1. Gammer
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    Gammer Active Member

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    Writing a Convincing Fall into Darkness/Madness

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gammer, Jul 24, 2009.

    So in my fantasy novel thing, I plan to have the main character's older brother Jelani fall in with bad guys, so that the next time the main character sees him, his brother is basically a sadistic psycho. Problem is I'm having a hard time figuring a proper way to portray it.

    Jelani left the village originally because he wants to make a name for himself. He was tired of being a peasant, having to toil away at the ground while the world passes him by, so he leaves to join the rebel army against the Empire. And it's around here where I'm not sure what could make him turn into the complete monster I have him being in further installments.

    I plan on have him discover his magical abilities like the MC does, and the villain finds him and says he can help him learn to control it. But that's about as far as I've gotten.

    Any ideas?
     
  2. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    Depending on how long its been since he left the village, I'm not sure you need any other explanation than the one you have.

    Depending on what sort or rebel army this is (considering what happens to Jelani I'm guessing that they are at least morally ambiguous) he could well have been forced to do terrible things in the name of the rebellion. Historically speaking, the French resistance showed no mercy to collaborators, the IRA were called freedom fighters by the Irish and terrorists by the British, and all sides in the Yugoslav war in the 90s committed atrocities and war crimes aplenty. People react to it in different ways, and in Jelani's case he has reacted by coming to revel in the bloodshed and the terror he causes.

    Does that help at all?
     
  3. ArckAngel
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    ArckAngel Member

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    Love, death, revenge.

    In that order.
     
  4. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    http://www.listology.com/list/character-archetypes

    Dark Mentor -- anti-heroic character, the inversion of heroic values

    In his adventures after leaving the village, Jelani comes across a strange and mysterious person who is likewise seeking adventurous souls.

    This figure is dark and creepy at first, and hints at many things. He makes nebulous allusions to far-off things. These grab Jelani's attention.

    Eventually, this dark figure reveals that he is wise and powerful and can help Jelani on his path.

    This dark person veils his true nature with euphemisms and implied threats - coercing Jelani to follow without question...
     
  5. Forkfoot
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    Forkfoot Contributing Member Contributor

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    You could always go the traditional route of his having fallen in love, then watching her die horribly and going mad in the aftermath, but that might be a little cliche-sounding if not done just right. Smithy's suggestion sounded good, unless the rebels are supposed to be Pure Good and Virtuous, in which case they'd probably never make your character perpetrate such atrocities. It could really yank your whole storyline around though, in a good way, if it turns out the folks at the head of the rebellion are just as bad as the Emperor. Or at least nearly as bad. Or bad in a totally different way. Something to think about.
     
  6. thabear637
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    thabear637 Member

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    One thing to keep in mind is that bad guys think they are the good side. Atleast the realistic and better villains.

    Also, each side are bound to have their share of bad apples. What if we took the fallen in love route and she dies and he goes mad? Why does he go mad? Perhaps he blames her death on the "good army", whether or not they caused her death would be up to you...it's all on how things are perceived.
     
  7. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Sometimes neither side is really all that good.

    War is about killing and winning - not being good or bad.
     
  8. AliasXNeo
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    AliasXNeo New Member

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    In one of my recent short stories I had a character in which I wanted to portray as being evil. The solution I had to portraying it was giving him a scene of his own in which he becomes infatuated with watching the slow torment of a fellow crew member being torn apart. A solution similar to this might be applicable for you.
     
  9. Marcelo
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    Marcelo Contributing Member

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    Maybe the King or Emperor's reign is a cruel one, and he joins the rebels in hopes of one day overthrowing this antagonist. He leaves his friends, family and lover in his hometown. The conflict spreads to this town, and here they battle many soldiers. His lover, wanting to aid the rebels, dresses up as one to help them in the battle. When an old soldier is harmed, his lover inclines to help the man. This guy, seeing a rebel aiding a soldier, believes he is a traitor. He attacks his lover without knowing it is her, and when he realizes he has just killed his lover, he becomes mad with grief.
    He flees the town, and meets someone who is in side with the King. His poisonous and seductive words convince the MC's brother that the army fights for peace, and that if the rebels hadn't stood against the King this would have never happened. He joins the army, where his mysterious powers manifest. He slowly goes up the ranks, becoming a fearsome general or soldier, one of the King's best soldiers.

    That's what came to my mind. :p
     
  10. daturaonfire
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    daturaonfire Senior Member

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    One way to ease into the fall is by planting the seeds before he ever leaves. You said your character wants to make a name for himself. Maybe before he leaves he is merely ambitious, a bit scornful of his hometown. But when he joins a group of rebels, he is naturally going to quit seeing things from the point of view of his former friends. He may rationalize the awful things he does--this is frightening easy to do, especially if a trusted authority is leading the way. Check out The Milgram experiment for a clear example.
     
