1. Lovro Lukacic

    Lovro Lukacic New Member

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    Writing a sympathetic human antagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Lovro Lukacic, Nov 8, 2020.

    Okay, so, here's the thing. In my fantasy novel, there are many kingdoms warring with each other, courtesy of many gods playing around with fate and what not, akin to the Illiad. These gods are the true villains of my story.

    Now, I want to write an emperor/king who just so happens to be on the opposing side of the main character's conflict. In other words, a villain only by circumstance. How do I go about writing such a character, who shares many ideals with the main protagonist, yet is fated by the gods to confront him?
     
  2. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Book Witch Contributor

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    There are many sides yo s story, so to speak.

    I have this kind of villian in one kf my WIPs. She and my MC have a lot in common. They both value family, and they both want ro protect their families and the people they care about from harm.
    The only difference is, my villain is willing to do this by murdering all potential threats. No if, ands, or buts. If she thinks you will come between her comfortable life and hurt one of her friends or family, she'll kill you... And sometimes, if one of the people she cares about stands in her way, she will sacrifice them for the greater good of everyone else in her life.

    Her circumstances have made her like this.

    So, your villain: what do they have in common with your protagonist? What is your villains goal? Purpose? What are all the ways to reach that goal that you can think of?
    How can you justify the bad things that they do? (If its "i do bad things because im a villain and im supposed to" or "i do bad things because i want ro rule the world/empire/etc" then those are really justifications for doing "bad things" really.)

    Does he want to bring about peace to his people? Is this his justification to attack/defend against your protagonist?
    Perhaps he hears a rumor that the opposing kingdom will attack, so he attacks first?
    I feel like wars are easy because each side believes they are the hero and the other as the villain, when they basically want the same thing: to get rid of the other guy and be allowed to do their own thing
     
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  3. The Bishop

    The Bishop Senior Member

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    Well obviously give them some sort of conflict beyond their ideals, it's up to you what that is, and then have them react accordingly based on that. Don't have one act irrationally, like have them stay and character and all that, but keep it individual to them, they deal with things in conflicting ways. I'm not sure what you have in mind in terms of their conflict but make sure that neither side of the conflict is the "evil" side. Make sure each side is understandable so the audience is able to see the "villain" as a real human with motivations and goals and reasons. Give the antagonist human characteristics, really. If they and the main character share ideals like you said I think it would be easier to make him into this sympathetic character. So really it falls on a single conflict between the two, which you may have in mind already, or not. Idk. That's the best I can give.
     
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  4. Maddy Knight

    Maddy Knight Member

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    These are called the reluctant antagonist. Something is driving them to do what they do, either an end goal that saves humanity, greed, or by fear. If he or she does not do what he or she is told to do, harm will come to someone close. Family, love interest.

    Reluctant antagonists are pretty complex. There is 'right time' to reveal that they are good people, or that there is a shred of good in them, or a motivation the audience /reader will relate to and sympathize with. There is also that point where they cross the line to other side, and become the evil person. Sometimes their motivations are greed, but they want to do as little harm as possible in getting what they want - Die Hard with a Vengeance, for example, Simon Gruber wanted to get as much gold as he could while avoiding casualties.

    There is not just one kind of reluctant antagonist. You have the villain that's bad just because, but they abide by a code of ethics. There are certain things he just won’t do, like killing women and children, or innocent bystanders. He or she will do whatever they need to do to avoid that and still get what they came for.

    You have the villain that was unjustly wronged or someone they knew was unjustly wronged, and they snap and do what they do to set things right. 'Speed' 1994, kind of touched on that, I remember this elderly man that used to stand in front of our local courthouse wearing a sandwich board explaining how his estate attorneys stole all of his money, and he was now homeless, and no one would help him. If he were twenty years younger, I could easily see him buying a gun.

    Then there is the good-intentions villain. I can think of no better example than the Unabomber. If you read his manifesto, there is a lot in there that he predicted would happen to society in the future, and so far he's been pretty spot on. But no one would listen to him, so he crossed over and blew some people up. That got his manifest published, which is what he wanted. It's online. Read it.

    Then there is the silent villain. Someone whose reputation alone will affect the behavior of the Hero or the journey. We don't even need to meet this person, but we know if this hero crosses a certain line, shit will hit the fan. It might be that this silent villain isn't even bad, but they will hinder the hero's journey to the point they are put in danger of failing. One of my own family's stories is about a mother during the Revolutionary War, and she was burned out of her home and fleeing the enemy, but was not given safe passage through a rich man's land. They did not want any war drama on their property, and folks stayed clear of him. Friend or foe you did not step foot on his land. The mother managed to get to safety, but lost one child along the way. This is a true story. So the silent villain didn't do anything bad, per se, but caused something bad to happen just for being jerk. Takes some real moxy to tell a batallian of amed soliders to get off you land.

    The accidental Villain. They did something stupid that set in motion a series of unfortunate events, and it gets away from them. The harder they they to fix it, the worse it gets.

    Very cool and complex characters. Lot of gray area to work with in character and plot development.

    How would you characterize Bonnie and Clyde? Counter-culture heroes? Tragic lovers? Combination of both? One could easliy argue these viewpoints. Alfanso Capone maybe not.
     
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2020
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  5. Lovro Lukacic

    Lovro Lukacic New Member

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    That is an interesting villain you have there. She sounds like a classic anti-hero, which is my favourite type of character.

    This king/emperor of mine wishes to unify the entire world under his banner, so that the people of the world may live as one. Naturally, being a just emperor, the way he typically goes about this is diplomacy, though this method fails more often than not, thus he resorts to arms. As far as morality goes, he is more on the hero side than my MC. However, he is not all good, as he is not afraid to kill when necessary, and he deeply enjoys combat, so when there is a battle to be fought, he is usually on the front lines chopping off heads left and right. One of his more heroic traits is that he tries to get rid of the gods by unbinding humanity from their influence. Because of that, once he learns of the MC's true disposition, he actively goes out of his way to kill him before the MC does the same to him.

    My MC is a Kingslayer, a warrior chosen by the gods to do their bidding. Whenever the world is thrown off-balance (the gods wish to see wars for their own amusement. As such, the kind emperor is anathema to them) they choose the right person/s to become their Kingslayers and put an end to whomever threatens their "war playground" in some way. He is more of an anti-hero, though he does not do the gods' bidding lightly. He too wishes for a peaceful world united as one, but as his ill luck would have it, he is chosen to become a Kingslayer upon his decision to join the army of his kingdom, which also happens to be one of many kingdoms that refuse to bend their knee to the emperor. He too abhors the gods and the fate they impose on humanity, so he too wants to free humanity from them by disobeying his call as a Kingslayer, though this proves difficult as they have more control over his fate than those of average humans, by virtue of having chosen him as their champion, the Kingslayer.

    The 'villain' essentially wants to rule the world, albeit in a far more benevolent manner than your average Palpatine/Sauron.
    The MC is essentially bound by fate to kill him because the gods are the true bad guys and enjoy war.
     
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  6. Damage718

    Damage718 Senior Member

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    One way that comes to mind is that you can present the conflict within the character through internal dialogue. Have him/her think about what they believe is wrong in a given situation. Or you can write in a confidant, an assistant, relative, trusted friend, etc. who the character can confide in, and the reader will learn through that what his moral conflict is, but also that he feels, intuitively, what will inevitably be.
     

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