Why Do People Do Anything Anymore? (Or, Meet Luigi Lucheni. He Assassinated the Empress of Austria)


In short: I'm AWOL a lot, I've abandoned you a lot, I'm a terrible person - Yes. To clarify: I'm really trying to finish this godfucker of a novel so I don't have to wait ten weeks again before I can hack at it, having forgotten every idea I have devised now, if I don't get it done before the new school term begins. Oh, and it's been killing me to find a topic I can actually stand for long enough to write a post. (Breathes) Oh-kay. Shall we?

My novel is a glorified hybrid of YA, Urban Fantasy, Action and Thriller, with a smidge of Drama to keep things interesting. Because of the Thriller aspect, the prelude to my action sequences at the climax are often overwrought and chilling, and as you begin to tease your protagonists, you need to assume your antagonist's shoes.

You need to figure out why he's doing what he's doing.

So, today we're going to have a wee bit of a look at some types of villains and what it is that they really want, and if they're going to be patient enough to play cat and mouse with your protagonists.

We're going to start with the scarred. Literally, in the case of Harvey Dent, or Two Face, from the Batman franchise. Most of the time, these people have been wronged so incredibly by someone or a group of people or by society itself and all they want to do is wreak some ample havoc in the name of revenge.

These people have targets, they're usually trained up for the task and if it's personal, you can bet that they're going to take their time and make it as torturous as possible for your main characters.

Some examples? Think V from V For Vendetta who had a list of people to kill, a motive for everything that he did, and when he died, he did so having fulfilled it. Then, there's Gerard Butler from Law Abiding Citizen who was very angry at the system for how they wronged him during the trial of his family's murder.

Anarchists are my personal favourite, but it's a widely-held belief that very few people do them justice. Christopher Nolan has given us one of the greatest anarchists in his The Dark Knight. The thing that a lot of people don't seem to consider when creating anarchists is that they aren't as impulsive as they lead you to believe.

Now, anyone who has seen the Dark Knight knows that the Joker has a line: "Do I really look like a guy with a plan?" No. He doesn't. What separates the Joker from knock-offs is that he does, to a certain extent. He relies heavily on his understanding of people and what they will do when faced with overwhelming fear. Fear he manipulates. From there, he has set into play the necessary steps to steer his victims to the right place.

For instance, the Joker breathes chaos, but his opening scene in the Dark Knight with the bank clearly shows that he's a walking lie. The precision and planning require to have set up each of those goons to kill each other - He just likes to kick up the chaos. But he plans and executes it meticulously. Thereby, you can't expect anything from him. That is what makes him an anarchist, not the proclaiming and jeering he does around Batman.

What sets anarchists apart is that they really just want to play. Imagine me, a tiny six-year-old girl with her Barbie dolls, her Transformers and her superhero action figures (I know, I was always so peculiar. No Furbies for this kid.) I would get my hand-me-down rubbish-tip doll houses and I would demolish them. My Transformers (I got the Decepticons. My brother wanted Optimus and that lot) would go head-to-head with my superheroes and shit would go down. Seriously. Why? Because I wanted to. I wanted to see what would happen, where my imagination would take me.

Anarchists are the Tim Burton Peter Pans. Their motive really lies within the territory of because I can/want to/feel like it. And in regard to how long they want to spend with your protagonist, well, are your characters showing them a good time?

Ah, schemers.

Schemers are a lot of fun. To some extent, one could argue that all villains are schemers, but it is the natural-born schemers that are the greatest and most memorable. You think about the Joker, and that is a hint of scheming mixed with a ton of apathy toward mankind. No, true schemers are all personal motive.

I think you can see where I'm going with this. Voldemort. The thing that sets Voldemort apart from the visionaries is that he really just wants to control his little world. He has no desire to step back. He wants full and utter control over everything, including culture, ideas, perception of others and lesser races.

