1. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    My villain needs a motivation.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by IHaveNoName, Apr 17, 2016.

    I've got a plot, villains and heroes, and a general idea of how things are going to go down, but one of the bad guys is giving me fits. I've been going back and forth over his motivation, and I'm hitting a wall. Any ideas would be welcome here.


    A little backstory:
    Fantasy world, has magic. Magic is elemental (there are 12 elements, not four, and magic manipulates matter, not energy); mages are sent to an Academy to train.

    A few millenia ago, there were only the four basic elements and numerous Academies (most nations had one or two); all mages could use all elements, to some degree. The Academies didn't work together unless they belonged to allied nations - basically, they were all separate city-states. There was a war, the mages got involved, and things got ugly. Someone came up with a way to make elemental constructs (dragons) that can be linked to and controlled by a mage. If the controller dies, though, his/her consciousness ends up inhabiting the construct. This was a completely unforeseen and unintended side effect, which resulted in a lot of new, immortal creatures being created. Some of them went insane, and some reveled in their new form and wrought destruction for the sheer fun of it.

    Some of the mages got together to try to put a stop to the war (and destroy the dragons) by performing a ritual that would temporarily halt the flow of magic - since dragons are sustained by magical energy, it would kill them. Some of the dragons got wind of this and attacked during the ritual, which caused it to backfire; all that energy caused a huge cataclysm and shattered magic into the 12 elements. The dragons were not killed (though 80% of humanity was). Mages can no longer use more than one element, and four new races appeared, brought about by the influence of the shattered elements (long story, and not really relevant here).

    A century or so after the apocalypse, the Academies were reestablished, but this time there were only four - one each for earth/air/fire/water; the other eight are called "lesser elements" and are taught at the associated Academy (each one has two lesser elements related to it). They formed an organization called the Guild to which all Academy-trained mages belong; the Guild is run by the Council, which oversees all the Academies and enforces laws on mages. The Guild stands apart from politics and wars - they don't mess in other nations' business.


    The villains and their motives:
    * A faction of the dragons who want to end their existence (immortality isn't always what it's cracked up to be). They want to reverse the process and return to being mortal, so they can live out their lives and die like normal people. Unfortunately, it can't be done with magic being the way it is now (nor can more dragons be created) - the greater elements are weaker now, and the general fracturing makes things too unstable. Thus, they need to reunite the elements.
    * Unnamed Human woman(?); a member of the Council. In return for becoming a dragon herself, she'll give them a way to reverse the process, as well as the ritual to reunite the elements.

    And the one who's giving me fits:
    * Valacius Deliinus, male dragon. The leader of the faction. Ostensibly, he's supporting the dragons and seeks the same thing as they do, but he's actually after something else, something bigger. He doesn't really care if his compatriots get what they want - reuniting magic won't interfere with his goal (maybe it'll help him achieve it?). Originally, he was the one who'd started the war - he'd been tired of all the infighting and competition between the various Academies and wanted to unite them all under his rule "for the betterment of mankind" (he wasn't necessarily going to be a tyrant; he's just a little sociopathic - in his mind, "tearing down the system to rebuild it" is the best way to accomplish something, and "you have to break some eggs to make an omelet" is completely acceptable), but the new Guild took care of that well enough, so I tossed that idea out. Now the only thing that comes to mind is that old standby: power. Which isn't a bad thing, but it's cliche - I want him to be more than a one-dimensional villain who's out to rule the world.


    The reasons the protagonists cannot let the ritual take place:
    * It will likely cause another cataclysm.
    * It will kill or cripple every mage on the planet, since they're not equipped to handle pure magic and it'll burn them out when they try to use it. (Yes, I know the human conspirator is a mage; I've think I've got a way for her not to kill herself before she turns into a dragon.)
    * It will kill every non-human in the world (about half the total population). Since they came about through the influence of the fractured elements, merging the elements would remove the magic that sustains them - anyone who survived the cataclysm would waste away and die.
     
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  2. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    If he believes that groups can never be united under a ruler, only ever against an enemy, then maybe he plays the two sides against each other to keep them both fighting without either wiping out the other?

    His first plan killed most of the humans, now he wants to do the same to the dragons while the humans unite for a few generations to rebuild, then vice versa...
     
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
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  3. Xerclipse
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    Xerclipse Member

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    I want to know how bad being immortal is? Like do they suffer longer or worse than mortals? All I can get is that they become part of the dragons. Here is what I can think of from reading your brief to improve your villain.

    • The previous war caused so much chaos it made him insane. He can tell some story... kinda like Apocalypse Now.
    • Make the side effects of becoming dragons something that we wouldn't want. I don't know how dark your story is but do what you think works for the characters. For example, they are decaying flesh. They feel pain. Every year they have to lose something, like a scale, limb, wing, jaw, eye, or anything. I would do anything it takes to die if I was in that situation.(I strongly suggest this idea, but if you don't want to make your story dark.... that's fine, it's just my input.)
     
