Monday, January 12, 2015

I'm Back, With A Villainous "MWAHAHAHA"

Hello, again! I'm fresh off a 2 month hiatus, during which I got a well-needed rest and read a lot. I finally read Mistborn (so everyone who kept asking me if I read it yet, you can stop doing that now). I saw Into the Woods and celebrated Christmas and discovered that the creepier the show/movie/book I experience before bed, the more likely I am to dream of...hotels with cookie fountains and well-lit Christmas amusement parks. Huh. I had no idea I had a nightmare guard. I hope it doesn't go away.

Which brings me to what I want to write about today. I've been thinking about villains. I've done a post on villains before, but I want to revisit the subject because, if you're writing a book, this is such an important thing to keep in mind.

I got back on this subject because I was thinking about Disney movies and why some movies seem, well, better than others. I know I talk about Frozen a lot (sorry), but it's because something keeps bugging me about that movie. I've thought about it, and I'm convinced it's because the villain didn't do it for me. There wasn't this malevolent threat the hero had to fight, not really. Not until the end.

This guy is a big part of why The Lion King is so good. *shiver*

I didn't buy Hans as a villain (he was introduced too late and there was no build-up for the audience), and so the heroes lost a little steam. Not that that's a bad thing (I've posted on why I'm pleased the heroes weren't so great), but there is something powerful in having a strong villain.

Why? Because this is guy your hero has to fight! If your villain is weak, how strong is your hero, really, for beating him? There's no tension, not like there should be. Take a look at the books and movies you've enjoyed the most, with the greatest heroes. Look at their villains. They're powerful.

Like I said, I just read Mistborn (yes, I did it! No need to recommend it again). Brandon Sanderson is very good at writing scary-powerful villains. In Mistborn and Steelheart, the villain is so powerful it's stupid for the heroes to think they can beat him. They (the heroes) have basically a one-in-a-trillion chance of winning, if they're incredibly lucky. I'm not going to spoil endings, but think about it. If that's the odds of success, how strong are the heroes if they pull it off?

Very.

So, what makes a strong villain? Well, the first thing is that the villain has to have enough power to make the hero suffer. Without that, well, there's no point. Case subject: Professor Umbridge from the Harry Potter books.
Ooh, I hate her.
 
One of the things that makes this woman so hateful is how much power she has, and gains, over the 5th book. First she's a professor, then the High Inquisitor, then Headmistress. And there's nothing Harry can do about it. It's infuriating, and what makes Umbridge a great villain. Not the main villain, but a villain nonetheless. Voldemort also has power to make Harry suffer (killed parents, keeps trying to kill Harry, trying to rise to kill lots of people Harry cares about), but it's really clear in Umbridge's case.

A good villain also needs to win, sometimes. Ultimately the hero wins, but along the way the villain has to succeed a bit. The more, the harder it will be for the hero to win. Think of Umbridge again. She forces Harry to really painful detention and uncovers Dumbledore's Army. She wins enough to show us that she's not stupid and not weak. Another example is Scar, in The Lion King. He wins. He gets everything he wants. Right up until the very end when good triumphs.

Post is getting long, so I'll wrap it up. The stronger the villain, the stronger the hero has to be to beat them. I recommend writing your villain like your hero (I'm trying this). The hero has to win, but if you flip it around and write like the villain is going to win, it's going to be harder for your hero to beat them, make a more fascinating villain, and add buckets of tension to the story. All good things. So, hooray for bad guys we love, the ones we hate, and the ones we love to hate!
 
This post was somewhat inspired by this video. It came out a little while ago, but it reminded me of all the Disney villains that are good because of their power in battling the hero. So, enjoy, if you like.
 
I love the costumes.

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