Friday, August 4, 2017

For the Evulz: A Reason For Villainy

Remember last time when I said the bad guys can't just do it "for the evulz"? I stand by that. I mean, sure, you can have your Jokers who just want to watch the world burn, but usually there is some underlying reason.

So I started making a list. I'm sure I'll add to it as I go, but I'm off to a decent start. I'm trying to list all the reasons a villain might do his villainous things. Some of them may overlap. Things are rarely cut-and-dried, 100% one thing, so that's to be expected.

The list of why people do bad things, as it stands:

  • Money/greed
  • Love/lust
  • Revenge
  • Hatred (be it racism, prejudice, etc.)
  • Loyalty (to a cause, leader, etc.)
  • Grief/Loss
  • Power

And somewhere around when I added grief to the list, a character started to take shape in my head. I haven't done the whole giant questionnaire for her yet, but she's gradually coalescing out of the firmament.

Possibly more interesting is that I think this might be a space story, which I've never done before. The way that happened was that I had a name in mind, that I stumbled upon a couple weeks ago. My first reaction to this name was that it sounded to me like a sci-fi/fantasy villain. And then I wasn't going to use it, until this character appeared. She was a mother, who blamed the protagonist for whatever terrible fate befell her son, who was a friend of the protagonist. This whole thing pushed her over the edge and now she's bent on… revenge, or whatever. I haven't figured that out.

I don't know exactly what happened to her son, the notes I left myself suggest "death or worse." They go on to say:
"Maybe son got Winter Soldiered. Brainwashed and lost somewhere. Or just… Lost. Are they in space? They could be in space. Lost in space."
So now they're in space, and Elsbeth Zogg, who sounds like a sci-fi villain, is going to have her time to shine. I don't know exactly who she is at this point, but I do have an idea of why she's doing what she's doing, whatever that is, and I think that's an important start. Characters have to have motivations for their actions. Something has to drive them to do one thing or another. Otherwise they'll just be trapped in a crummy world of plot holes and spelling errors.

Futurama 3x07: The Day the Earth Stood Stupid

Is all of this a terrible idea? Is it doomed to fail? Maybe. But when has that ever stopped me?

This is all new territory. I've never done something in space. I've never had a central character who had children. And I've never actually planned out my characters completely before starting. So this should be interesting.

Oh, and if you can think of any more reasons for villainy (I'm sure there's a ton), leave them in the comments and I'll add them to my master list.

That's it for today, I'll see you Tuesday.


  1. I agree with avoiding villains who are evil for evil's sake. However, I tend to think of villains as the heroes of their own stories - it's just a matter of perspective. This makes their motivation less of a "why are they being bad" and more of "why are they conflicting with the protagonist".

    Reasons for the conflict tend to be either 1) ideological in nature or 2) personal - or a good mix of both. This allows for a broad spectrum of antagonist, from the mastermind who wants to convert everyone into robots for the perfection of humanity - down to Phil, the protagonist's coworker who feels his pending promotion is threatened and will do anything to make the protagonist look bad in order to win. Anything.

    This is how we end up with anti-heroes who should, by all intents and purposes, be villains in their own right; and we end up with villains who are simply upholding the law to the best of their ability. It's not because one side is necessarily right and the other wrong, but the viewpoint we share with the audience let's them see the conflict from the vantage point we want them to.

    None of this seems terribly practical, so I'll say this. Find your protagonist's goal (or start with antagonist) and then figure out who wants the opposite. The interesting part is then coming up with WHY they want the opposite.

    Looking forward to what you come up with.

    Also, will we get to see that Romantic Subterranean Occult Detective story?

    1. Well put! It is just a matter of perspective. Most villains probably don't set out to be, well, villains. They probably think they're doing the right thing. And maybe they are, but we've been skewed to the protagonist's perspective.
      I don't think the Romantic Subterranean Occult Detective story is ready to see the light of day. I'm a little pissed off at it. I had such high hopes and it just didn't turn out quite right. Which is definitely the story's fault, not mine.

    2. Just going to bury the story?

      It might be rough going, but I'm sure that Rom-Sub-Occ-P.I. is a niche genre just waiting break out of the underground to seduce the mainstream.

      In any case, deducing what doesn't work is just as important as cluing into what does. It's all good, just keep your spirits up!