  11. Rumpole40k
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    Rumpole40k Banned

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    First of all, don't get hung up on the genre itself. Regardless of whether this is taking place in modern day Manhattan, a far off planet in our far flung future, or in the time of wizards and warriors, what makes characters memorable and realistic is that we can find something of ourselves or the "real world" in them.

    A sadist doesn't manifest their true self overnight. They are usually quite good at concealing their urges. The first rule of a psychopath and a sadist is the same as a hungry wolf - don't spook the sheep. So I would have the degeneration happen slowly. Let it be little things at first. Something that another person might find strange but ignore. Kicking a dog that bit a bit too hard. Accidentally dropping a pile of logs on the animal. Etc. Very slowly turn these incidents into habits. Remember as the saidst gets away with more and more, they show more of themselves and try bigger things. Just like a wolf that after picking off on or two weaker sheep might get bold enough to go after a few of the prize sheep despite the shepard's presence.

    Good luck

    ~R
     
  12. architectus
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    architectus Banned

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    Look at how many seemingly normal people became Nazis.

    If the military leader is anything like Hitler or Mao, it would make sense how by joining the military he would become corrupted. Look at how many normal people join the US military and are convinced to kill for their country. How far are some of them willing to go just because they are told to by an authority?

    Check out "Milgram experiment."
     
  13. tcol4417
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    You shouldn't have to make any serious additions or alterations to the plot in order for this to happen.

    As Heath Ledger's Joker said: "Madness - as you know - is like gravity; all it takes is one little push".

    I'm in agreement with thebear: A convincing villain has his own convictions, so having a good character defect isn't too unbelievable.

    Your character's pursuit of fame is an excellent weakness for a villain to exploit - think of how many ancient myths see ambitious heroes becoming the bad guy for taking their actions too far.
     
  14. Thom
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    Thom Member

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    You say he wishes to make a name for himself. What if he never succeeds as he had hoped? What if he fails in his endeavors and high aspirations. A catastrophe could come from a wrong decision made brashly, or he could find those he wishes to emulate or see him as a hero actually scorn him for his temerity to reach for such things so much higher and greater than himself.

    His route to madness could be hidden within a drive to prove to these others that they are wrong - while in the process proving just how right they were.
     
  15. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    Forgive me for being blunt, but how is this "evil" charater different from any other soldier in the world? Especially in your own country's armed forces? Do you really think that a person who leaves his family behind to eat sleep and drink about killing his enemy is a bad person? Frankly, it has always been my beleif that it is the civilian, and especially the coward cilvilain, is the usually the one who beleives that such a person is bad. As much as many people would hate to admit, the very fact that you have food to eat, and a computer to write on is (arguably) only becuase such "evil" people throughout history have used such "evil" personality traits to fight for you.

    I suppose that you think the America won it's freedom from making a good speech in a discussion panel, or that the people who bled and died for it's freedom were ordinary folk who find it repulsive to killing many people every day, and every night sleep extremley well. According to what seems to be your definition of evil, the majority of any defense force should be sent to a mental aslyum. I'm sure that I'm not the only person that finds that POV highly disturbing.
     
  16. Smithy
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    Smithy Senior Member

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    While there is certainly a valid point to your post, JavaMan (and one that I myself use in my WIP), I think that you were generalising a bit too much. Yes soldiers routinely do things that many in peaceful society would find disgusting, and yes we need people who are willing to go out and do those things and those men deserve our unreserved respect and admiration. But there have to be limits to what sort of behaviour you can get away with before your claim to be fighting for "the good, the clean, the decent things of life", to quote Bill Slim, becomes a mockery.

    That said, there is always balance and nuance to these things. Sergeant McLaughlin, a British soldier in 3 Para during the Falklands War, played a vital role in the capture of Goose Green when he got up under heavy fire, yelled "Follow me lads, I'm ****ing bulletproof!" and led a charge up the hill to storm the Argentine positions. However, on his death he was found to have been keeping the ears of dead Argentine soldiers as trophies, hence the reason he never got a posthumous VC. It is perfectly acceptable to condemn the savagery of the trophy taking while still admitting the man's courage under fire.
     
