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View Full Version : Two fantasy questions just for discussion - bad guys and s&s



flannelberry
12-28-2006, 08:50 AM
Hi all

I have been pondering going back to fantasy (my first writing love) after a couple of years away. Well, more than pondering, I took out a 10 yo manuscript this week and began fixing it (embarrassing at best, I must say). As I've been working on it and returning to the genre I wondered about a couple of things and would just love to have a purely academic discussion about them; there's few places writers can do this so I thought to post it here.

The first is:
Does anyone write good sword and sorcery? Can it be done? I reread Beowulf recently and some other classics and nothing now compares. Why is that? Is there even a market for it . I'm just curious - I don't write to the market and that's a good thing considering this ms is 10+ yrs old.

The other thing is that I've read a lot about the who "sympathetic villain". Is it just me or can't we just have bad bad guys? Sometimes the bad guy just needs to be a selfish such and such who wants it all for his/her self. Yep, there's been some nasty overdoing of stereotypes but that aside... do we need to make our villains sympathetic. IME (and I've worked with no few villains IRL) many are self centered spooky people who lend little of themselves to sympathy.


Many thanks - I look forward to chatting with the lot of you.

kct webber
12-28-2006, 10:26 AM
The other thing is that I've read a lot about the who "sympathetic villain". Is it just me or can't we just have bad bad guys? Sometimes the bad guy just needs to be a selfish such and such who wants it all for his/her self. Yep, there's been some nasty overdoing of stereotypes but that aside... do we need to make our villains sympathetic. IME (and I've worked with no few villains IRL) many are self centered spooky people who lend little of themselves to sympathy.

I enjoy (reading and writing) sympathetic villains. But to me, that doesn't mean that you have to LIKE them--just understand them. Just because a guy/girl is an evil bastard/uh...bastard-ette, doesn't mean they don't have reasons for what they do.

Selfishness alone (just an example) often makes a cardboard cutout of a character. But when you take into account that the phychological companions of that selfishness can be things like extreme insecurity, fear of loss, and the like, they can become quite interesting.

A character trying to kill your wife to save his own son is interesting. A character willing to betray his nation to save the lives of his people is interesting--even when he's wrong and the reader knows it. (That might be a bit cliche, but it makes the point).

This is all just my opinion, of course. I don't really have anything against 'just a bad guy' but I prefer my villains to be just as animated, believable and 3-D as my good guys.

I hope that this doesn't piss off anyone, but I'm going the say it anyway. Hitler really believed that what he was doing was right. Stalin too. So did Pol Pot. They all had reasons. They were all convinced that they were good reasons and the best thing for their countries and people. And, to me, that's what makes what they did so horrifying.

Again, this is just my opinion and based on my own experiences. I have never met someone who does something, evil or not, for no reason. Everyone has reasons whether readily visible or not. And those reasons can be very interesting and create a great deal of passion for or against any character.

Aaaalllll of that being said, I also believe that evil does exist. Sometimes people kill for pleasure. Sometimes people torture simply because it makes them feel powerful. Sometimes people rape just because they like it. But I would be careful with that (and you said it yourself) because it can easily slip into cliche. And still, one could argue that those reasons are still reasons and probably have some terrible (and interesting) trauma beneath them.

rugcat
12-28-2006, 10:51 AM
The other thing is that I've read a lot about the who "sympathetic villain". Is it just me or can't we just have bad bad guys? Sometimes the bad guy just needs to be a selfish such and such who wants it all for his/her self.
Absolutely. There is real evil in this world. There are people who are irredeemable, vicious beyond comprehension. Serial sex killers, for example, all seem to have two things in common - 1) they enjoy killing people, and 2) they start out by torturing and killing animals as children.

Why they’re this way is a matter of debate, but they walk among us. But if you put such a character into fantasy, people will complain that they’re not real, nobody’s all good or bad, they’re not three dimensional characters. If they’re not, it’s the fault of the writing, not the character conception. Write them as complex, of course. Sympathetic? I don’t think so. I believe in evil and I believe that those who can fight it, must. Coincidentally, so do the characters in my books.

Tallymark
12-28-2006, 11:22 AM
I don't believe that it's necessary that villains be sympathetic, I think it's just necessary that they be well-developed. The two just often go hand-in-hand. All too often--especially sometimes in fantasy--you get nameless, faceless evil that wants to destroy the world just because they do. Sort of generic evil. Like Sauron--he's a big, scary evil figure, but really he is a bit flat as a character. Generic evil makes me think of the villains in cartoons, who go about doing Big Evil Deeds, but we don't see any real complex thought processes behind it. It's good to make your villains fully fleshed out, and often as they get flushed out and we see why they do things they become more sympathetic, but this doesn't have to be the case. Their reasons for being bad can also be bad.

I do agree with kct webber that most evil people believe that what they are doing is right. What makes them evil is that they have a grotesquely distorted vision of what is right. Hitler believed that what he did was right, but Hitler was a tremendous bigot, and Hitler believed in the inherent superiority of the aryan race, and Hitler believed in power. Killing millions of 'inferior' people in order to make himself and his nation powerful was, to him, the right thing to do. Not morally right, but right. To him, it was only what he and his people deserved--and to him, he was giving the jewish people what they deserved. This doesn't make him at all sympathic, at least not to me (but then, I'm a jew :p ). He was an incredibily, unimaginably evil man. But, in analyzing his motives, we can see that there was more at work than just 'he killed people because he liked to'. And like rugcat said, there are people who are genuinely sadistic, and who genuinely enjoy causing pain. And people who enjoy hating and enjoy dehumanizing others. Throw in that kind of person with some large-scale goals, and you're on your way to a holocaust.

A selfish person genuinely believes that doing anything to get what they want is right. Oh, sure, they know that it may be morally reprehensible, and they know it's not a good thing to do, or a nice thing to do--but they believe that they deserve the things they want, and since their internal perception of the world is run by this belief, anything is justified. Their idea of 'right' is very, very wrong.

Basically, people want well-developed villains. They don't have to be sympathetic. If anything, a well-developed villain can be even more frightening, once you get a look into their twisted minds.

Ivonia
12-28-2006, 12:12 PM
I think the reason why many villians nowadays are more of the "sympathetic" variety is because stock "evil" villians who are evil for the sake of being evil are kind of boring and bland. The bad guys who have good motivations for what they do become more interesting.

One thing I remember hearing was "A good villian never sees themselves as evil." What that means is, from the bad guy's perspective, what he's doing isn't bad at all, he's just doing what needs to be done to achieve his goals.

For example, using Hitler again (keep in mind I'm not trying to say what he did was good, I'm just trying to show why he did what he did), here was a guy who was determined to lead the German people, the "Master Race", to the great glory in which they deserved. In order to do this, he needed to expel the Jews (and later, exterminate them), and Germany needed many resources in order to grow, including raw materials and land.

