September 16, 2018 at 10:56 pm #47866
I have a bit of a problem with antagonists. Usually, they end of really bland/generic, but occasionally I create one that is really unique and cool. The problem is, I like those antagonists so much that I hate to leave them evil! On top of that just being generic (the bad, but conflicted antagonists reforms his ways, leaving only the bland and boring ones behind), I do want there to be consequences of a life of sin, and it doesn’t send a great moral message when every antagonist with a brain is not bad, but merely ‘confused and misunderstood’, if you follow my meaning. I know that not every redemption story means that, but when I don’t have a plan for them becoming good, it often becomes something like that. 🙁
So, I guess the question is: how do you make really great antagonists without it killing you that they are bad guys?
Clearly, I have a problem with letting go of my characters. 😛
Sorry if this feels like a silly question. I’m just wondering if someone has good tips for me. I’m sure this shouldn’t be as hard as I make it. 😛
Thank you all!
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseSeptember 17, 2018 at 12:35 pm #47928Daeus Lamb@daeus-lamb
@kb-writer I’ve got a villain I’m writing on my hands whose one of my favorite characters ever, so I can relate. 😛 I think there’s definitely room to redeem villains. My suggestion would be that it needs to be very hard for them and they need to prove their change of heart. If a villain does turn good, it can be really exciting!
But tragedies also have a place. Most villains are going to have a bad end and I think when they have admirable qualities this makes it even better because a tragedy is not really a tragedy if you don’t care. When readers are rooting for a villain and then he dies or meets some other terrible end, it’s going to make them really stop and think.
👖 🐢🐢🐢🐢🐢September 17, 2018 at 1:15 pm #47934The Fledgling Artist@the-fledgling-artist
@kb-writer Hey, so I feel kind of awkward giving any input here since I don’t consider myself a writer, as my medium of choice for storytelling is visual. Anyway, I’ll get into my thought. So I often hear people giving the advice to “think of your character like they are an actual person” and I think the reason for this is acceptable. You do want your characters to seem lifelike and relatable. But maybe you’re so attached to them because you think of them like a real person more then you think of them as a tool to speak a message of truth and light to actual people.
I get really attached to my characters too. So no shame to you. 🙂
"Though I'm not yet who I will be, I'm no longer who I was."September 17, 2018 at 2:17 pm #47938Skye@skye
One way to make your villain a little more original/not just your stereotypical confused dude is to make them misunderstand, not misunderstood. This way, they are legitimately bad. But, they still have a growth process to go through, not everyone else conforming to their wrong ideals.
I don’t know how much this really pertains to the topic, I just thought of it while I was reading through the thread. So hopefully it helps some… I don’t really have a good answer for your question, though.
Hope you get it all figured out! Happy writing!
https://thingsabove32.wordpress.com/September 19, 2018 at 9:37 pm #48342Taylor Clogston@taylorclogston
“I’m sure this shouldn’t be as hard as I make it. ”
I think it’s a good sign that it’s a difficult issue. You’ve already gotten great advice, but I encourage you think hard about how powerful it can be to show the “bad ending” of a likable and sympathetic antagonist. It’s a great way to leave your reader thinking for a long time afterward.
We have a big push in popular culture to write antagonists who are the heroes of their own story, but sometimes it’s okay to have someone realize they’re doing something unforgivable and keep on that path not because they legitimately think it’s for the best but because they’re driven by something destructive.
Frollo from The Hunckback of Notre Dame is a disturbing and memorable antagonist not because he’s misunderstood and tragic but because he is anathema to everything he should be. He’s a priest who puts tyranny over justice, abuses the weak, and gives in to sinful lust when he absolutely knows better. He’s tormented by his own weakness but can’t or won’t stop himself from doing evil. (and even if he’s a slightly different character in the Disney movie, I really love one bit from his villain song and think it describes his tragedy perfectly: “It’s not my fault/that in God’s plan/he made the devil so much stronger than a man!”) Frollo dies at the hand of the person he rescued and raised as a son, the only person alive to see Frollo’s monstrous side as well as his pious exterior.
