1. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Writing a 'bad guy' as the main character

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by prettyprettyprettygood, Jan 3, 2012.

    I'm having a bit of brain freeze here... I have an idea for a story, where the main character is the 'baddie' of the tale. Can anyone recommend any stories written in 3rd person either from the perspective of the criminal/baddie, or just where they are the central character? I'm sure there are plenty of obvious ones, but I'm drawing a blank at the moment!
     
  2. hoggyboy
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    hoggyboy Senior Member

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    1. skilled assassin, kills people for a mafia gang
    2. sadistic rapist, who goes around raping/murdering women while he carries on with his life
    3. pimp, imports women tricks them and forces them to work as sex slaves
    4. terrorist, killing peeps pretty much
    5. an american dude.....
    (that one was a joke haha)
    6. a manipulative lawyer who frees criminals and rarely loses
    7. any sort of dictator aiming to tighten his control of the region while killing those who stand against him
    8. school yard bully whose also a drugdealer
    9. gangleader who is ruthless n cares for no one
    10. ...some other douchebag

    hope you get a good story somehow
     
  3. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Ah thanks but sorry, I meant recommendations for existing stories/novels, so I can read how the writers have dealt with having a criminal baddie as the main focus- not a typically sympathetic character like a detective or such. My idea revolves around a reluctant murderer, and I just can't think of anything (in literature, anyway, I can think of tv programmes and films) where the murderer/whatever is the subject, rather than the person trying to stop them. Hope that makes sense now!
     
  4. hoggyboy
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    hoggyboy Senior Member

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    oh thats okay ;)

    off the top of my head i can think about the secret river by kate grenville. a story about a convict sent to australia who eventually through prejudice and lack of understanding murders some aborigines.
     
  5. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    You can try the John Rain series by Barry Eisler - John Rain is a reluctant assassin.

    Or you can become a b├Ęta reader for me, my books revolve around Katla Sieltjes, a not so reluctant freelance assassin from Amsterdam.
     
  6. iabanon
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    iabanon Member

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    That'll be Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. Now the Dexter tv series. This is very difficult to pull off as you really need to know what you're doing.
     
  7. Kallithrix
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    Kallithrix Banned

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    How about American Psycho?
     
  8. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Ooh, thanks everyone for some great ideas, I'm adding them to my reading list, this should be really useful!
     
  9. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    ^

    When I heard the question that was the first thing I thought.

    I don't know if there are that many books out there that are truly about a "bad guy". Sure, there are a lot where the MC has a "bad" character... or maybe he does something that is "bad" (basically any heist movie/book ever written), but from the perspective of the character they are almost seen as good.
     
  10. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Yeah I see what you mean. Basically my idea is about a regular kind of person who makes a small error of judgement, and in trying to cover up that mistake she gradually gets herself into deeper and deeper trouble. So she isn't typically evil or psychotic, and she knows her actions are wrong but she gets carried along in the situation. I think my problem stems from my preference for detective type novels, where the bad guy is generally described kind of from a distance, as the reader you're in the head of the detective not the criminal, where I'd like this to be the other way around. Hmm, not sure I'm making much sense now! I'll just have to do a bit of reading, and give the story a bash :)
     
  11. lostinwebspace
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    lostinwebspace Active Member

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    Does this mean your antagonist is the central character? That would make him the protagonist, and if he's the one trying to destroy the earth/kill the girl/unleash hell, it's a hard thing to pull off, maybe even impossible: the reader needs to sympathize or at least like the main character. Otherwise, the story would be unreadable, at least for most. And who would like the guy trying to kill everyone?

    If you're trying to make your character an antihero, that's a different thing altogether. Try the Repairman Jack series. The character isn't a complete antihero, but he has a really nasty side when he gets down to work. Or even the Punisher, if you want to go with comic books. Whatever you do, the character needs to have a redeemable trait that overcomes all his evil tendencies, or at least overshadows them.
     