He brought the Germans out of their depression following the humiliating defeat and peace terms after World War 1 (which stated Germany had to demobilize most of its military, pay the costs for the entire war, and admit guilt for starting the war in the first place. To many Germans, it's like being kicked and then spat upon after you've been knocked down), by rebuilding their economy, military, and giving them a sense of pride and honor in themselves again (when a lot of men aren't working, and then are suddenly working now, you would probably agree that the guy in charge is a good man).

Unfortunately, this "vision" of a Greater Germany would come at a terrible cost. When WW2 began, they passed the "cost" of this high lifestyle onto conquered territories (they started with Jews in Germany, but it wasn't enough to keep up with the demands, and it was because of the increasing costs which led them to war). The Germans would quickly conquer a country via Blitzkrieg, then strip the country of all its materials and wealth, sending it back home. This meant the conquered people were living miserably compared to the Germans, and millions would die as a result.

Another problem was anyone who didn't have the "ideal master race" traits, such as blue eyes and blond hair, were deemed inferior, and were suitable only as slaves, or dead. The Nazi's dealt with communists the same way as they treated Jews, so when they invaded the Soviet Union, they often killed the people they conquered, rather than "liberating them from communism" (as many Russians weren't exactly hardcore followers of Stalin during the outbreak of WW2, but increasingly they felt loyalty to the common cause of repelling the invaders from their homeland). This meant that the Germans would face increasing resistance everywhere, mostly in the Eastern Front, which is where the bloodiest fighting in WW2 was occurring along about a 2,000 mile front (which is roughly from New York to Los Angeles in the US).

Ideology also played on both sides. The Soviet Union wanted to destroy the fascists since they attacked first, and often killed many of their soldiers and civilians. However, as the Soviet Union began to push back the Germans and invade Europe, they often committed terrible atrocities themselves, raping millions of German women, partly out of the frustration that they had to endure from the German military, and also as a psychological weapon; it looks bad on your army if you can't prevent stuff like that from going on (unfortunately it doesn't get talked about much, but it happened regardless of what you believe, or want to believe). And the bombing of civilians by British and American warplanes only stiffened the Germans resolve to defend to the last (Hitler wanted every German to die defending Germany, saying they deserved what was coming to them for not fighting hard enough, but luckily cooler heads prevailed in the end, particularly after he committed suicide).

Again, I don't condone what Hitler did, but when you begin to "study" him, you can start to see some of the underlying reasons why he did what he did. And it's because of things that happened in the aftermath of WW1 why the victors tried to do things differently after WW2 (for instance, helping to rebuild Germany, rather than placing blame entirely on the country and forcing the Germans to pay for everything again). And it's because of the German invasion why the Soviet Union set up the "Iron Curtain", buffer states between themselves and pro-US countries, to prevent another "Operation Barbarossa" from ever happening (and things that happened during the Cold War would affect things going on today, such as the rise of men like Osama Bin Laden, the creation of the Israeli state, and all the conflict going on there today).

So, in short, would you rather read a story about a guy named Hitler who wanted to conquer the world because he was evil for the sake of being evil? Or would you rather read the story of a frustrated painter (yes, Hitler was a painter, and he couldn't get into art school) who saw his country go from great glory to a shameful depression, and vowed to do what he could in order to bring the Germans back to great power and glory again, then backed up his claims by helping his people at the expense of hurting others?

By the way, it's interesting that Joseph Stalin, the guy in charge of the Soviet Union during WW2, was responsible for more deaths than Hitler was (I think some 30 million deaths, at first mostly because of "collective farming", later because he forced Soviet soldiers to fight to the death, lest they risk getting shot by their own forces if they retreated, or their families suffering because of their "cowardice"), yet he's usually portrayed in a good light (classic example of "history is written by the winners", but to be fair, he did bear the brunt of the fighting against the Nazi's during WW2).

You'd be surprised how much information you can find by studying history. Some of the things that happened seems like it came straight out of a story (such as Julius Caesar), but these things really did happen, and there's a ton of info you can draw off of if you need ideas for your own stories (my main antagonist is loosely based on Hitler, for example).

Ivonia
12-28-2006, 12:37 PM
If you want to see even more complex events in history, study the Crusades. There is no clear "good guy" or "bad guy" here, it's all perspective.

For example, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I Comnenus needed help to reclaim territories he had lost from Seljuk Turks (particularly after the disastrous Battle of Manzikert). He went to Pope Urban II to ask for Western European mercenaries who would help him to reclaim those lands lost (the split between the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox Church had just occurred in 1054, a few decades earlier. To have to even do this was kind of embarassing to the Byzantines).

Pope Urban II, who at the time felt he needed to reassert Papal authority, issued a call to all Christians, and then gave a glamorous story of how infidels had taken the Holy Land and defiled it. He also said it was up to them to free the lands where Christ once preached, lived, and was crucified at, and if they did so, they would receive indulgences which would ensure they'd enter Heaven.

And boy did many people pick this idea up. The Byzantine Emperor just wanted a mercenary force; instead, he got a large army, although they weren't interested in reclaiming lost lands from the Byzantines, they wanted to liberate Jerusalem from the Muslims, who were deemed infidels. And sure enough, when they reached the city, they sacked it and killed quite a few people there, all in the name of God.

Marxist ideas also got applied. To them, they felt that the Crusaders (particularly the first one) only went because they wanted to get money and lands (and they are partially right, many did go for that reason, and that's probably what most of the Peasant's Crusade, the relatively unorganized crusade right before the First Crusade, consisted of). But recent research shows that Crusading is an expensive undertaking, and many nobles went broke funding the campaigns, so many largely went because of the religious beliefs behind Crusading.

To the Muslims, they viewed these "Franks" (that's the general term they called all Europeans at the time) as hostile invaders of their territory, and had to unite politically first before they could repel these foreigners from their lands. So when Saladin recaptured Jerusalem, he didn't murder everyone in sight like the First Crusade had done. But once he died, his empire split apart pretty quickly (Muslims often hate different factions about as much as they hate non-Muslims, that's why there's all this talk of "faction wars" in Iraq right now), although they did manage to eventually kick out the Crusaders entirely (the last Christian held city, Acre, fell in 1291).

