has anyone ever seen a fantasy novel that focuses on the evil characters and makes the story about them? Possibly even having them win.
I am not talking about dark fantasy where the good guys are kind of dark, but do the right thing in the end or fatalistic like Michael Moorcock. I mean from Saurons perspective or something like that and you make the bad guy a sympathetic character.
In my writing critique group, someone is writing a piece of fan fiction in the Harry Potter world from the POV of Draco. One of the reviewers remarked that she would never have thought of Draco as a sympathetic character until this particular writer managed to pull it off. To sum up, completely evil characters are just as boring (and unrealistic) as completely good characters.
I think it depends on what kind of "bad guy" you mean. I have no problem with real bad guys...characters that are, in fact, evil and realize that they are so and either dont care, or try to justify it to avoid punishment, but still are fully aware of what they are doing. These are the ones that enjoy hurting people and/or lust after power for its own sake.
The antagonist of the novel idea thats rattling around in my head, for instance, claims that he's doing what he's doing for the greater good, but deep down he knows better; he's basically a spoiled rich kid who wants to be King of Everything and doesn't care who or what he tramples along the way.
I don't know that there is a way to make these types sympathetic without changing them into something else.
On the other hand, "bad guys" who are simply misguided or overzealous are a different thing. Magneto is the archtypal example...he does many wrong things but his intentions are both not evil and really quite understandable. Such characters are inherently sympathetic even if we still want to see them get their butts kicked.
If they honestly believe that the end justifies the means, then one can have a very evil person, who is doing it for the "right" reasons.
The reader does not have to agree with the character, but it would be best that they understand why they are doing it. One can then develop sympathy for the character as their actions are consistent with their goals.
There is a book that basically does tell same general Lord of the Rings story from Sauron's viewpoint, but my brain is out of it today and I can't remember author or title.
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I'm not sure about books, but one piece of good writing from an antagonists view is Nick Kazan's movie script 'Fallen' which is seen through the eyes of Azazel, an evil demon who can infect people and unknowingly 'to them' turn them into serial killers. Who the detective John Hobbs is trying to understand, track down, and defeat. Through the movie the writing fools the audience into thinking its the detectives POV, but in the end you find out it is the Antagonist pov, who actual wins in the end, Yeah Bad Guys! You don't see or read that often, and it's done so well you don't care that the good guys are dead, and the bad guy gets away with it all, and is still on the loose.
It's hard to get sympathy for a bad guy without making them a victim of circumstance somehow.
Don't know about novels, but I've seen it a lot at the short story/novelette length. Off the top of my head, I can even remember an anthology of these stories (Villains Victorious).
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If you write about Sauron the Motherless, and he's despicable in your text (no using the techniques mentioned in my post), then the readers will automatically root against him. You may find some readers who are fascinated with the descent into evil or the portrayal of evil. But the more you focus on that, the fewer readers you're likely to have. This is because most of us can't stand injustice. One of the key things we go to fiction for is to feel injustice resolved. Furthermore, we don't want to spend hours reading icky things or watching despicable people. Unless they're hilarious. But there are certainly some who will like that. However, you'll have a broader readership if you give the readers someone to root for. A challenger, a victim who is trying to escape, a henchman who changes and finds redemption. Or you show us how Sauron is really a decent chap and the elves are the meanies.
It isn't a fantasy, but Crime and Punishment has a bad guy as a protagonist. Raskolnikov (spelling?) brutally murders two women in the beginning of the book. He was a dark, fascinating, but sympathetic character. I loved that book.
Well, I guess thats sort of my point. Being a good guy or bad guy is a mix of morality and perspective, and the terms good and bad guy are over-simplifications. While morality is IMO a somewhat rigid concept (we all share a somewhat similar sense of justice), perspective is more flexible (the terrorist vs. freedom fighter argument, for example). In your link about villainous heroes, perspective comes into play as you point out that relative to the greater evil, the misdeads of the heroes are forgivable.
By the way, I saw your book on the shelves at B & N yesterday while picking up Terminal World. Like the cover art. Congrats!
