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  1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    No one's a hero. No one's a villain.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by deadrats, Sep 25, 2018.

    A lot of people on this forum use terms like hero and villain when talking about their characters. But don't these lines get blurred quite often in successful fiction? Villains aren't always so bad and heroes aren't always so good. The more developed a character, the harder it probably is to fit them into such categories. Of course there are exceptions, but is everyone around here trying to be the exception? Even antagonist and protagonist can be blurred and fall to the wayside. Stories are usually about a lot more than good guys and bad guys, I think. So, why does everyone here seem to have clear cut good guys and bad guys? Even in genre, I don't think such terms are always so clear cut based on my reading. So, in my writing I don't feel a need to have a hero that saves the day or a villain that ruins it. Life is more complicated than that. Shouldn't our characters be as well?
     
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  2. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    They aren't always, but in certain genres they often are. I'm comfortable using those labels for most of my stories, which are primarily action and adventure tales.

    I can't say that I agree with that. I consider many of my friends and family heroes, and as you can imagine, they are all fully developed.

    I think so too. But just because a book might have good characters struggling against evil characters doesn't mean it can't have other messages beyond that. It can speak of love, loss, betrayal, tribalism, belief, and other important topics.

    Edit: To clean up piss poor sentences.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2018
  3. DeeDee

    DeeDee Contributor Contributor

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    Stories can be about love. Jack loves Jill. But that's not a story. A story is a situation where something is stopping Jack and Jill from being together. Jack has an eye on Jill but Jill doesn't like the say Jack talks. So, Jack has to find a way to get Jill to like him. He has to overcome an obstacle. So, you got to have a villain of a sort, otherwise there's no story. The villain is not necessarily a person. Nobody wants to hear about Jack and Jill being happy every day :twisted:
     
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  4. Ruyi

    Ruyi New Member

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    Exactly. If we call the villain "antagonistic force" it may become clearer that it doesn't necessarily need to be an evil person but just some sort of obstacle like you said. This could be a person, even something a person did (like their daughter's unexpected suicide that slowly destroys their relationship), a disease, a natural desaster etc.

    In my experience, hero quite often is just a synonym for protagonist or main character (maybe because of the classic hero's journey?) and villain would simply be the direct, albeit often misleading antonym for it.
     
  5. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe not 100% good or evil, but that is what the words mean. Villains are bad. Heroes are good. The terms may not apply to characters from every work, but that doesn't mean there aren't characters they apply to.

    I can't agree with the idea that degree of character development necessarily makes a character less likely to fit into either hero or villain. Look at superhero fiction. The oldest of those characters have going on eighty years of development, but many can still fit snugly into hero or villain boxes. Even in series noted for murky morality and deeply developed characters (like A Song of Ice and Fire or The Witcher) you can still find definite heroes and villains. They just might not hold center stage.

    Sure, stories are about more than the clash of heroes and villains. But that clash is often the vehicle used to show aforementioned deeper meaning.
     
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  6. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I like heroes and villains.

    In my work in progress, the first chapter opens with a murder that a POV character is trying to stop. I wrote two pages of her exhausting herself sprinting after the guy until she shows up late and collapses from exhaustion. It was important to me to be crystal clear that she shares no guilt over what happens, and everything she gets into is because she's a good person.

    Personally, I get tired of morally compromised characters. That's why so many of my favorite movies are man vs. nature, with the protagonist trying to help / save people.
     
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  7. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    Have you ever heard of a fellow named Dong Zhuo? He was literally a cannibalistic savage from ancient China who seized power when the Han Dynasty's keystone He Jin was murdered by the Ten Eunuchs. He robbed tombs, abducted maidens, tortured people, drank their blood, ate parts of their corpses, terrorized the Han officials, and was ultimately killed by his "adopted son" Lu Bu within merely 4 years.

    As for a Hero: well, the most famous would-be assassin of Dong Zhuo was Cao Cao, a retired cavalry commander. Cao Cao failed, but he escaped the Han Capital and rallied a coalition against Dong Zhuo and eventually restored the Han Empire with himself at the spearhead. Cao Cao pacified two-thirds of China after it had suffered its greatest loss of life in history, AND revitalized the economy by having non-active soldiers be allowed to work as farmers (the Tuntian System).

    History is full of villains and heroes, so long as you're willing to look for them. They tend to be far more interesting than morally bland characters because they're either so ballsy and devil-may-care (like Dong Zhuo the Barbarian Tyrant, or Lu Bu the Wolf General) OR so badassly heroic and daring (Cao Cao the father of the Wei Empire, renowned as the Hero of Chaos).
     
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  8. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    My experience is that often when someone tries to do a "morally grey" setting, it fails because they can let go of the heroes but not the villains, so you end up with a world of selfish, flawed jerks and completely evil monsters. The audience then has no reason to care who wins the central conflict. And given TV's love affair with antiheroes and villain protagonists that's been going on for well over ten years now, I'm about ready for something new.
     