And some Crusades were kind of controversial, such as crusades against fellow Christians such as the Byzantines (during the Fourth Crusade), and others which were more politically motivated than religious, like the Albigensian Crusade. An interesting note I recall my Crusades professor mention was that Lutheranism may not have survived and thrived had the Ottoman Empire not of been a threat to Balkans region which the Holy Roman Emperor had to deal with right away, so he was forced to make peace with the Lutheran faction rather than go to war with them (I suppose that's kind of speculative and a "what if" question, but it's interesting to see how events in the past shape events in the present. But at the time, Lutherans were viewed similarly as the Cathars during the Albigensian Crusade, and probably would've been dealt with similarly).

kct webber
12-28-2006, 01:52 PM
Tellymark--I don't believe that it's necessary that villains be sympathetic, I think it's just necessary that they be well-developed. The two just often go hand-in-hand.

After going back and reading my comment, I think I maybe was a bit unclear about what I meant to say. :c I second Tellymark's statement.

I agree that villains don't have to be sympathetic, but they should definitely be well-developed, imo. I think that whether you choose a sympathetic villain or not depends on the story you're writing and what it needs. There is certainly a place for sympathetic villains, depending on the story you're telling, but if you write a 'Hitler' character, trying to make them sympathetic may not be the best choice--you would probably disgust your reader into tossing your book. He should, however, be well-developed--you should be able to see and know why he does what he does. Villains should disturb. And faceless doesn't do it (at least not for me). I will remember--and shiver at the memory of--your well-develped 'Hitler' character for far longer than I would remember Mr. Faceless No-motive McEvil. :)

Point of contention?
I have heard people use the term sympathetic (when refering to character development) in this way: Someone with whom the reader can identify. Off the top of my head, I believe it was either Morrell or Orson Scott Card who used the term in that way throughout his entire character development book. I say that for the sake of clarity, because if I've heard this, I imagine that others have as well. Sometimes when people say sympathetic, they mean identifiable, evidently. And for further clarity:
Identlfy psychoanal --to make identification of (oneself) to someone else. [Webster]

I don't think that this implies agreement as does sympathy. Does it?:Shrug:

Whether this spin on the word is right or wrong, I don't know, but I thought it may be useful, or at least of some minor interest.

Shadow_Ferret
12-28-2006, 08:10 PM
I've noticed that in the enthusiasm to address the OP's second point about just having bad bad guys, everyone has overlooked his first question, which was, Does anyone write good sword and sorcery? Can it be done?

I myself would like to know the answer to this as I am very old school and love all the S&S of Robert E. Howard, Fritz Leiber, Michael Moorcock, et al, and would like to know if anyone currently is writing this kind of stuff.

Teraphim
12-28-2006, 08:44 PM
Hi all

I have been pondering going back to fantasy (my first writing love) after a couple of years away. Well, more than pondering, I took out a 10 yo manuscript this week and began fixing it (embarrassing at best, I must say). As I've been working on it and returning to the genre I wondered about a couple of things and would just love to have a purely academic discussion about them; there's few places writers can do this so I thought to post it here.

The first is:
Does anyone write good sword and sorcery? Can it be done? I reread Beowulf recently and some other classics and nothing now compares. Why is that? Is there even a market for it . I'm just curious - I don't write to the market and that's a good thing considering this ms is 10+ yrs old.

The other thing is that I've read a lot about the who "sympathetic villain". Is it just me or can't we just have bad bad guys? Sometimes the bad guy just needs to be a selfish such and such who wants it all for his/her self. Yep, there's been some nasty overdoing of stereotypes but that aside... do we need to make our villains sympathetic. IME (and I've worked with no few villains IRL) many are self centered spooky people who lend little of themselves to sympathy.


Many thanks - I look forward to chatting with the lot of you.

You can... 10 years ago, or in the YA market.

Fantasy is growing up. Don't be a throwback.

Shadow_Ferret
12-28-2006, 08:49 PM
You can... 10 years ago, or in the YA market.

Fantasy is growing up. Don't be a throwback.

Wait. S&S isn't childish. None of those authors I mentioned are children's authors, they are all well-regarded adult authors who wrote very good adventures in the S&S genre.

Maybe you've never read any S&S. I wouldn't call any of it YA or immature.

ChunkyC
12-28-2006, 09:24 PM
Good discussion. All I can add is to make sure your villain is motivated to do what he/she does. Power, control, whatever; even if it's simply that they enjoy doing nasty things, that motivation needs to be there.

Mustangpilot
12-28-2006, 09:47 PM
I believe Hitler knew that what he was doing was evil and just didn't give a damn. I think he hated everyone and everything and was hell bent on destruction. He wanted to kill as many people and destroy as much of civilation as he could. He was evil incarnate. Stalin was a nut case as was Pot. If you are interested in learning more about Stalin and his bloody associates check out "The Black Book of Communism." I guarantee you will have nightmares. After you get into it take a look at the quotes from the founder of the ACLU.

JBI
12-28-2006, 10:12 PM
Bad bad guys are too common. I personally like 3 dimensional ones. As for sword and sorcery, that really isnt the bulk of fantasy. In fact, sword and sorcery is minimal compared to all the other subgenres.

Teraphim
12-28-2006, 10:25 PM
Wait. S&S isn't childish. None of those authors I mentioned are children's authors, they are all well-regarded adult authors who wrote very good adventures in the S&S genre.

Maybe you've never read any S&S. I wouldn't call any of it YA or immature.

i've read more than a few of the authors you recommended. i've written and read more than my fair share of sword and sorcery, but it's more of an exercise in old writing techniques than it is a marketable product.

YA isn't just for kids. It is not a dirty word, or a blow-off. YA is a level of craftsmanship and content that allows for simpler solutions. It's like flirting with disaster instead of embracing ruin.

conan was a long time ago, and r. a. salvatore abandoned his drizzt about ten years ago for his slow fade into literary oblivion.

lots of exciting things have happened since, much of it from england, (and an englishman in minnesota). women-oriented literature has also had their romance/fantasy hybrid revolution. trying to ignore the current market for hybrids isn't going to help anyone write professionally.

but, in all things, if you believe you can write a throwback so good that you can kill a major literary shift, more power to ya.

tschues

Shadow_Ferret
12-28-2006, 10:35 PM
I like bad bad guys, but that doesn't mean they can't be interesting or even likable. I mean, Hannible Lector was a very interesting bad guy, yet there was no mistaking that he was evil. I have several characters who are just oozing evil, but it's the slime coating that makes them so much fun as characters.


As for sword and sorcery, that really isnt the bulk of fantasy. In fact, sword and sorcery is minimal compared to all the other subgenres.

And that depresses me. I grew up during the 70s when S&S WAS fantasy. It was the bulk of what you'd find. The re-edited printings of Conan books by Ace opened the floodgates and S&S was everywhere, in books, comics, and eventually the movies.

It was a wonderful time to be a fan. And now that pendulum has swung away from S&S and heroic fantasy toward the Tolkienesque type of epic fantasy along with the whole new subgenre of urban fantasy.

I hope it eventually swings back. But until it does, I guess I'll have to be content with picking up out-of-print books at the used bookstores.

