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You need me to be the bad guy.

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Chaingun Samurai, Oct 17, 2019.

  1. Chaingun Samurai

    Chaingun Samurai Dreamer

    Most stories have a villain that acts as an antagonist to your brain character(s).
    What, in your mind, makes a memorable villain? And what sets your villain apart?
  2. blondie.k

    blondie.k Minstrel


    I watch this video and it's good for all the cliche's covered in the video but I had to agree on the villain. What he says in the video about villains is so true. To watch the villains go to 6:30.
  3. Nighty_Knight

    Nighty_Knight Minstrel

    Personality helps. The story is often only as good as your villain. Whether you want your villain terrifying, twisted, a megalomaniac, or just one that people will love to hate, they need to have a personality that will amplify what you are going for. Joffrey from GOT is a great example of a villain who you just hated so much you wanted to physically hurt him yourself. But at the same time, he added an aspect to the story that made you really root for the good guys.

    Another recent villain I loved was in the Amazon series The Boys. Without throwing out any obvious spoilers, the villain in that was equal parts unstoppable and unstable. The villain was terrifying, but was intriguing to the point you loved seeing what they were going to do next.
    CelestialGrace and blondie.k like this.
  4. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    Motivation. All good characters have a strong motivation and the benefit of a villain is they can give into their motives without the restraints of social norms and morality.
    blondie.k likes this.
  5. K.S. Crooks

    K.S. Crooks Maester

    As a reader, show watcher and writer I tend to like villains who are trying to do the right thing but in the wrong way, or villains that lack remorse. I like to sympathize with the villain or want them to be completely defeated.
    blondie.k likes this.
  6. Nirak

    Nirak Minstrel

    I find morally grey villains extremely interesting. For example in the Watchmen, Ozymandias - you can understand his thought process, and his goals are what you'd normally call "good": he wants world peace. His methods, though, are definitely NOT good. He's not just an "I'm evil because I'm evil" type. I've also gotten really tired of the villains who kill their own people to prove a point. Why is anyone following them if that's how they treat the people on their side already?? There better be a good reason no one poisons that character to get them out of the way (a la Joffrey). Then there's Kylo Ren & Darth Vader - Vader was redeemed at the end, Kylo seems to have the potential to be. They're not just cardboard cutouts of evil. Don't get me wrong, there are definitely times and places where the pure evil villain is done well and makes sense. I just personally find it more interesting when the bad guys aren't as clear cut as they seem.
    CelestialGrace and blondie.k like this.
  7. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Forum Mom Leadership

    We actually don't claim to have villains. We have protagonists, antagonists, and monkeys in the middle who will jump from one side of the fence to the other depending on their motivations.

    We have a lot of monkeys.
    CelestialGrace and blondie.k like this.
  8. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Maester

    My preference has always been for villains who are just as principled as the main character but whose willingness to do things, and go places, where the main character would not. An example that comes to mind is Magneto from the X-Men franchise. He wasn't born evil or a bigot. However, his parents being killed during the Holocaust and his wife and daughter being killed by the Polish secret police after they were betrayed by his factory co-workers resulted in him becoming anti-human and, in the process, made him the evil man he became. He seeks to protect mutants at any cost, even if humanity is destroyed in the process.

    O'Brien from George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four is another example of an excellent villain. He is not evil but his willingness to do unspeakable things to defend the principles of Ingsoc and to keep the Party in power makes him a worthy adversary for Winston Smith.

    In my work in progress the villain is the leader of Branch IX of the Ministry of Internal Security whose function is to monitor and, if necessary, eliminate heretics, blasphemers and so-called rogue mages. When the main character in my novel writes a thesis that proves a key tenet of the Faith - the belief the gift of the Spark (i.e magic) is random - is not true the villain seeks to get hold of that thesis and eliminate the author of that thesis. Although he is doing his duty he doesn't do it just out of duty to protecting the Faith and the State but also because he thinks that if he can get that thesis he can "groom" the right people from the right classes so they will almost certainly be granted the gift of the Spark.
  9. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    My villains tend to be Lovecraftian abominations and their dupes (who, in the case of Traag, controlled an entire country). Kind of a faceless evil blob, though I added human touches and understandable motivations where possible, plus Traag was in the immediate background for most characters, not front and center.

    In the 'Empire' series I have a Lovecraftian abomination who is in denial of his true nature, and comes across as personable, even positive some of the time.
  10. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    My main villain, Kate, isn't really a villain. In my story she starts off as my character's best friend. They live in a hard, unfair world and until have always stuck together. But when Kate finds she has to choose between her family and her friend - she chooses her family. With horrible results for my main character. Hopefully everyone will understand Kate's motivations, but everyone has a different limit when it comes to how much is forgivable.
    blondie.k likes this.
  11. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    Thematic opposition well executed.
  12. R.H. Smith

    R.H. Smith Minstrel

    Villains, Bad Guys, Good Guys, Saviors... it's all in the eye of the beholder. Common quip: Is the snake bad because it bites. or because of its venom? Bad / Evil is not purely for its own sake. Nasty mob hitmen have done unspeakable deeds, yet they were the best of fathers to their own kids. It's all relative. What is bad for you is not necessarily bad for me. I agree with Miles Lacey. Everyone is human, or Orc, or an Elf... as such, making your bad guy as human as possible, to me, makes them even scarier. How can you go out and decapitate two people, then come home and hug your wife and kids and take them out for ice cream?
    Miles Lacey and blondie.k like this.
  13. Kasper Hviid

    Kasper Hviid Sage

    This video (serious NSFW warning) was the first thing that popped into my head when I saw the topic. I don’t think the video's aesthetics came out exactly right---some of her other vids are better---but I think it it sums up pretty good why and how violence is fun.

