Ask GV: Why Do Some of Us Turn Good?

Welcome back to “Ask the Generic Villain”!

Aywren asks:

I have a problem. Every time I design a new villain that I think is effective and cool, he ends up jumping sides. Either he works his way to redemption and becomes a good guy… or he earns enough sympathy from myself and readers to be considered “misunderstood” or an “anti-hero.”

The bottom line is… my bad guys just refuse to stay bad! And those that stay bad tend to be the ones that bore me and get killed off eventually. Heh.

Any suggestions on how to stop my baddies from turning into softies? Or is this just the natural way of things? Thanks in advance!

Dear Aywren:

Ah, the joys of meta-survival. I haven’t gotten to wear this hat in a while.

What it sounds like here is that you’ve got three separate problems: the Hands who jump sides, the perception of these Hands in the eyes of your audience, and your inability to stay interested in the ones who stay evil.

Let’s start by looking at how villains lose their way, turn good, or “get redeemed” as the goody-two-shoes put it. Knowing why things happen is always the first step to keeping them from happening again.

Some of us just can’t keep up with our jobs. They’re victims of circumstance, in it not because they wanted the power but because they couldn’t see any other choice, or just plain didn’t know any other way. You’ve probably seen the type. One hero looks at them nice and offers them a hand and a few words of encouragement, and next thing you know they’re Warriors of Light. Wimps.

But for most of us, turning good is a more gradual process, if it happens at all. Usually, it’s a result of prolonged exposure to heroes, or just to people with unusual levels of narrative impact and a mental skew towards the Light. For some reason, we tend to operate with similar logic processes to our local heroes. Which means that something begins when they talk to us. At first it’s just annoyance that they themselves won’t listen. Then the idea they’re supporting starts worming its way into our heads, moreso since they manage to be such well-adjusted people. What if they’re right? What if that other way really is a better way. And so it goes, like worms in the brains, working its way through our minds. Then next thing we know, we’re questioning our dramatic imperatives and trying to renegotiate our contracts. Yech.

Even worse is when these hero types decide to use the writer’s axiom of “Show, don’t tell” in their attempts to turn us around. It can be odd watching them do random, pointless things and then by taken in and welcomed by the people they do it for; is it surprising that some wonder ‘would it help if I did that?’ And for many of us, particularly those who joined the organization more due to circumstances than to inclination, that idiotic tendency of theirs to save our lives for reasons unknown to anyone except the Powers can be a draw towards their peculiar brand of insanity. Some of us even go into acting like them more cynically, counting up the benefits of acts of kindness and the debts the people we help will owe us, but the role starts growing, and next thing you know, another villain leaves the ranks.

And sometimes, there’s a pull from outside the world. This force, similar to Dramatic Necessity, is known as Audience Sympathy; though it could be seen as a sympathetic audience wishing us well, the name more accurately comes from the link to them that is created to pull us. The idea here is that something beyond our ken doesn’t want to see us as Hands of Darkness so much as Hands That Don’t Have Very Much Light Shining On Them. (I avoid this because this name is silly.) The benefit to this is that it increases our lifespans, as we manage to keep our escapades to things that the heroes do not consider to merit the death penalty, but people whom it affects too strongly leave our path entirely.

I’ll continue with how to avoid it next week; good luck!

(GV’s note: The Management requests that I wish my audience a happy Easter. While I would ordinarily avoid such things, this request was accompanied by large amounts of chocolate. Happy Easter; be sure to bite the heads off of a few chocolate bunnies, now go enjoy scheming with your families.)

Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Ask GV: Avoiding Villain Decay | Exchange of Realities
  2. Ask GV: Staying Self-Justified in Villainy | Exchange of Realities

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