1. thesims
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    thesims Member

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    Is it okay for villains to win ?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by thesims, Jan 2, 2010.

    So I came up with an idea a while ago.

    I decided to write about a civilization struggling to rise from its ashes after being completely destroyed by a villain and his minions. I started to create the setting and then realized it would be easier for people to understand the book if I wrote a prequel, where the destruction of said civilization would take place.

    Here's my question : is it okay for villains to actually win ? I'm guessing such an outcome would be pretty disappointing for those reading the story, but I don't really have a choice either. I actually asked the same question on another forum and the users didn't really think the evil ones could win because "readers wouldn't like my book".

    Please help me, I can't figure it out. :p
     
  2. Samomo
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    Samomo Member

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    In the end? No it wouldn't in my opinion. Unless, the perspective was from the villian's PoV, in which case the heros would then be the antagonists. That's been done before, an example that pops up to mind would be this one book by Stephen Meyer that slips my mind right now.

    You generally want the MC or the PoV focus to be the one overcoming the chllange, to make the decision. The importance is always the MC, whether it be from the villians perspective or hero's; either way the opposing factor of the MC is still of lesser importance. In fact, if you think about the readers and put yourself in thier shoes, would you want to antagonist/problem to win? I surely wouldn't have read LoTR if I knew Frodo would lose. There doesn't necessarily have to be any antagonist, it could be cancer, loss of loved one-- anything, but readers read usually gripping to the hopes(if the book has successfully caught the reader's emotional heart-strings) that the MC will come out victorious.

    So, in my opinion, either change the PoV, or make a situation where both the protagonist and antagonist gain something of value in the end.
     
  3. thesims
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    thesims Member

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    You know what ? That is actually a great idea.

    That would allow readers to actually understand the motives behind the villain's actions and could be a nice twist. Perhaps he isn't that evil at all, but was raised differently and had to carry on the destruction of the civilization in order to save the ones he loves. Of course, I would had to develop that side of the story, but it could work.

    I guess the only problem would be that readers would know he ends up killing countless thousands of innocents. I don't know if they would be able to accept the fact that he wins at the end of the eventual prequel.
     
  4. NaCl
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    NaCl Contributing Member Contributor

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    That is the underpinning of many sequels...bad guy "wins" until some later time. The key to such a storyline is to leave the reader with some hope and affinity for the characters at the end of each sequel. A classic example is the movie The Empire Strikes Back...bad guys win but good guys survive to fight again.
     
  5. Samomo
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    Samomo Member

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    Just justify it. No real bad guy in any book, other than fantasy/sci-fi(in my opinion) kills millions or wakes up each day thinking "how can I do evil today?" -evil laugh-

    They always justify it. To themselves, they are the good guys. So maybe some obscure tragedy involving with, say Tribe A made the villian think that all Tribe A's are evil and deserve to die. Also, people tend to idealize and respect, or at the every least consider decisions based on love. If your character were to be able to kill millions to save his loved ones from some distant planet(ToS game) then it's somewhat justified.

    Eg: "...You who killed millions without blinking an eye, you monster!"

    "A monster! For the sake of my loved ones? Would you abandon your loved ones in plain sight? I did what I had to do, and feeling bad over it changes nothing!" ... Bad example but get the point.
     
  6. The-Joker
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    The-Joker Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hmmm... Ever heard of the SAW series?

    Okay very bad example.

    I don't see why you have to write this prequel. Do you really need a whole book to aquaint your readers with the setting and history of the original novel you had planned? I can safely say you don't.

    It's more a question of what you find more interesting to write about. Do you think this prequel has a better story behind it? If you wish to get it published, it's going to be tougher to sell. Nobody wants to see the villain emerge victorious. Unless we can sympathise with him and his course. But for sympathy we need adversity. And if a character is suffering, then that sort of makes him the hero. Which therefore gives him the right to succeed in the end.
     
  7. Tessadragon
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    Tessadragon Member

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    hmmm sure why not? must admit i could only imagine letting readers read it AFTER the winner's story if you know what i mean.
    For some reason, not a clue why, it makes me think of 'Magician's Apprentice' by Trudi Canavan, which is a prequel to the Magician trilogy.
     
  8. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    never would've made bestseller lists as novels... what can be gotten away with [disgustingly, imo] in movies often won't fly in the literary world... one notable exception was ellis' 'american psycho' in which the villain who 'wins' in the end was actually much 'worse' in the novel and had to be toned down for the screen...
     
  9. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    Big Brother won in 1984, right? If George Orwell is allowed to do it, so are you. Just be aware that downer endings are extremely controversial and could lose you a lot of potential fans.
     
  10. Empyrean
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    I'm in concurrence with NaCl here.

    I personally can't enjoy a novel where the supreme bad guy just simply 'wins', without any semblance of hope for the ones labeled good.

    Notice it's hope that's the key factor. I also wouldn't mind it if the bad guys win the land, but the good guys get away to somewhere safe.

    I think it should also be added that evil winning in a short story, as opposed to a novel or novella, seems justified in a sense.
     
  11. Darkom
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    Darkom Member

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    I agree in that you could either have said villian be the protagonist, or you could make the protagonist's goal different from the antagonist, yet they still conflict. For example, if the antagonist's goal is the destruction of the protagonist's society, the protagonist's goal could simply be getting himself and his loved ones the heck out of there. From there you can have the protagonist return for the sequel.

    To me that is the best solution, though I don't see entirely why you need to write the prequel in the first place. Unless there is some incredibly important details in there, I think it would be better to simply start with the protagonist down in the dumps after the fall of his civilization, and then explain what happened with interspersed bits of backstory via flashbacks, dialogue, etc.