Compare Frollo to Javert from Les Mis. The inspector believes firmly that the law must be upheld and that all men are either law-abiding good people or thuggish criminals, and Jean Valjean being a good man and yet a criminal throws Javert into turmoil. When Javert is confronted with the lie of his life, he decides he cannot go on living.
Frollo and Javert are tragic villains, but they do monstrous things that in the narrative of the story go unreedemed. Frollo is judged by his son and by the cathedral which represents Fate and God, and Javert subjects himself to the only punishment he sees fit for a life of persecuting a good man.
I think Javert could have had a satisfying end if he had been redeemed, because it would have been thematically appropriate. Jean Valjean was one a cold-hearted man, but the kindness of another transformed him. Javert could have mirrored this.
Frollo could not have thematically appropriately been redeemed, though. He ruins things upon which he imposes his will, and there is no room for the redemption of that.
At least in my opinion =P When we write our own stories, the fate of our protagonist and antagonist need to be thematically appropriate as well as just satisfying. Is there room in your story for a redeemed villain, or is it going to be more powerful to show the natural consequence (since redemption is anything but the natural order of things) of their choices?
"...the one with whom he so sought to talk has already interceded for him." -The Master and MargaritaSeptember 20, 2018 at 11:55 am #48407
Sorry I haven’t had a chance to reply to you. I guess life got in the way. 🙂
Thanks so much for the advice on redeeming villains. I do think I seem to err on making it too easy, which is why I never liked my redemption stories. You gave me great ideas for another “bad” character that I had already planned on redeeming. Thank you so much!
That was a really helpful perspective! I also have always heard “think of the character as a real person) but if I had the power to chose what all these real people would do, I would make them all repent! 🙂 Thinking through their role as a vehicle for truth-telling helps a lot!
Great distinction between misunderstood and misunderstand. I never thought about it that way, but that was another eye-opening way of seeing things.
Great examples! You’re totally right, and that’s very powerful. I do feel I sometimes fall for the trap of failing to give real consequences to my villains, but hearing you explain their power is super helpful.
You all have been super helpful. I’ll have to use a lot of these tips when reworking a story I’ve already written (the super-duper rough draft). 🙂 This has been a very eye-opening read and made me feel more ready to share the truth through these characters. I love how God uses this forum to strengthen his people!
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseSeptember 26, 2018 at 6:18 pm #49586Maddie Morrow@maddiejay
Hi Katherine! You’ve gotten some really good advice here, and I can totally relate. If I write a villain who is younger than say…35? Odds are I’m gonna fall in love with him and try to make everyone else love him too 😂
One thing I like to try to do is keep the character alive, maybe even let them get away, but show what it cost them, so there is still a moral point to the story.
I don’t know if you’ve seen the tv show The Revolution, but the bad guy, Monroe does a lot of jumping around where sometimes he helps the good guys and sometimes he opposes them. He’s hilarious and I love him, but he’s always bad. Even when he’s being “good” it’s always to further his own ends, and everyone knows it. In the end he survives, and even gets his own way to a certain extent, but we see that he’s alone, and alienated from all of his old friends because of his choices.
I try to keep that sort of arc/ending in mind when writing my own antagonists. I can still enjoy the character, but show the consequences of their evil actions without necessarily making them die or go to jail, etc.October 6, 2018 at 3:36 pm #51255
That’s great advice! Thank you! That actually works really nicely with this one bad guy I have who used to have a lot of prestige in the town where the story’s set. Making him suffer through the loss of that would be a great way to keep the story working. Thanks!
Always remember you're unique...
...Just like everyone elseOctober 7, 2018 at 9:35 am #51344Maddie Morrow@maddiejay
<p style=”text-align: left;”>@kb-writer</p>
thats wonderful! Glad to help
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