1. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    An antagonist you can relate to

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nightshade, May 1, 2011.

    I don't really want to call him a villain even though he's actually a really rather nasty piece of work. In my novel the baddie is after my main character because he needs to use her for a certain purpose which I can't reveal for fear of giving away all my secrets! But it's the core point of the whole plot, throughout the book you're led to believe it's for one reason and then (hopefully) the truth is a surprise at the end. Anyway, I digress, the book is a vampire novel (see plot creation for details) but it's not romanticising vampires. There is a royal family in the vampire world, really it's to do with the oldest vampire family who were created by the first vampire. The first vampire only created two new vampires, the Draconis line and the Corvus line. Draconis, being first, has always been in power although Corvus has always resented this.
    The 'baddie' is a Corvus and was friends with the 'Draconis' heir before a woman came between them and Draconis befriended a vampire hunter and created a treaty with humans, outlining new laws, etc.
    Corvus is very much of the idea that vampires are supreme and had his friend killed. Although he's sounding like a pretty nasty piece of work we need to keep in mind that this man is a father and married a woman he didn't really love just to keep his own parents happy, the woman he loved was taken by his friend, and he feels like his friend betrayed him by valuing humans as much as he does his own people.
    Do you think this character would work better if I portray him in a way which would make the main character and the readers sympathise with him for his situation or is it better in young adult books to have a villain who is just evil without knowing the motives for his actions or personality?
     
  2. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think you need to focus on the 'why's' of him being a villain, at least I don't care about that kind of stuff when I'm reading. I just want the villain to be a villain, because the story needs him to be. I think giving him a trait that readers can feel sympathy with will make him even more scary (if that is actually what you want). I had a villain in a story that was a really nasty guy, he wouldn't hesitate to kill whoever came in his way, not even his girlfriend (and as we get to know him he's trying to do just that), but he would never hurt an animal and his dog is the only creature he feels some kind of affection for. To me that makes him even more realistic and therefor scarier.
     
  3. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    Very important to me for a villain to have reasons for what they are doing. Okay, here's the key. Readers can go along with pretty much anything short of rape, and I'm sure even that has exceptions I don't know about, as long as you show their motivations, and we get to know the character enough. The more we know why someone does something, the more we sympathize, and maybe even empathize with them.

    So for your guy, we need to get into his head, a lot. Why did he do all of that? Is it really just family ties and revenge, or is there yet a deeper reason? Maybe he was abused as a child by humans, and hates them for that reason. Sure, this betrayal provides some motivation, but add some.

    For a weird example recently, I read Frankenstein, and the only character I liked was the creature. Everyone else I felt like they got what was coming to them, including the kid he kills. All of this is because we know why he does all of this, which is he rightly feels enraged by how society treats him. Not only that, he is actually quite forgiving considering how people treat him. Even when he helps out a family for awhile, possibly saving them from death at times, and they still violently make him leave, not even giving him a chance to explain his condition. His creator treats him horribly too, and all because he's ugly, which is the creator's fault, and because the creature got rightfully enraged at this condition.

    See, even though the writing of this book hasn't aged well, we still feel incredibly sympathetic to a child murderer. That isn't easy, yet it's pulled off here, even though the book is filled with 2-D gothic sterotypes, and the writing can be quite poor at times, although maybe it's because it started cliches like the guilty scientist.
     
  4. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    lol, we gave the exact opposite advices. :) but i still have to say i don't want to pity the villain because that would make him less convincing as a villain to me. he can have whatever motives he want, maybe you could hint the past without going much into detail though. but remember not all villains have had a difficult childhood. People can come from the best of surroundings/upbringings and still not being able to stay out of trouble. and focusing on the villains childhood problems takes the focus away from the story I think. As a reader I would probably start asking myself who is the protagonist here, the MC or the villain? who am I to sympathize with?
     
  6. Killer300
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    Killer300 Active Member

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    But the problem with just evil villains is that they are a dime a dozen these days. Readers want better. Characters that stock are already over saturated in movies and television. I'm not saying never use them, but if you must, then you should compensate with deeper characters elsewhere because people read novels to read about deep characters. They have visual and interactive mediums for just pure fun, they need more in literature.
     
  7. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    Thanks guys, it's interesting that your opinions conflict with each other because it gives me a better understanding of the diversity among potential readers. I don't want my readers to weep for the villain because at the end of the day he is the bad guy and I want you to root for the heroine, but all the same I don't want you to think this guy was hit with the evil stick when he was born and there's no hope for him. I want to find a way to express that he has motives for what he's doing, some of which you pity him for, without steering away from the main body of the story.
     
  8. NikkiNoodle
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    NikkiNoodle Active Member

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    I think it depends. Is this a plot driven or a character driven story? If it's all about the plot then you may not need a huge backstory for the bady guy. If it's character driven then delving into who he is might increase the tension between good and evil.
    Also, making a baddie have some redeeming qualities and having him choose eventually to stomp on them in favor of evil-ness only makes him more bad in the end.

    I lean towards strait out bad for the younger audience and more flawed charaters for the older audinces.

    Hope that helps!
     
  9. Primequis
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    Primequis New Member

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    I'd suggest designing him as the former - an antagonist who is a character with dimensions and such, then just making him evil. With the "just make him evil" plot, you're not offering the best you can and he's simply an antagonist because their needs to be a bad guy. With building as character out of them, it gives far more depth and makes them interesting. Just don't go overboard with sympathetic side as well. Keep in mind they are an antagonist and do give them evil actions moments.

    Think of it like this: If you were reading the story itself, would you want someone who was just a villain who just there to be evil or a far more complex antagonist who would keep you into things?
     
  10. Trish
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    Trish I've been deleted.. again Contributor

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    You've defined what you want and why you want it. We (as readers) will care about your characters exactly as much as you tell us to. You will do that through their own thoughts, actions, and how other characters that we care about perceive them. You already know what you want to do, so you should just figure out how to do it. Killer and Tesoro giving conflicting advice only proves this out even more. You'll never please everyone. Just write it the way it works for you the best that you can.
     
  11. Nightshade
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    Nightshade Senior Member

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    Thank you, and thanks to everyone, the feedback is really helpful and it's a relief to be honest. Now I can plot out the backstory of my character but without going into too much detail so if the opportunity presents itself I can give an explanation as to why he is the way he is at certain points in the book but I don't need to say at some point "By the way, he's not bad really because actually....." and explain his motives in an idiot proof manner.
     
  12. mootz
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    mootz Member

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    The villains likability should fall in line with his tactics, character and goals. No one cares if Hitler got bullied in high school. In contrast, if a high school bully had abusive parents then sympathy would be okay because the crime is not far off from the reason.

    The older the villain, the less the excuse. The more severe his actions, the less the excuse.

    If you try to make an old baby killer sympathetic and likeable you better be a damn good writer. Whatever back story you have planned should fit the situation.
     
  13. mc1ate1mad1cow
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    mc1ate1mad1cow Member

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    If make the reader sympathize with the antagonist, he doesn't really remain that, he becomes one of your protagonists.
    Plus, you always need to give reasons why your villains act villainy.
     

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