1. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    When coming up with the villain's plan, how do I find a flaw in the plan for his downfall?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Ryan Elder, Dec 9, 2015.

    I have a story premise which I have written a few outlines for now, not sure where to go. I keep failing to come up with a villain plan that allows him to screw up without coming off as stupid. Readers are telling me that all of a sudden he goes from smart to stupid, at the plot's requirement for him to get caught. I have come up with different plans for him but no matter which one, he always has to become stupid to get caught later, and it comes off as forced or inconsistent.

    Basically when a writer is to come up with the villain's evil plan, you want the plan to be as logical as possible so the reader is not questioning plot holes or implausible behavior. However, every logical, plausible plan I come up with, has a villain plan with no flaws in it.

    Any why wouldn't? Why would a logical plan have a flaw in it? But when coming up with a plan, how do I come up with one with a natural flaw, that will get the villain caught?

    What is the trick to coming up with a plan that is logical, yet leaves mistakes to be made, without coming off as stupid.

    Do you have any thoughts on how to approach this? Thank you very much for the input.
     
  2. DefinitelyMaybe
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    DefinitelyMaybe Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm not experienced at this. But, off the top of my head: how about coming up with a flawless plan and then spending some time coming up with a clever way in which he could be caught even though you at first thought the plan flawless.

    IMHO to make something surprising, the villain's mistake can't be too large. Hence, it might be an exercise to write something 'infallable', then look for a subtle flaw.
     
  3. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    To find the flaw in the villain's plan, look at the hero. It's not that the antagonist suddenly becomes stupid, it's more that the hero goes through a change during the story that allows him to find a chink in the antagonist's armour.

    Dwight V. Swain talks about this very thing in Techniques of the Selling Writer.
     
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  4. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    Even the biggest plan can be brought down by an overlooked detail, a flaw the villain(s) ignored because they thought it of little consequence or arrogance that the puny hero could not possibly thwart them. Look at the Death Star for instance. That was the Empire's big plan: use it to incite fear and submission. How was it brought down? Rebels stole the plans and found a small hole that went down into the reactor that would destroy the whole thing.

    A giant death machine taken down because of arrogance (how could puny Rebels steal our plans?!) and an overlooked detail (a thermal exhaust over the reactor? Bad design there...)

    If the flaw is glaringly obvious, something even the villain ought to see and fix, yet they don't, then that would make them stupid. If the flaw is subtle enough, so subtle that both sides would miss it if they weren't looking for it, then it should be OK.
     
  5. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    Also, the more complex a plan is, the easier it is for some little thing to go wrong and break the overall plan.
     
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  6. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Do you think the plan should be complex though, or is simple better? This can get in the way of logic too, as you may ask, why the would the villain come up with such a complex plan when he could have just come up with a more simple one?
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2015
  7. Link the Writer
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    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

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    It depends on what the villain plans to do. The Empire's plan was to just get the Death Star to Yavin and laser it, pretty simple plan. A cocky young noble attempting to seize land and power so that he/she might become the ruler of the realm? Going to be very complicated.
     
  8. ToDandy
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    ToDandy Contributing Member

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    I don't think flaws need to be created.

    Think of Die Hard. Had John Mclaine not been there, the villains plans would have gone off flawlessly. The hero did not exploit flaws, he created them. This made his successes feel more earned and less mechanical.
     
  9. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. Well in my situation the villain's plan would him being able to slip in and outside the law without being caught. He would have to be able to predict, what the police and courts would do, and come up with a plan around that. However, what if he was unable to predict correctly? What if the police or court did something different or he did not expect?

    But this is a problem for me as well, cause if I make people behave against logic, then it's illogical character behavior. If the police go against what they would naturally do in a situation, there is no natural reason for it, and it keeps coming off as forced. But perhaps the best approach would be for the villain to have a flawless plan, and the for his enemies to create flaws somehow, without somehow becoming too illogical for the reader in the process.
     
  10. Jack Asher
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    Jack Asher Wildly experimental Contributor

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    My god I'm sick of writing your screenplay for you. Where's @EdFromNY with his Brooklyn Bridge parable?
     
  11. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    And here I thought I'd worn out my welcome with it!

    Okay. If you sail up the East River from New York Bay, you will pass under two bridges in succession. The first, the Brooklyn Bridge, was designed by John Augustus Roebling and is generally regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasing bridges in the world. The second, the Manhattan Bridge, was designed by committee and is remembered, if at all, for the fact that subway trains run over it.

