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  1. marcusl
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    marcusl Member

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    No good guy or bad guy - just characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by marcusl, Nov 2, 2009.

    I recently played a game called Star Wars - Knights of the Old Republic. There was a mission where I had to choose to support one of two factions. The thing is, both sides have selfish goals, so the decision was hard.

    We all know good antagonists have reasons for what they do. In their eyes, their actions are just. However, in the general public's eyes, they're still seen as criminals. I wonder if this has to be the case? A protagonist has a goal. The antagonist has a goal that isn't evil at all, but it just happens to conflict with the hero's ambition. The thing is, making the readers hate the villain for what they do can be a nice device. If you have just two characters with clashing goals, you lose that potential.

    I'm just thinking out loud here, and I'd love to hear other people's opinions. Thanks.
     
  2. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Notions of right and wrong, good and evil, are produced only by conflicting discourses. Consider Nazi Germany. At the time, many Germans supported Hitler because the ideology he promoted, the discourse of Fascist Nationalism and Aryan Supremacy, appealed to them. They weren't necessarily "wrong" or "evil", they were just subscribing to what they thought was the "right" and "good" ideology promoted by their leader and propogated through the ideological apparatuses of the State. However, looking back, we are able to mythologise this history and trace lines through it that support our reading of Hitler as evil and the Allies as good.

    Good and evil are always just people with clashing goals, clashing ideologies, clashing discourses. Neither is inherently evil, both will claim to be inherently good, and both are neither, simply the result of moral and ethical choices based on prevailing social, cultural and political positions and contexts. History will, unfortunately and inevitably, decide who is right and who is wrong. To this end, Foucault (following on from Nietzche) proposes a concept called genealogy, rather than history. If you can, read his (quite short and straightforward) essay Nietzche, History and Genealogy.
     
  3. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    Although arron could not have chosen a worse example, he is right in general. In real life, we generally don't have good guys and bad guys in the purest sense of the terms.
     
  4. seije
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    seije Member

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    i'm 110k words into a novel about a prophecy that labels one person as a hero and another as a villain. Even though the story alternates between their points of view, it's the 'Villain' that's the true main character, and his goals are just as noble as the hero's.

    Most of the antagonists in my novel are those that are worried about the prophecy, and are inadvertently forcing the 'villain' down the path the prophecy says he will take.

    As a kid, i always felt bad for the bad guy in movies. It's the reason why i came up with my story.
     
  5. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Following on from Arron's point, the notion of no clear-cut villain and hero is a pretty modern one in my opinion. Some of my friends the other day were talking about whether or not it's right to make games based on real events ie WWII, however, we all pretty much came to the conclusion that the Nazis were the last force of people you could characterise as evil. The Cold War, on the other hand, was an ideological conflict where there was no right or wrong, only points of view. If you're going to have no hero and no villain, think more about the Communists vs. Capitalists rather than the Nazis.

    So basically, my point is that everyone is just a character until the reader makes a judgement as to whether the things they believe in are right or wrong. You could have either side arguing with each other over the ethics of their actions, which allows you to subtly swing the reader's viewpoint to one side and then the other. At least, that's what I plan to do in a novel I'm writing which follows a similar heading.
     
  6. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I do this in a lot of my stories. I write a lot of sci-fi war that seems strikingly familiar to real life. Look at any modern conflict, they are never clear cut. I can't sympathize with a man you straps bombs to his kids to kill Americans, but I can with a Vietcong soldier hunting Americans after he had his village attack by American soldiers, yet I can sympathize with those same Americans who are going crazy in a foreign country trying to help people they don't understand.

    Let the reader decide who is right and wrong. It just comes off as more realistic to me. And I think most of us in general have relativistic morals, the can be fun to play with
     
  7. Joran Selemis
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    Joran Selemis Member

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    Yeah I do the same thing Fox, where mostly the two sides are just separated by different religions/moral beliefs. Also big explosions.
     
  8. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    Got any work to show? :)

    I find it fun to make up new types of governments based on ideals we resent (like a monarchy) and then having them interact with more familiar ideals and then ultimately combat. I'm a big fan of fictional politics. In one story I have a monarchy based on the principles that democracy cannot function because of the flaws of the human memory system and the effect emotion has on it, thus humans cannot take high positions such as judges and kings. And then they must ally themselves with a coalition that refuses to accept any ideals accept that of a representative democracy.

    No side is right or wrong, it's all about resolving a conflict. It's fiction.
     
  9. Joran Selemis
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    I like fictional politics. Something about the intricacy and subtlety of it astounds me, and has ever since I read Asimov's 'Foundation'.