  12. Immy
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    Stone Cold - a novel by Robert Swindells.

    I read this book in my school years and I was glued to it and horrified by it at the same time :)

    The book is in first person and switches between Link, a homeless teenage boy and Shelter, an ex-army officer who lures homeless people into his home before killing them and hiding them under his floorboards.

    Shelter is the novels main Antagonist yet the book is partly from his perspective, which I think definitely gets the reader into his head and vicious way of thinking. I think this can be a great idea, as it makes the reader understand just how bad a character is but also gives them depth. When we are told a character is evil, we accept that as part of the story but when we are given the reasons and better understanding of the clockwork inside, we can begin to despise and hate a character with more depth.
     
  13. agentkirb
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    I'm not exactly sure what you are looking for in these books either. They will be written pretty much the same way as a regular story. In fact, there are only a few ways I can think of that you would pull it off if you are talking about doing a mystery/suspense:

    1) You write in third person from the perspective of the bad guy but maybe you don't completely identify "who" the bad guy is (or maybe the bad guy turns out to really be someone else). The Da Vinci was written like this. Honestly a lot of stories have elements of this in them to varying degrees. You don't write the whole story from the perspective of the bad guy because it wouldn't really make for a good suspense story because the bad guy is still your antagonist. You need some scenes involving the protagonist.
    2) You write in third person (or 1st person) from the perspective of the bad guy. But he's really the good guy. Again, the Dexter series does this (the TV show is pretty good as well IMO). If you have never heard of the book or the TV show, the gist of the series is that this guy is a serial killer that kills "bad" people... and he works for the Miami police so it kind of reads like a mystery/crime drama in many ways as well. Anyways, if you do it this way... this "bad guy" is your protagonist and therefore your plot/conflict must reflect that. Dexter is trying to solve the crime sure, but he also doesn't want the Miami PD to catch him because he wants to kill the guy and not get caught. So while he's bad in the eyes of society, he's kind of a good guy in a way because the audience is on "his side".

    And again, when it comes to the 2nd "option"... think of every heist or mob movie you've seen. Those are usually done from the perspective of a bad guy but the plot/conflict is such that they are good.
     
  14. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    My novel differs in the aspect that my freelance assassin main character kills for profit, a bit like Keller [by Lawrence Bloch] and John Rain, but unlike Keller and Rain, Katla isn't trying to stop or looking for other work. Katla enjoys the challenge of her work. She also doesn't discriminate in who she kills, as long as someone pays the bill. Still, despite her odd work and particular ethics, most readers like her...
     
  15. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Thanks again for all the comments so far, I'm keen on the idea I have so it's useful to really think it through. Having said that, I'm not explaining myself very well, am I :p I was hoping to be able to read a book/books broadly similar to what I'm thinking of writing, to see if it can be done, and if so, how people have done it. I'd say I'm thinking more thriller/tense general fiction than mystery, I'll try to give an example of the sort of story I mean (not looking for critique on this plot by the way, it's just an attempt at illustration!):

    Say you wanted to write about a senior politician who is happily married, is a great dad, has lots of friends, and so on. He's a successful normal person. Someone finds out that he has a child he's never acknowledged and threatens to expose the scandal- this would ruin his marriage and career. In a fit of panic/temper he kills the person making the threat. The police obviously end up investigating the death, and he has to resort to lies, and probably other means, to try to get away with the crime. So, he's not an inherently evil man or a seasoned criminal- he knows that what he has done is wrong but he desperately wants to avoid going to jail for it.

    I can see something like this working fine on tv or film, as you can easily jump around between the MC and the police, and other characters (kind of like Boardwalk Empire, or the one-off dramas you get every now and again), but I'm unsure whether it will work as a written story without having to do it from the perspective of an investigator closing in on the killer. What I'm interested in is the conflict inside the character who is feeling both guilty and desperate to avoid facing justice, and as an upshot what he is willing to do to protect himself and their his family's lifestyle, which is why I want them to be the MC. It occurred to me that I've never read anything like that before, that I can think of anyway, which is why I was looking for recommendations - if there aren't any examples just like what I'm after because the story would inevitably be rubbish (and I'm just too caught up in the idea to realise it), or if it's been done a million times and I'm just not thinking straight, then I'd count that as useful information too! Thanks again, hope this at least makes my aims clear :)

    Edited to add: I like the sound of your character, AmsterdamAssassin, sounds like your books would be fun to write and read!
     