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  9. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    [​IMG]
     
  10. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Your experience is that morally grey settings fail? I'm surprised anyone can believe that with so many successful books, movies, and television shows being evidence to the contrary.
     
  11. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    It fails at being grey (my definition being that a morally grey setting is that nobody is entirely good or entirely evil--and no, giving the baby-eating jerk a sentence about how his mum was mean to him doesn't count).
     
  12. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    @Azuresun So you're not claiming they always fail to satisfy their respective audience, rather they fail at being morally grey? I'm still unsure what you mean by that.
     
  13. Azuresun

    Azuresun Senior Member

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    If you have a setting with no heroes, but keep the outright villains, it's not grey.
     
  14. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Then what is it? Because settings without heroes are significantly different from ones with heroes.
     
  15. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    I don't have heroes or villains. Everyone is a person, with flaws and motivations, and sometimes those will clash which is the prime drive of conflict. People think of themselves as in the right, and those against them in the wrong, and vice versa.
     
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  16. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    Are you claiming the hero concept is meaningless/nonsensical because everyone has flaws?
     
  17. DK3654

    DK3654 Almost a Productive Member of Society Contributor

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    Just because things don't fit simply and easily into categories doesn't mean those aren't useful and relevant categories. It means categorising those things is complicated, which means you might not refer as often to those categories, especially in the most complex cases- but you still refer to those categories.
    Heroes don't need to be exalted shining saviours to be heroes, villains don't need to be truly evil monsters to be villains- of course they don't. Why would you abandon the term because it doesn't match reality, when you could so easily define the term such that it does? Is there really no utility in the concept for us to bring out?
    Your protagonist isn't an antihero just because they have flaws. Everyone has flaws. That just makes them a fleshed out, realistic human being. And surely we can agree it's possible for humans to be heroes.
     
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  18. Nariac

    Nariac Contributor Contributor

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    No.

    I said that my story doesn't have heroes or villains. It's grey. All my characters have heroic or nefarious aspects to an extent, by personal choice. I like well-meaning characters who are flawed, and harsh or ruthless characters with whom one can empathise to a degree.
     
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  19. X Equestris

    X Equestris Contributor Contributor

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    Agreed. A few flaws won't balance out the good a character does unless those flaws are huge.

    Likewise, a handful of virtues doesn't mean a villain is now an anti-villain or morally gray.

    Hitler loved his mother, was a vegetarian, adored his dog, hated smoking and pushed public health campaigns against it, and was good with children. But this doesn't make him "balanced" or morally gray. He was still a brutal, warmongering, genocidal dictator. Whatever virtues he had pale in comparison to the evil he wrought. Any fictional character built like him would rightly be labeled a villain.
     
  20. 123456789

    123456789 Contributor Contributor

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    I get the complaint about the morally grey worlds becoming tedious. It often does feel like all those characters are primarily selfish. This can become a little boring. It's nice for at least one character to TRY to do the right thing and to be affected emotionally by bad things that happen to other people, instead of simply shrugging.
     
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  21. Irina Samarskaya

    Irina Samarskaya Senior Member

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    I don't know if HE means what I THINK he means, but I'll take a shot...

    Theoretically he means having villains with good traits (like maybe the enemy commander leading the invasion of the protagonist's nation is very honorable about keeping his soldiers alive but very careless about the lives of his enemies) or allies with bad traits (the allied commander wants to save his nation but is willing to use devious methods, such as false-flags, to do so) and of course heroes with bad traits (maybe the ultimate problem solver, the guy who'll end the war and restore peace, is a polygamist who is more than a little greedy. But outside of that, he's perfectly willing to end the war and do so without destroying the country).

    Something like this, I'd imagine.
     
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  22. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    Life is more complicated then that, yes, but not all stories have to be. Sure, some stories try to be realistic, and that's great and they have a purpose, but so do stories with straight forward good and evil characters. Black and white* morals do not always equal bad, it depends on the goal the story is trying to achieve.

    *Black and white as in clearly defined opposing principles or issues.
     
  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I guess I just read and write things different than a lot of you. I don't really want to have good guys and bad guys. My novel is a murder mystery (of sorts), but still there aren't good guys and bad guys, no heroes and villains. I don't really care for that approach in contemporary fiction. I think the struggle between good and evil is a bit cliche. Most of the struggles I've encountered in life have not been a matter of good vs. bad, hero vs. villain. I don't really see the world that way, with the exception of what's going on in the senate.
     
  24. 8Bit Bob

    8Bit Bob Here ;) Contributor

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    Yes, but like I said not all stories have to be like real life (although many do) ;)
     
  25. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    It has nothing to do with how realistic the fiction is. Not every story is good guys vs. bad guys. I read a lot and that's not the common story I see in novels. But so many people here seem pretty hung up on the idea. Just don't get it. Good vs. evil is a pretty worn story, in my opinion. Even my science fiction and fantasy stories don't follow that model. I guess I just find that there are better struggles to put before characters than to fight evil or fight the bad guys. Sometimes a character just wants a glass of water, as originally said by Ray Bradbury.
     
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