Unless someone can name some current authors of the genre. (I'm nothing if not persistent. )

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 12:15 AM
Tellymark--I don't believe that it's necessary that villains be sympathetic, I think it's just necessary that they be well-developed. The two just often go hand-in-hand.

I agree totally that well developed is essential - and has been lacking. I think that was a huge part of what took me away from fantasy in general. The megalomaniac who just wants everything *and* is poorly developed.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 12:16 AM
Good discussion. All I can add is to make sure your villain is motivated to do what he/she does. Power, control, whatever; even if it's simply that they enjoy doing nasty things, that motivation needs to be there.

I couldn't agree more.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 12:16 AM
Here's one thing - I didn't really define S and S. How would people define it?

Ed to add - I would include the big quest stories - the ones involving lots of fwacking (fighting, battles, sword play) and magic (however we want to define that) in my definition of S and S. One of the challenges (IMO) with S and S is that a lot of people *just* see (what I would call) pulp fantasy like Conan and the D and D stuff as S and S. Elizabeth Moon’s “Deed of Paksenarrion” is one of the best novels I have ever, ever read. IMO, it's S and S and there's little in fantasy that can touch it. I would love to have something I write be compared to that.

AnnieColleen
12-29-2006, 12:18 AM
The megalomaniac who just wants everything *and* is poorly developed.
He just wants to be well-developed! That's what drove him to evil...


;)

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 12:23 AM
You can... 10 years ago, or in the YA market.

Fantasy is growing up. Don't be a throwback.

So Teraphim I'm not sure what you mean by this. I hope your position isn't that all S and S is juvenile (maybe I've misunderstood?) You can call Tolkien (and Jordan and Moorcock and even authors like Moon and Martin to some degree) many things but I think YA wouldn't fit. Sure, those are (largely) epic authors but what is epic other than S and S with a looonnngggg drawn out quest?

Do you mind clarifying? I guess it feels a bit like someone even thinking about S and S is suffering from some sort of immaturity based of the response in your post?

Higgins
12-29-2006, 12:26 AM
I agree totally that well developed is essential - and has been lacking. I think that was a huge part of what took me away from fantasy in general. The megalomaniac who just wants everything *and* is poorly developed.

I agree..."sympathetic" is a bit of a red herring. The Bad guy needs to have some set of priorities otherwise the reader correctly perceives him as just an arbitrary plot element and a dull and over-done one at that.

Shadow_Ferret
12-29-2006, 12:37 AM
In doing a search I found this website for sword and sorcery book reviews (http://www.swordandsorcery.org/book-reviews.htm). Some of the reviews are for more recent books under the heading The Young Blades.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 01:03 AM
Here's something that maybe was unconciously underlying my question about good s and s. I have been looking for definitions online. Most are negative - hack and slash etc. however there are no few that state S and S has been used interchangably with high/epic fantasy. What it seems from this reading is that if it's good it's Epic/high (e.g. if there's worldbuilding etc.) but if it's poorly written (some would say the D and D novels, Conan) it's S and S.

Do others concur with this? Like I said, for me if there's a quest and lots of battling and the quest is the focus but the fights are really important too (and there's a magical element) then it fits the S and S category.

Interestingly, there's a lot of derision about the lack of world building with S and S but really, I recall (and it's been more years than I care to count) feeling like I knew the worlds the D and D novels sat in and I certianly don't think you could say Fritz Leiber's Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser has a lack of world building. So, is that a fair definition?

Shadow_Ferret
12-29-2006, 01:10 AM
Well, I completely disagree that there is poor writing or world building in Conan. There was a ton of both. Anyone who says otherwise has never read Robert E. Howard.

If you go to the website I posted above, go to the articles page, and read "Defining Sword and Sorcery" I came away with the thought that Sword and Sorcery, Heroic Fantasy, and Epic Fantasy are all intertwined and related to be almost indistinguishable and it comes down to whatever term you prefer to use.

veinglory
12-29-2006, 01:16 AM
I would suggest browsing the fantasy book shelves. Sword and Sandal/Sorcery is alive and well and one of the last bastions of the purely evil villain. Although I, personally, still want the bad guy to have some kind of plausible motivation rather than 'I love to kill, main, destroy bwah ha ha ha'.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 01:56 AM
Well, I completely disagree that there is poor writing or world building in Conan. There was a ton of both. Anyone who says otherwise has never read Robert E. Howard.

If you go to the website I posted above, go to the articles page, and read "Defining Sword and Sorcery" I came away with the thought that Sword and Sorcery, Heroic Fantasy, and Epic Fantasy are all intertwined and related to be almost indistinguishable and it comes down to whatever term you prefer to use.

That's my thought SF. They are all interchangable but if the beholder (not the monster, the reader) doesn't like the writing or the work it's S and S. If it's quality, it's epic or high fantasy. At least, that is what is occuring to me through this discussion.

Not to harp too much on Elizabeth Moon but if D of P isn't S and S I don't know what is. Paks is a merc who hacks her way through the whole novel. There's a moral to the tale and lots good to say about it -but I'm not sure how it wouldn't be S and S. Anyway, I'd recommend that you try that one out. I'd be curious to know what you think of it.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 02:07 AM
I would suggest browsing the fantasy book shelves. Sword and Sandal/Sorcery is alive and well and one of the last bastions of the purely evil villain. Although I, personally, still want the bad guy to have some kind of plausible motivation rather than 'I love to kill, main, destroy bwah ha ha ha'.

While I can definitely appreciate your desire for something more than just "I love to kill" for the sake of the discussion let me ask about "plausible motivation". Why is "I want to kill" not plausible motivation? We've had plenty of those types in power - not just I want to kill, but I want to rule all at any expense. Look at the Middle East -there are few who would say Saddam Hussein did what he did for the good of anyone other than himself and his ilk. So too with many African nations. Pinochet is another example. Few of them are misguided and believing they’re acting in a greater good...

I would also add my voice to the person who said Hitler did evil knowing what he did was wrong. He tortured innocent people not because he thought there was something to gain (although in some cases there was - like spinal cord research) but because the Jews et al were less than humane to him and his ilk. Many followed him because they loved the power and some loved to hurt people and were able to do so. That was it – they could hurt people so they did. There are many people – shocking amounts – for whom people are simply tools to be manipulated on the road to power. Is it fair to assume it would be any different in a fantasy setting?

The other thing I was wondering was about the concept of “bad guy”. If the “bad guy” (for you) has to have some greater motivation then can the bad guy of a fantasy story not just be a serial killer? Does it have to be a super power?

For me, I prefer the bad guy with more motivation than just because they want it all (said in Voice of Doom please) but perhaps it’s because the other type are (as has been pointed out here) more developed?

