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Are Your Villains Artificial?


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I've got to ask this, because in order to make your villains (and your heroes) authentic, which well do you dip into?  Your unconscious?  Or do you carefully construct them?  If you carefully construct them are they artificial--in other words, they have to come from somewhere inside of you to be real, right?

 

In other words, do you know enough evil to make them real?  Do you know enough good to make your heroes real?

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Umm  🤔 I'd venture to say that since we all have the ability to evil or good. I'd bet it's based not just on feelings or experience, but what we've seen in others. Or in other stories, regardless of the form (movie, tv or otherwise.)

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1 hour ago, carolinamtne said:

AH! You're getting personal here? How much evil does a writer need to "know" to create a good villain? Contrast that with how much good does a writer need to "know" to create a good hero? How much evil in the best of us vs. how much good in the worst of us.

 

Yes, I guess I am!

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I'm not sure we need to know evil in order to write a villain. We can know what good is because we have God as an example, evil is a reflection of good in the negative. Faith/fear, love/hate, kindness/cruelness, care/hurt. For every positive thing there is a negative reflection, that is how Satan works by twisting what is good into something evil. For instance fear has the same description of faith, but in a negative way.

 

Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see

Fear is being sure of what we dread will happen and uncertain of what we do not see

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10 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Then your villains, when you write a story, are kind of flat and unrealistic?

No, I think if we can understand what evil is, we could imagine how that would feel from both the perspective of the villain or the characters it is being inflicted on to, but I don't think we have to experience evil personally in order to write about it. There is enough examples of it in life to know how people react to such things.

 

But in saying that, I won't neglect that there is evil in our carnal sinful nature that we battle against, it is the part of this human body that temps us, that craves those things we know isn't good and thinks the worst things possible when we get really angry. It's not that we are not capable of thinking about those things, we just don't want to.

Edited by Amosathar
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4 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

In other words, do you know enough evil to make them real?

 

Not from experience (honestly 😇), but from a simple study of human history. Plenty of evil to choose from. The Bible itself full of numerous examples.

 

4 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

Do you know enough good to make your heroes real?

 

Same as above. Just look at the Bible. It's full of flawed heroes. I use it as a template.

 

4 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

If you carefully construct them are they artificial--in other words, they have to come from somewhere inside of you to be real, right?

 

Not if you model them after real people. I've always noticed that villains (or antagonists) throughout history tend to think their cause is just. Their reasoning is often frightfully sensible. That's what gives it a layer of dread to the reader. If you craft your villains/antagonists carefully enough, we can see something of ourselves in them.

 

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18 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

In other words, do you know enough evil to make them real?  Do you know enough good to make your heroes real?

I know enough evil. I know enough good. (He has the name God. He's triune.) But I do not know anyone who is 100% evil or anyone who is 100% good. I do know living creatures tend to have varying degrees of good and evil. I give you the mosquito as an example.

 

So I don't have good against evil. I have sides. And even the sides take sides, if they ever thought to ask the other side. Or to ask their own side. And, if you ask any one of the sides who is good and who is evil, they'd look at you like you had a screw loose, "No idea what you're talking about."

 

Government wants to help the economy get back on track after a terrible depression. Let's make America strong again by selling and using only American products. Throw everything else away if it isn't needed. It passes. Is it good or evil?

 

Nope. Dumb is not a choice. Is it good or evil?

 

Did you know stuffed animals are sentient? That's okay. Most adults don't know. They forget when they "get too old for them." And then they forget completely. Is that good or evil?

 

Nope. Ridiculous is not a choice. Good or evil? (And premise of story, so connected. 😊)

 

Ever see a dog with a stuffed toy? Are dogs evil? Ever have a dog growl when you try to take away the toy? Are you evil? Is the stuffed animal that fights against the dog good or evil?

 

Rats like to cushion their dens with stuffing. They won't fight a live being for its stuffing, but a sleeping stuffie or a stuffie playing dead "isn't real," so they will then. Good or evil?

 

Which is more important, a 1960s Steiff monkey, or a purple carnival bear? Is it good or evil how you answered? Is it good or evil that the monkey can answer, but the bear doesn't get the question?

 

True answer. It's all evil. It's all evil because the only way anyone is answering is through self-centeredness, and we all are self-centered. So, bigger question. Can you write a story without understanding evil? Sure. Hard to understand the evil of a particular set, if you're part of it. Are rats and dogs evil? Unknown. Are stuffed animals? Despite my real fondness of them, they aren't alive therefore can't be any more evil than a rock. 😳

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16 minutes ago, Spaulding said:

But I do not know anyone who is 100% evil or anyone who is 100% good.

 

They say Hitler loved dogs, yet I would be hard pressed to find people (though there are a few) who wouldn't say that he was completely evil.  And he is the arch-villain in many stories.  Or Stalin.  I think it's easier to find stereotypical villains than it is to find stereotypical good guys.  It seems that of necessity the good guys must have character flaws, whereas the villains don't have to have kindness traits.

 

But good points, @Spaulding!

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    In fiction, every character could be considered "artificial", regardless of whether he or she is a villain, hero, or anything else.

    Supposing someone isn't a "villain".  Throughout the story he remains a law abiding citizen, but he's very disagreeable.  He may say nasty things to everyone he meets.  He might be polite to certain individuals, when he speaks them face to face.  Then when they're gone, he says nasty things about him or her, behind their backs.  He might repeat bad things he's heard about them, that aren't true.

   Now people like that are not engaging in criminal activity, so they can't be arrested, and put in jail.  They're just people who the other characters have to put up with, and try their best to avoid. 

   A character like that might actually be more interesting, than any stereotype thug.

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I have dual conceptions of evil.  There is human evil - guys like Stalin, Hitler, and John Wayne Gacy.  There there is supernatural evil, which extends beyond human understanding.  My feeling is that if God transcends human understanding, so too much the evil that exists just beyond our reason and senses. 

 

And because I've read a lot of H. P. Lovecraft.

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A lot of good points in here. I won't get as philosophical as the rest of you. 

 

I think, as a writer it is important to understand where the decision for your antagonist/villain (they aren't exclusive) character. I read a short story about a boy who took his cousin's doll after she died of leukemia in order to be close to her. After a few years, his father threw the doll away saying 'boys shouldn't play with dolls'. Several years go by and the boy is in h.s.. the boy finds a doll in the park abandoned. Over time he finds over 5 or 6 dolls. At the end of the story, it is revealed that the boy was actually killing girls and keeping them in a shed. 

 

There is a psychological component to why people do what they do. Understanding that component will help develop a character good or evil with depth.

 

I also believe Satan preys on the tragedies in our lives which can cause a person to make certain behaviors evil. Lord knows I have made sinful choices because of experiences I've gone through. 💁🏼‍♀️

 

 

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You don't have to be a sadistic dictator in order to write about one, nor do you have to do tons of research on Ivan the Terrible, Castro, Stalin and Hitler. All you have to do is examine certain tendencies, sinful or otherwise, in your own life in order to make it real.  I've heard it described this way: You're writing a villain who is a murderer. You ask yourself, how do I do this? How would anyone be capable of the desire to kill a fellow human-being? Now, many people can't look inside themselves to find motives for murder--not and make a convincing character. But what are your feelings as you kill a fly? Not usually a desire to swipe a life, however small, off the earth. You kill it because it's dirty; it's annoying you; it's taking something that is yours.

 

Now, I am not trying to say it is a sin to kill a fly. All I'm saying is you don't have to  have experiential knowledge about an evil in order to write about it in a villain. All you have to do is imagine something so small as, say, killing a fly.

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