    Yeah, I could show some of my work, except it'd be a chapter of a larger novel I'm writing and hence make little sense. But all the big explosions would still be in tact. I like to look more at the role that a military organisation serving under the command of whatever ruling institution there is might influence or corrupt said institution as it steadily takes control. That started by looking at the UN and all the rules placed upon their peacekeepers, like they're unable to fire unless they're fired upon first, and thinking 'well what would happen if they had a military that was like a dog chasing a car?'

    I'd love to read some of your stuff some time. I love fictional politics, and am always looking for ways to improve my own interpretation of it.
     
  10. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I always thought the political end of the X-Wing series was amazing. In fact just before the series abruptly end the politics was suddenly getting more attention. And the only good part about the newer 24 seasons was the politics. I love how in season 5 they made the president a weak man being controlled by his psychotic wife. It was so intense, until you got back to the predictable scenes with Jack who couldn't rescue a cat stuck up in a tree without it being shot by a sniper rifle.

    I have two politically oriented sci-fi novel serious on the planning board right now but I'm writing a thriller right now :D Thought I'd try something simple first.
     
  11. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Except that Joseph Stalin was possibly as bad, if not worse than Hitler. He killed far more people (20-50 million, depending on what professor you ask), but no one objected as long as it was his own population...
    While the cold war was hardly getting in gears by the time of his death, his terror regime was continued on and there are many signs of it still today.

    You could argue that there was no clear good vs. bad in the cold war because both sides were fighting for their own ideological influence on the world at large, but you could say the same thing about World War 2 -- or any other war ever fought.
     
  12. hszmv
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    I've always felt that the villains motivation for his plot is more important than the hero's motivation to stop the villian. For instance, I have one character in my superhero series, that would consider himself a hero. His whole motivation is that super-powers, in his mind, are a gift from God, and other villains who use their powers to hurt people have perverted God's gift, and the only way to redeem the gift is to stop the villain from using his powers ever again, and the best way to do that is to kill the villain. He considers the MC, the real hero, evil because the MC tries to prevent the murders, thus, allowing the corrupted gifts to persist on this earth.

    The villain isn't really a bad guy, he's actually likable and pretty nice. Heck, the villain even works a soup kitchen in his spare time, and legitemently believes in helping others, even more so than MC at times. He's just a bit to fanatic in his views.
     
  13. Phantasmal Reality
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    I'm not even sure I would call that guy a villain. His motivation is pretty heroic, really. "I want to kill the bad guys so they can't hurt innocent people" is one of the oldest and most readily identifiable hero motivations there is. In my opinion, he's a hero. So is the guy who's trying to stop him. That's what makes it interesting. :-D
     
  14. Writers_Block
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    Usually if you are exposing both minds, the characters that have clashing goals I mean, then the reader probably won't view one as absolutely evil. Though, if you MUST show both perspectives, having one character personality better suited, etc than the other will help push the reader into the direction of disliking at least the opposing character. Though, if there are two characters that you expose equally, there really isn't a way to figure out who the 'main' character is.
     
  15. hszmv
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    hszmv Member

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    Sorta like Shakespeare's "The Tradgedy of Julius Ceaser", which is easier to argue is more about the "Villain" Brutus than the "Hero" Ceaser and his replacement Mark Antony. While both "heroes" are portrayed as vituious, Brutus is portrayed as sympathetic.
     
  16. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Check out Watchmen. It's the most critically acclaimed graphic novel around, and it made it to Time Magazine's top 100 literature list (yes, a list with real books on it). If you can't get into graphic novels then atleast see the movie based on it.

    In Watchmen there's no real villain. Or rather, there's no real heroes. This is mostly interesting because it's set up to be a hero-tale. What it really does is that it exposes the hypocrisy of vigilante do-gooders in a world that would be better off without them. Great food for thoughts.
     
  17. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I'm curious about that graphic novel, however I absolutely loathed the movie. The pacing was super slow, the action was disturbing without justification or realism, I couldn't like anybody, Roarshack sucks, and had it not been for the volume I would have fallen asleep. I really thought they could of had an hour cut from the film, I don't care if it would then be inaccurate to the novel, I already know they changed the ending.

    Sorry for the rant, I seem to do that every time I waste more than $10.
     
  18. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    The film doesn't do the story full justice, because of many factors. Most people can't stand watching a movie over 2 hours and that becomes a problem when the story it's based on takes a full day to read. So, even though it's long, they cut perhaps 12 hours worth of movie material out and that leads to another problem -- the story no longer makes all that much sense. 90% of what had been cut when making the movie was character background and motivation. I enjoyed the movie very much, but probably mostly because I had read the full story in advance. Be glad you didn't watch Director's Cut -- it's 3½ hours long.

