1. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Introducing the villain

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by sophia_esteed, Jun 24, 2009.

    I'm at a point where I should introduce the villain.
    But so far I've only ever mentioned him, never describing him directly or defining his identity, just calling him 'Father' and keeping him in the shadows.
    I have a feeling if I screw this up now, the whole mood of the novel would fall apart.
    So, do you know of a couple good techniques to introduce the villain without killing the mood?
     
  2. Mystery Meat
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    Mystery Meat Member

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    Foreshadowing is probably the easiest.

    You have said that your villain has been known as 'Father' so I am assuming that you have not tried to hide the fact that 'Father' is the bad guy. When alluding to the bad guy you should probably try to make his motivations and goals clear if he is not going to be present for a large chunk of the story; nothing is worse than having a hidden villain in a story who hates the protaginist for no obvious reason.

    Don't try to drape the bad guy in complete mystery. They want someone that they can understand, even if that character is not present. Give them a villain whose goals are obvious, whose evil is unmistakable, but who posseses a secret ability, weapon or agenda.

    Think of Voldemort in the first Harry Potter book - he was talked about a lot, everyone knew that he tried to kill Harry and that he would do so again if he ever came back. The mystery was in whether or not he was really dead and the suspense was in the fact that the reader didn't know exactly what a highly intelligent, though immortally wounded, wizard could do.

    I hope this helps. Good luck with the story.
     
  3. Scribe Rewan
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    Scribe Rewan Contributing Member

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    What kind of villian is 'Father'? He is a character, like any other 'person' in the novel, and so the way he is introduced should be in keeping with the tone of the character. Is he a master of unspeakable evil? If so then you want to demonstrate this. Is he a schemeing, backhanded trickster? If so, this too should be conveyed. As much as I think Harry Potter should never be used as an example to follow if you want to produce great writing (no offence Mystery Meat!) Voldemort is introduced to the reader as a potential baby killer, which wont win him any brownie points with anyone.

    Also, just in my opinion
    this depends on the villian. In my story I do have a character who is such a villian (although without the obvious goals - I want to keep the reader guessing), but if your villian is not a complete badass who'd kill a million puppies just for the hell of it, then this kind of thing should be avoided, in my humble opinion. Grey areas are something that really mark a villian out as interesting (so by my own logic my baddy is bland :( ).

    What exactly is 'Father like'? If you can give us more details then it might help, but if you want to keep it private then I'm sure everyone on here will have some good ideas regardless.
     
  4. Mephisto0
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    Mephisto0 Member

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    well, if you've been mysterious so far you should continue that way. stretch the description of the villian over a large amount of pages and put the interesting facts first so your audience will want to keep reading.
     
  5. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Villain is a pretty vague term. . . We are, all of us, villains to somebody. It's all in where you're standing, and how you define right and wrong. So you're really just asking, "how do I introduce a non-POV character?"

    For me to answer that, you have to define the character's role, which needs to be more specific than "a guy who does bad things".

    Is he publicly known? Then people will talk about him - whisper in fear/worhsip and revere. . . and the reader will come to learn more about him through character dialogue, and through your descriptions where applicable (high taxes = impoverished town etc). . .If he isn't well known, then your POV character(s) will have to learn of him some other way. . . There can be a million different possibilities, none of which are helpful to list unless I know, in at least a general way, what's going on in your story. . .
     
  6. MelissaLynne
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    MelissaLynne Member

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    It seems you don't know much about this villian yourself, maybe you need to sit back for a minute and think about the kind of villian you are writing about. I gather this villian has come to life in your head but you might want to try a character excercise. What makes him a villian? What kinds of things does he do? What is his personality? Does he have anger issues? Is he manipulative? Does he murder children, rape women what? Think about all the things that make him a villian. Whether or not you want to make him a hidden villian will depend what kind of person he is. Sometimes it depends on genre too. Usually in science fiction novels, you know the villian right away but in mysteries you don't find out til the end.
     
  7. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Well, some coordinates about the novel and the villain.
    First, I'm writing a sci-fi novel, but not the classic type, more like a type in which space opera is mixed with a spy-story and a war-story.
    There is a war going on, but it remains on the background.
    The main story revolves around a spy-girl which is manipulated into sparking the war, causing a massive nuclear accident on a planet on which there have been skirmishes between those which will become the main factions at war. After that, my main char joins an organisation whose purpose is to find the real culprit behind the war (Father) and to unveil his ultimate purpose for having the war started in the first place.
    Father's presence permeates the whole story since beginning till the end, but so far I have only mentioned him, but never really introduced him.
    Now, for the villain.
    What little I had said about him, is that he is believed to be the culprit behind the war, even though nobody knows why.
    What is also known about him, is that he owns a giant industrial conglomerate called Biotech, which is believed to be a pharmaceutical company, but in reality has its hands on a massive business which ranges from genetic manipulation of humans to the construction of space battleships. Even though he is the owner of Biotech, he doesn't run it himself. Thus, nobody knows neither Father's name nor aspect.
    But he has 'sons' who run the company for him and also, by his orders, secretely manipulate the two factions at war and the unfolding of the war itself.
    Up until now, I had used Father's sons as substitute villains, but now I need for the final confrontation to have the main characters' group to face Father.
    But to introduce Father in the final chapter wouldn't do so I thought I could spend a couple chapters to introduce him, but without unveiling too much info at once.
    I have already a pretty clear image of Father in my head, his physical aspect and character, but I'm unsure as to how insert a faithful portrait of him without revealing too much about his goals, saving the ultimate revelations for the final confrontation. This is what bugs me.
     
