1. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Using Bad Guy as MC in a mainstream novel. Will it work?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Tea@3, Dec 30, 2015.

    I looked for a thread on this and couldn't find one.

    In the novel I'm doing that started as a screenplay of mine, the MC is revealed as the culprit midway through. This works fine in the screenplay, but I'm thinking it may annoy the reader if done this way in a novel and leave them no one to root for. As the novel's structure is taking shape now I'm starting to think having this bad guy as the MC maybe isn't such a good idea.

    (Yes this is a dark crime thriller type of story but, even so, I never meant it as a Brett Easton Ellis type story if you know what I mean. I guess it's morphing on me as we speak; they said that can be expected to happen writing a novel)

    What is a nice twisty plot device in the movie version, may alienate the reader in a novel.

    I'm considering revamping from scratch and bumping another character into the MC role.

    Anyone have any thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2015
  2. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Only real thought is that a book did this to my awareness. I haven't read it. But it was titled "I am legend" From what I gather the movie of the same name took out the reveal afraid it would turn people off when it was well the point of the story and the book.

    I also have written stories from the villain. The main kicker, is people need a reason to keep reading. Villain or hero doesn't much matter. A easy way out is to make the villain likable. As they can still enjoy and wonder what is going to happen based on liking him.
     
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  3. Wolfmaster1234
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    Wolfmaster1234 Member

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    I think it could be done if it is done well. You need to make sure the reader can in some way emphasise with the MC. Similar ideas have worked before for example in darkly dreaming dexter (and the tv series dexter) the main character is a serial killer so to a degree is a bad guy though he only kills other murders.
     
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  4. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    You'd have to be careful not to reveal the culpability through inner monologue, but not mislead the reader. E.g. unless you do something rather specific, you can't have the MC wonder who committed the crime and then later on it's revealed that they did it. To get away with it, you may need to have quite a distant narrative, not getting into the MC's head.

    Or, you could go the Manchurian Candidate route. You could have the MC commit the crime under some sort of hypnotic suggestion, but not be aware of it. That makes them not a 'bad guy' though.
     
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  5. Aster
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    Aster Member

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    Even if the reader doesn't root for your MC there will be, presumably, a host of supporting characters that the reader will still be invested in. Never under estimate the value inherent in your supporting cast.
     
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  6. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Can you approach the character as an antihero?

    Movie references: Taxi Driver, Dog Day Afternoon
     
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  7. Bandag
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    This. The way that you keep the reader hooked is by exploring the new relationship that the MC-turned-bad-guy now has with the supporting characters. The reader knows the big secret. The characters don't. You can milk that very effectively to build suspense. You could write a scene where the MC is alone with a vulnerable character. The reader is going to assume the worst possible outcome, and you can play off of that assumption.
     
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  8. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Everyone, thanks so much for all the input. This is what a writers' forum should be, and I'm glad to be a part of it.
     
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  9. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    A reader may feel like they've been deceived if the primary POV character turns out to be hiding something from the reader for much of the book. I'd recommend dropping in hints if you do choose to go down that road. In terms of whether readers would accept a hero like this: I think so, especially if the main character has moral struggles, or ends up redeeming himself/herself in the end.
     
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  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Does the fact that the MC is the villain have to be concealed at all? Lawrence Block has a series of novels about a hit man, it's clear from the beginning who he is, and it works fine.
     
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  11. Matt E
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    Matt E Stormblessed Supporter

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    This is very common in fiction. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antihero . There's definitely nothing wrong with having an antihero, even one who's a criminal. There are whole genres revolving around that, and books with such heros in conventional genres too.
     
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  12. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    If hes badass or cool enough ppl will root for the villain.

    Littlefinger from got is just awful, but i cant look away from all the trainwrecks he causes.
     
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  13. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Well, the way it was originally conceived in the screenplay his role as the killer is revealed halfway through for shock value. And that works in a screenplay because there's no POV-narrator issue to work out; or at least not one in the type you use in novels.

