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Johne

What Makes A Great Villain?

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I agree. I would add that writers need to take care about not being too on the nose with it. A lot of the early Avengers (MCU) films had the villain be a "dim reflection" of the protagonist. It got old because it was not always done very skillfully (also because they did it over and over, but that is a different topic!). 

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16 hours ago, PenName said:

I agree. I would add that writers need to take care about not being too on the nose with it.

Not to be dimwitted or anything, but could I get some literary examples of what "not being too on the nose with it" is or would look like?  I am truly trying to learn so that I can improve my writing skills and for some reason don't think I'm grasping your example of the Avengers films clearly enough.

 

Also, is there a point where you can make the villain too likeable?  

 

I actually do feel a little silly asking these questions, but I've always lived by the motto that the only truly stupid question is the unasked one. 

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There are many types of villains. J.R.R. Tolkien tended to have villains that were pure evil with no redeemable characteristics. On the other hand, George R. R. Martin tends to blur the lines between hero and villain. I think that is more realistic when dealing with humans.

 

Saying that, in my "Ignoring God" book, I had to write the part of a rapist. It was one of the hardest things I have ever written and I'm afraid I didn't give him any redeemable traits at all!

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33 minutes ago, Tom Laurie said:

Saying that, in my "Ignoring God" book, I had to write the part of a rapist. It was one of the hardest things I have ever written and I'm afraid I didn't give him any redeemable traits at all!

 

No, not really. But he was a pretty important character, all the same.

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On 9/21/2020 at 10:04 AM, Johne said:

Answer:
image.png.f35bdd71a9cfc78ac1d0e4af6f21a24a.png

 

I see your Operative (acted brilliantly by Chiwetel Ejiofor) and raise you another brilliantly portrayed (and acted) villain:

 

hansGruber.jpeg.84e5ef479101cf7b665354d3363c5fbd.jpeg

 

In the end, besides making villains relatable, I think they should be equally intelligent, resourceful, and charismatic. It increases the peril, and generally makes a compelling character to engage the reader.

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, RLHicks said:

Not to be dimwitted or anything, but could I get some literary examples of what "not being too on the nose with it" is or would look like?  I am truly trying to learn so that I can improve my writing skills and for some reason don't think I'm grasping your example of the Avengers films clearly enough.

 

Also, is there a point where you can make the villain too likeable?  

 

I actually do feel a little silly asking these questions, but I've always lived by the motto that the only truly stupid question is the unasked one. 

Ask away!

 

I’m actually struggling with finding a literary example of it being badly done! I’m pretty picky with the books that I pick up and read all the way through, whereas with movies I’ll sit there and watch the whole thing unless it’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen. 😂 Maybe someone else has a thought on this?

 

In regards to the Avengers films, this is sort of what I was thinking about:


Iron Man 1: 

Tony Stark is a genius rich guy who creates tech. His villain Is a smart rich guy from his company who uses Tony’s tech.

 

The Hulk:

Bruce Banner is a scientist who gets hit with gamma radiation and can become the Hulk. His villain is a soldier who undergoes a similar procedure so he can be like the Hulk.

 

Thor:

Thor is a relatively well-adjusted first-born prince with some mild anger issues. His villain is his brother, the second-born adopted prince with a lot of anger issues.

 

Captain America:

Steve Rogers is a regular nice guy who takes the super soldier serum and becomes Captain America. His villain is a regular mean guy who takes the super soldier serum.


You can see that all these hero/villain combinations are basically mirrors of each other. That’s not to say that any of these are terrible movies, but the later movies in the series, where the hero is fighting, say, an organization, or a person who is simply very smart and manipulative without any powers, tend to have more interesting stories. 
 

This is why, for instance, Batman and Joker are such a famous hero/villain combination. They are very different from one another, which leads to unexpected story arcs, rather than predictable ones - because you don’t know what the other one is going to have to try to do next to get the upper hand. 
 

I think you can make a villain too likable, but I may be one of the few. I tend to get weirded out when a villain has a fan club.

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17 minutes ago, PenName said:

I tend to get weirded out when a villain has a fan club.

 

But they have their own Pub:

 

 

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22 minutes ago, Accord64 said:

 

But they have their own Pub:

 

 

Lol! I used to watch HISHE all the time! I watched Superhero Cafe more often though. 

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@RLHicks

 

On-the-nose writing typically means writing things in such a way that there is no subtly or complexity to the dialogue or situation. It is a sort of predictability or cliche thing. It would be as if you were to write a story where someone who read a description of the hero could then guess a description of the villain and get it mostly if not completely right.