  8. Irish87
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    Irish87 Contributing Member

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    I have always been a fond believer in the idea that the villain is far more important the the hero. In all fairness, a hero is simply someone who is obscenely brave, and given enough vodka I could have charged into an enemy base and killed a few dozen vampires or knights or robots. The only reason why the hero is never killed off early is because then he wouldn't be a hero, beyond that he is not very special. The villain, however, is special - he is the very epitome of evil to that hero. Without him, the hero is nothing more than some schlub who drinks too much vodka.

    As for introducing your villain, I am sorry but you are late to the party. Your villain was introduced as soon as you started writing about your hero and the "good" side. Think of Star Wars - Darth Vader was the villain... right? Nope, he was a tragic villain who truly lost his life by the real villain, the Emperor. How often is it that you see the Emperor? Not often, in all fairness - certainly not as much as Darth Vader. And yet, without the Emperor there would be no Darth Vader. So, in theory, you're writing about your villain each time your hero looks over his shoulder in fear or winces as the door opens without his consent. Every bad quality and every negative response to an action by your hero is shaped, at times abused, by the villain in ways you do not see.

    So before you go freaking out thinking you've jumped the shark, know that your villain has been around ever since you picked up your pen. Then again, I could be horribly wrong. In case I am wrong... whoopsy-doodle.
     
  9. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    No, I can see the point. You're right, the villain has always been around.
    Guess seeing things from this point of view makes it easier: it's kinda like making the 'Emperor' come out from the shadows and speak for himself.
    I had not considered looking at the process from this perspective, but following your example of Star Wars, this isn't really too different from what Lucas did when he pit Luke against the Emperor in the third movie. I think this might help. Thanks!
     
  10. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Also consider LOTR - the Enemy's actions are visible all around. Orcs are chasing the heroes across all of creation. Just because the enemy himself is not visible doesn't mean he isn't there. A "villain" is more or less a figurehead representing the conflict. A poster-child if you will.

    The villain in my current story introduced himself under a false banner of peace. He's a sniveling, treacherous lout who earns ire by being two-faced. Speaking of, I should mention him again soon...
     
  11. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    LotR has many villains, but Sauron really isn't one. Sauron is just a name applied to a formless evil. He, or it, isn't a character so much as a concept or a religion.

    Saruman is a true villain. We see his choices, his rise, his downfall. Denethor is an even more interesting villain, in my opinion, although the movie version trivialized him.

    And of course, Smeagol. We see him struggling for redemption, but failing utterly. And yet, his role in the story is crucial.

    Cartoonish evil and thirst for power or vengeance does not a villain make. A tragic humanity is what really makes a villain.
     
  12. Ragnar
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    Ragnar Contributing Member

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    What's up with the whole hero -> bad guy concept, things are just not that black and white, throw in a couple of shady characters to spice things up maybe.. About introducing the bad guy, make the hero discover him or the other way around and let them involve in a thrilling conflict :) Gandalf x Saruman is a good example, at least if you haven't shown signs that he is a bad guy yet.
     
  13. MelissaLynne
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    MelissaLynne Member

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    Okay I think I understand what you are trying to do. If there is a war going on, you need a reason why, so what you need are two sides. However does this really make Father a villian? His ideas may be out there and cause harm to others but he seriously thinks what he is doing is right. In this case you have a story with a hero, and with a hero you need an enemy. The hero needs a reason to elimante the enemy, and you need to make clear why that is. Enemies are not always considered villians in my opinion, a villian would be more of an evil mastermind. The enemy doesn't always have to have a villian behind him though unless you really want to. You need as to why the enemy does what he does.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Well, take the Harry Potter series. One of the more appealing things about Voldemort and Harry is how their lives are paralleled. Each had the potential to walk down the path of the other. In the end, it was Harry's acceptance of that kinship that allowed him to understand his enemy and defeat him without becoming him.

    In fact, that is a theme that recurs with many of the best heroes and villains. Saruman and Gandalf are so similar that many cannot tell them apart. They are brothers, of a sort, fellow Istari, two of five who arrived as a group to fight against the Darkness. Their choices defined their paths. Gandalf retained enough humility to know that certain studies were too hazardous to attempt, whereas Saruman's self-confidence led him to ruin.
     
  15. sophia_esteed
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    sophia_esteed Senior Member

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    Yeah, I guess LOTR and Harry Potter can help me, too.
    I was actually thinking of making my villain 'human', meaning I want for him to feel an internal conflict between good and evil, but for his deep grief to prevail and making that grief what inspires his actions.
     

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