1. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    The unassuming character turned main villain: how to do this in a book?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Man in the Box, Mar 14, 2014.

    I was watching The Dark Knight Rises the other day and there's a character called Miranda Tate who is shown the whole time as one of Batman's helpers and even poses as a damsel in distress, but in the end she's revealed to be one of the main villains, the daughter of Ra's al Ghul from the first film (if you follow DC universe you'll know who she is).

    The way the plot twist in the title of this thread was done in this film was very interesting and caught me completely off guard, and I was wondering how this could be done in a book. I assume the writer would have to be very skilled to write the story in a way that the unassuming character being the villain makes total sense when you finish reading, rather than it looking like the author pulled it out of their ass. When can we say this was done correctly?
     
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  2. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Norman Bates?
    I would think you'd have to write backwards ( in a way ) - know in the end who's who and what's what. Then you'd have to distribute the clues in such a way that it reveals just enough for the reveal to be plausible.
    I don't know about skilled ( no more so than any other writer ) but I think they'd have a different mindset, sort of like a mystery
    writer. They'd really have to pay closer attention to their characters and work in red herrings - something a lot of writer's don't have practice with, unless they've written mysteries or have created an unreliable narrator.
     
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  3. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It starts by seeing the humanity in your "villain". You begin by writing the person.
     
  4. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't really follow a DC universe, but I'm doing this with a couple of characters in my book. A female villain is very unassuming and strikes a friendship with my MC, whilst the Mc's love interest is actually involved with the female villain. Also, the 1st person POV that the audience assumes is the actual killer, may be the love interest's innermost thoughts and feelings which read more like obsessed psycho killer then what he is in day to day life. And because the MC isn't privy to any of it, all she sees is the front these people have. This detachment allows for the element of surprise. The reader will catch on late in the book and hopefully it'll be an interesting revelation.
     
  5. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not that difficult. Decide at the beginning how the "unassuming character" is going to harm the MC. Direct attack (assassination), espionage (gaining trust in order to steal secrets), betrayal (mislead, trick the MC), seduction, etc.

    Once the path to the "evil deed" is chosen, the things the "unassuming character" will need to do will be fairly obvious in the context of the story.
     
  6. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    You just unwittingly spoiled The Dark Knight Rises for all unsuspecting members... Well done :D

    I guess if you foreshadowed it properly, it can be done. Mind you though, it's hard to pull off not only because it could seem like a plot device, but it could greatly disappoint the reader if they happen to root for the character. Happened to me in a James Patterson book once, it kinda ruined it for me.

    My turn to spoil a different film - Prince Hans from Frozen anyone? :D I was completely caught off guard, and I'm still upset about it 'cause I really liked him! :(

    I don't seem to like unsuspecting villains, do I...? :rolleyes:
     
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  7. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    I had to. The forum lacks spoiler tags. :(
     
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  8. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    ***ATTENTION: LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD***

    I think a lot has to do with leaving believable, yet subtle clues. For example, int TDKR, Miranda's character is a constant presence, she wants control over Bruce Wayne's nuclear power, and we don't know much about her other than she's a seemingly unassuming character. We do know that she's a tenacious business woman. We also know that all the attention is directed at Bane, particularly because we are given Bruce's POV primarily. Bane is the elephant in the room that casts a shadow over Miranda, so when she reveals herself as Talia al Ghul it's surprising, but it makes sense. Why? Because when we think back, (1)there was nothing that said she couldn't be; (2) there was nothing to say Bane was the mastermind; (3) we know little about her other than she's a tenacious business woman with an interest in Bruce; (4) she want's control of his nuclear power; (5)she happens to show up around the same time as all hell breaking loose in Gotham, but she's never shown being in any danger.

    Those type of clues work well for movies, but don't translate easily into a novel due to the visual elements and rapid scene changes. If you're writing a novel, you have to be a bit more careful with your foreshadowing. Don't give the character cheesy, suspicious lines that happen to get glossed over, but perhaps try things like placing them at every major milestone or trial that your protagonist faces. Give them little behavioral attributes that readers can link back to later as shady or ominous such as a nervousness that tends to get brushed over.

    Also, remember your POV. In close third and first person, we should be receiving the protagonist's perspective. In that sense, it's okay to "lie" because your character doesn't know what you know. Give him or her somthing distracting that takes the focus away from the villain. Keep the unassuming villain on screen often enough for readers to be comfortable with their presence and intentionally off-screen enough (or at the right moments) for readers to recall in hindsight, and suddenly, at the great reveal, we realize "hey! yeah, he/she wasn't there for this,..." and "oh my gosh we thought it was this guy because all of the attention was on so and so and we overlooked this detail."

    The trick is getting readers to overlook little things. In Lolita, Nabokov does this very well when Humbert Humbert is trying to figure out who's following him and who's kidnapped Lolita. Then he realizes it was the play-write, Claire Quilty, who was on almost every page in some way. Nabokov was brilliant at burying that lead though.

    Hope that helps. I know it's long.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2014
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  9. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    @Man in the Box - You make your own - as did Andrae Smith! :cool:
     
  10. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Wait, what did I do (or not do)?
     
  11. hippocampus
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    hippocampus Active Member

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    LOL! You made your own "tag" by writing the following:

    ***ATTENTION: LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD***
     
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  12. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    oh okay, I didn't realize that's what you were talking about. :rolleyes:
     
  13. Man in the Box
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    Man in the Box Active Member

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    That's actually a good idea.
     

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