1. Nikita88
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    Nikita88 Member

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    Oh god... I knew this would happen. What happens when you like your villain too much?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Nikita88, Aug 6, 2009.

    I'm working on a piece where the villain isn't revealed until the very end. My problem is that in my efforts to make him an unlikely villain, I've fallen in love with his character.

    Not in the sense that WOW I made such a good villain, more that WOW I made such a good man, I don't want him to be a villain anymore.

    Problem is, I'm 30,000 words into my book.

    Almost every clue I've given is SO perfect for this character, and the only thing I can think of would be an absolute wimp-out way: to give my current "villain" an assistant... Would make sense since his job would require one anyways. And this way, that person would be with him nearly everywhere he's already been in the book.

    This is such a typical characters controlling the book situation... I planned this all out with a pretty intricate outline, but the more I write this character, the more I realize that he can't be the villain.

    Suggestions?
     
  2. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    Why can't he be the villain?
     
  3. EyezForYou
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    EyezForYou Active Member

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    Being fickle in your writing is not a good sign. It means you don't know where your plot is headed.

    The problem isn't if you have good characters or not, the problem is that you don't know your destination. I truly believe you have to rework your theme, message, and conclusion in order for you to allow your character free reign in their journey. In order to do this, you need to find out what the point of your story is. I don't think you have a point right now.
     
  4. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    In the first place, I think that's unfair: just because things have taken an unexpected turn is no reason to say he doesn't have a grip on matters at all, and in the second place is no reason to demand a full rewrite. Not at this stage anyway.

    Personally, I think it could be good for your villain to be a likeable character, a good man even. Think of it this way: if the hidden villain turns out to be the unpleasant sod whose been snarking from the corner the whole way, everyone will yawn. If the villain turns out to be one of the best, nicest, most involving characters in the whole thing who can still produce a perfect rationale for his cold blooded villainy, then the readers will pause and feel the hair go up on the back of their necks. See Watchmen for an example of what I'm talking about (Ozymandias may not have been nice, but he was the most emotionally well adjusted character of the lot).

    Complex characters are nothing to be ashamed of, celebrate them.
     
  5. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    No reason why you can't like your villain,or even why he has to be a pure villain. Good people do bad things, too.
     
  6. Banzai
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    Banzai One-time Mod, but on the road to recovery Contributor

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    As it happens, Veidt is exactly who this post made me think of.
     
  7. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Ok, here is what happens when we are sold archytypes like they were 2 fer 1.

    No reason at all that the villain can't even be the entire and main focus of your story, your main character. Silence of the Lambs and all the rest of the Hannibal Lecter stories would be nothing at all without.... Hannibal Lecter.

    Say what you want, he is the main character, not Clarice Starling.
     
  8. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Nikita, if you think the "villain" brilliantly fits the character/plot arc, then keep him as the villain in the technical sense. But in this situation I think you should reassess ... fiction, for lack of a better term. Your character may be the villain from the point of view of the other characters (relative morality and all), and maybe even he knows he's doing naughty things, but don't let the archetypal tag "villain" put you off!

    Think about it mathematically: If his "villainous" actions logically derive from his character development, then you gotta keep him as such. Don't let the "villain" tag scare you off; it's a strictly technical term that in this case should be reserved for your notes only. In many cases, it probably shouldn't be used by readers at all.

    Additionally (and I can really sympathize with you here), look at it from the reader's point of view. As Smithy said, they will love you for creating a unique villain.

    Don't be discouraged by EyezForYou's response; his harshness was unwarranted.

    Best of luck to you!

    EDIT: Off the top of my head, I recommend you watch The Prestige (I can't vouch for the book out of experience) and Memento for great, unexpected "villains."

    EDIT2: By the way, Nikita, I know you didn't have this in mind while posting this thread, but thank you for reminding me of the importance of when and when not to resort to black-and-white archetypal tags. I'll bear this in mind as I outline my current/next project. For writers, objective tags (protagonist, antagonist, etc.) must be infinitely better on the psychological front, as the protagonist can absolutely be the villain, etc., and I'm rambling and I'll shut up. :D
     
  9. Nikita88
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    Nikita88 Member

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    It's not just his character being good, it's that his character embodies a set of beliefs that I think reflect my own. I feel like I've practically turned myself into a villain.

