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Good and Bad



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Wed Jul 03, 2013 9:24 am
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Tenyo says...



(This has been gathering dust for a while so I figured I should make use of it.)

Some people like to create pages and pages of character sheets, and still never figure out what the point to it is. Some people find sheets tedious and pointless. I have my own character sheets with a few questions that help me get to the heart of my character, simply as a precaution in case I have unintentionally assumed I know more about the character than I actually do.

One of the biggest dangers about creating the character is making someone who fits the plot perfectly, and I find countless writers who have this problem with their antagonist.

They create a bad guy who would cause problems without actually looking into who the bad guy is. I’ll take the easiest example and say that my antagonist is going to be the Devil of an imaginary world. He’s going to do evil just because he’s bad, and that’s what he does. He’s going to try and kill my protagonist, who will find a magic sword that allows him to fight demons and the likes, and so the Devil is going to steal his girlfriend, because the devil is evil, and that’s what he does.

When I read stories like this I want to pick the writer up and rattle them about in frustration.

Why is the Devil evil?

Maybe his life is prolonged by the suffering of others. Does that mean he‘s afraid of dying? Maybe that’s what gives him warm fuzzy feelings - motive, joy. Maybe he’s out to prove that mankind is bad and so beats them up until they give up their nobility - motive, self-righteousness. Maybe he hates the god of mankind so much that the devil tortures god’s children - motive, revenge.

If the motive is Joy, the Devil would have gone straight for the girlfriend because that would bring anguish to the hero. If the motive is self righteousness then he wouldn’t kidnap the girlfriend because by inspiring the hero to save her he is inspiring an act of good. This would be counterproductive.

If his motive is revenge then why is he spending so much time on such a strong hero if there are thousands of weaker men that he can destroy instead? Maybe because the god loves this hero more than others because this hero is good - in which case that would be a pretty good reason for a vengeful Devil to target the hero.

Generic bad guys doing bad things just because they’re bad are not very good bad guys, because they’re as dull and dimwitted as the writers who wrote them. There’s no tension of what they will do next, no hope that the hero will succeed in finding their weakness. There’s no intricacy of figuring out his motives or wondering how far he will go to torment our hero, because let’s face it, all he wants to do is be bad.

Interesting good guys do bad things once in a while. Interesting bad guys do good things once in a while. Simply being good or evil does not count as motive.

Another thing to remember: Self survival is essential in any race, and it is something humans (your readers) can relate to. Internal thought and a sense of selfishness is something everyone has. Sure, a man can sacrifice his life to save that of his child, but think of his internal motive: the love of his child.

He may be a good guy or a bad guy, but the love of his child will be his motive. Or maybe this kid is the last hope for mankind, which means that child has to survive or else. In this case righteousness would be the motive.

Good and Evil are measurements of morality (and highly subject to opinion and prejudice.) They aren’t personality traits or motives.


Feel free to add your own opinions and ideas!
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Thu Jan 23, 2014 5:38 am
addme says...



Unfortunately a villain of mine fits the second category. :(
Last edited by addme on Wed May 21, 2014 6:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Thu Jan 23, 2014 4:49 pm
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Tenyo says...



The 'evil for the sake of being evil' category? That's alright! The fact that you're aware of it means there is plenty of room to improve.

It's like... if you make a batch of cakes and sell them, then people come back and say they're awful and you insist that it's because they're not eating them right. You'll never make better cakes with that mentality.

If you're willing to taste them first then you can still work on the recipe.

You can keep experimenting and creating, and that's one of the most enjoyable things about writing. So take advantage of it and have some fun!
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Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here.
— Neil Gaiman