This is a great discussion. Thanks everyone.

ChunkyC
12-29-2006, 02:25 AM
The Bad guy needs to have some set of priorities otherwise the reader correctly perceives him as just an arbitrary plot element
Yes. As long as those priorities are plausible within the framework of the story, you're off to the races.

I'm working on something right now where my baddie started out as pretty much a cardboard cutout evil bastid. But now as I revise, I'm trying to layer in his motivations, which I've decided should be a desire to have what the 'good guys' have: respect, prestige, the hot babe.... ;) His fatal flaw is that he tries to take by force what the good guys earned.

veinglory
12-29-2006, 02:30 AM
I still don't think a love to kill was a motivation, it was a means to acheive and end. Hussein wanted control, money and power for himslef and his clan, Hitler to set up an 'Aryan' Empire. From their point of view there goals had nobility. Neither was personally a sadist. Sadism can be a motivation but this is a different... story. A villains goals can be what we call evil, but only rarely what he or she would call evil.

Tallymark
12-29-2006, 02:58 AM
I would also add my voice to the person who said Hitler did evil knowing what he did was wrong. He tortured innocent people not because he thought there was something to gain (although in some cases there was - like spinal cord research) but because the Jews et al were less than humane to him and his ilk.

Ah, but see, we're both correct--Jews were less than human to him, and so there was in fact something to gain in killing them. One, he got to purge the earth of 'inferior' humans and strengthen his perfect race, and two, he got to inflict his hatred upon what he considered to be jewish scum. (since it wasn't just regular racisim he directed against the jews, but pure, evil hatred; he wouldn't just kill them, he'd make them suffer first). Because Hitler thrived upon hate and upon dehumanization, to him these were grand goals.

What's confusing is the difference between 'universal right' and 'personal right' (now I'm getting into philosophy though--sorry!). Did Hitler think what he did was a kind and noble thing to do? No way. But he saw the jews as so much less than human that he believed he had the right to torture them, and that they were only getting what they deserved. And in his eyes, his own people were put on such a high pedastal that everyone else was just insects at their feet waiting to be crushed. So on an individual level, he felt his motives and his means were justified--by his own hatred. They were, in his own eyes, right. This in no way makes him any less evil, because this is such a sadistic, twisted, grotesque perception of right and wrong that there is no sympathy to be had.

Er, sorry I'm not explaining this well; I'm pulling from a couple of different philosphers on the nature of evil and universal truths, but it's been awhile since I read them.

It's sort of the difference between Hitler killing a jew and thinking "That was an evil thing I just did, and I like doing evil," and Hitler thinking "That jew was a repulsive, filthy insect, and I will rid the world of this vermin--and enjoy doing it, too." In the former hypothetical thought, Hitler's doing the evil because it's evil, in the second, Hitler's doing the evil not because he thinks it's evil, but because--within his own evil mind--inflicting his sadism upon the jews and eradicating them is a totally justified thing to do. He knows it's wrong, and yet, to him it is right. Not good, but right. After all, to him (despite his heritage), jews were hardly even human--and that's whats so evil about it.

Yeah, I know, my example sentences were crappy too. Sorry. ^_^;

Alex Bravo
12-29-2006, 08:44 AM
Here's an interesting character: Christopher Columbus, celebrated all over the world as a great man, but in reading more about him you learn he may have been worse than Hitler. He was one of the world's greatest slave traders, a man who practiced genocide and thought it was the inhabitants fault that these things came to pass upon them.

Here's a sample of what this great man brought to the Americas: "The Christians, with their horses and swords and pikes began to carry out massacres and strange cruelties against [the Indians]. They attacked the towns and spared neither the children nor the aged, nor pregnant women nor women in childbed, not only stabbing and dismembering them but cutting them to pieces as if dealing with sheep in the slaughterhouse. They laid bets as to who, with one stroke of the sword could split a man in two or could cut off his head…They took infants from their mothers' breasts, snatching them by the legs and pitching them headfirst against the crags***They made some low, wide gallows on which the hanged victim's feet almost touched the ground, stringing up their victims, in lots of thirteen, in memory of Our Redeemer and His twelve Apostles, then set burning wood at their feet and thus burned them alive."
- Bartolome' de Las Casas, The Devastation of the Indies: A Brief Account (originally published in 1547) reprinted by Johns Hopkins Press, 1992. pp. 42-45. Las Casas was a Dominican priest, the first European historian in the Americas.

All that sounds pretty evil to me...

That said, I don't understand why we have statues of Jefferson Davis. To me, that's another villian for all the deaths he caused. Couldn't Robert E. Lee be the perfect sympathetic villian because he could have easily saved so many lives by accepting President Lincoln's request to lead the Union army and crush the rebellion? (Hmmm, sounds like Darth Lee.) But instead, he prolongs a war that he himself didn't really believe in. Over 80% of the people in Texas (I'm a Texan) didn't own slaves, yet we wanted to fight with the South to prove a silly point, that the North shouldn't tell us what to do, regardless of the fact that WE were WRONG!!! So aren't all southerners sympathetic villians?

Scarlett_156
12-29-2006, 09:16 AM
Sword and sorcery: Don't really know what that is. I do read a lot of fantasy fiction that has war in it. Does that count?

Good/bad characters: Whoever lives or has lived and has done wrong and been revered by the masses nonetheless, it shouldn't matter to your writing. Taking delight in killing is a human trait. Doing wrong and pretending that one is doing good is a human trait. All traits that are written about are human traits. Whether other humans want to read your stories or not DEPENDS ON THE QUALITY OF YOUR WRITING and nothing else.

Historical figures (i.e., Hitler, Columbus) are usually boring to base a fictional character on because those personalities have already been analyzed and over-analyzed to the point of ultimate boredom.

I know of no works of fiction based on the characters of Hitler, Columbus, Ghandi, Jesus, Moses, or what-have-you that I would care to read. Nonfiction about those characters I WILL read even if it's crap, because it gives me some insight into character. Hmmm....

If a dead guy did wrong, well yeah-- it's bad, but he's DEAD. In your writing, make your characters LIVE. Whether they are good or evil, put some blood in them and make them live and speak, and then others will want to read what you wrote.

I hope this was helpful!

Kentuk
12-29-2006, 10:02 AM
While the world may have produced some truely bad villians without one sympathetic characteristic and totally undeserving of pity, the evilness of a villian is basically a projection of the protagonist. The antagonist may be a good person in most respects but not seen through the eyes of the protagonist. Making the antagonist sympathetic undermines the conflict.

In regards to Hitler, his evil root was nationalism. He stopped at nothing to achieve an all powerful, all conquering German state. What he did to the Jews was terrorism aimed at the German people. The message was join or be treated like a Jew. Hitler didn't kill for the love of it, he had a purpose.