    That's exactly it, I have a theme that I'm working towards and his character is helping to CREATE the theme of goodness and truth. By making him a villain, I am basically ruining everything the theme of the story, leaving my MC and his friend as the only two good ones, and this is boring to me. I don't want my MC to have no flaws. The flaws that he has, my current villain balances out and I love this balance.

    Thanks! This actually makes a lot of sense, and that definitely makes sense about the big surprise for the readers, but in the end is it worth surprising them just for the sake of surprise? If the character could serve better as a genuine good guy, would this not be a better use of his character?

    What if I were to design another "good" character, possibly with a less complex connection to my MC so it is still a surprise but just not to such an extent that it ruins a character that I love.

    Very true! But in this case, we know Hannibal is bad - we love him, but he is a "bad" guy. I feel it is very different when a bad character is posing as a good guy because it makes them appear cowardly and tricky.

    Thank you so much for that, Ice! I know what you mean about readers being excited to be surprised by a "good guy" being bad, especially with Watchmen! But in this case, I think it would be more of a reaction of "wtf" or disappointment. It wouldn't be a fun surprise, it would be more like finding out Dumbledore was trying to steal the sorcerer's stone.

    I love the idea about it being a surprise, I just feel that this character went his own direction. I really could use more characters in the book and I could still write another surprise 'villain', this time being sure not to get connected :) I think the real problem is just how close he is to my MC.

    I also really like what you're saying about tags and avoiding using labels for characters. It makes sense for every character to have motives and reasons for what they do, even if it is "evil". My real issue here is that the current 'villain' will end up being responsible for a series of murders that really make him a monster more than anything else. I can't stand to see him be that guy, because I know he is not. Doesn't make any sense, I know, because I wrote him... but it just can't work!

    Thanks again !
     
  10. Rei
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    Rei Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're worrying too much, Nikita. If you do relate to the character as much as you say you do, then it would be a good time to remind yourself that though you may have some things in common, this person is not you, and you are not a bad person.
     
  11. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Go where the story leads you.

    Maybe he's a hurt and jaded semi-villain just trying to figure things out for himself.
     
  12. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    If you're problem is that you like this person too much to make him the villain, then may I suggest the following example from my own experience: when I started to like my villain too much I started thinking of him as a tragic hero antagonist. This ironically made it easier for him to do the occassional monstrous thing, as it was all tied up with his tragic flaw. The plot hasn't altered much as a result of this, but the writing of the character has gotten easier.
     
  13. Hsnodgrass
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    Hsnodgrass Senior Member

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    Personally, I love it when the villain is a very likable character. It adds to the scariness of the villain because he isn't stereotypical. I don't think a villain should ever be this guy:
    [​IMG]
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have what could be the potential for a legendary villain. In my book, anyway. The more you can follow the reasoning of the villain, the more shocking it will be to realise that he's wrong. Let him be a good guy with good values - it's fine. No, it's great. People in history have done terrifying deeds in the name of good. Once you reveal his villainy, just make sure you don't betray his character - rather, show how the best intentions can lead to something terrible if not done with the proper caution and reflection.

    One of my all time favourite books is Frankenstein. As I see it, Doctor Frankenstein is the villain in the story. He's a good guy with a fatal flaw. He's the one causing all the suffering because of his obsession with doing good for humanity.
     
  15. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Many books have a villain as th emain focus, the Pahntom of the opera being one of my particular favourites, and someon i personally can identify with, just becuase they share some traits with yourself doesn;t make you a villain, and anyway why is this person defined as a villain? remeber one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist, maybe they are simply the villain based on your main characters core belief systems, but it doesn't mean everyone will share these views
     
  16. Lydia
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    Lydia Contributing Member Contributor

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    In a story I'm writing, there are two bad guys, and they happen to have become my two most favorite characters... :) But I still let them be the bad guys.
     
  17. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Guys, the problem with our reassurances is that (and correct me if I'm wrong, Nikita) he no longer wants the character to be a villain.