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  4. AndrewA
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    AndrewA Member

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    LEts throw in a portal! Motivation for Valacius Deliinu needs strong magic to open up some sort of portal, be it one to the past, or another world, where he can live with someone he loved who no longer is alive, or to obtain some artifact which will do whatever.
     
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  5. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe he considers the mages loss of total control abhorrent? He could see himself as fixing an old mistake and not giving a damn about consequences.
     
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  6. AndrewA
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    AndrewA Member

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    YES! and does it by opening a time portal :D
     
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  7. Callista Reina
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    Callista Reina Member

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    One question that came to mind when I was reading your summary was, why do the souls that got trapped in the dragons go back to being mortal once destroyed? If they are the souls of those who have already died, wouldn't they simply be at rest when the dragon construct is destroyed? Maybe you already have an explanation that you did not add, but I am just curious.

    [QUOTE="Originally, he was the one who'd started the war - he'd been tired of all the infighting and competition between the various Academies and wanted to unite them all under his rule "for the betterment of mankind" (he wasn't necessarily going to be a tyrant; he's just a little sociopathic - in his mind, "tearing down the system to rebuild it" is the best way to accomplish something, and "you have to break some eggs to make an omelet" is completely acceptable), but the new Guild took care of that well enough, so I tossed that idea out. Now the only thing that comes to mind is that old standby: power. Which isn't a bad thing, but it's cliche - I want him to be more than a one-dimensional villain who's out to rule the world."
    [/QUOTE]

    Anyway, as for your villain dilemma, I think, even with your original motive, your character was after power because he wanted all the academies united under his rule. Either way, I don't think power, no matter how he gets it, is a bad motive for a villain because the way in which you write his character does not necessarily have to be cliche just because his motive is common.

    Maybe you could find a motive by exploring his back story. Is there some unfinished business from his past that he can't complete as a dragon? Is there something or someone (past enemy, lover, etc.) that he can't get to while he is in his current form? Is there perhaps a source of magic or power that he wants, but doesn't have access to unless he is a mortal? It is tough to think of a good motive without really knowing your character or the world you have created, but maybe exploring him more and determining something that he wants/ needs that he can't access unless he changes form, would help you think of a good motive.

    Hope this was helpful! Good Luck!
     
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  8. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Yeah, sorry... I left out a lot of info there. After the Guild was formed, the Council erased all knowledge of dragons and their creation from the records - they didn't want anyone else making more (this was, of course, because of the vast destruction wrought by the dragons during the war). Initially, they also tried to hunt down the existing dragons, but this was too costly, in terms of lives lost, so they came to an understanding - as long as the dragons didn't (openly) meddle in the affairs of mortals, the Council was content to let them be. The dragons created an island far away from all the continents, and they retired there. Basically, it's a prison.

    One other thing I failed to mention, and should have: dragons can still take their human form, so they can travel among the mortals, but they can still be exposed - they can't be hurt and don't feel pain (or much of anything else). Really, it's not that "immortality sucks", it's more "being stuck in this form sucks". Imagine not being able to feel anything, constantly worrying about being found out and hunted down by the Council's lackeys... it might be novel at first, but it would start to wear on you after a few hundred or a thousand years, no? This is not to say all of them feel this way - some have retired to live quietly in the mortal realm - but most feel that they're being... persecuted, I guess, just for being what they are - especially since most of them didn't have a say in the matter.


    He kind of is insane, but I'm not sure how insane, or how it affects him. As for the second... I was about to say it wouldn't work, because they're non-living beings (they're made of elemental matter), but magic is weaker now. It could well be that their ties to the elements that form them is gradually weakening over time, too. That's kind of cruel, though... I mean, their plan will fail in the end, and I don't want to consign them to endless suffering. It would be a horrific dilemma - I could just see the characters agonizing over that one. Plus, I want to use the dragons in further stories. :p


    "The loss of total control"? I'm not following. I thought about him "righting past wrongs" at one point, but I couldn't think of anything.
    But... not only is the Council hiding the existence of dragons, they erased or altered references to their involvement in the war, and eliminated all references to the grand ritual that shattered magic - very few people (not even most of the dragons) know what really happened, or who was responsible; if it got out, it would destroy the Guild and likely lead to another huge war.

    This could work, though... my initial concept was that VD was the leader of the faction of mages who did the ritual (I did have him there initially, but all those mages were obliterated, so he couldn't have been there. I can work out an excuse why...). He survived, became a dragon afterward, and went into hiding, biding his time and checking up on things every few hundred years. Meanwhile, the Council hid their involvement, erased the dragons from history, and enabled the Guild to become more and more powerful, all the while driving VD more insane with rage at what he views as their hypocrisy.