    Writing, as with designing bridges, should never be done by committee.
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Then create them.
    Maybe not in the plan but in the people.
    Every friggin romance ever written has two characters that could live happily ever after paragraphs after meeting if they didn't gum up the works with problems, denial, and their own personal baggage.
    Ever watch Brando's weird movie - Night of the Following Day? - a simple kidnapping is gummed up by Brando's drug trippy girlfriend, sadistic co-kidnapper, and a flirty policeman. No plan is infallible with people involved.
     
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  13. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    That's true. So how do I get a person, or people, like the police, to make an illogical move, but that the reader buys it as natural, and not forced?
     
  14. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Why can't the villain be at fault? The trouble is if you delegate it out it will look convenient. If the villain had been watching a cop's routine for months and the cop's child is ill and he diverts from his routine then yeah, the reader might not buy it. But if the villain has a family and his child gets ill upsetting his plans then it doesn't become so convenient as compelling.
     
  15. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    You may be overthinking this, Ryan. :)
     
  16. Sarah's scribbles
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    Sarah's scribbles Member

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    I would say one of possibly three things.
    A- something the villain does not know about. a good example of this.... yeah drawing a blank. but let's say the villain wants ancient power artifact magic but he doesn't know that, artifact B cancels artifact A, artifact A is cursed etc, Artifact A is a trap by evil.
    B- an impossible yet somehow plausible solution. See most every episode of star treck. they always needed to write themselves out of a bind in these things, so what they would do was have smart guy A come up with an ingenious plan. Smart guy B who is not as smart as smart guy A will thus re explain it. we overload him with the posatronic energy of the field dirsupters until he reaches critical mass and implodes upon his own energy. "Like a balloon when you put too much air in it."
    C- the villains common flaw. humanity, love, friendship, common bullshit. you have stories littered with this shit. The villain has the hero cornered, trapped, outwitted, overpowered. but damn that love and friendship. the hero pulls a magic spell for the win out their ass.
     
  17. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks for the input. I actually wanted a villain who had a chance to kill the hero at one point but does not, but others told me he wouldn't do that if he was so smart.

    And yes the villain can be at fault.
     
  18. DeadMoon
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    DeadMoon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Even the most well layout plans still can fail due to unseen forces.
     
  19. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Fun fact, no plan is flawless. Humans are not capable of accounting for every possible variable that may mess something up. There is a certain amount of luck that will be involved in the success of every plan, and certain amount of bad luck that may doom the whole thing. In the real world the most successful people are not successful because their plans are perfect, they are successful because they are adaptable and fluid.
     
  20. wellthatsnice
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    wellthatsnice Active Member

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    Your villain's success relies on him needing to perfectly predict human action, that right there will give you enough chances for slip ups. Even the best people at predicting human action are never 100% accurate, and human intent and action depends on so many factors that its insane. A police officer going through a divorce at the end of a long shift will be more distracted and easier to slip past than one who is well rested and just starting his shift. In court cases you are more likely to get a sympathetic judge if your hearing is scheduled in the morning, when the judge is just getting started vs at the end of the day when he is tired.

    Stupid things like this screw people over on a regular basis. They would have similar negative effects on your villain.
     
  21. Ryan Elder
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    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

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    Okay thanks. I understand that but how do you apply that without a character having to do something that feels forced? For example, one idea I have is for the prosecutor to charge the villain anyway, even though the villain was not counting on there being enough evidence. But I asked some reader's opinions and they asked, why would a prosecutor go ahead if there wasn't enough evidence? Isn't that illogical? How do you have a character be unpredictable, but at the same time, be logical?
     
  22. Lew
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    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like the overlooked detail.

    My villain and his swordsmen raid the yurt where my party of eight are sleeping and roust them out, march them off at swordpoint to be cut down at a prepared disposal ditch. Checked everyone for weapons... except the girl, who had a dagger in a neck lanyard, and knew how to use it. Eight to one odds? No, she was last in line, started crying and moaning about dying, most uncharacteristic for her so everyone knew something was up. Only one on one between her and the guy behind her in the dark, spin around fast away from the sword in her back, dagger to the kidney, take his sword, take down the man in front covering her husband as he turns around to see what just happened, take his sword, give to her husband and back to back with him to cover his blind side. Now its two pros against six thugs with the advantage of surprise and confusion in the dark of night.

    Ends badly for the villain.
     

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