1. Slade Lucas
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    Slade Lucas Member

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    Should Villains have Excuses?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Slade Lucas, Apr 26, 2014.

    In a story it is a given that your hero must be likable and someone who the reader can really connect with. As a writer it's sort of our job to connect with this character more than any other so that we can make this character likable. But what if you start to connect with your villain almost as much?

    I have recently become a bit obsessed with knowing everything about my villain, including why they are as evil as they are but this has presented me with the problem that I have started to like my villains. In one story I killed off the villain in the end but that was only because everyone died - he became my favourite character because I suddenly understood that he had been through hardships which had broken him and made him who he was and I felt sorry for him.

    Then, in the current story I am working on, I actually decided that my villain wouldn't have repercussions for trying to blow up planet Earth because he had basically had his childhood taken away from him and I thought he needed a break.

    I like to think that this puts a very human aspect into a character that often isn't given such a privilege but I could be entirely wrong and I could just be creating an anti-climax. Anyone got any advice on this?
     
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  2. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Villains are people too. Thinking of them as such can make them more realistic and believable than they would otherwise be. That doesn't mean you can just let them off when they should be killed/imprisoned etc. I wouldn't believe that someone who tried to blow up the earth didn't have any punishment but I could believe the hero letting them live out of pity.
     
  3. Smoke Z
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    Smoke Z Active Member

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    Depending on how far the villain got in his plot, he should at least be forced to get counseling.

    But villains can be sympathetic and be motivated by realistic goals. In Avatar: the Last Airbender, I always liked Zuko better than the Gaang.
     
  4. Slade Lucas
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    Slade Lucas Member

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    Well, he has his powers taken away from him or rather the hero lets him have them but they are rendered practically useless. Because of this he is able to live a normal life, which is all he really wanted in the first place. I was going to have him fall in love with someone, as well, but now having thought about it it is probably not such a good idea.

    Well, he gets quite far in his plot - in fact, a few minutes and the word would have been no more. It was only the quick thinking of the hero that stopped it.
     
  5. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It's been a while since I've seen the show, but wasn't it Zhao that wanted to destroy everything. Zuko just wanted Aang. Granted that, too, would've screwed the world up, but Zhao was doing the most damage.
     
  6. NateSean
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    NateSean Active Member

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    Villains should be as well rounded as the main protagonist. It is even possible to sympathize with the villain, as long as I can relate to their actions.

    For example, I recently decided that Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty is a villain I could sympathize with, because it's not fair to be left out. Granted, she probably created the situation herself by being who she was, but if she had actually received an invite to the party, would she have been a much nicer person?

    What makes her behavior inexcusable is that she decides to take her anger out on the most innocent person in the room. At that point, she totally deserved the sword in the heart.
     
  7. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    "Villains" don't even have to be misguided or evil. From the villain's point of view, everything he or she does may be perfectly justifiable, even necessary. For instance, in just about every war, it is the winners who become the "good guys".

    The fact is that the "enemy" has to be demonised in order for people to feel comfortable about slaughtering them. In almost every conflict, both parties feel absolutely justified and virtuous. Which side you belong to normally determines who is the "villain".
     
  8. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    First, it's not a "given" that the hero must be likable. And villains don't need excuses - they need reasons. This is why I prefer the terms "protagonist" and "antagonist". Two characters with opposing goals, each having some reason for it, and butting heads to reach it.
     
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  9. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Do you mean your villain appearing human might be anti-climactic for the reader? I think building up for a huge-ass conflict and then preventing the disaster by pulling at the heartstrings of the villain would be anti-climactic instead of a proper throwdown -- but that's just me, and it's only one opinion among many.

    As for humanizing the villain, you're on the right track for sure, afaic.
     
  10. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like to have my villains be reasonable AND evil, rather than one or the other.

    "Making characters more reasonable ipso facto makes them less villainous" always struck me as a false dilemma.

    In the sci-fi story that I'm working on, one of my characters lost her family - if not her entire home world - to an alien invasion extermination. She joined the military, found herself assigned to a bioengineering facility where prisoners were subjected to all forms of experiments/tortures in attempts to create super-soldiers, and gladly "did her duty" for the facility instead of calling her highest superiors to arrest her immediate superiors for war crimes.

    A lot of bullies claim that they are cruel for their victim's own good, making them "tougher" so that they don't get hurt as badly by the next guy. Most of them know that they are lying, but this soldier genuinely believes it. She genuinely believes that the test subjects would've just been killed by the invaders exterminators even if they hadn't died in their own military's experiments, and she genuinely wants them not only to survive, but to be able to defend themselves against the invaders exterminators in a way that her own family were not.

