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"How Often Are Your Villains Human ( Normal Emotional )?", 17th Feb 2017, 1:34 AM #1
systemcat

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I'm told I do this a lot in my serious writing. I write the characters acting human. In other words not off the wall unbelievable in actions and reactions, down to earth. Currently I'm working on a page that in script I never wrote who finally flips a light switch on in the room people are using. I decided to use the only character that is labeled a villain by default of who he's employed by. But as hes flipping the switch he's rolling his eyes at how absurd the good guys' chat sounds, to then further pitch at his temple in disbelief.

Have you ever written a bad guy acting like a normal person?
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17th Feb 2017, 2:08 AM #2
Nyomi
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Isn't this what you're supposed to do, unless you're writing an intentionally-cheesy Saturday morning cartoon type villains?
At least, that's what I always got told.
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17th Feb 2017, 2:11 AM #3
Steven-Vincent

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Well, I would submit that if you are writing a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon you should have cartoony villains.

I think it's important that all characters, including villains, should act in ways that make sense for their motivations. Failing to do that leads to contrivances and artificial stories.
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17th Feb 2017, 2:16 AM #4
Epiale

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Typically you want your villain to be human. Unless you're going out of your way to cheese it, or writing something literally inhuman (like a blob monster or something), a human villain is way more interesting, believable, and makes for a much better story.

My own villains are pretty human, and most are morally more gray than black. After all, unless you're Garou from OPM, a villain does not typically see themselves as the villain of the story. (and even Garou wasn't pure evil) People aren't evil just for shits and giggles typically, and even if someone is just straight up evil people still do people things. Hitler was a subhuman monster, one of the most evil people to ever live, and he still was apparently great with children, and loved dogs.

People are complex, and weird, and contradictory, and, if anything, that's a pretty good opening for some interesting writing.

Plus a villain really only has to be an opposition to the protagonist. No need to write every villain as CAPTAIN DOOM LORD OF DEATH AND SUFFERING.
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17th Feb 2017, 2:28 AM #5
monkeyking
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I mean, realistic villains are usually my favorite. They usually hit harder at home for me, like mother gothel from tangled kind of being the perfect representation of an abusive mother.

But yeah, I think it depends on the kind of story you're writing.
My comic's main antagonist is literally just, this guy, so. I mean. No giant evil blobs here.
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17th Feb 2017, 5:49 PM #6
Pavchka
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I like it when my bad guys are a bit bizarre, but they don't have to be the stock inscrutable type or the mustache-twirling manipulator either. Also I dislike the Evil Laugh trope. Do evil people really break into random bouts of hysterical laughter all the time? I prefer my bad guys somewhat silly and not entirely unrelatable, so in Equilibrium we have one foppish evil Elvis-imitator (who is not gay, just a bit camp) and a sadistic and somewhat vain but otherwise mostly average teenager. They both have their insecurities, but aren't defined by them.

The main character's vain too, by the way. I don't think vain = evil. That too is a bit of an overused trope IMO.
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17th Feb 2017, 5:53 PM #7
JTige

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I know that it's an accepted fact for a lot of people that a "good" villain is one who the audience can on some level empathize with, but I kind of disagree there. Not to say that there's anything wrong with writing a villain sympathetically; I just don't think a villain necessarily needs to be sympathetic in order to be considered well-written. I mean, there are plenty of irredeemable douchebags in real life, after all.

What I think a villain absolutely DOES need is a motive that gives them a reason to do what they do, since "evil for evil's sake" is a pretty weak impetus for anything. The evil queen from Snow White wanted to be the fairest of them all, Lucifer wanted free will, etc.

If you really want to humanize a villain, give them traits that don't actually relate to their villainy in any way. Maybe your story's Mad Scientist likes to curl up with a nice mug of cocoa at the end of the day, or your Tyrannical Dictator carves ice sculptures in his spare time. Real human beings are multi-faceted and have a wide variety of interests, even if you're evil.

On the other hand, sometimes your story might call for a bland, generic villain:



Ronan works as a villain in Guardians of the Galaxy because the story only needed a villain in the loosest sense. The movie's about a quirky gang of misfits coming together to form a team, so all they really need is a basic antagonist to give them an excuse to bond over a common goal (i.e. stop Ronan from killing everybody with his doomsday MacGuffin).