 

Example from the Western genre, Good Guy is a ex-gunslinger who has regrets and doesn't want to fight anymore. He wears a white hat. If you wrote a villain that was a young, brash up and coming gunslinger who wanted to knock off the old guy to gain fame and he wore a black hat, that would be on-the-nose. If instead, you wrote a villain that was an attractive, manipulative widow who set about conniving the hero into "protecting" her and her sweet, innocent daughter (who actually tortured puppies when nobody was looking) by killing a neighboring farmer that she actually just had a grudge against and she doesn't wear any hat, now that would not be on-the-nose. 

 

Great, there's another novel idea that I want to write. I've gotta stop this.

Edited by Thomas Davidsmeier
fixed stuff

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20 minutes ago, Jeff Potts said:

Handlebar moustache.  Just sayin'.

 Works for me...

 

handlebar.jpg.81333446eacce614011fbcd4a76a4b65.jpg

  • Haha 4

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13 hours ago, PenName said:

You can see that all these hero/villain combinations are basically mirrors of each other.

 

13 hours ago, PenName said:

This is why, for instance, Batman and Joker are such a famous hero/villain combination. They are very different from one another, which leads to unexpected story arcs, rather than predictable ones - because you don’t know what the other one is going to have to try to do next to get the upper hand. 
 

I think you can make a villain too likable, but I may be one of the few. I tend to get weirded out when a villain has a fan club

Thanks @PenName, those are great examples in the movies that I never put together until you pointed them out.  Yes I can see how they are mirror images and you meant by "on the nose."  I too am selective in what I read, more so than what I watch, and have not come across this dichotomy in literature.

 

I also "get weirded out when a villain has a fan club," but maybe that's because my brother's favorite character is the Joker and my brother is weird. 🤔🤭   Seriously, it just seems odd to me on one hand to make them even a little likeable and yet on the other hand I get the necessity of doing so. 

 

I'm struggling with this in my current WIP, which is a story of redemption and restoration. I'm trying to decide if in the end the "villain"  ...

  • ultimately gets saved in jail and restored to a relationship with his daughter
  • if he dies (or goes to jail) unsaved and alienated from his daughter and Jesus, etc.

I've played around with several different scenarios but just haven't settled on it yet. I believe part of why is the struggle I'm having with making him likeable to begin with.

 

13 hours ago, Thomas Davidsmeier said:

On-the-nose writing typically means writing things in such a way that there is no subtly or complexity to the dialogue or situation. It is a sort of predictability or cliche thing. It would be as if you were to write a story where someone who read a description of the hero could then guess a description of the villain and get it mostly if not completely right.

Thanks  @Thomas Davidsmeier!  This is a great explanation and the following example is great as well.  It instantly made me think of a movie that I really liked but could see your point in -- The Quick and The Dead.  Maybe not 100% an example but I can at least see it in the bad guy turned priest and the abandoned good son who wants and tries to be like his corrupt father.

 

13 hours ago, Thomas Davidsmeier said:

Example from the Western genre, Good Guy is a ex-gunslinger who has regrets and doesn't want to fight anymore. He wears a white hat. If you wrote a villain that was a young, brash up and coming gunslinger who wanted to knock off the old guy to gain fame and he wore a black hat, that would be on-the-nose.

 

13 hours ago, Thomas Davidsmeier said:

Great, there's another novel idea that I want to write. I've gotta stop this.

This made me chuckle.  Don't stop!  We get some of our best ideas when we're helping others.

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2 hours ago, RLHicks said:

I'm struggling with this in my current WIP, which is a story of redemption and restoration. I'm trying to decide if in the end the "villain"  ...

  • ultimately gets saved in jail and restored to a relationship with his daughter
  • if he dies (or goes to jail) unsaved and alienated from his daughter and Jesus, etc.

I've played around with several different scenarios but just haven't settled on it yet. I believe part of why is the struggle I'm having with making him likeable to begin with.

 

The person who goes through the biggest transformation in a story is actually the protagonist of that story. If you've written a story where the "villain" converts at the end and done it well, he has become the "de facto" protagonist of the story and replaced whoever you intended for the role.

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2 hours ago, Thomas Davidsmeier said:

If you've written a story where the "villain" converts at the end ... he has become the "de facto" protagonist of the story and replaced whoever you intended for the role

Which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if redemption is on your mind. However, it must be believable (subtle clues earlier on). Jailhouse conversions often don't stick. Converting in jail is a way to "con" God into getting them out.