    Enter the woman - she's been researching a way to become a dragon herself, but she's discovered that it can't be done unless magic is reunited. VD finds out about her somehow; he knows that some of his brethren are looking to become mortal again, so he has her look for a way to reverse the process - in return, he'll tell her how to become one (yes, I'm aware that it could well be possible to reverse engineer one from the other; I'll figure that out later). As before, he could care less about the other dragons or this woman - they're just a means to his end, which is to throw down the Council and the Guild and expose their secrets to the world. He might have some idea of forming a new Guild afterward, too - in his mind, the concept isn't flawed, just the execution.

    Thanks. You've been a huge help. :agreed:


    What? They don't become mortal. Or are you asking, why don't they become mortal? Yes, they soul would be at rest when the construct is destroyed, but the dragon is a sentient being - it essentially is the mage, in a new form - so killing them is tantamount to murder. They want to reverse the process that turned them into dragons and become mortal again. They'd need bodies for that, but that would come after magic was reunited - plenty of time to find new hosts.

    True.

    I haven't really worked out his history because I wasn't sure it was important, but... yeah. I should really do that.
     
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  9. halisme
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    halisme Contributing Member Contributor

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    The loss of the ability to control multiple elements, it sounds like it would make them significantly weaker. Sorry, I should have been clearer.
     
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  10. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Seems like your villain could have any number of motives. Maybe he hates humans and is using the faction somehow to try and destroy humanity. Maybe he wants to restore the balance between human and dragon in order to foster order and for the balances sake. Maybe he does just want power. Being selfish does not mean he has to be a shallow character. That only happens if you write them like a Bond villain. Give him other things he cares about and a layered personality.
     
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  11. Justin Phillips
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    Justin Phillips Active Member

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    maybe if he mates with the unnamed human woman that will soon become a dragon, he becomes like a god, but wants the other dragons to return to human so there's no competition
     
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  12. loonypapa
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    loonypapa Member

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    If James Joyce can borrow from Homer to come up with Ulysses, why not borrow from Charlie Manson? What about old-fashioned madness? Valacius, the Charles Manson of his time and place, that sort of thing. That might open some possibilities for better-defined motives, like Manson's desire to fulfill the race war prophesy.
     
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  13. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Ah. Yes, they are weaker, actually. I don't get the feeling he's all that concerned about that, though.

    No, he doesn't hate humans, but see below about the rest. Maybe he just wants to wipe the slate clean and start over - not just the "corrupt" Guild, but all the non-humans as well, restore the world back to the way it was, eliminate all the dragons (either restore them or destroy them), and rebuild a new Guild that can lead humanity to a new age (hey, he's crazy... he's allowed a few cliches). I like it.

    I'm not familiar with that one. I'll have to check it out. There are five races, and I didn't want to have a world where everyone gets along - kumbaya - so I do include some race-related incidents, along with racism. He does view the non-human races as aberrations - he's fairly sure reuniting magic will kill them all, and he's more than fine with that. I guess it depends on how far along that track I want to go, and how many readers I want to risk offending. :)
     
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  14. Clairity36
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    Clairity36 New Member

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    You could also say that maybe instead of loosing something physical maybe he's tired of losing his memories. Lets say Valacius Deliinus is a very old dragon and for every year he lives he looses some memories. He has no choice of what memories he looses but as per 'Full Metal Alchemist' there is equivalent exchange; every year he lives he looses a year of memories. Then give the villain a heart, something that will make reader's sympathize with him. Lets say he's loosing the memories of a loved one, maybe a lover or a child. Someone who is no longer around, killed by the very cataclysm that turned him into a dragon, but because of that he clings to the memories which make them all the more important to him. He's starting to forget that person and it's driving him to orchestrate these event in an effort to not loose the few memories he still has. People will go to the extremes to protect their family, even if it just the remnants of them. He wants to die so he cares very little is there is any sort of backlash from the magic. Maybe as the dragons loose their memories they are also slowly loosing their power as they forget how to change from dragon to human, and that's the reason they want to reverse the spell. Being stuck permanently as a dragon in a land that persecutes them would not be my idea of a good time.
     
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  15. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    The idea of broken magic having some effect on them is interesting, but I don't want them to suffer, like I said before - their situation is already bad enough.

    ----

    So here's what I've got: VD was tired of the Academies being self-contained, serving their nations only instead of working together to serve humanity as a whole. He orchestrated the war and later got the mages involved; his intent was that when everyone was worn down from fighting, he'd step in and unite all the Academies under his leadership. The dragons showing up threw a wrench in his plans, but he realized it could work in his favor - if he were immortal, he wouldn't have to worry about things falling apart after his death. So, he turned himself into a dragon. When he heard about the ritual to cut the flow of magic, he tipped off some of the dragons, who disrupted the ritual... and BOOM.