    So, storytelling-wise, a villain is simply a flimsy excuse for the reader to enjoy having the hero beat the living shit out of that guy. I spell this out because I think it’s important to be able to see the strings. Especially if you’re going to be the puppeteer. At its core, this basic structure is, ah, problematic. But we have to use it, because it's fun.

    Today, the trope most folks goes for is the antagonist with depth. Add the usual shades-of-grey to the villain and boom! Your story is suddenly all mature and whatnot. But I personally don't like this trope. And by "don't like" I mean that I hate and despise it with biblical proportions. Yeah, it's that bad. I mean, it’s one thing that I justify the protagonist's violence. I have to, because, well, violence is fun. But if we also claim that ANY violence, even the antagonists, is kinda-understandable, I feel that this is just WAY MORE morally corrupt.

    And ... wait sorry, I wasn't finished hating that trope. Again, sorry. I'm sorry, okay? I SAID IM SORRY! Okay ... While the trope appears deep and profound on the surface level, it is at its core silly and highly unrealistic. If we look at real-life evil, there is an overwhelming lack of depth, pretty much summed up as The banality of evil. People commit evil acts because they can get away with it. If they have their government's permission to torture or murder someone, they feel safe, and it doesn’t bother them much. They are not dark, or haunted, or facing moral dilemmas. They are having a good time.

    Oops! Forgot to actually, you know, answer the question. Okay. I try to create baddies that are full of themselves. They see themselves as those deep ones, übermench, who have to face those deep moral dilemmas. They’re highly conscious of how horrible torture is---Horrible for the torture, that is. Their victims simply serve as a tool for their own dark’n haunted public performance. Their reaction to being held accountable for their actions is disbelief and righteous offense. Also, I try to make the reader unsure whether I as an author buy into the baddies self-image.
    Once, I had a nightmare about Batman. Frank Millers version, that solid, middle-aged warrior. In my dream, there was a bloody fight. I remember that Batman was horribly wounded but he just kept going, like a monster who didn't react to pain. That's my main villain. Batman.

    I mean, that's kind of the plan. I have the word poshlost which I kinda feel fit in, but I hardly get what it's about, even.
  14. SergeiMeranov

    SergeiMeranov Scribe

    This article by Philip Athans is a good discussion of part of how I approach villains or what I like about good villains. I think the general key is to avoid mustache twirlers. People that are evil for the sake of being evil. That's really only well suited to psychopathic villains and monsters which isn't to say those villains are bad it's just that those are the only sort I can imagine that limited of internal motivation is sufficient.

    The villains I prefer are ones that you can identify with. Not in the sense that you agree with their goals, but in the sense that you can understand where they're coming from and how they arrived at their decision to be evil. The greatest cardinal sin, in my mind, of writing a villain is for the reader to have a very obvious "Well why didn't they just do this obvious thing instead of becoming a villain?" Or for the logic of their decision making to not be clear. I want for my villains to follow some sort of logical system even if its their own warped sense of reality's logic.

    Some examples of good villains or "villains" or antagonists: Cersei from A song of Ice and Fire, Javert from Les Mis, The Phantom from Phantom of the Opera, The instructors/society in Ender's Game, the other Gods in Circe.

    Some bad examples: The Emperor from Star Wars (I say this with great pain as I am a huge Emperor Palpatine fan), really most Star Wars novel villains, the two competing sides in Torn (though the book itself, largely due to the internal conflict, is great), the villain(s) in Fire Dance.

    Reasonable minds can obviously differ since it's largely a judgment call when talking about specific examples but those are my general thoughts. They need to be logical (according to their own internal logic) and understandable.
  15. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

    For me villains follow a variation of Sanderson's first law of magic. To paraphrase: Your ability to have the villain influence the story is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said villain.

    As one extreme, you have a very distant villain like Sauron in Lord of the Rings. He doesn't actually influence the story all that much. He's there, and he's the reason there is a story. But we don't see him take any actions directly. Only some consequences of his decisions which are fairly straightforward like "send army to conquer something".

    At the other extreme you have Cersei from A song of Ice and Fire. Who is only the villain because the Starks are the protagonists (and in a world where everyone kills everyone else, villain is an interesting concept anyway). But the roles could easily have been reversed. She's a fully fleshed out character with clear motives and decisions. Because she's so actively involved in the story happening she needs to make sense.
  16. I’m very fond of villains that make you feel strong emotions. When a villain inspires you to passionately hate them, be angry at them, or even feel conflicted between hate and sympathy, that to me is a sign of a well written villain. However, they also have to be human. They have to have reasons for their decisions that make sense from their point of view and a view of the world, however twisted and warped, where they are in the right.

    I also find it interesting for villains to parallel the protagonist in some ways. Especially if villain and protagonist share similar traits or a similar origin story, and the reader is led to ask what makes them different. If the hero decided to take a different path, why?

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