1. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Common Errors made when creating Villains

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by captain kate, Jul 7, 2008.

    I just finished watching the Season Four finale of Doctor Who on Youtube! and I saw the same typical errors made by all of us writers on creating Villians. In this case, the bad guy was Davros, the creator of the Daleks.

    I've noticed Hollywood is bad for this, and sometimes we novel writers are just as guilty. One of the biggest failures we do in making a villian is that we tend to create them to be so arrogant that they never think they can lose, which causes them to lose. How many of the James Bond villians have you seen that flaw in? Just about everyone of them are so arrogant that they feel losing won't happen.

    However, if you want your villian to be believable, and truly a match for the protaganist, then I think they need to be written so as to think they CAN lose, which will make their decision making both more real, and better plotted. Any opinions?
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure. I've seen a few villains who launch the battle out of fear, but the reader needs to believe that the villain could actually win, if you want a powerful conflict. If the villain is not confident of success, what else is there to offset the high probability that the protagonist will win simply because he or she is the protagonist?

    Still, you do have a point, that a fear of defeat can help make the villain a more interesting character, one the reader could hold some sympathy for.
     
  3. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    I must admit that sometimes with my villians I find it hard to have them just kill the hero when they're vulnerable. I supposed it's been hammered into me by films and Tv that the villian should make a huge speech about why he won and why the protagonist is weak.

    I do find (in fantasy, I mean) that having an unstoppable villain just ramps up the tension. An evenly matched fight would probaby- but not always- be more boring than one where the villian has the advantage the whole way through, until right at the end.

    Also I think the reason we want to make villians arrogant is that it makes them so much easier to dislike, which I would say is usually the point of a villian. I dont think there are many people who would go 'oh i really admire his arrogance' or something like that. It's just an easy way of making someone hateable.
     
  4. vivo_neco
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    vivo_neco New Member

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    Personally, I love stories that blur the line between black and white, good and evil, in which every character is some shade of grey. If you’re emotionally invested in both the protagonist and the ‘villain’ then it makes the story a whole lot more interesting. There are also villains I love to hate - villains that are ‘evil,’ but are also human, or at least have a few (believable) reasons for being evil. Characters who are evil and want to take over a country/kingdom/world just ‘because’ can quite often be annoying, in my opinion.

    I think it generally does make a villain more believable if he thinks he can lose, because, yes, the ‘arrogance is their downfall’ cliché is rather overdone. On the other hand, it’s plausible that a villain might think they cannot be defeated, and just because it’s not original doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used. As Cogito said, such a belief on the part of the villain can help the reader believe that the villain has some chance of success, and as Scribe Rewan said, it does ramp up the tension.

    I suppose it depends on how well it’s written - good writers can get away with clichés. After all, few things in fiction are original anymore.
     
  5. penhobby
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    penhobby Contributing Member

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    I wrote a villain into a story and he was quite evil. Well as evil as evil goes anyway. over consecutive books however I have grayed out his badness level to some degree. In the third book I intend to introduce his own little antagonistic bad guy, a villain far more evil than he is.

    In truth I'm not even sure where I'm going with it yet. It's all still in my head, driving me nuts. anyway, I've grown tired of his 'I'm so evil and bad and you all are gonna die horrible deaths.' routine. Who knows, maybe I'll give him a love interest and then have her stab him in the heart, thus saving them all. Hmmm, nope that's not it.
     
  6. The Essential Writer
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    The Essential Writer Senior Member

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    I forgot, really!
    Arrogance could also be the trait of a hero, but yes, I do see a lot of arrogant, cocky, villians who *suprisingly* lose.
     
  7. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    I agree with everyone! I found Russel T. Davies' script to be insulting to the viewer's intelligence because Davros has been screwed by the Dalek's, which he created by the way, so many times in the course of Dr. Who (original and new series) that his not ahving a clue "he could lose" due to being backstabbed by one of them was insulting.
     
  8. TheFedoraPirate
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    TheFedoraPirate Contributing Member

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    Actually, it's probably more important that the villain be intelligent. As long as they are intelligent they can be as arrogant as they want and they won't fall into the "Well, there's no way I could lose let's throw caution to the wind" trap. Because really, that's a stupid reason to lose.
     