Edited by carolinamtne

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2 hours ago, Thomas Davidsmeier said:

The person who goes through the biggest transformation in a story is actually the protagonist of that story. If you've written a story where the "villain" converts at the end and done it well, he has become the "de facto" protagonist of the story and replaced whoever you intended for the role.

I see your point but I'm not sure if I agree completely or not.  Without going into too much of the story let me get an opinion of my general overview on the story.  Afterwards, if you (or anyone else) believes that having the "villain" get saved in the end will him become the "'de facto' protagonist of the story," then maybe that helps narrow down what I do with the villain in the end.

 

So my story is about a young woman who as a child narrowly escapes being killed with her family presumably by her stepfather (back story stuff). As an adult she gets the sense someone is following/watching her but doesn't know who or why. She basically goes into hiding, changing her name (again)  and tries starting over. She wants a new life, to find love, to feel safe if possible, but her past won't seem to let her go and ultimately comes crashing in. During the process she learns that what she needs most of all is Jesus.

 

That's the baseline of the story and she is my protagonist.  There are two "villains" in theory and possibilities for restoration -- the stepdad whom everyone thinks killed the family and the real killer.  So my dilemma with the real killer is whether he lives or dies at the end and whether he eventually receives Christ himself at some point and/or gets reconciled with his the protagonist.

 

3 minutes ago, carolinamtne said:

Which is not necessarily a bad thing, especially if redemption is on your mind. However, it must be believable (subtle clues earlier on). Jailhouse conversions often don't stick. Converting in jail is a way to "con" God into getting them out.

Edited just now by carolinamtne

@carolinamtne, your response came in as I was already typing my response to @Thomas Davidsmeier post.  I'd like your input as well on the intended WIP.  It could be a complex enough situation where I need to lay out the story over a series of books.  Any thoughts on this?  Am I reaching too far with fitting it in one book?

 

I get your point about jailhouse conversions and I agree.  So if I try for a conversion with the real killer in jail, maybe it needs to done in a sequel to the original story.

 

I appreciate all of the feedback being given!

 

 

 

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I know there are real conversions. But I also know the other. A young man I knew was waiting trial, and he "got religion," although he had been raised in the church. After his sentencing, when he didn't get out and received a lengthy prison term, he blamed it on God, so there went both his background and his "conversion."

 

But there are also real ones. Chuck Colson comes to mind. 

 

It's your job to write him the way you want to turn out.

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Hi @carolinamtne, I was going to send the following to you in a private message because I felt like maybe I had gotten this discussion thread off topic or something.  But it said you couldn't receive messages.  I realize I may have read too much into your comments and you may not have actually been offended.  Sometimes it's hard for me to tell. 

 

My friend tells me I worry too much about these kinds of things and she's probably right.  That said, when the nagging feeling won't go away, I have to say something and try to make amends regardless.  I pray that you or anyone else on here I may have offended would forgive me and I pray that, if I'm being silly and no offense was taken, y'all would forgive me for wasting a post.  🙂

 

******

Original private message...

 

19 hours ago, RLHicks said:

I get your point about jailhouse conversions and I agree. 

 

 

12 hours ago, carolinamtne said:

I know there are real conversions. But I also know the other.

 

I'm not sure why but I got the feeling I may have offended you for some reason, which was not my intention. I was agreeing with you about jailhouse conversions. I know that often they are not real and yet sometimes can be.

 

I know it's my "job to write him the way" I want him to be. I apologize to you and to everyone if I overstepped any boundaries by asking for thoughts on the possibility of making his story span across more than one book should I decide on having him saved from behind bars. 

 

I'm still learning the ins and outs of this site and what is appropriate or not.  I don't want to do anything that will "get me voted off the island."

 

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@RLHicks

 

So, the opinions I'm about to sum up for you come from other people, writing and story experts who are considered experts by many professional authors.

 

They say that if you have a character who undergoes a larger, more drastic change in your story than the character that you spend the most time talking about, most people are going to be left wondering about the bigger, less talked about change. People will be dissatisfied because they won't know about what is a more intriguing and interesting situation that just sort of got pushed into the background so these less fascinating situation could be talked about.

 

Imagine a person telling you this story, "So, I was in the store trying to decide between the red one and the blue one. Right? My spouse likes red, but I prefer blue. So, I asked my friend who escaped from a Chinese concentration camp which one I should get. She said blue, so that's what I bought."

 

Most everyone would really not care about the color the person finally selected and only want to know more about the friend's story, right?

 

Other characters should not have more interesting or even competitively interesting stories happening to them off camera.

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