Literary fashions may have changed so it might not be wise to lable a book S&S but many readers love action and it would be difficult to get a book labled Fantasy if it didn't have magic.

Higgins
12-29-2006, 06:18 PM
That said, I don't understand why we have statues of Jefferson Davis. To me, that's another villian for all the deaths he caused. Couldn't Robert E. Lee be the perfect sympathetic villian because he could have easily saved so many lives by accepting President Lincoln's request to lead the Union army and crush the rebellion? (Hmmm, sounds like Darth Lee.) But instead, he prolongs a war that he himself didn't really believe in. Over 80% of the people in Texas (I'm a Texan) didn't own slaves, yet we wanted to fight with the South to prove a silly point, that the North shouldn't tell us what to do, regardless of the fact that WE were WRONG!!! So aren't all southerners sympathetic villians?

I'm a Texan too and
I agree. But how sympathetic are we white southerners as villainous characters? Having ancestors who were literally soldiers of an evil empire and still somehow proud of it, you have to wonder about the sympathetic villain model of villainous motivation. The white southern villainy thang suggests that something that absurdly grotesuqe and simple is just a flat out moral monstrosity.

I guess sometimes there is just plain mindless evil. It certainly lived in the pompous little head of my great-great-grandfather as he sat down to write his incredibly snotty letters from the front in Virginia. Gad. What verbiage the evil can churn out...

And then the problem is how you would get that into a plot in a non-sentimental way while preserving the dull, horrible, monstrosity of the evil.

kct webber
12-29-2006, 07:08 PM
Wow--didn't expect such a lively discussion when I brought Hitler into this. He just keeps coming up.

Just a note: The jews were regarded as the financial elite, while the rest of Germany was suffering in poverty prior to WWII. They were seen as the 'greed' that ruined Germany--hence the banning of Jews from owning businesses as one of their first actions. Also, if you dig into the Nazi cult, you will find that they wanted to bring the world back to Nordic gods and traditions and resented that the god of the Jews had taken the front in the world. Oddly, they also used the Jews' killing of Christ as a reason to fuel hate, though it was likely just propaganda.

As for the 'Taking delight in killing is a human trait' comment--it's not. At least not as that implies (that all humans have it in them to do it). Psychologically, only about two percent of humans (it's general of course, but I've read it in more than one journal) has it in themselves to kill without being profoundly and negatively impacted. The larger part of that 2% never act on it and of those who do, it is an even smaller percentage that actually enjoy it.

That being said, I stick by what I said earlier--people (almost always) do what they do for a reason and with a purpose. And so shall my bad guys.

kct webber
12-29-2006, 07:37 PM
Oh, and this thread has become freakin' cool. Many thanks the Flannelberry for starting it. Sorry I don't have anything for the s&s question. I didn't mean to let Hitler 'jack the thread. It could've been worse--you could have titled the thread 'Poland'. ;)

Shadow_Ferret
12-29-2006, 07:45 PM
I wonder if someone were to write a fiction on Hitler and make him a somewhat sympathetic character if that novel would be universally reviled and the author become as hated as Salman Rushdie is in Muslin circles.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 08:20 PM
Here's an interesting character: Christopher Columbus, celebrated all over the world as a great man, but in reading more about him you learn he may have been worse than Hitler. He was one of the world's greatest slave traders, a man who practiced genocide and thought it was the inhabitants fault that these things came to pass upon them.

I couldn't agree more - it's why we don't celebrate traditional Thanksgiving and among friends say "Happy Cultural Genocide Day" rather than Happy Thanksgiving. I should add dh and I both have some FN heritage (immediate heritage - not 12 generations back sort of thing) so it hits close to home. The perception of the colonization of N America differs dramatically through different lenses.

Shadow_Ferret
12-29-2006, 08:28 PM
Sorry, I learned in grade school that Columbus was a great explorer and I refuse to read anything more current that will ruin that idea. I dislike any history taken out of context and really dislike any history that makes dead European White guys look anything less than heroic. I still celebrate Columbus day and Thanksgiving Day.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 08:32 PM
As for the 'Taking delight in killing is a human trait' comment--it's not. At least not as that implies (that all humans have it in them to do it).



That being said, I stick by what I said earlier--people (almost always) do what they do for a reason and with a purpose. And so shall my bad guys.

I missed that comment. I agree entirely - people will get a rush from killing (be it self defense or murder). That is a normal nervous system response and not the same as taking delight in it. I could bore people with a more complete neurological explanation or you could just take it like that.

My bad guy (my current fantasy) does really believe he's doing right and that works best for this story. But this thread as made me think he needs to be a bit badder.

With bad guys in "pop culture":
Do you think the Emperor believed what he was doing was for the good of all beings in the Empire (referring to Star Wars)? Or Darth Vader? Both excellent bad guys but no motivation but selfishness and the desire to control it all. Also Sauron and Saruman in LOTR? Sauron was a great bad guy. Because they had such disregard for life that they could be so bad. There was no misplaced goodness in him. Hannibal Lector (as someone already mentioned) was another great bad guy - a reluctant hero in a way too (but he did love showing off). There's nothing about him but a guy who got off on killing slowly and painfully, he wasn't trying to be good or do some greater good thing. In fact, when I think about it most of the really good bad guys have been great because they were just so damn bad and that's all they wanted to be.

As I said before this is a great discussion - very helpful to me personally.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 08:38 PM
Sorry, I learned in grade school that Columbus was a great explorer and I refuse to read anything more current that will ruin that idea.

Was this tongue in cheek? Sorry - I don't do subtle IRL and really don't online!



I dislike any history taken out of context and really dislike any history that makes dead European White guys look anything less than heroic. I still celebrate Columbus day and Thanksgiving Day.

If you mean this literally may I quickly throw my academic hat on and state: history is all about context. Only when you read a number of contexts related to the same events are you able to distill a sense of what may have actually occured.

We don't have Columbus Day at all - so no worries there. Thanksgiving is important and we do celebrate it - just not the whole pilgrim "thanks for the small pox" thing. It's not a bad thing that people came to N America (IMO) and how it was done makes sense given the flavour of the day. What's bad is what is done with it now - but here I'm turning a nice discussion political. I'll just step back from the topic!

ChunkyC
12-29-2006, 08:40 PM
Sorry, I learned in grade school that Columbus was a great explorer and I refuse to read anything more current that will ruin that idea. I dislike any history taken out of context and really dislike any history that makes dead European White guys look anything less than heroic. I still celebrate Columbus day and Thanksgiving Day.
Well, I'd have to say that putting someone on a pedestal and ignoring the bad things they did is taking history out of context. The only reason Columbus is celebrated is because his initial trip to North America can be seen as the first in a long string of events that ended up with the formation of a country called the United States of America. Why that should automatically confer godhood upon him is beyond me.