    Yes, none of the characters are likeable. That's one of the story's great points in my oppinion, though -- that people who pose themselves as heroes are more likely to be selfserving egomaniacs.

    Rorschach is a puritan crusader who over time turns himself into judge, jury and executioner of whoever he deems as filth, and his bar for that just keeps rising. His constant focus on the dark side of humanity makes him downright misanthropic and in his mind, criminals are reduced to lower lifeforms.

    The Comedian is a nihilistic monster who thinks himself to be the American Dream come true. He has seen the hypocrisy of everyone else, so why should he care about anything... Although he does some of the absolute worst things in the course of the story, he's the only one to show any kind of remorse in the end. Guess he just couldn't take the pointlessness of everything.

    But yeah, I'm sure it's not a story for everyone. Certainly not the more faint of heart. The picture it paints of humanity isn't a very charming one. That being said I think it reveals a razor-sharp insight from the author and serves as perhaps the ultimate example of a story with no real heroes or villains.
     
  19. Fox Favinger
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    That's the reason I wanted to see this film! Dislikable characters can be a lot of fun.

    An example of a dislikable character that worked for me was the MC in Observe and Report. I thought that black comedy was brilliant. The MC was the scum of the earth. A racist, big headed, foul mouthed pig. Yet he was the only honest person in the whole film. So by the very end I felt something for him, i didn't like him, but I showed respect for his honesty.

    Of course the very simplicity of the film allowed it to get across it's point in two hours. I'm sure the Watchmen graphic novel gets it across, but the film in my opinion failed epically.

    One of my all time favorite villains has got to be Victor from the Underworld movies! It was his likable aspects that made me hate him so much. He had love, compassion, and fear. The only thing that separated him from the 'good guys' was that he had no courage to face his fears.

    The Underworld movies are a great example of a film with no real heroes or villains. Everyone's working for their own agenda and they wish to use humanity for their own cruel means.
     
  20. hoodwinked
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    Brutus wasn't a villain... he wanted to kill Caesar for the good of the people, not out of his own greed like his buddy (whose name I can't remember). Mark Antony wanted revenge... Brutus never wanted that. I don't recall ever considering Caesar a hero, either. I thought he was a dictator.

    I read it this time last year... and my teacher wasn't the best (she's new, and doesn't quite understand it herself... so a lot of the play I had to come up with my own conclusions... so I may be wrong.

    ****

    Personally... I think the good versus evil stories are always the best. I am not as interested in reading a book where I think both the characters are good, but just have a misunderstanding. I've enjoyed books where I *thought* one of the characters were evil... but I didn't realize he was good as well until the end. I love conflict. I love when good guys kick the bad guys' butts.
     
  21. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Brutus is the tragic hero in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, certainly not a villain. A good part of the play is devoted to his internal conflict between his duty to Caesar and his duty to the people, so even though he does eventually side with the conspirators you could not (in Shakespeare's version, at least) consider him a villain. Though this is an interesting example in that it shows just how thin the line between villain and hero really is.
     
  22. hszmv
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    Ceaser's status as a hero is mostly by word of mouth, but it was his "ambition" that got Brutus duped into betraying him. Brutus honostly believed that if Ceaser wasn't stopped, he would be the doom of Rome. Irony is, that Ceaser's death, coupled with Mark Antony's oration, is what set Rome up for civil war, so Brutus actually did more harm than good.

    The status of hero and villain in Ceaser is really up to the reader: Is Brutus right, and Ceaser was getting more ambitious and tyrannical? Or is Mark Antony correct, and Ceaser was Rome's greatest leader who would never think of himself over the city? I tend to side with Antony, though, so I see Brutus as the villain of the tale.
     
  23. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    Not in the Shakespeare play it isn't...while other sources create the moral dilemma you talked about (whether Brutus was justified or not), the play is very careful to portray Brutus only as the tragic hero, while Caesar, who hardly appears at all, isn't presented as a hero in the text. Like I said, its a good example of how real events can be subverted; in the play, the (inscribed) reader is entirely sympathetic to Brutus.
     
  24. writewizard
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    When I look at someone, I try and look at someone how I see them, not how society sees them. This is probbably why a number of my friends are teenage goths. However, I have to say, if someone is running around commiting crimes, I'm a lot more likely to see him or her as a criminal, unless their sob story is also posted on the news.

    Does this help????
     

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