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Writing myself into corners: the villains

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Thu Feb 16, 2012 7:39 am
Payne says...



So. I've been getting serious with one of my novels, revamping the plot and working on finishing it. I've got good characters (well, better than in the first draft, at least), a decent plotline...and absolutely awesome villains. My housemate has come up with a lot of ideas, and I'm really liking them.

However, I think we've made the villains a little too good. The odds of the heroes actually winning are getting slimmer and slimmer all the time. It's getting to the point where I've already included someone to betray the villains/inform the heroes, and I'm thinking about adding a good ol' Deus ex machina.

So I was wondering...how do you guys feel about stories where the heroes are inexperienced, facing terrible enemies, but they somehow pull through in the end? Does it seem too contrived, or do you like the whole underdog theme? (Yes, doing a little bit of feedback-research here. :wink:)
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Thu Feb 16, 2012 10:35 am
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Blues says...



Hm. Well, he/she will have some very tough competition ;) Your characters will have to be cunning and try to exploit the villains' weaknesses so that they have a chance of winning. What is the villain's downfall?

But who says they have to win? The villains could win. Or you could have the villains *and* the heroes lose. Or they could make a truce. Or the Hero could die and the villain could commit suicide/be nice from then on.

In one of my novels, I had the villain kill the main MC who was actually a teenager. Hey then realised what he did, and then was extremely ashamed. I had 3 options with him:
-Make him commit suicide (because of his shame
-Have him give himself up to the police
-Hide what happened but with a very large change in his character (andpossibly depression).

Perhaps something like that could work for you? But if I were you, and the heroes were destined to win, I'd have the heroes exploit the villain's major weakness(es). I think a Deus ex machina would be too contrived.

I have absolutely no idea about anything in your plot, but if the underdog ... I don't know, kidnapped one of the weak guards at the home of the enemy and managed to force answers out of him, I think I would feel more satisfied as the underdog managed to extract the important information needed.

My personal opinion: underdogs ftw, as long as they do the work and they are clever.

Hope I helped!

Edit:> if anyone reads this and is also reading my current novel, I'm not specifically talking about it ;)




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Thu Feb 16, 2012 2:12 pm
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Rosey Unicorn says...



I wouldn't force the story to go in any one location because you want it to go that way. Let it happen however the story wants to happen, and if that means the villains win, the villains win. Avoid deux ex machina, please. That is one way of losing a good portion of your readers.

Now, while you can also lose a good portion of your readers by having the heroes fail at the end, you'll gain people who enjoy a good, realistic story. And, as Ahmad said, you could have the heroes' deaths or loss make the villain change in some way (although it had better be well written for that to happen), or, maybe not.

Also, this is unlikely your last draft. Write it the way it wants to be each time, and you'd be surprised where you could end up.
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Sat Feb 18, 2012 9:15 pm
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PhoenixBishop says...



Well I think it comes into question what you mean by too good. This I've noticed is a problem with villains. Writers tend to overpower their villains to the point they are painted into a corner and any solution will appear to be a Deus ex Machina. All things have a weakness, so as suggested the heroes should exploit a plausible weakness. Over hyped villains can also be a problem. If they are claimed to be super powerful and everyone fears them, then it's likely the resolution will be a bit jagged.

Rosey pointed out that you should not force your story in any one way, and I agree with that, but from what I gather the villains winning would come from them being overpowered, which is not a good thing on any level.

I think both the heroes and the villains should show a natural growth into power. Both should have weaknesses and both should have strengths. Yes, the villain can start out more powerful, but it still needs to be controlled. I will give an example the bad guy in Eragon. I refuse to look up his name or try to spell it, but he started off overpowered to the point that only two outcomes could occur. The first was that naturally the bad guy wins, but since the hero really never had a chance, that would be a empty end. The second would be the author's intervention. Deus ex Machina. Both options are bad, and thus the villains need to be proportional to the heroes and their growth.
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Thu Feb 23, 2012 6:16 am
Payne says...



Ah, thank you all! The feedback is greatly appreciated, and it has reaffirmed some of the things I was leaning toward to begin with.. This'll definitely give me a better idea of how to play things, though.


(Also, I was just joking about the Deus ex machina. :wink: It takes some serious talent to pull that off in a story.)
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Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:26 pm
Judas says...



Personally, I love stories where the villain is the MC or POV. I feel villains- their motives, drives and approach to life in general- are much more interesting than the good guys (I do believe Milton had that problem in 'Paradise Lost'). The good guys (unless the author is very talented) may become flat and, at worst, boring.
But, as TV Tropes and Cracked have often reminded us, the good guys must always win- however, if the villain is too good and the good guys inexperienced... well, I'll leave that to the undoubtedly much more proficient and experienced writers that have posted previously.
As the good guys must win (in order to keep possible fans and not to alienate a publisher or whatever), a really, really capable villain can, at best survive. That is, unless you're writing dark fiction, where anyone can die.
My dream in the closet is to write a story where basically all the characters are classified as 'villains', though some with different moralities. I'd love help on that. :D
I hope this, on the other hand, has helped
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