But this also illustrates the point of how a complex character in fiction is much more compelling than a one-dimensional construct that comes across as totally artifical, and therefore, unbelievable.

Shadow_Ferret
12-29-2006, 08:50 PM
Context was he was a discoverer and adventurer and lived his life as most white Europeans did, which at the time wasn't considered evil or bad. It just was how they were.

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 08:56 PM
Ah, but see, we're both correct--Jews were less than human to him, and so there was in fact something to gain in killing them. One, he got to purge the earth of 'inferior' humans and strengthen his perfect race, and two, he got to inflict his hatred upon what he considered to be jewish scum. (since it wasn't just regular racisim he directed against the jews, but pure, evil hatred; he wouldn't just kill them, he'd make them suffer first). Because Hitler thrived upon hate and upon dehumanization, to him these were grand goals.

True - but for my part I wasn't just speaking of Hitler. Many of his higher up flunkies were thrilled with their positions not just to get rid of the jews but because they liked to hurt people.

Now, to use your example and attempt to apply it to LOTR- could you not argue that Sauron was not only looking for revenge but also riding ME of those who were inferior, less than bugs etc just like Hitler? And create a world in the image that suited him best? Same with the Emperor/Vader (in fact, that may be a better example). The systems that just complied with the Empire and paid their taxes etc. largely escaped Imperial notice.

I would love to hear what you think. Maybe my initial premise is flawed and should be reworded? Anyone who is doing evil on a personal level may do it simply for the love of killing but those doing it on a grander scale may always have misguided (and possibly evil) motives. But the motive is more than just the enjoyment of killing?

flannelberry
12-29-2006, 08:57 PM
Oh, and this thread has become freakin' cool. Many thanks the Flannelberry for starting it. Sorry I don't have anything for the s&s question. I didn't mean to let Hitler 'jack the thread. It could've been worse--you could have titled the thread 'Poland'. ;)

Thanks to everyone for participating. I couldn't agree more - this is the best thread I've ever participated in online. It feels like being back in school (I'm a post secondary aholic) but I don't have to pay (or hand in an assignment).

It's great it's gone this way... one never knows what their starting when they post a thread like this!

ChunkyC
12-29-2006, 09:28 PM
Context was he was a discoverer and adventurer and lived his life as most white Europeans did, which at the time wasn't considered evil or bad. It just was how they were.
That is a good point, and it does fit with what we've been discussing about why people do things that could be considered evil.

I personally can't ignore that 'who they were' was pretty nasty at times, and therefore I find it difficult to admire Columbus. But I do celebrate thanksgiving, because it has morphed into a general celebration of thanks for the good things in life.

AceTachyon
12-29-2006, 09:40 PM
By "sympathetic," I don't think that necessarily means we should invite them over to dinner and become best buds. I just think it refers to what most have said: a villain who, in his/her own mind, is simply doing what they think is right. Whether it's genocide or pleasure killing, they think it's the right thing to do and this drive their piece of the story.

Can a story have a super evil bad guy? Sure. Just tell the story from the POV of those in conflict with the super evil bad guy.

scarletpeaches
12-29-2006, 09:42 PM
When it comes to baddies, I prefer that they have a reason to do evil things, otherwise they're just cartoon characters.

I'm not saying we should agree with those reasons, but they should certainly exist.

kct webber
12-29-2006, 10:14 PM
Shadow Ferret said: I wonder if someone were to write a fiction on Hitler and make him a somewhat sympathetic character if that novel would be universally reviled and the author become as hated as Salman Rushdie is in Muslin circles.

Probably. But that may not be a bad thing on all counts. Everyone knows who Salman Rushdie is. Look at what the outcry among Catholics did for Dan Brown. Bad publicity is publicity; a lot of bad publicity is a lot of publicity. But you may have to learn how to dodge bullets. Salman Rushdie did. :)

Shadow_Ferret
12-29-2006, 11:07 PM
By "sympathetic," I don't think that necessarily means we should invite them over to dinner and become best buds. I just think it refers to what most have said: a villain who, in his/her own mind, is simply doing what they think is right. Whether it's genocide or pleasure killing, they think it's the right thing to do and this drive their piece of the story.

Can a story have a super evil bad guy? Sure. Just tell the story from the POV of those in conflict with the super evil bad guy.

I'm always reminded of Hannible Lector when these discussions come up. He was a super-evil, scary slimeball, but everyone loved his character. He had charisma. He wasn't sympathetic, but he still made you think he was cool. Even as he bit off your ear.

ChunkyC
12-30-2006, 12:36 AM
I'm always reminded of Hannible Lector when these discussions come up. He was a super-evil, scary slimeball, but everyone loved his character. He had charisma. He wasn't sympathetic, but he still made you think he was cool. Even as he bit off your ear.
ooo, good example.

flannelberry
12-30-2006, 02:13 AM
By "sympathetic," I don't think that necessarily means we should invite them over to dinner and become best buds. I just think it refers to what most have said: a villain who, in his/her own mind, is simply doing what they think is right. Whether it's genocide or pleasure killing, they think it's the right thing to do and this drive their piece of the story.


I think Ace that's the point I'm stuck on. With people who, for example, molest children in really horrible ways. It's not that they think they're doing the right thing on any level. They're acting on an impulse. We coudl have ahuge debate on whether it's a controlable impulse or not but the fact is, on no level do they believe they're doing a good thing for anyone - except fulfilling their own desire. I can tell you from my work experience that a lot is premeditated - you'd be amazed at how many predators (and not just of kids) know they're going to reoffend and seek out help. Sadly, it's usually not because they don't want to hurt anyone it's because they don't want to be caught again. And yes, they'll articulate it that way.

So that's my sticky point - some bad guys do things just because they want to, not because there's any reason other than impulse behind it but do they do it on a larger scale (like with armies)? It stands to reason that some could but they'd have to have something special/charismatic about them (or fear based) to have followers. Does that make sense?

veinglory
12-30-2006, 02:25 AM
No actually a great many (I think most) child molestors they think they are doing the right thing, look at NAMBLA, they refer back to the ancient Greek pederists and so on. The few that don't have a 'positive' (from their POV) model to follow are ethically inarticulate and would deny the child is harmed in most cases. They act for sexual satisfacton, not to be evil.

People do things for reasons, good thing, bads things--there needs to be a reason. And even if they don't have any personal articulated justification (very rare) the impulse is experienced as a reason in its own right, not a desire 'to be evil' but a deisre to be something they experience at some level as good (reinforcing).