    I enjoy having a big backstory that the reader is unaware of, but slowly understands more and more of as the book progresses. It's how a lot of published authors do it, it adds quite a bit of suspense and mystery to your writing. If you think it would work, I advise doing that, just starting where you were going to.
     
  12. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    I feel the villains CAN win if there is indication that there will be a sequel, or some kind of justice.

    I did have this novel idea in my head that I never wrote where nearly all of the protagonists were brutally murdered and while it seems like the villains did win, it's basically suggested that they could lose in the future(Maybe they failed to kill one person and he escaped and could come back for vengeance), so there's hope, and the villain's victory is not a total victory.

    If you want a total and final victory for the villain, I guess that is a VERY risky move if you aren't in the horror genre. But if like you suggest, it's a prequel, there is already more story after it so the villain winning to set up the current story, IMO, is acceptable.
     
  13. NyeLew
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    NyeLew Member

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    It occurred to me, after reading this thread, that I've actually done this. In a novel I'm still working on, there are essentially two factions: the witches and the gargoyles. The witches are the "villains" and the gargoyles are the "heroes," but in the end it's the witches who win by massacring the gargoyle clan. There's a sequel, of course.

    But yeah. I think it could work as long as there's still some hope for the protagonists -- or if the line between pro and antagonist is very blurred.
     
  14. thesims
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    thesims Member

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    Wouldn't be like that, because the reader would already know that in the end, the good guys win. I just felt like it would be more interesting if I kept the reader in the "dark", and then explain everything that's happened before in a prequel. I also like Darkom's idea, inserting elements of the backstory here and there would work too.

    Since the first book would start with the civilization rising from its ashes, the reader would know that, well... the villain has won. So I figured it'd be nice to explain how it all happened. It sucks when I read a book and can't find the answers to my questions regarding the lore. The Pendragon series by DJ MacHale comes to mind, as we don't have real answers until the 10th or so. The author provides no insight at all on the bad guy's motives until then.

    Haven't read it, is it a good book ? Always looking for stuff to read.

    Sorry for the late reply.
     
  15. Nackl of Gilmed
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    Nackl of Gilmed Member

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    Watchmen is a good example of a situation where a villain wins. He's presented as the mysterious enemy of the protagonists, but his point of view is arguable, and that makes it ok, in a sense, for him to win in the end.
     
  16. writewizard
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    writewizard Contributing Member

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    I think this is right-on - and I think that it has some solid advice. For example, in the Harry Potter series, would we be happy if Voldemort won? Not really. But if done well, you could do it.
     
  17. Cosmos
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    Cosmos Contributing Member

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    I think it's entirely possible to write a story where the villian wins and have it engaging and realistic. Not every story in life has a happy ending, so why should it be any different in fiction? I'm not saying have your villian slaughter everything in sight and such, but having the villian succeed in some or most of his goals makes the sequel much more interesting to read, and even if no sequel were forthcoming even the journey of the book could be rewarding, if written right.

    If you're really worried about how it would be perceived having it from the villian's POV is an idea, but then you risk having your readers care more about him/her than your intended protaganist. So in my opinion you should write it as it came to you, perhaps elluding to the next story which shows that while the villian won this day, he might not win the next. That itself should be enough, if the mere fact of realism and logical story path isn't.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Consider the horror genre. Happy endings are rare.

    Think of doomsday science fiction stories, where the world or te universe endsdespite everyone's best efforts.

    Failure is an option.
     
  19. MoonWriter67
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    It would be okay if the story was from the perspective of the bad guy's and the good guy's were portrayed as the enemies, but otherwise, it wouldn't work.
     
  20. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Of course it is, it happens in Hollywood all the time, take a look at The Empire Strikes Back, Se7en, The usual Supsects, and the Saw franchise to name but a few, or how about some literary examples, Sherlock Holmes death at the reinbach falls, or The Two towers,
    or stories where the main character could arguably be classed as a villain, such as The count of Monte Christo or American Psycho
     
  21. x_raichelle_x
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    x_raichelle_x Contributing Member

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    I think the bad guys could win. Realistically, the bad guys do win sometimes! Maybe write the story from an individuals point of view, someone from the 'good guys' and perhaps he's the only one who survives? All of the other good guys get killed off, but you still have hope for this last individual who survives, and the villains still win & give you your next story of rebuilding.
    Just an idea :) x
     
  22. Delphinus
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    Delphinus Senior Member

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    "One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter."

    Also, Che Guevara 'lost' and the puppet government in Bolivia 'won'. But who's the one on leftist and anarchist flags worldwide? Who's the new face of the Marxist ideal?

    Anyone whose last words are: "I know you've come to kill me. Shoot, coward! You are only going to kill a man!" and is right loses the battle but wins the war.
     
  23. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    'arguably'!?!??

    how could that american psycho psycho not be a total, 100% one???
     
  24. Fatherof5
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    Have you ever read any of the work by Orson Scott Card? I got into reading him about ten years ago and it seems like he might have written some stuff along those angles.

    Chris
     
  25. Mr Marshmallow
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    Mr Marshmallow New Member

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    I think the books in which the bad guys win make people think more, because they're more realistic. In Watchmen (not a book I know, but a graphic novel, and it still tells a wicked story) it depends on your view of what's evil and what's not to decide whether the bad guys win or not. In Farenheit 451 millions die at the end, but plenty of people like it.

    I think the books in which bad things happen at the end make people think more. And that's always a good thing.
     

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