    After the dragons are driven into hiding by the mages, he goes into hibernation, waking up every few hundred years to check up on things. After the Guild is establish, the Council alters the records to hide their involvement and erases the dragons from history. The new Guild is pretty much what VD was striving to create, except that they're keeping secrets from the people they supposedly serve.

    He's right, of course - not only did the Council hide the dragons' presence, but the Chancellors are complicit in actively sweeping them under the rug, to pretend they never existed in the first place. After all, you don't have to deal with a problem that doesn't exist, right? (Something I failed to mention before: The Council doesn't actually know about the dragons; one of the past Chancellors - the head of the Council - quietly removed those records from the Council's reach, and it ended up passing on from one to another. His reasoning was "two people can't keep a secret unless one of them is dead".)

    A few millennia pass while VD hides and plots a way to get back at the Council. (I should note at this point that simply coming out of hiding, or attacking the Council, is not an option - there are tens of thousands of mages and only 150 or so dragons.) He keeps in touch with some other dragons (still working on this part - I need to figure out what the others have been doing all this time).

    Enter the woman - she's been researching a way to become a dragon herself, but she's discovered that it can't be done unless magic is reunited (or, it can be done, but because magic is broken, the process will be flawed somehow; in either case, she can't do it alone, and obviously she can't just go approach some random friends with this). VD finds out about her; he knows that some of his brethren are looking to become mortal again, so he has her look for a way to reverse the process - in return, he'll have his friends help her to become one. He could care less about the other dragons or this woman - they're just a means to his end, which is to to wipe the slate clean and start over - not just the "corrupt" Guild, but all the non-humans as well, restore the world back to the way it was, reveal the dragons' existence, and rebuild a new Guild that can lead humanity to a new age.

    Basically, he means well, but his methods are just as insane as he is. He's justified in his hatred, but so blinded by it that he can't see a better way to handle things (like, you know, working with the Council to find a way to help the dragons).
     
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  16. zoupskim
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    zoupskim Contributing Member Contributor

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    Maybe he doesn't remember why he's doing the things he's doing...o_O

    Maybe with all the political intrigue, caring for his race and their struggle with their mortality, the endless wars, magic, and new races, he is just doing things. He's trapped on a treadmill, running and pushing himself, leading his people, but if you asked him what his goal is he would not really know. He's caught in the wheel, too busy playing 'the great game' that he doesn't even know why he's fighting anymore or how to win.
     
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  17. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    "You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with on if I caught it!"
     
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  18. IHaveNoName
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    IHaveNoName Active Member

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    Hmm. I don't really think of the dragons as a unique "race", since they're basically sentient golems that were once human, and they can't procreate. But it does beg the question: How do they think of themselves? Are they human, or dragon, or something else entirely? Food for thought...

    The dragons as a whole aren't a monolithic group (I think I mentioned this before) - they have many small groups and factions, and lots of individuals who have gone their own ways, so I don't know if they have a "leader" or "representative" per se, especially since the rest of the world doesn't know they exist. I've been thinking of VD as a de facto leader, since he's taking a large number of them along with his plans, but he doesn't really have their best interests in mind. It would be interesting to see if someone actually does....

    Wile E. Coyote.
     
    Last edited: Apr 23, 2016
  19. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    Close but no cigar. :D
     
  20. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    You could have their suffering be purely due to society's treatment of them, but have them lack insight into that and think their suffering is inevitable. I see this all the time in autistic communities - people think 'autism is a disability that makes people dislike me', when really the responsibility for 'bullying someone who's weird' lies in the bully's attitudes, not the weirdness of the victim. Have them think that hating dragons is part of human nature and not something that will ever change, and rather than face this persecution for eternity they'd rather just die.

    And then there's room for things to improve for them. Have them meet humans who are kind to them and show them acceptance, and have them gradually learn that being hated isn't inherent to being a dragon, but is a problem with the people who choose to hate them. And then they get inspired to fight for their place in society instead of just accepting that they have to be oppressed.
     
  21. IHaveNoName
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    They aren't hated... the Council is hiding their presence from the populace because a) some of them went crazy and caused mass destruction, and b) if people knew about dragons, it would lead to questions about how they came about, which would eventually lead to the mages' role in the cataclysm. So, it's best for all concerned if the dragons' presence is just swept under the rug (and the Council is quite vehement about enforcing that point). VD has issues with that, because he thinks he and his brethren have been abandoned (which is technically true) - the Council has no interest in even acknowledging them, let alone helping them. Simply appearing to the people as a dragon might work, but it would rather difficult to convince anyone of the truth, since the only records of that time (aside from a few scattered fragments) are in the Council's hands. So, rather than exposure, he's choosing the next best path - tear down the Council and build a new world where they can be free.
     

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