth, which is the ultimate goal in story. It can be done with an antagonist that's not a person.
  19. kennyc

    kennyc Inkling

    Yeahbutt....Buzz and Woody are in conflict about being the object of affection....just like any good love triangle. :)
    Heliotrope likes this.
  20. Heliotrope

    Heliotrope Staff Article Team

    And in toy story 1 Sid is the antagonist, in toy story 2 the chicken man (and the prospector) are the antagonist, and in toy story 3 the huggy bear and his crew are the antagonists... Aren't they? Woody has a lot of inner baggage he has to deal with in his relationship with buzz, but there are actually distinct antagonists. (My son's favourite movies)
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
    kennyc likes this.

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