  16. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Yeah... so again it's kind of like I was talking about. The only way to do it is to either make the police the protagonists, and they are trying to catch the criminal... but you are there in the perspective of the "killer" every now and then. Or the other option is basically like Dexter. That story is in first person from the perspective of Dexter, the serial killer. And the plot/conflict comes from him trying to catch a bad guy but because he wants to kill them himself without getting caught.
     
  17. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    So, since I don't fancy the Dexter method (I'm sick of writing in 1st person, and I think that in my story it would just cause one big pity-party, no fun) - I just have to have the police as the protagonists. Blech. Can't say it's what I wanted to hear, but since I couldn't quite figure out how to make it work my way it does make sense. Thanks for being patient with me, Agent!
     
  18. Party Poison
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    Party Poison Member

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    You ever heard of Death Note? Well now you know. Look it up if you want. lol
     
  19. agentkirb
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    Not a book I don't think.

    But oh my god was that series awesome. For those that have never seen it (I won't spoil anything important, don't worry), the basic premise is that this guy finds a notebook where basically he can write someone's name in it and how they die and that person dies in that fashion. It's actually much more complex than that but it's the basic idea. And so he's this smart kid that has kind of an ego where he thinks he's a genius, and when he realizes what this book can do he uses it to start killing people that deserve to die. Blah blah blah and the police catch on, namely this one guy that works with the police that is also supposed to be a genius. The whole series turns into this chess match between this guy with the "Deathnote" and this genius detective and most of the story is told from the perspective of the bad guy... and you know who the bad guy is the whole series. It sounds like kinds like a weird plot for a story... it's a Manga. But it's just brilliantly done and it's a perfect example of a bad guy being the protagonist in a sense but he's a legit bad guy. Look it up if you haven't seen it, I think that would give you a few ideas even if you don't watch the whole series (which is only like 30+ episodes long I believe).
     
  20. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    You don't have to write in first person. The reason they do it in Dexter because it's the idea of "getting into the head of a serial killer".
     
  21. prettyprettyprettygood
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    prettyprettyprettygood Active Member

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    Ah ok I'll try Dexter then, and Death Note sounds good too, cheers!
     
  22. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    Deathnote is awesome. Those guys in Japan know what they are doing. The Dexter books I'm not too big of a fan of but I like the show.
     
  23. AmsterdamAssassin
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    AmsterdamAssassin Contributing Member

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    I don't think so - it could very well work with an 'upstanding citizen' killing someone 'by mistake' and covering his tracks in order to keep his ass out of jail, because it would shame his family. He could also try to make amends for killing someone by compensating in good deeds, or [financially] supporting the family of the person he killed [anonymously]. Something like that?
     
  24. Birmingham
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    You have "Lord of War" with Nicolas Cage. Also, Stephen J. Cannell wrote a novel called "At First Sight" about a nice, successful guy, who is somewhat down on his luck in many areas of life. One day the guy sees a beautiful woman, and decides that he must have her, and decides that she wants him. So he does everything he can to get her, every single move he believes will get himself closer to her, putting all moral considerations aside. And in some instances he believes that murder will be useful to get the final objective. I never read the novel, but I got two links for you. But before I post them... did anyone mention The Shield? I bet they did. Incidently, the protagonist of The Shield also starred in a Stephen J. Cannell show. But that's another story for another time.
    Here are the Cannell links:

    http://www.fictiondb.com/author/stephen-j-cannell~at-first-sight~236306~b.htm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pKnJFpRNhlM
     

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