1. Rumwriter
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    Rumwriter Active Member

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    Too many villains

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rumwriter, Jul 19, 2012.

    Does having too many villains pose a problem? Within my story, I find I keep creating more villains and creating more plots, and I'm afraid that it will spread the story too thin. Rather than having one antagonist to overcome, I have about 3 or 4 right now.

    I know a lot of stories have multiple villains, but I tend to think that they oftentimes can be condensed to one arc. In Star Wars, there is Vader, Maul, and Dooku, but they all to me are all henchman of Palpatine.

    Mine rather has about 4 villains that themselves are fighting, and constantly getting in the ways of one another. I think my main concern is that the over-arching antagonist will become hard to pin down, and that could make my story suffer.

    Or do you think it could help?
     
  2. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    Hmmm. It's hard to say without actually knowing anything else about the plot.

    To be fair, I think that there is a point in which there are too many villains, and that point is based on the context of the story. For example, if your character is a vigilante crime-fighter and has to take on the leader of a city-wide gang, but then the character ends up having to hold off another dozen gangs or so, then you're above and beyond that limit. However, if you're writing a sci-fi, space epic, it may be very likely that your character faces off against tons of "villains" because there are so many opportunities for them to arise.

    3 to 4 villains doesn't sound that bad to me. However, you said that you are having a problem with finding one true antagonist? Yes, that can pose a problem.

    I think what you need to do is get back down to basics and figure out the exact conflict in which your character is engaged in. If said conflict does need some sort of being to be an antagonist, then you have to find that being. Otherwise, the conflict may be caused by another obstacle, like the environment or the self. That can still mean that the main character has other villains to deal with, but he/she/it needs that main antagonist or there is no conflict at all.

    Again, I'm just speaking broadly here - I don't know what specifics to go into because I still don't know much about the story. Nevertheless, in my opinion, 3-4 villains may not be bad at all, but again that depends on the story, context, etc. It may not necessarily feel right, for example, for your character to be a youngster in elementary school and have 3-4 separate bullies or groups of bullies to deal with, because then it's just overwhelming. Or, 3-4 could be the right number(s). It all depends on how you write it.
     
  3. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    The nice thing about villains is that you can often kill them. :D

    I think the key is going to be making sure that each of them has an easily identifiably distinct personality. Villains frequently don't realize that they are villains--they have their own internalized justifications and rationales for what they do. These worldviews may be narcissistic and self-serving in the extreme, but to the person holding them, they make perfect sense, and may even be viewed as virtues by the person holding them. As long as each one is a distinct person and they didn't all just wake up one day thinking to themselves "I'm going to be evi-i-i-i-l!!! MUAH HAHAHA!" then I think you can have villains aplenty.
     
  4. Morkonan
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    Morkonan Senior Member

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    It's likely to thin out the drama in your plot to the point where conflict with Antagonist #34 becomes so mundane that the reader gets bored.

    What you need to do is turn some of those "villains" into other sorts of characters, especially ones that the reader can identify with. You can only rarely have an antagonist that the reader can't understand and still be able to get away with it. You can also only rarely have a dyed-in-the-wool completely negative, evil, character. Pure Black & White imagery doesn't work well, especially with multiple antagonists. Develop some sympathies for these other antagonists and develop a plot that uses them in order to help the protagonist achieve a goal that is different than just "Beating up the bad guys."

    For a classic example of straightforward heroic adventure, read Grimm's Fairytales. Read the real ones, not that Disney crap. The real ones have polarized, one-dimensional antagonists, in many cases. In cases where there are a variety of motivations, they are almost always something the hero/heroine would disagree with on moral grounds. That's not to say the protagonists were always upstanding moral figures, either. Most of them were just as bad as their nemesis/antagonist. But, that's the richness of classic folktales and the humor of simple irony.

    However, back to your work - Too many villains makes for a dull plot. But, that's only if I take "villains" to mean "antagonists." Are these all antagonists? Are all of these villains working against the protagonist in hampering the protagonist's goals? If not, then that's perfectly fine. If some of them have their own agendas and work out accommodations with the hero, that's even better. But, if they are all working as classic "antagonists", then that's bad and you need to develop some sort of broad theme, if nothing else, for the protagonist to pit themselves against. Don't make them overcome each antagonist in turn, as if they were some sort of level Boss in a game. That will get boring and you'll find it difficult to ratchet up the drama without threatening the existence of the Universe. Even then, that won't save the story unless you can find something worth fighting that isn't just Antagonist #35.
     