Basically, it all just depends on the story you want to tell.
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17th Feb 2017, 8:15 PM #8
JammyTheBirb
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I aim to do this with Beyond, eventually. It's kind of a white and grey morality thing, albeit a very dark shade of grey. None of the pirates are pirates just because they're evil, like killing or want money. It's all due to things like insecurities, losses or desperation (or just that it's something they ended up doing), and they'll all be seen doing normal things around the ship. But at the same time, they are still not great people. Most have become desensitised, some have grown to like the killing part.

Part of the comic's conflict will eventually be based around the disconnect between how somebody can treat other people with kindness, and yet still do really horrible things.
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17th Feb 2017, 8:23 PM #9
cutething
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pretty much always. i also tend to write flawed protagonists. in life, i've realized that the people who tend to do noteworthy things are forced to justify actions that objectively, taken out of the larger context of who they are and what they're trying to do, are harmful.

you don't win a war without killing people.
17th Feb 2017, 8:31 PM #10
CinemochaRK

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A villain can be something other than a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon overlord and still be totally unjustified in what they do -- I mean, in real life, there are a certain percentage of everyday, average, middle-class psychopaths out running around.

Another thing about writing villains is they have to have *some* type of virtue somewhere -- such as determination and good judgment and hard work -- after all, a villain who gives up easily and never thinks things through wouldn't make for much of a challenge to the protagonist. The villain could be funny, cultured, polite, care for their families, or genuinely pleasant to people who have yet to cross them -- and still be totally unjustified in their in-story choices.
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17th Feb 2017, 8:32 PM #11
swamp

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For me, what makes a story feel real is people that feel real. There can be magic and dragons and spaceships, but if the reactions feel realistic and emotional, so does the story.
Real people almost never think of themselves as evil. They almost never hurt others just to hurt others. Even those who do have reasons. They want power in a world that has made them feel lesser. They think harm is acceptable if it serves a greater good. They think harm is unacceptable, even if it serves a greater good.
My favourite villains are ones I can really understand. Magneto is a great example. He hurts innocent people, but you can see why he believes in his cause. You can see all the pain the world has caused him and why he thinks he needs to go to extremes to fight back.
Of course, plenty of motivations are simple. Power, money, status, ect, and you don't need to walk a reader through their tragic backstory. Some villains only need to provide conflict and push the hero, and we can assume they are that way for a reason on our own. The important thing with these villains is to remember their drives. A villain who just wants money won't give grand speeches and take risks. They might not even hurt the hero if there's nothing they need. Understand what they want and make sure their actions work towards that, not just getting in the hero's way.
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17th Feb 2017, 8:33 PM #12
kenbastard

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My favorite villain, that I have written, was not a person at all-- but was the Spanish Flu from early in the 20th century. It was a killer who had no agenda, yet killed indiscreetly. A murderer with no face that leaves nothing but heartache in it's wake. See my story "The Foo Shoo Woman"
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17th Feb 2017, 10:07 PM #13
cutething
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CinemochaRK:A villain can be something other than a cheesy Saturday morning cartoon overlord and still be totally unjustified in what they do -- I mean, in real life, there are a certain percentage of everyday, average, middle-class psychopaths out running around.

Another thing about writing villains is they have to have *some* type of virtue somewhere -- such as determination and good judgment and hard work -- after all, a villain who gives up easily and never thinks things through wouldn't make for much of a challenge to the protagonist. The villain could be funny, cultured, polite, care for their families, or genuinely pleasant to people who have yet to cross them -- and still be totally unjustified in their in-story choices.


^ yep. i get tired of the "villain with a heart of gold" or "misunderstood misanthrope" tropes. good writing isn't about finding a way to justify bad behavior. it's about explaining how a person can do something objectively awful.

whether it's getting into the head of someone who considers weakness contemptible and opts to prey on the weak to punish them for their weakness (yeah, fucky logic, but some people think this way), or truly thinking that another group of people are evil, for again - fucked up reasons - is far more interesting. the conflict and character arc is what makes the villain's story interesting, not their reliability or humanity per se.
18th Feb 2017, 9:37 PM #14
Pavchka
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This is Alfred Bester from Babylon 5. Evil to the core though he genuinely thinks he's doing the right thing, absolutely unsympathetic and still that great and entertaining villain you love to hate.
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18th Feb 2017, 9:48 PM #15
RED2015

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Hmmm....So far so good, the villians in RED; Viktor and Vadim are both Douches bags, they would laugh and dance in the blood of innocent humans. They are an emotionless wreck. Although otherwise forth coming villains will feel emotions like envy, hatred, vengeance and have a preversed pyscololgy of the world a whole.
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Forum > Webcomic & Art discussion > How Often Are Your Villains Human ( Normal Emotional )?
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