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What Makes a Good Villain For Literature?


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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2012 4:15:39 AM PDT
Hmm, pure evil Villains? Some people may love to hate them, but I think a little understanding makes them resonate more fully. Perhaps skew the shivers down your backbone a little longer, a little deeper. Frankenstein questioning the existence of existence. Dr Jekyll battling his own self.

The most unrelentingly pure evil villain may well be Moby-Dick. But then he's a whale.

Or, you know, that shark out of "Jaws."

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2012 2:26:51 PM PDT
J. Case says:
Moby Dick I googled Who is the Villain In Moby Dick. A answer I read there is no simple answer it depends on your point of view, and other information.
Then there is the Joker that is unknown who he was before he became the Joker also unknown what his real name is.
What about ones that debatable whether they are misguided, or villains?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 6, 2012 4:53:35 PM PDT
Actually I prefer misguided villains. You know, men (somehow it's usually men despite the species) who in their mind are doing good, doing the right thing. Who tolerate evil in the course of justifying a greater good. Sometimes simple men who allow a small evil to grow into a cancer. Like the commandment of Nazi death camp.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 5:08:46 AM PDT
smithsdawg says:
I agree with you strongly Stefano. As I read your description, one of my fav villians came straight to mind...Javert in Les Misérables.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 5:43:11 AM PDT
If you look at history (and who can't?) you see evil build inch by inch by inch. Or in Javert's case, centimeter by centimeter. Always with the best intentions, always with a nod to logic and justification. Usually the heart has to be silenced, and guilt or shame buried with a small lie at first that swells to something truly monstrous.

The more we feel a flicker of recognition (or god forbid, possibility) the more the villainous reverberates with us. It's when we recognize a part of us in the villainy - no matter how slight - that we are truly horrified.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 9:20:31 PM PDT
J. Case says:
Then there is Malicious Villains.
In the first alien hero book I'm leaving it ambguous if the guy is a Misguided Villain, or a malicious Villain.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 12:24:37 AM PDT
J. Case says:
Are there other kind of misguided villains you prefer besides those?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 1:40:11 AM PDT
Other kinds of misguided villains? Hmmm, let me think. I tend to veer towards real characters. You know, the Hitlers and Mussolinis of the world in the villains department. That said I have a soft spot for Shakespeare's Richard III. Somehow they always seem to lose their hearts, their humanity in the process.

And speaking of villains, I saw "Prometheus" yesterday which was sorely lacking in the guided or misguided villain department. There were some forms of lifeform who's sole function was to attack and slaughter the crew in incrementally more squeamish circumstances. More plot devices than character, and seemed to be more motivated by body count than any sympathetic or emotional reasoning.

For me it meant the film made little sense. Because there was no motivation it all became, you know, a bit senseless. Not really threatening or disturbing, just relentless and sad to say a little boring.

Which is a pity given the themes the screenwriters were trying to play with.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 8:43:22 PM PDT
J. Case says:
So you are saing In Prometheus it was like another Terminator?
Real characters there is Long John Silver of the book Treasure Island. Even though he's the Villain he has 2 virtures mone management, and even though he's physically handicapped he proved to be brave.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 9:51:14 PM PDT
I like the notion of a brave villain. Of course his handicap should somehow be his curse and in some ways his undoing. But that's just me because I like stories that close the loop. That create that moment of ahahhh.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 12, 2012 4:32:11 PM PDT
J. Case says:
Money Managmement.
Loki in The Avengers He was convinced that it's the Unspoken Truth humans want to be subjecated.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 14, 2012 2:52:13 AM PDT
Loki, Loki, Loki. The Hulk kinda nailed it when he called him a puny God. Although I liked the rivalry with his brother (and like so many Gods, the casting out from his particular heaven) more than any inherent vileness. The glimpse of humanity is what hurt the most.

Speaking of nailed it, do you know how many digital stills they had to photograph to skin the 3D model of Manhattan they proceeded to tear up in the finale? 275,000 stills.

But I digress. There was a time when we had a God for every facet of humanity. I think the point I wanted to make was made by Carl Jung when he said our Gods have become our diseases.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2012 3:59:49 PM PDT
J. Case says:
I saw Madagascar 3 Europes Most Wanted.
The Villain has the heads of animals on a wall. The one that is missing is a Lion which she wants.

