Saturday, January 19, 2008

Villains and personality

Villains should have personality. This is what they tell us. Do not forget to make them realistic or to give them reason and motivation, elsewise, they will not be a real person.

What? Real people? I write fantasy! Mine should not be real, mine should be pretty little bits of paper with things like greed and courage written on them. I'll use red for one and green for the other and white in case I need some purity. If I make my characters realistic then how am I writing a fantasy? Guess I'm not. My goal is to create characters that are wonderful, vibrant, and tangible, henceforth, my villains must also be real. I guess I lose the fantasy there. (I can always make up for it elsewhere.)

Why must they be real? Because that is the underlying structure of it. (I've seen this before, but never in a way that made it click. Maybe I can manage.) There is a way of looking at things called magical thinking. Magical thinking is especially suited for fairytales and by that right we may, with only mild damage, apply it to all fantasy.

Fantasy is very physical. The character is sad; it rains. The character is angry; the world falls into chaos. The character is torn; a villain appears for them to fight. This is all well and good, but it means that the entire story must be taken. The reader will fall in love with the story instead of the characters. This is acceptable.

The problem occurs when writing a longer piece. We wish our characters to face others, but we also wish them to face themselves. How can they do both? The others represent them and henceforth cannot do anything but be a part of the hero. Henceforth we must allow the hero to internalize his inner conflict and face an enemy who is not a reflection of themselves but instead a complete and self-sustaining entity.

This is not to say that the villain cannot at times act as a piece of the hero, or the hero a piece of the villain, just that when the characters are maintaining vibrant and tangible personalities they will be separate. If you do not desire an external foe, and your character is complex and interesting enough that you wish to work through them for the plotline, then the villain need no more then a cloak and the worst traits of the hero.

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