  17. JavaMan
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    JavaMan Senior Member

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    Thank you for posting.
    I suppose that we are in agreement, acutally - on a certain point anyhow.... I also suppose that, by definition, the topic starter did intent for the person to be the villian. But being that there was scant evidence for the actual "villainy" I assumed that the topic starter was erronous in thinking that many good soldiers, revolutionaries etc can be judged, pychologically or otherwise, by the same criteria that a civilian might be.
     
  18. Wandering Soul
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    Wandering Soul New Member

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    The road to hell is paved with good intentions...

    From my experience "the mad" have identified a problem with something based on a flawed perception and think that only they can find the truth or solve the problem.

    When a person thinks they're right and God (or other greater force than them, truth, justice etc) is on their side, they can do horrible horrible things.

    The key is to let the audience in on the crazy persons thought process.

    "I didn't used to believe in God, until I went to war. I saw terrible things there, women and children slaughtered, brother killing brother. girls no older than 13 selling their bodies just to be able to buy a loaf of bread for her family.

    I did as I was told. There were no questions asked. It was the army for Christs sake. How could I have known? We were told that village was one of the biggest Opium factories in the country, everyone there was responsible for destroying countless lives because of their drugs. We were doing the right thing!

    And that's when I knew, not thought but truly knew that there was a God.

    We went in gun's blazing. killing everything in sight. There was no time to think. It was over quickly. After the chaos. When the dust settled. We saw up close the lives we had taken.

    Most of them we're women and children. They ran the every day functions of the factory, like doing the chores of a household. The men just sat at the top while they got the innocents to do the dirty work.

    There was this one girl, she couldn't have been older than 17, she was lying on the floor in a pool of her own blood gasping for air, short, sharp breathes. Our eyes met. She looked deep into my eyes and saw my soul. She wasn't angry, just confused. With that she died.

    I knew then and there that God exists, he definitely exists because he has to. Man can do terrible terrible things to his fellow man, there must be something truly greater than ourselves, something we must live up to for if we are alone...then the world is a vile place and there is no redemption from our nature. No salvation from our lives.

    Our army ended up taking all the money and drugs "as evidence" but it was never seen again and there was no record of our mission.

    So you see, I was a puppet following orders, but these orders were from man who is fallible. IT WAS WRONG! but now I answer to no man. I answer to a higher power. I AM RIGHT. I answer to truth.

    The truth is that man is more evil than good, and those who are aware of this must take it upon themselves to rid the world of this evil. Like a priest performing an exorcism. I like the priest am a man of god, I too rid the world of the unholy only my Cross is my gun and my bible is my experience of seeing evil.

    I kill all those who are unholy as a service to God! I am a Profit and when I die I will see that 17 year old girl in heaven and she will forgive me for I am a good man."

    A crazy/evil/terrifying person does terrible things with the conviction that he is good and right, what disturbs us the most is that he believes in the same things we do. To be good, kind, caring, etc it's his view that his terrible actions fit into those beliefs that are crazy.

    Be well,
    WS
     
  19. Silver Random
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    Silver Random Senior Member

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    I'd say it's important not to make it seem like he "turns into" a sadistic psycho just because he falls in with the bad guys, but rather to make sure that it seems like he could have been a sadistic psycho all along, but the bad guys just allowed him to bring it out. But at the same time, if it's meant to be at all surprising that he turns out to be a villain, you don't want to make it too obvious that he could be.

    For example, he wants to make a name for himself. That's good, as you could easily look back and see it as a warning sign of a villain, but it doesnt necessarily mean that by itself. You could also make him slightly violent and sadistic by nature. That might seem to scream "VILLAIN!" straight away, but if you don't show it, then it might seem unrealistic when he comes back as a villain. If you can somehow mask or ground those villainous traits behind more noble ones, it might not seem so bad. For example, maybe he is fiercely loyal to his friends or family, and his violent side only shows when he is defending them.

    Then to turn him into the villain, simply take away the aspect that grounds him and stops him from becoming one. In my little example above, perhaps the friends that he is so loyal to betray him, shattering his loyalty to friends. And without that, the rest of his character could come together to be something quite villainous.

    The falling in love, losing loved one, and going on a rampage of revenge is pretty similar to that. I'm just a bit sick of it though. My example isn't that much more original but I just wanted to give an example other than that.
     
  20. UnknownBearing
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    UnknownBearing Contributing Member

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    Have him realize it's happening, and either try to fight it in vain, or justify it until it no longer bothers him. when he looks back past the point of no return he hadnt realized he crossed, and realize the person before that point is no longer him. internal conflict is the best way to make "the fall" convincing.

    also, try to make the reader empathize with him. if you see the reasoning, (or even if there's no reasoning involved, just make it clear what went through his head) it's much easier to understand how and why it happened.
     

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