Posted on Jun 28, 2012 4:58:01 PM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Jun 28, 2012 6:14:56 PM PDT]

Posted on Jun 28, 2012 4:59:27 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 28, 2012 6:15:17 PM PDT
My operational definition would be a character you would not likely suspect; one that is not a cliche and enough other possible characters to throw the reader off the trail and keep readers guessing.

Oh, and if you are a Beatles' fan and love the movie "Yellow Submarine," the Apple Bonkers, Blue Meanies and Snapping Turks were weird but funny villains.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2012 5:42:48 PM PDT
A plausible literary antagonist? Perhaps someone who hates language? A photographer, pornographer? Someone who disabuses words, has no time for syntax? Believes the written word should be abolished? Bans books for fun? Burns books for warmth?

Posted on Jun 28, 2012 5:43:29 PM PDT
A librarian who rearranges the text inside books to drive readers mad?

Posted on Jun 28, 2012 6:16:02 PM PDT
Or who places them on the wrong shelves in the wrong section of the library.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 28, 2012 6:51:43 PM PDT
Or carefully paints certain words with indelible ink that tattoos readers' fingers.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 7, 2012 2:02:43 PM PDT
Mike Kennedy says:
Maybe the Iliad did lack a villain (populated only by fools hell-bent on glory), but the Odyssey had many (Melanthius, the goat-herd & the "suitors" at the end, to name only a few). Similarly, Clytemnestra & Aegisthus in Agamemnon. If the novel is the imaginative version of Hegel's dialectic, if the novel (as a form) reaches for synthesis, then there must be antithesis so as to add to the sum of the knowledge of good & evil. Finally, to insist that a villain pass a litmus test to receive that appellation, would narrow the scope of the villain to that used in the medieval morality play. Back to the Iliad, I make the case that it was the gods who were Homer's villains. Both Athena and Apollo baited the contestants. The climax was reached when Athena vanished from Hector's chariot where she had been riding in the guise of an old family friend, urging him on (to his death at the hands of Achilles). With gods like those, who needs enemies?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2012 8:49:24 PM PDT
J. Case says:
Then there villains that have a flaw of a the hero which he or she would want to keep hidden. Or ones that are the opposite.

Posted on Jul 12, 2012 3:35:42 AM PDT
Ray N. Kuili says:
A great villain is someone who can is does horrible things, while being at least to some degree likable. Godzilla may demolish the entire NY, but still would not make a good villain -- it would be only blind destructive force. A dumb goon would never be a good villain, no matter how much damage he does. Same goes for a boring evil genius. A true villain should be believable. He should be alive. He should have some characteristics that would make the reader think

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 12, 2012 11:30:40 PM PDT
Hi Ray. Nice points. Part of the problem I had with the "Prometheus" was that the villains were just these extraterrestrial killing machines that looked like actors in rubber suits. I had no idea why they were on a killing rampage. They were like an ax. Yes, a lethal thing. But it's who yields the power and why they use it that makes all the difference.

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 12:32:19 AM PDT
Okay, just throwing this out there because I'm having a problem humanizing a villain for a story. Here's the rough idea. A serial murderer trolls the internet, convincing people to kill themselves. Maybe he's a detective? Maybe he's a computer forensic expert? Maybe he's an former banker who blames everyone else for the fact he can't make money, and targets people who's homes are about to be repossessed. For people at the end of their tether, he gives them the metaphorical rope to hang themselves. ('It's for the best. This way no one will ever know and the insurance will cover more than the loans. It will give your family a good life, a life they've always deserved. That's what you want, isn't it? That's what you've always wanted.') Maybe he's a psychiatrist first recommending medication to spark suicidal thoughts. Choosing death over life, this guy (is it a guy?) is basically Satan.

So not a pretty good (in the bad sense) villain. But what motivates him to convince people to murder themselves, aside from the desire not to get caught. He needs a reason to want everyone dead, right? Any ideas?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2012 10:27:57 PM PDT
J. Case says:
A company rejects his idea for a design of a new shoe, but then decides to still use it but not give the guy who created credit even though he had a patent on it.
A gang steals his car sends in back in to where it was in pieces with a note mocking him You are a pushover that others take advantage of.
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Discussion in:  Literary Fiction forum
Participants:  17
Total posts:  58
Initial post:  May 23, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 11, 2012

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