  9. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    i agree with whoever said that villians should be almost as likable as heroes...or at least their motives should be just as understandable. To me the word "evil" is too casually thrown about when describing villiany. Just because someone disagrees with what you've been taught to believe they are evil? To a nazi soldier hitler was their savior, he was ridding their country of weakness and uniting a fallen people. but to eveyone else he was a monster. And dollars to donuts hitler didn't wake up in the morning like **yawn** "can't wait to commit sommore insane acts of unspeakable evil today." He thought he was doing great things. same with saddam and bush and other great tyrants often described as evil.. "Evil people" are people who are mad. people who cannot distinguish between right and wrong, people who are morally bankrupt, who do not have a clear grasp of reality as the consensus defines it. a good example of an "evil character" would be "the joker" from batman. he has or needs no reasons for his crimes because he has gone mad, there is no saving or reasoning with him because he is friggin bat**** crazy. people like him must be stopped at all costs. religious zealots are another good example of "evil" they cannot be reasoned with because their reality doesn't exist in the same realm as rationality, they live in a dream world. in a world where they are already dead, therefore forfeiting their life in this one. wait... what was this thread about... sorry i'm all hopped up on painkillers.

    crap, well anyway i guess my point is, unless your villian is a nutjob then he can't really be "evil." Which means he has to have a good reason for doing what he is doing, or believing as he believes. He must be cast into the same gray area of the spectrum as the protagonist, just on the opposite side. i dunno if that made any sense. G'night from California
     
  10. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Evil isn't people who don't know what is good and what is evil. Those people are innocent of any malicious intent. Evil is people who know the difference between good and bad, yet still chose bad. They then make up excuses for why the evil things they did are actually good. They say "This is bad, but once it's over I'll be good," or "If I do this thing that I know is wrong it'll give me power, then I can fix all the bad things in the world," or any number of things along those lines. I find it incomprehensible that Hitler could not have any knowledge that he shouldn't have done many of the things he did. He knew what he was doing, but excused it because he said his people needed "living space" and other such things.
     
  11. Lucy E.
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    Lucy E. Contributing Member

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    Hmmm...I don't know. I think if the writer and reader have an emotional connection with the antagonist, that boosts the power and suspense of the plot as a whole. However, if the antagonist is very likeable, it can make the reader want him/her to win rather than the protagonist.
     
  12. BillyxRansom
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    BillyxRansom Active Member

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    I agree with most of what you said.
    I don't necessarily think the "'arrogance is their downfall'" thing is entirely overdone, just the poor execution of it is what is overdone. I think this goes for anything.

    I think that the villain who is so sure that he cannot fail can certainly be an intriguing one if there is a good reason for his thinking that. A villain can't be immortal, for instance, without a very good reason for it.
    And even then, he can still be defeated in some way. (Just I wouldn't care to read about a villain who was "immortal, UNLESS the protagonist did such and such".) If your villain is going to be immortal, have a superb back story for why he is. But, more often than not, I'd say make the villain have something to lose.
    And if you are going to make him immortal, don't introduce that fact just yet! Wait it out!

    But I digress.

    Stories that blur the black and white, and create a gray.. that can be good, again, if done well and in an interesting fashion. If you want to make your villain known to be a bad guy in the beginning, make him personable. Make him intriguing at the very least.

    And at the very most, make it so that my heart wrenches every time that villain comes on to the page. Make me fear him or her. Make it so that the protagonist almost jumps out of the page and says, "Do you see what I am dealing with? You understand, right? You're the only one who seems to understand, dear Reader."


    Kinda like that. :)
     
  13. SunnyRabbiera
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    SunnyRabbiera Member

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    Thats why I have my villains be the "plans within plans" type, villains that have at least three plans in line.
    I do have villains that do expect failure, and learn from those failures though I do have a few who follow the "I cannot be beaten" mentality... but those type of villains are meant to be beaten.
     
  14. inkslinger
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    inkslinger Contributing Member

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    I have found myself writing villains that can fall into the typical villain character category, but I think this is almost unavoidable. It's kind of like the hero category. No matter what, your hero is going to be that person that somehow saves the day. No matter what, your villain is going to be that baddy that's trying to destroy something or bring an end to whatever. There are basic elements that pretty much have to go into a villain. He has to be bad, obviously, but he also has to be confident/arrogant to an extent, because otherwise it wouldn't be believable that he expects to lose.

    I mean, don't get me wrong, you can break out of those guidelines, but it's really hard and it has to be done very believably. Personally, I kind of like confident/arrogant/smug villains. It's no fun if they're pessimistic about their evil diabolical scheme. :p
     
  15. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Stop with this hero and villain stuff. The protagonist is the character the story follows, his intentions aside, and the antagonist is whatever is in opposition to the goals of the protagonists side. Antagonists can be wonderful people, and it's perfectly possible to have them fighting for something you might agree with. It's a bit harder to have you see the two sides as equal, but they can both be virtuous in their own way. The part of the story outside the main plot is a great help with this. That's why genres like fantasy so often have black and white conflict. The surroundings are opposed as well as the characters, but when the whole world isn't involved, there's a much more comfortable greay area.
     
  16. SunnyRabbiera
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    SunnyRabbiera Member

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    Well the hero and villain roles have become a lot more diverse over the years.
    First you had the basic hero, who's motives are to defeat the basic villain...
    The basic hero is usually "dashing, daring and courageous" and the basic villain is "ugly, vile and treacherous"
    But since then you have had much more diversity...
    You have anti hero's, pro hero's, straightfaced villains, ugly hero's, villains that are heroes in disguise...
    Its never black and white.
     

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