Villains

I heard an author on TV talking about his book I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined). In the book the author examines the modern interpretation of villainy. One of the discoveries he said he made was that villains know the most and care the least. I thought that sounded like a clever definition until I started thinking about it. I haven’t read his book, I’ve only heard an interview with the author. Given that, I would like to modify his definition. I think villains know the most and care the least about everyone else. Their wants and desires are uppermost, so in effect, they care the most about themselves. What they want supersedes what everyone else wants. Heroes, on the other hand, usually put other people’s needs ahead of their own. They let go of their wants and desires for the better good. They are willing to sacrifice their dream and goal in order to help someone else. So a possible definition for a hero would be someone who, once they know everything, is willing to sacrifice their desires for the good of someone else or for the good of the whole. A simple example would be Lightning McQueen in the animated movie Cars. He sacrificed his desire to be the youngest car to win the Piston Cup in order to help the retiring champ finish the race so he wouldn’t end up forgotten and bitter like Doc...

Making it Easy for the Villian

I recently read Temple of a Thousand Faces. I really enjoyed the setting of Angkor Wat and the culture. The story takes place about a thousand years ago and is based on historical figures and events. The king of the Khmers narrowly escapes death by the conquering Cham king. The story follows four different sets of characters as the Khmer king rallies his people and plans a counterattack to retake his throne. I liked all the different characters and their stories, I liked learning about their beliefs, but ultimately, what made me lose interest was the fact that about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the way into the book it started to bug me that things were just too easy for the villains. Everything fell their way and I realized that even though that made the villains a powerful threat to the protagonists, because the breaks all fell their way, it felt manipulative. Not much is known about what really happened all those years ago beyond that fact that the Cham king invaded and the Khmer king ultimately defeated him. Therefore, all the breaks happening for the villains in the novel were author manipulation. The villain needs to struggle a bit, too, not just the hero. Everything can’t go their way. When it does it makes the villain unrealistic. You want a proactive, smart villain, but at the same time, they can’t be a super-villain who wins every round. If they do, they become cardboard—a bwa-ha-ha villain. The Cham king wasn’t quite that bad but he did get all the breaks until the end. Villains needs to be strong, proactive,...