    So yeah that would blow the 'twist,' to just bust him out as an anti hero from the beginning. Unless...

    I change the MC to a sidekick or something. (He has a whole gang).

    Another thing is I had planned to use regular third POV without his inner monologue and have that issued instead only in dialogue scenes. That may work technically, and hopefully not piss off the reader.

    Thanks for your interest and comment. :)
     
  14. Bandag
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    A solid option here is to take the Sherlock Holmes approach to narration. Sherlock stories are generally from the POV of Watson, because Sherlock solves mysteries so fast that being in his head would ruin the story for the reader. Sherlock is still clearly the main character, but the reader is watching him work from the outside. It sounds like you have much the same problem. Being in your MCs head would give too much away.
     
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  15. Neut
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    Neut New Member

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    I think it would work fine if you make your MC an anti-villain or sympathetic villain. Readers would root for him and can still relate with him. Have you considered this?

    To make this work better, you could give him a tragic backstory and portray him as much as a victim as his antagonists or even more.
     
    Last edited: Jan 5, 2016
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  16. Aster
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    It would be awesome if you could pull off having the POV from your MC and still shock the reader when you reveal that he was the killer all along. They will go back and reread everything with a whole new perspective and realize that yes, it was there the whole time, all the things he did, all the things he said, the misdirections, the little clues.

    A fun challenge.
     
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  17. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Thanks!
     
  18. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Awesome. Thanks! Yes I do have him some solid motivations for the things he does, mainly preemptively protective of his children. (a kind of rationalisation)

    Thanks for your input. <theresnocheersicononwritingforums.orgbutiftheredidexistonethatiswhatyouwouldseehere>
     
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  19. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Yes! Exactly. Thanks so much.
    :supercool:
     
  20. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Thanks. It's not so much the antihero choice that's the issue, as much as it is that my mid-way plot reveal creates a conflict for the reader; as in why didn't they hear about that from the beginning.

    Yes, this is the issue. Yes. As for redeeming, it's odd and I'm having second thoughts... but here it is: He wins, yet he's still the bad guy. Not sure this will work, having the bad guy win the prize at the end. :/
     
    Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
  21. IlaridaArch
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    IlaridaArch Active Member

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    I just had a chat yesterday about this and actually many people find it surprisingly entertaining. And if you look at your TV Channels, there are lot of different series with a villain-based structure. People tend to be flawed and evil sometimes, so why MC couldn't be one? Make him evil. Make him do bad things. But give him a trait that readers will see in a positive way. Maybe some grand purpose behind his evil actions?

    I think one of the most used ones is,

    a male who kills someone for his love. He is evil, criminal and deserves to face justice. But to a certain limit, reader still can understand why he does it.
     
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  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I think it'll be hard to do well but if done right, that could be really really interesting. I wouldn't mind it myself! If you foreshadow it properly, it could work, and there's nothing stopping you from bringing an existing character to the fore as the antagonist when the reveal happens, which means the MC remains as MC but readers could root for the antag.
     
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  23. Jack Lannister
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    Jack Lannister New Member

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    Search Death Note... does the MC believe he is doing right?
     
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  24. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Thank you so much. Great great point... thanks!!
     
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  25. Tea@3
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    Tea@3 Contributing Member

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    Hi Jack. I don't know what you mean by death note. My character? No he is fully aware he is evil. The issue is the reader isn't aware (until about mid-way) so I feel it's unfair to the reader to have his inner monologue NOT reveal this evil from page one, since that will create a 'bait and switch' impact on the reader. ( which I sorely want to avoid)

    So I can 1)-- avoid his inner monologue in the first half by giving neutral description and having his viewpoint deliberately done in dialogue only, or 2)-- change the MC to a different person altogether. I'm still weighing this out.

    Thanks for your input, and to everyone else here, thanks also. I intentionally let this 'gel' for two weeks while I mulled it over. I think I'm ready to resume this story now. :)
     

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