Good Guy Vs. Good Guy

“I’m a good guy, but I’m a bad guy for them.” These words of wisdom came out of my five-year-old’s mouth this morning while I blog surfed. She’s talking with her Lego people and has no idea what a profound a statement she’s made, but she always makes me stop, smile and think.

This time, I’m thinking because this is precisely the setup for the next set of stories I have in mind. I have an antagonist, but he’s not a traditional villain, (though he does some things that make me cringe). He’s a product of his culture and will protect that culture no matter the cost. So will my heroine. The challenge is how they each want to work their protection. This is a wide difference from my current ms, in which the villain is much more villainous and not that sympathetic until the end when it’s too late for him.
My question for you is, how do you treat your antagonists? When you read, what do you prefer? Do you like the more straight forward villainy or rooting for the antagonist with a heart? Do you think it depends on the story? Okay, that’s many more than one question. LOL I can’t help it, I’m curious. ;D

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20 Responses to “Good Guy Vs. Good Guy”

  1. L.G.Smith says:

    I like the sneaky villain, the one you don't suspect at first. Since he thinks what he is doing is the right thing, he doesn't stand out as different than anyone else, until his plans come to fruition and everyone sees what an evil creep he is.

  2. feonua says:

    I always like seeing where the villain is coming from, though my pet peeve is the ere fun allegiance swap. First he's bad! Then good! Then bad! Then good! (Heroes, Farscape, etc etc)

    Though that doesn't bug me half as much as the good guy who turns bad! Then good! Then bad! Especially when it's setup in the-reader-will-NEVER-see-this-coming!!!!! way. Irritates the hell out of me.

  3. Rachna Chhabria says:

    I like the antagonist who is hated for his deeds. The reader should hate the antagonist on sight. The antagonist has to be layered, reveal his personality slowly.

  4. Jai Joshi says:

    I try not to think of my antagonist as a villain but as a person with his own values and priorities. What makes him the antagonist is that his priorities and actions are in opposition to the main character and that creates the conflict.

    I like to think of my antagonist as having his own dreams and desires and vulnerabilities, even if they're not always apparent.

    Jai

  5. Victoria Dixon says:

    Great comments, folks. You're really making me think here and not just about current or my next wip.

    L.G., I'm not sure I'm up to "sneaky" yet. I someday hope to be because I do love surprises and subtlety. I'm just too adept at hitting people over the head right now. LOL

    Tessa, you crack me up. I guess I don't mind "swapping" as long as the character remains true to himself while doing it. That said, if he does it too often, I can feel like I'm lost in the story. Like, "Wait, whose side is he on now?" That's happened while critiquing a friend (no, not you or anyone in group!) and I didn't like it.

    Rachna, my last ms had that sort of antagonist. You know from your first meeting that he's just OFF. LOL That said, I'd like to hope I've layered him throughout and not just piled on the "aha!" at the end. It is a concern and one of the things I'm now pondering more. ;D

    Jai, this is exactly how I'm approaching my upcoming wip. If anything, I have to do something about my mc because there's not enough dirt on her. The protag and antag in the story are very similar in some ways, but how they choose to respond to one another and to society is what will make the reader dislike one at times. I'm really hoping to make him a Severus Snape sort of character, though. Someone you don't like, (can't possibly like) but feel drawn to nonetheless.

  6. Julie says:

    Hi, Victoria! Thanks for coming by my blog, I'm really glad to find yours now. I've enjoyed catching up with it.
    I'm with L.G., I love sneaky villains. That's what I'm trying to write now, hope I succeed.
    Great blog! 🙂

  7. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks so much for the return visit and follow, Julie. And good luck with your sneaky villain. 😀

    I take it back, I was working on a novel idea with a sneaky villain! I didn't have enough resource/research materials and had to put the story on the back burner, but he was someone who started as a good guy and the reader was setup to grow from liking him to aching for the betrayals he indulges in. It was like writing a train wreck in slow mo. I wish anyone who writes these villains good luck. It was HARD!

  8. Medeia Sharif says:

    I like a straight forward villain who is multidimensional, and I also like the ones who may have some good qualities deeply buried in them.

  9. Natalie Aguirre says:

    I like the more interesting villains like your daughter. I think it's interesting when they aren't all bad or are doing it for a cause, maybe even one you can relate to.