  5. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Superhero stories often have multiple unrelated villains, each with their own motivations. One of the incarnations of Spiderman liked to have 3 or 4 way fights between multiple villains, with Spiderman jumping in and fighting all of them and messing up their plans.
     
  6. charlesvee
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    charlesvee New Member

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    Superhero may have multiple villains in comic books and movies, but when reading, I'd rather have one super villian, with strong characteristics and multiple aggressive attacts, that surprises me. The villain must be equal to the superhero in almost all spects. Amost.
     
  7. vVvRapture
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    vVvRapture Member

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    I don't really agree with that. Why should a villain have anything in common with the hero at all?
     
  8. B93
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    B93 Active Member

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    Multiple villains working against each other as well as against the protagonist CAN make for an interesting plot. For it to work well, you probably need to outline the story from each POV, one villain at a time as well as the protagonist, to make sure they have adequate motivation and rational behavior, and then convey that to the reader in whatever POV you write.

    It can be too tempting to put pop-up villains in the protagonist's way who wouldn't stand close scrutiny as reasonable characters.
     
  9. Complex
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    Complex Senior Member

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    I don't do 'pop-up' villains and from the sound of it, these villains aren't either. Enemies are fine, even if they fight amongst themselves, doing it right involves logically resolving and detailing their actions in a way that makes them memorable. A bunch of 'racing' villains might sabotage the car, one wires it with explosives, one cuts the brake lines, another does something else. Too bad the last villain messed with the electrical system so the car cannot run, thereby saving the life of the driver and achieving victory in their own way. Four at once might be a bit excessive... I usually stick with two 'active' antagonists.
     
  10. I Am Vague
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    I Am Vague Active Member

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    when antagonists start climbing up to the evilness of the most dastardly villain, then you should be worried. That will create multiple, equally valid plots, and that will throw the reader off.
     
  11. AAvertigo
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    AAvertigo New Member

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    There's a reason why the new trilogy sucked, and that's partly because they cycled through too many villains, making them seem unimportant. (Though that's not to say that that was the only thing wrong with the new trilogy, but I digress.) Basically you could change up the reason why these villains are so villainous. I mean you've mentioned that all four of your villains are fighting each other, yes? You could then have each villain fight for a different reason (as in, each reason drives them to villainy) I.E. All villains are fighting for Object A and are willing to kill anyone who gets in the way: Villain 1 wants object A to bring back his wife; Villain B wants object A so he can create what he believes to be a just/fair world; Villain C wants object A so he can bring about the final stage in human evolution, etc, etc ,etc. These motives could give enough flavour to the villains that they won't seem so horribly similar.

    Otherwise, simply condense and maybe have a set of henchmen competing for the main villain's attention; leading to a constant back and forth, wherein each henchmen actively undermines the other.

    Just my 2 cents.
    -A
     
  12. charlesvee
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    charlesvee New Member

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    They, the hero and villian, have at least one similar love, hate, or goal. It is that aspect that creates the most intense conflict between them. Also, if they are not almost equal to each other, then there would only be one serious engagement. And the reader knows who wins. Of course, all of this is my personal preference. That and nothing more.
     
  13. charlesvee
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    charlesvee New Member

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    ignore
     
  14. Stupid-Face
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    Stupid-Face Member

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    Maybe you could try and make them into a group, your favourite being the leader and make it so that the protagonist doesn't know that they're all together. So maybe, when one is battling with the hero, another might try and sabotage his plan in order to look bad towards the leader, which will lead to a fight between the villians and the hero walking away or something? It might just give the story a bit of comedy during the plot.

    That's my suggestion though, ahah
     
  15. fwc577
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    fwc577 Member

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    I think with having multiple villians you still need to have a single plot. If you dilute your story with too many plots then they all become subplots and subvillians and what is the point of your story.

    I have two villians in my story but they are both connected to the same plot.

    The first villian is a Rogue Werewolf who has gone mad and infected my MC with Lycanthropy.

    The second villian is a Council Witch who is sent to the town to help rid it of Werewolves (though in the begining she doesn't know the MC is infected)

    The MC's job is to hunt down the Rogue before the next full moon or become a full blown Werewolf herself and she will lose all her witch powers.

    Now, with the above stated, you can see how the MC will clash with both villians and still retain a single plot for the MC.
     

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