1. Zombie_Chinchilla
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    Zombie_Chinchilla Member

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    Something Deeper Than Good Vs. Evil

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Zombie_Chinchilla, Oct 19, 2010.

    Lately, I've been having this trouble in a lot my novels. Many of them have two different people fighting, giving it the theme of "good vs. evil," which I've never been a huge fan of.

    I do like to read books that are good vs evil, though, but as a writer I've been wanting to challenge myself to have something deeper. I do have a book that's between two armies of two different countries, but there's a character in the enemy army who has suffered in the same way as the MC, and joined the army because he was hurt in the war. But I don't want to do that same thing with other novels, so I've been trying to think of other ways to make the theme deeper. But I'm drawing a blank.

    Help, please? :3
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Contention for access to a vital resource that is in too short a supply to share?

    Two groups suffering from the same event, for which each blames the other, and no one ever finds out which (if either) was actually at fault?
     
  3. nickbedford
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    nickbedford Member

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    I think for most realistic "good vs evil" stories, the evil characters are not so much as evil as troubled, mislead and probably angry and mad.

    There are of course, evil people in the world. Ones with little compassion save their own relations, but they are still a product of their upbringing and environment.

    You can see by watching crime shows that many of the murderers are actually a product of loss, anger and other wild human emotions.

    Even a character as evil as Sauron was not evil in the beginning. As described here:

    There's more to his story but it appears Sauron was a product of his own desire for control and order, which let to his downfall.
     
  4. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    It's not realistic to have a 100% evil character like Lord Voldemort, you're right.

    Also, though, I don't like hearing that villians always ought to be sympathizable. Sometimes the story calls for it, other times it doesn't.

    In my stories, sometimes the villain(s) represent things that anger me to the core, and so I don't write them in a sympathizable way because my protag is not going to sympathize them. Other times, a villain is just an obstacle, so I can insert some humor and maybe some sympathy.

    For example, things that get me heated up emotionally involve things that intrude on another person and/or his/her personal space, privacy, rights, etc without consent -- especially if it's the government or someone else in an authority position -- so if a given villain takes on that role, I"ll make him/her as despicable as I can because there are deeper emotions that go along with it.

    Not to say that the villain would be Vader-ish, or go around killing puppies or anything, but the villain's effect on the MC would be much more intense and it would show through that way.

    On the other hand, if the villain's motive is something I don't get upset about -- maybe the villain is plotting to get my protag killed by the Mafia, or is spreading a rumor about her, or something that doesn't get under my skin -- then my villain is more likely to be sympathizable.

    Write about the antag so that the readers can really see -- by your showing, and not telling -- what the villain means to the protag. Is the antag a competition, or jealously-motivated, or just plan nasty to everyone, or does he/she really threaten your protag and shake up his/her world?

    Answer these questions, and they'll help you figure out whether a villain should be sympathizable or not. Always start with a character's purpose in a story before you start to flesh out the character.
     
  5. Melzaar the Almighty
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    Melzaar the Almighty Contributing Member Contributor

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    I tend not to go for obvious villains or sides - though I have been told by several people that not everyone could get away with writing a whole novel without any sort of villain whatsoever, and I shouldn't get cocky and do it again. :p But I guess you could try and use the perspective of a vast uninterested force as the "bad guy" who doesn't even know, care or want to harm your protagonists. Think someone accidentally stepping on your toe, and when you say, "Oi!" they say "sorry!" instead of "You startin'?" :p
     
  6. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    I think Cogito's got it.

    Two sides rarely go to war because one is evil. It often suits the propoganda machines of government to present the enemy in that light but the reality is usually a lot more complex.

    Even in a reasonably "clear cut" conflict like World War II, terrible atrocities were commited by the allies (The bombing of Dresden, Hiroshima).

    Competition over a vital resource would be good. Depending on the tone - you could also sum up the absurdity of the war such as a conflict started by one government insulting the other, or over a disputed area of useless waste land.

    You only need to read some of the news reports of the UN meetings to realise that sometimes Politicians act like complete children.

    You don't need to think in terms of a hero / villian dialectic.
     
  7. SilverWolf0101
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    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    The Trogan War was started over a woman, and in Midievil times, wars were often started over lands or some hunter killing another man's deer.

    There really wasn't a good or evil side to these wars, just men protecting what they found important to them. They each had their own reasons for doing it, and in their eyes they'd see the other group as being evil.

    Really you can't automatically define the antag as being evil, that's really over used and not something that should be done everytime you create an antag. Really all an antag is, is someone or something opposing the protag.

    Leave it to the readers to decide who is evil and who is good, just try not to be bias towards your own antag. Writers who do that often cause their own problems, I've been guilty of doing it once or twice and it's ruined my antags.
     
  8. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Some other often used deep and rich themes are:

    Individualism vs the good of all.
    Religious views clashing (the middle east)
    Group loyalty (think criminal gangs, tribes or foot boll hooligans)
    Though choices today to save the future (global climate change)
    Survival
    Love vs duty
    What price people are willing to pay
    Idealism and doing things by the rules vs realism and flexibility boarding on pragmatism
    Redemption

    Or you could just starting to mix up everything. Have the main character on the "goood" side driven by hatred and bitterness, and have the antagonist to be gentle and merciful. Let the good guys use evil methods, have the bad guys pet puppies. Whatever.

    A book in the high fantasy genre that does a good job at it is Jaquline Careys Godslayer and Banewraker books, that the a story in many way parallel to Lord of the rings and many other Hero Quest stories, paint it all in tones of gray and have the dark side be the protagonist. Even if you don't lik the genre it worth reading since it in an elegant way shows how little it takes to take a black and white story in a often very black and white genre to make it in a complex picture of a multitude of different shades.
     