  10. Victoria Dixon says:

    I think a multi-dimensional villain will, by definition have some good qualities. Or at least better qualities. LOL

    Natalie, my all time favorite "villain" is Brandin from "Tigana." He's a villain because of the tyranny he's placed over the country of Tigana, but you can totally sympathize with why he did it. Fortunately for those folks who like to completely hate the villain, there's one of those in the book too. Have I mentioned that's my favorite novel? Ever. LOL

  11. Maybelle says:

    Wow, that IS profound. It's actually a pretty good story-starting idea – when you get into motivation, and how motivation can shape one's actions and perspectives.

    I love thinking about antagonists. And approaching them from different angles. For one of my stories, I don't have any clear-cut villains, but a bunch of grey characters with differing perspectives and motives who manipulate each other. I also do a lot of "switching sides". I tend to think of villainy not as a role or a "label" but as a constant changing and fulfilling of certain motives that – occasionally, or frequently- clash against the protagonist (and the Reader's) will.

  12. Victoria Dixon says:

    I like that, Maybelle. "villainy not as a role or a "label" but as a constant changing and fulfilling of certain motives that clash against the protagonist (and the Reader's) will." Nicely put. I dislike the idea of "villainy" in the sense that this is the bad guy complete with twirly mustache, trailing rope, screaming girl and train tracks. LOL. I like the idea of making the villain grow – or giving him/her the OPTION of growing and seeing if they do or not. Two of my characters are doomed in my current work – one is a villain and one is not – but they're doomed because they choose not to change. I enjoy playing with what that choice ends up doing to them – before doom hits of course. LOL

  13. Lydia K says:

    IT's so perfect that you posted this because I just got critiqued that my villians were too villain-y. (that sounds like vanilla, but isn't).

    Too one-dimensional is probably a bad thing. Even Voldemort had a a bit of a tortured childhood.

  14. Janet Johnson says:

    I've always preferred a sympathetic villain, but I really do think that each story calls for its own thing. And yes, your last villain was a villain of villains!

  15. Barbara Ann Wright says:

    I like nothing more than to make my reader feel a little sorry for my villain, despite how much of a jackhole he is. I like stories where everyone is fully developed and their reasoning is a little understandable. I can't stand a villain who is wholly evil.

  16. Maybelle says:

    Mmm that is profound. I love thinking about villains and their motivations. One of my favourite childhood villains were the ones from the show Kim Possible, actually! I thought they were actually pretty clever renditions of archetypal tropes.

    Overall, I like my villains to have depth. When I write though, I don't usually have clear-cut villains in mind but rather people with different motivations that go against the protagonist's or the reader's will.

  17. Victoria Dixon says:

    Okay, I tried to comment to Natalie the other day, but blogger ate what I said and then went down. Grrr.

    I know I've said it before, but this is why I love "Tigana." One of the "villains" does something despicable to an entire country, but he does it out of grief and love and is so sympathetic it makes for a tremendous read.

    I can't help but agree, since that's my favorite book, that villains with sympathetic motives are definitely preferable to straightforward villainy. LOL Has anyone else had problems with blogger this weekend? I can tell I'm missing some comments in here and it looks like my captcha isn't showing either, so this might not post. Thanks for coming by and doing battle with blogger, Maybelle, Barbara, Janet and Natalie!

  18. Lydia K says:

    I know, isn't this Blogger hiccup annoying?

    I totally agree with you. 2-D villains aren't nearly as interesting as those like Snape.

  19. Susan C. says:

    For me, one of the scariest types of villain is one who was a basically good person but made a conscious decision for evil, perhaps at a crux in his life. I think it's the idea that I, too, could fall like that.

    And talking of Snape, any villain played by Alan Rickman gets my – well, let's call it sympathy!

  20. Victoria Dixon says:

    Thanks for the return visit, Lydia. At least this time it DID record your comment! Oddly enough, your comment arrived in my inbox last time and that doesn't always happen. Ah, blogger, how we – sometimes – love thee.

    Susan, that's hysterical. I love Alan Rickman. He's a favorite actor. Yes, the conscious decision to act, for good or evil, is far more powerful than falling into a situation. The ms I was working on and got stuck with had a villain who eventually decides to commit murder. For the betterment of his country. He doesn't want to. Especially because of who it is, but he has to. He thinks. LOL Just wish I could get the story to work!

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