No villain?

Forums Fiction Characters No villain?


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    Okay so I’ve been wondering about this.

    My book has no set antagonist. The main characters struggle against one guy a lot, but he’s just very hard to get along with sometimes and he’s going down the wrong path (he’s actually supposed to be a very good man, though).

    I feel like my book leans into man vs. self a whooole lot, and a lot of man vs. society type thing, so there is plenty of opposing forces on every side. But my book has no main guy who’s the villain. Generally, you could feel loyal to one side, or the other, or both.

    So I guess my question is, is this okay? Does the huge man vs. self theme and man vs. society cover my conflict? Do I really need a set “villain?”


    @zanzibee, I don’t think you would need a villain, but I’ll tag a few guides who would know much better than me.

       @josiah   @briannastorm    @brandon-miller   @mariposa


    Your story is yours and no one else's. Each sunset is different, depending where you stand. -A. Peterson


    Hey thank you!

    Mariposa Aristeo

    @zanzibee I would agree that it’s perfectly okay for a story not to have a villain. Inside Out and Disney’s Cars for example had no villain—but they had character conflict—and that’s more important than having a bad guy. 🙂

    Here are a couple articles you might find helpful on the subject:



    I think dinosaurs are cooler than dragons. 🦖


    Hey thanks so much! I’ll be sure to check those out!!

    Josiah DeGraaf

    @zanzibee What Mariposa said. You don’t need a villain as long as you have an antagonist or antagonistic force. These forces or individuals don’t need to be evil either. In a classic romance, the love interest is the antagonist as long as she isn’t interested in the protagonist (thus standing away of him and his plot goals). The love interest stops being the antagonist only when he/she reciprocates the lover’s feelings. So a book that’s primarily focused on man vs. self and man vs. society can work quite fine. 🙂

    Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com


    As long as most of your scenes have an antagonistic force present, you’re good to change the faces of it around fairly often. It is tricky, though. I just finished my first book doing that and man, I work better with supervillains. XD


    Sarah Inkdragon

    First off, I want to say I love man vs. self books. I don’t know why, but the psychological nerd side of me has always taken great joy in watching authors tear their characters apart from the inside.*evil laughter*

    On the flip side, you’ve got to really know your character to pull something like this off. Having no villain is risky. But it’s a bold move on your side, and if you’ve got the guts to pull it off, go for it. There’s no better book than a book by someone who had the will to try something new. Take A Wrinkle In Time for example. Or even Star Wars! (Though that’s technically not a book, I still say it’s one of the best stories of all time.) While Star Wars and A Wrinkle In Time both have definite villains, they both were remembered not just for the action, the romance, or the epic soundtrack. They’re famous because the author(or director) tried something new. And they blew the audience away.

    Now. On the advice side…

    Be careful. To have a story, there must always be conflict. Conflict, conflict, conflict. And not just little farmer boy fighting big bad evil overlord for three 150,000 word novels. There must be external conflict, yes. But don’t forget about the internal conflict. In your case, I would say internal conflict is almost going to be more important that external conflict, as you have no big bad evil overlord to destroy.

    So your novel doesn’t have a villain? Who cares! During the Civil War(or any war, really), both sides thought they were right. They were both defending their way of life, their families, and their homes. Yes, ones side had a bit higher moral ground(that’s not meant to be offensive to any southerners, it’s just a fact) and for that, people praise that side as the “righteous”. And yes. They were. Slavery is a terrible, horrible thing. But you’re forgetting that on the opposing side were men and boys just like those in the North. Men and boys who fought, lived, loved, and died. They weren’t evil fire-spitting monsters. They were people. Sinful people, but still people. They weren’t villains.

    So basically, what I’m trying to get across is that to have a good story, there doesn’t have to be a true villain. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that ordinary people can cause just as much conflict as a big bad evil overlord with a flaming sword.

    (Sorry for the long and somewhat confusing rant. I blame being a car for 3.5 hours after having a three day family reunion surrounding a cousin that I hardly knew’s wedding. And then deciding to go riding my horse 3 miles, jump a ditch, pick up a new desk for my dad’s office, and then smash my toe with said desk.)

    "A hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."

    - C. S. Lewis

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