  9. goldhawk
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    goldhawk Senior Member

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    More people have been killed in this world for religion than for any other cause. All you have to do is make your villain self-righteous, who sees himself as the saviour of the world, and you have an instant "good v. evil" scenario. Your villain need not be religious; in fact, many self-righteous leaders of the past have view religion just as another tool to achieve their ends. But they are manipulative, control freaks who thinks the ends justify the means as long as they come out on top.
     
  10. The Working man
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    The Working man New Member

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    Why not look in to the possibilities of evil v's evil or good v's good? How could this work I hear you ask.

    An example off the top of my head would be in the wake of a tremendous war between 3 tribes. One, an evil over lord who is over thrown by the by the two peace loving tribes who longed to live in harmony with the earth. Once the two tribes who have always helped one an other in the shadow of there evil dictator are aloud to live free and happy lives they find they don't quite see eye to eye on how the remaining lands should be shared. They then both in time surpass there former dictators in the lengths they will go to to become masters of the lands and there for transform for the light to the dark.

    Just an idea.
     
  11. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    A story doesn't have to be about two groups or individuals fighting at all. It can be about an individual who learns to overcome her own failings, or learns to prevail under hard circumstances. A story can be about some aspect of human nature, where the main point isn't what happens in the end, but what has been shown along the way.

    Many of these themes can, with good results, be realised with a war or another conflict as backdrop.
     
  12. helltank
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    helltank Member

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    Yep. I do think that Good Vs Evil is overused. Unless evil wins, which would be an interesting plot twist and would cancel out the cliche part.

    Try,"This country used fire magic, the other used ice magic. They fought to learn the other's secrets." Also, there is a video game(can't remember name) which revolves around 4 countries using different weapons to fight, and you trying to master all weapons by defeating all the countries.
     
  13. cmcpress
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    cmcpress Senior Member

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    To get you thinking - Wars of the near future will be fought over the following Resources:

    1. Water (already many nations are gearing up for this)

    2. Oil + Methyl Clathrates (look at the Arctic land grab that Russia is trying for at the moment).

    3. Rare Earth Minerals (components used in computing - China accounts for 90% of the worlds REM - (recently there was a big hoo ha over a Chinese fishing boat straying into Japanese waters. The Chinese Govt refused to sell REM - a nesc. component in Japans economy - until the Fishermen were released).
     
  14. HorusEye
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    HorusEye Contributing Member Contributor

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    Get closer to your characters, including your "villains". Spend a day with one of them, seeing the world through their eyes (but try not to commit any crimes against humanity in the process). Once you know your villain you also know why he doesn't consider himself a villain.

    Good vs. Evil stories are often the result of cardboard characters acting out a moral example. Readers in our day and age aren't really craving those types of stories.
     
  15. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Perhaps your challenge could be to take a real life event or situation and make of it a parable. The Chronicles of Narnia is a parable of the story of Christian mythos. Alan Dean Foster wrote a Flynx novel where he parables (can that be a verb?) the tampering with of the Florida Everglades and the attempted redirection of the Kissimmee River. If you are a Floridian, the underlying theme of the story would have been very apparent to you. He even renames the river in the story as the Kiss Me River. :cool:
     
  16. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    Actually, I think you'll find that many wars that were supposedly about religion were actually about something else - economics, class equality, etc.
     
  17. jonathan hernandez13
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    jonathan hernandez13 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Am I the only person who actually likes the good old fashioned good versus evil story?:redface:

    There is a certain charming timelessness to this motif, so no matter how overused it seems, much like a fairy tale, it shall age gracefully.


    When I'm studying ancient Greece (as my hobby) I read about how the Spartans fought the Athenians, and then Thebes, and the Macedonians fought all the other Greeks, and so on.

    I used to be like why, why, why? I could give a really long answer involving politics, economics, and a number of rival social ambitions.

    Sometimes the reason don't matter, sometimes the reasons are actually very simple, humans are violent creatures and like to fight. Sometimes a tyrant can be very cruel and is willing to kill to get power and wealth.

    In comparison to harsh reality, good versus evil tale can provide an excellent allegory.
     
  18. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think one really interesting aspects aspect of this is that the good versus evil allegory is one existing in the Christan mythos and many other religions as well, but not all religions. And it would be interested that from a spiritual perspective have a conflict written without good and evil even being part of anyones world view.

    If we look at Norse mytology it didn't have any good and evil reasoning originally. People and goods did dishonorable, greedy and stupid things, the myths where extremely voilent but there was now view that there was two big opposites in the world, one good, one evil. Old Scandinavian languages lacked a word for evil and the word now used for evil is derived from the old word for spirit and came into existents when people converted the to christanity.

    In the Norse religion the mythological roles were just cast into different roles in the world doing different stuff and no definitive good guys side. Two tribes of goods; Æsir and Vanir plus the Jötnar (giants), the Álfar(elfs) and Dvergarin (dwarfs) coexisting, sometimes at war sometimes interacting honorably sometimes interacting less honorably. Even if the myths had elements where the aesirs were seen as superior, the vanirs in the middle and the others as lowers status, that was just status. No one was evil.

    I adore the fact that people worldviews at diffrent places of the world has been so largly different and that the polarity of evil and good didn't even exist in all cultures. I think we must be aware as writers that good and evil doesn't even have to be a way people perceive the world at all.
     

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