    Nikita, it's a difficult decision and whatever we have to say about it, you of course are going to have to do a lot of thinking and you'll have regrets either way. If you haven't already, you might need to step back and reassess your whole story, and what you're trying to achieve. If it's a straight-up mystery, for example, ignoring the personal biases you've developed for your characters may be necessary in light of a logical solution to the puzzle. If you plan on expanding the novel into a series and you want to reuse this character, different questions arise: What role would a recurring "villain" play? How would this character fit as a "good guy"? That sort of stuff.

    Or you could just follow your instinct.
     
  18. Brode
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    Brode Member

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    Well, I'd say you have to. If he's such a loveable, good person, it'll work so much the better when he's suddenly revealed as the villain; no one would suspect.

    I know it's tough to do, but if you're ever at a crossroads between what you want and how you know the story should go, try your best to choose the second one.
     
  19. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    This will probably not be the case. Readers, especially mystery readers, are paranoid conspiracy theorists and will there will always be some who see it coming. This is where an abundance of red herrings helps out.

    I like the rest of what you say though. ;)
     
  20. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    I like many villains, but I wouldn't have them other way. And if they have to die, well, it makes them cooler. Transcending, even.
    For example. We have Spehirot from FF7 (I know, it's a videogame and not a book, but what the hell :p). He is one of the coolest characters of the series, and he is the villain, and even *SPOILERS* dies.

    My point is, if you like your antagonist, and he needs to die in order for the story to work, then at least give him a fitting dead. A character that dies in a story won't die from our heads. I still think about George (Fred?) Weasley.
     
  21. Anders Backlund
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    Anders Backlund Contributing Member

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    Great! That's always a good sign. [​IMG]
     
  22. lyteside
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    Per Nikita's comment shown above...

    I think the answer is staring you straight in the face. If this character reflects your beliefs + you feel he is good + he is the villain of the story, then this is showing that you feel misunderstood and unknown by those around you. Perhaps people misunderstand you as a "villain" at times, when it's not the case (because they fail to grasp who you are)

    sounds like a pretty fun theme to work in the novel... perhaps your "protagonists" are actually your antagonists. Dwell on that possibility for a while. Perhaps they have something to learn from your alledged "antagonist"

    let your intuition guide you on your theme, message, and plot. This is the part of you that's revealing Mr. Antagonist as someone different than he seems. You gotta go with that... whatever you do, don't fight it. If you do, the novel will lose life as you continue the story.
     
  23. Fox Favinger
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    Fox Favinger Contributing Member

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    I think it's an interesting twist on a villain. My problem many stories is:
    The hero does good for the sake of doing good, and the villain does bad because someone hurt him/her in the past, he feel society has abandoned him, etc... Then I end up loving the villain for being 3D and hating the hero. Then when the villain dies at the end and the hero lives I feel cheated and refuse to read the sequel.

    Personally I don't do the hero/villain thing. I have protagonists and antagonists. They do good things and bad things. They have their own morals and ways of justifying what they do, I let the reader decide if they are right or wrong, good or bad.

    And I inject a lot of myself into my characters. I exagerate flaws in my own personality and use that as aspects of my characters. It alows to know the characters better and what they would be capabel of.

    I think you may be doing the same thing. Go with it man. Use every tool you have. We are all individuals and no one is like you. The more you inject yourself into your stories the more unique they will become.
     
  24. tcol4417
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    tcol4417 Member

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    Never underestimate the appeal of likeable villains - look at the Joker: He's psychotic, but he's charming and happy-go-lucky. And that's just the first one that I thought of.

    This may not fit into your story, but you might want to set up a serious paradigm shift so that your villain joins the good guys to achieve a common goal or defeat a common enemy. It's cliche, but with the right technique it will shine like a diamond under the desert sun.

    Hawke from Advance Wars 2 and Viral from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann are the first things that come to mind. Just as a well written betrayal incites hatred and loathing, a well written defection can provide a morale boost in the darkest hour.
     
  25. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Also consider Darth Vader. He's as purely evil as they come in A New Hope (first Star Wars film), but Return of the Jedi is largely about his redemption. The three prequel movies that followed focused on the character flaws and tragedies that turned an passionate and idealistic young man into the relentless right fist of Senator cum Emperor Palpatine.
     

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