Schemers are the classic villain archetype, and the problem with them is that they usually are riddled with cliches and are the subject of a lot of criticism. When faced with your protagonists, your villain is really just going to want to wipe them off the face of the earth. Get all opposition out of the way as quickly as possible.

So, you're going to need stealth to get around them. A lot of dystopian governments seem to fall under this as well. 1984, for example, played a lot on mind control, whereas the Capitol from Suzanne Collins' THE HUNGER GAMES played more on the idea of military control and violence to govern by fear. Converse to that, schemers can also fall into the realm of the Vampire Diaries, namely Katherine - It is very personal for her, and she creates convoluted plans to achieve what she wants.

Now, visionaries. Really, they intend well, they're just twisted. To achieve their goals there is only violence, or they believe that violence is the only means by which to successfully enforce their ideals. Magneto from the X-Men franchise is a prime example.

I won't go into detail about Magneto because I did so in my last post, and Janice Hardy also does a far better job over here. Basically, Magneto was wronged so terribly and has such strong memories of what can happen when one race suppresses another. Thereby, he believes that as he is the targeted race, being a Mutant, that they ought to fight the suppressors. And then what do you get? War.

If you have a personal connection between your protagonist and this villain, I can see a long-winded conflict erupting between the two. However, if they are mere strangers and you're standing in their way, they're not going to spend so much time on toying with you.

Now, before I go.

The Joker-Batman relationship is one that I've always viewed as incredible. To contrast your antagonist and protagonist so enormously, yet parallel them to the extent where you can second-guess your hero is phenomenal. This is not so much explored in The Dark Knight as much as throughout the entire Batman franchise, though that film does isolate the concept quite well.

If you manage to render your cast with such grey that it is left up to your reader to decide who is in the right, then I will get down on one knee and propose to you now.

Black-and-white cowboys and Indians is a dying art, because with shows such as Criminal Minds, the public is growing to yearn to understand and even to empathise with villains. So, consider trying to understand your own villain a little more.

Food for thought?

If all goes well, I'll probably post something HARRY POTTER related after I see the film next week. Something about series or plotting, I'm assuming.


Comment below guys! Do you have any other villain types? Do you have any tips to better understand your villains? Any questions about them or how to form that relationship between them and your protagonist?


Madeline Bartos at: July 10, 2011 at 12:48 AM said...

The villains in one of my current WIPs are visionaries. They're not exactly one villain, but a group whose motives make sense for them (maybe they make sense to everyone) but they don't make sense for my characters. I'm excited to explore them and make them even more inconveniently malicious during revisions. Whoo!

Caitlin at: July 10, 2011 at 1:47 PM said...

What an awesome list! My villain is probably somewhere between an anarchist and a schemer, mostly because he CRAZY, but he also makes things personal.

The best villains, I think, are the unpredictable ones. I hate in books when bad guys give that big spiel at the end "I did this because of that, I did this because I don't like you, here's a list of the things I've done" blah blah blah. It's always refreshing to have a villain who's like "Listen, I'm bad because I'm bad. Deal with it" and then proceeds to set the place on fire. The Joker is one of my favourites, along with Mickey Rourke in Iron Man 2 and the Green Goblin from Spiderman ;)

Emy Shin at: July 10, 2011 at 2:45 PM said...

I want to marry this post. Seriously.

I read for the protagonists, but it is often the villains who make or break the novels. They're often the reasons for every main conflict -- and thus I want them to have a reason for what they do.

Mine's a crossed between a Visionaries and the Scarred, and I try to make my hero the kind of guy who could and would do what the villain does, if he were in his situation.

Trisha at: July 10, 2011 at 6:50 PM said...

Great to see a post from you Nina! As for villains, I'm cooking up a novel for NaNo this year with a guy who could easily be a villain, but I haven't decided if he's actually going that way yet or not. He's definitely one of the Scarred, but not sure that I want him to be a bad guy. So time will tell I guess!

The bad guy I KNOW I will have in the novel is a pretty boy so definitely not Scarred. He's probably more a Visionary!

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