You need to get past the 'wanting to' to the 'wanting, why?'. Motivation is not a lack of reason, but an expression fo the reasom. The motivation is pulled by an end goal (by desire, by evolution by some mechanism) that needs to be understood. Sometimes this may operate on an unconscious level but there is a reason, a motivation and a goal -- without it anything but knee jerk reflexes simply will not occur.

flannelberry
12-30-2006, 03:11 AM
No actually a great many (I think most) child molestors they think they are doing the right thing, look at NAMBLA, they refer back to the ancient Greek pederists and so on. The few that don't have a 'positive' (from their POV) model to follow are ethically inarticulate and would deny the child is harmed in most cases. They act for sexual satisfacton, not to be evil.



Just to isolate this and not sully the rest of our discussion... let me assure you, no few of the types I am talking about are evil and they know what they are doing is wrong. Please, let me reiterate -I used to work with these people. I assure you I know what I'm talking about both from experience of talking with them and from the research. Their worry is getting caught, not that the next four year old they - is going to be hurt (left out the description).

Slaps hand to forehead pre-emptively. I cannot believe I am going to in anyway not bash NAMBLA because I love to bash them most of the time. Let me first state I am opposed to NAMBLA. I think the premise is messed and at that adults don't need ot be having sex with 14 year olds (which is legal in Canada BTW). But even they espouse the "no abuse, no coercion" thing. NAMBLA does not represent all child molesters - it's in some bizarre way loosely like the homosexuals=pedophiles (not saying that homosexuals are pedophiles or conntected to NAMBLA - it's an illustration of another misleading comparison). In some places 17 year olds can't be with 19 or 20 year olds - they're right, that's stupid. It's equally stupid that in Canada 14 year olds can be with 60 year olds.

Anyway, I am talking about predators - they are preying on little, little kids - or older kids, or adults - no fuzzy grey areas. And they're doing predatory things to them. Or their step children and rationalizing it as "well, she's not really related to me" etc. Believe me when I tell you no few of them know they are doing wrong and don't care -they want their need met and that's that. If that's not evil then what is?

But, then does that contradict my orignal post? Ok - I re read what I asked and this question fits perfectly. A selfish such and such doing what they want purely for their own gain without any regard to who they hurt.

flannelberry
12-30-2006, 03:15 AM
People do things for reasons, good thing, bads things--there needs to be a reason. And even if they don't have any personal articulated justification (very rare) the impulse is experienced as a reason in its own right, not a desire 'to be evil' but a deisre to be something they experience at some level as good (reinforcing).


Isn't the impulse the reason? Like an addict who robs for their fix - may kill someone in the process and not care because they're jonesing and that's what needed to happen to get the money to get hooked up.

The reinforcing part of it can be the rush that comes with the power over another person. We know that to be true from both human and animal studies. That internal stimulus can be the biggest reinforcer there is.

Marian Perera
12-30-2006, 11:38 PM
I think I've made my antagonist too sympathetic, because my critiquer is now sad that the antagonist has to die. I said it's true that the antagonist was abused and brainwashed from infancy, and never had any real love or friendship - but it's also true that he's now half-insane and murderous (and since he's a dragon, he's literally a threat to the entire land). He should be pitied, but he must be stopped.

flannelberry
12-31-2006, 12:15 AM
I think I've made my antagonist too sympathetic, because my critiquer is now sad that the antagonist has to die. I said it's true that the antagonist was abused and brainwashed from infancy, and never had any real love or friendship - but it's also true that he's now half-insane and murderous (and since he's a dragon, he's literally a threat to the entire land). He should be pitied, but he must be stopped.

Oooh - that would be hard if you're attached to him. Maybe you can come up with some really creative way to bump him off?

I was thinking that your post brought up something interesting - he had a crummy life and that led to him being the way he is but is he just really bad now? Hmmm....

I am having way too much fun mulling over the possibilities. This thread has tied in very nicely with the Guilty Pleasures thread. :)

Marian Perera
12-31-2006, 01:46 AM
Oooh - that would be hard if you're attached to him. Maybe you can come up with some really creative way to bump him off?

Well, I knew from the start of the novel that he had to die (because there's not a whole lot else that can be done with a vicious half-mad dragon), but it's true that he had a lot of potential to be good and decent and fair. And since all the dragons before him were worshipped as gods, that makes his degeneration all the worse.

Maybe that's an idea for creating a memorable antagonist - the person should have the potential to be a really good friend or leader or whatever, but somewhere along the line, that potential was swayed to the dark side? Yet you see little glimpses of what they might have been, and that highlights the tragedy of what they've become.

Zoombie
12-31-2006, 02:23 AM
I think one of the best examples of 'identifiable villains' in any story I've seen has been my all time favored T.V Show...Babylon 5. Anyone else here watch that show? Every single main character has a reason to do things, and the conflict comes from when the reasons conflict. When one character wants one thing and another wants something different and they conflict, weather with spaceships, guns or words. And thats one of the reasons I keep on loving that show, because everything has a point and you can understand why they evil race wants to take over the galaxy, or why the rich industrialist wants to wipe out an entire race. It's not just 'I want to own as much as I can' or 'because I'm evil'. And thats what makes an enduring story.

And I'd like echo other people: This thread is awesome .

MadScientistMatt
01-02-2007, 04:32 AM
I'm always reminded of Hannible Lector when these discussions come up. He was a super-evil, scary slimeball, but everyone loved his character. He had charisma. He wasn't sympathetic, but he still made you think he was cool. Even as he bit off your ear.

Parts of this thread remind me of a couple lines from The Screwtape Letters, where Screwtape reminds Wormwood that great sinners must have great virtues. It's something I have tried to put into my stories - a villain needs quite a few positive attributes in order to be effective at villainy. Hannibal, for example, is very intelligent, insightful, a gifted artist - and puts all of these to villainous uses.

Some villains are the sort you can easily imagine would have been a great hero if it weren't for something that pushed them over onto the side of evil. Darth Vader is probably the most well-known example - of course, he does wind up going back...

flannelberry
01-02-2007, 06:19 AM
Darth Vader is probably the most well-known example - of course, he does wind up going back...

Just what I'd expect from someoone with this moniker
"Empirical Storm Trooper" :)

Seriously though - did DV change for you with the release of Epi 1-3? In 4-6 you have no idea about why he turned to the dark side. But man, he was there.

MadScientistMatt
01-03-2007, 06:00 AM
In case you wondering, my user title wasn't just a Star Wars reference - it's also a refernce to the infamous TNH essay Slushkiller.

I haven't seen episode 3, but the first two really only had one effect on my opinion. I thought that it was a really bad touch for Anakin to have flown into the Droid Control Ship and blown it up from the inside. After all, one key point to Episode 4 was that the Emperor didn't think that small ships could be any danger to a large one. Just for once, I wished Lucas could have had one of his big bad ships blown up by a big good ship in a proper space battle.