    I think that makes her sound very intelligent, reasonable, sympathetic, understandable, and it makes me very sad for the person that she used to be. And after all that's said and done? She's still the villain ;)
     
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2014
  11. Slade Lucas
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    Slade Lucas Member

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    The anti-climax that I feared was not the lack of a battle - there was certainly going to be a battle and it was not appealing to the villain's better side which ends it. What I feared was that my plan of "Everyone, including the villain, lives happily ever after," was a bit underwhelming.
     
  12. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    In LOTR, Sauron gets to live, In Robin Hood, Prince John and the Sheriff live HEA, in real life, Napoleon retired under exile after loosing the war. Most of the villains in Dune survive the ending. The Red Skull, The Mandarin, and Loki all continue on their merry way.
     
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  13. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds good to me. There doesn't have to be the evil always has to pay -aspect for the story to work and have a satisfying ending.
     
  14. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    The best villains are super villains who are evil for its own sake or genre savvy enough to go around willfully twirling their mustaches.
     
  15. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    The man in the top hat in this image is a good example of a good villain:

    [​IMG]
     
  16. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    From what you said, this person didn't succeed in blowing up Earth—but not because he had a change of heart. He didn't do it because the 'hero' stepped in and saved the day.

    Lots of people have their childhoods taken away or ruined and they don't try to blow up Earth. Any time a person thinks their unfortunate past gives them the right to do something this awful, I feel they shouldn't be allowed to just walk away.

    I would be on board if this person realised what he'd nearly done and did what he could to make amends. But are you leaving him angry that his plan failed? Will he be plotting to try again? I'd need to know the rest of your story, but I'd be wary of letting people walk away from truly bad acts with no repercussions. I don't mean the person should die, or even suffer, but I feel they should be made to pay in some fashion. They don't particularly need punishment, but they do need to make restitution, if nothing else.

    If this was a book I was reading, I think I'd be disappointed if somebody like that 'got away' with deliberately plotting to cause the death of our home planet, no matter what their underlying mental state might be. It's too big a deal.
     
  17. Uberwatch
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    Uberwatch Active Member

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    I never consider my villians evil. They're just people like the main character. Except, they're antagonizing to the MC and they are on the other side of the moral path.

    This is how I always define the "goodness and badness" of my characters. Selfishness or Selflessness. A hero often helps and fights for others. His goals are not about him/herself. A villain does things for his self most of the time. They tend to have an ego. But of course you mix these up. You could have a selfish, rude hero and a selfless villain.

    But I always write my characters, hero or villain as realistic as possible. In reality, people are too complex.
     
  18. A.M.P.
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    A.M.P. People Buy My Books for the Bio Photo Supporter Contributor

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    I like antagonists with a reason. Old school books and video games showed a very black and white world where evil was just evil because it was born of evil or just plain mean.

    More modern books and games seem to have a lot of gray area where the player/reader can actually relate and understand why a bad guy would do what he does (whether they agree or not) which makes them more likeable and interesting (such as Assassin Creed's Templaric philosophy which can open up a new world of ideas for certain people even though I disagree with most if it myself.)

    I like to give out the example of Cercei from Game of Thrones.
    Very hate-able character as she does horrific things but much of it is for the welfare of her children.
     
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  19. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Not sure why you need advice except to say, go for it. Follow your characters, good or bad, where they lead you.
     
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  20. MLM
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    MLM Banned for trolling

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    Don't forget to consider your vil's alignment. Are they Lawful Evil or Chaotic Evil? If they act out of alignment they could face an XP penalty or even an alignment shift!
     
  21. Myo
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    Myo New Member

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    I believe they shouldn't have an excuse, but more of a reason. Don't forget no one is completely evil and often will have a reason for what they do.
     
  22. ManOrAstroMan
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    ManOrAstroMan Magical Space Detective Contributor

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    i thouroughly recommend "wicked" as a prime example of getting inside a villain's head. you can youtube excerpts from the show if you dont want to read the book (i like the musical better anyway).
     
  23. spidersmakegravy
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    spidersmakegravy New Member

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    No villains should definitely be stereotypical clichés so don't go making them well rounded and giving them depth that's just silly!
     
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  24. Eedjii
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    Eedjii Member

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    Antagonists are people too y'know. One thing I always like to see is an understandable villain, perhaps a villain that some people could even root for.
     
  25. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Don't forget to make them dress in all black and live in a Gothic-style castle surrounded by death, decay, and everything nasty and there's no light whatsoever in the castle. Also, have them play a really loud, evil music on a dramatic bass tone on a piano. ;)
     
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