[This message has been edited by Osiris (edited July 29, 2010).]
I did something similar just recently. My anti-protagonist does dispicable things that irks his brother and his best friend, but in the end he gets punished for it and begins to understand the error of his ways.
At first I left him with no redeeming features at all. My critiquers hated it because of this. So I gave him a relationship with his brother to promote sympathy and dropped a lot of the story that said over and over again that he was rotten to the core. I left a couple scenes showing his bad side and the rest of the story to solving the main conflict and my anti-protagonist getting his lumps at the end. All-in-all, I feel the story came off quite well.
In many books and movies, there are two main stories playing out. There's the one they tell you about in the preview, where there's a big bad empire to defeat, a princess to save, etc. The other is the story of the main character's development, where the character faces his own fears, inadequacies, and misconceptions. It is possible, therefor, for a character to be both a villain and a hero simultaneously. He could be the villain in the main story, killing innocents, defrauding businesses, making his employees work on Christmas, etc. But, in the story of his character, he is very much the hero, as he confronts and tries to overcome the limitations and flaws that drive him to that behavior. The audience, therefor, doesn't root for him to succeed in pulling off the bank heist, but instead roots for his redemption.
Now, you can take this and turn it around. Have the character be the hero of the main story, but a complete and unsympathetic slave to his flaws. You'd get the anti-hero, which also seems to do well in the market.
Imaginary Witness: The Holocaust Annette Insdorf – Film Historian, talking about the film’s protagonist in Schindler's List.
“Film’s often have an audience surrogate. There has to be a character whom the majority of the audience can identify with. It’s unlikely that a character is going to be either the Jew that has been victimized, brutalized, nor is it going to be the Nazi Perpetrator, or the guilty bystander. We don’t want to identify with the person committing or watching evil. That leaves the decent Observer who takes part. Who finally says I can no longer be indifferent.”
This translates directly to writing, and I believe sums up the clear reasons a reader is affected by who an author chooses as the POV.
Was watching this, and thought of this thread.
[This message has been edited by walexander (edited July 30, 2010).]
The magic of the kingdom is being sucked dry by a new blood line. Their existence is short circuiting the source of their magical power. He has become the king and has to save his kingdom. His kingdom won't just become weak, it will cease to exist, everything about it will be gone if the short circuit cannot be cleared. No sign will be found of the people or their creations.
He takes it on himself to irradicate the blood line to save his glorious kingdom. He selects special soldiers and magic users and they hunt down and kill entire villages, old, young, women, children, babies. Each time, the power of the kingdom increases. They are vicious, inhumane in their methods, those that have some sign of power are tortured slowly to bleed off the power before they die, to prevent the "ghosts" from entering other blood lines and causing the problem all over again.
Early on his teams were not really effective and some survivors escape his raids. Among them is a young boy who runs into the forest A decade later the blood line is decimated and the kingdom has much of the power back. Searching for the remains of the blood line is not a critical project. the king is guiding the kingdom to become greater than it was, having absorbed some of the lands they cleared. The young boy, now a young man, gathers some people of ability to follow him to get revenge on the kingdom, to kill the king. The kingdom has always attacked, not really applied efforts on defense. The king quickly finds that there have been little raids in his lands, working towards the palace. His information is late, wrong, and those following his command are not as good as they should be. The magic users find something disturbing. The palace is the seat of power. If one of the blood kills the king in the seat of power, the kingdom will cease to exist. It will come down to a one on one battle between the blood and him. and he is fighting for an entire kingdom.
I like this one. I am posting it as a story idea. The concept here, is that everything horrible that the king is doing, is logical, understandable, and if well written, one can love the character. Check on any of the hero beats empire to get an idea for how the hero gets through the defenses and into the palace, but show it from the point of someone receiving reports of the failures.
Most of these are written in third person Omniscient, but I feel they all do a good job of conveying the thoughts, regrets, and intentions of the "villain":
Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, by Mary W. Shelley The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
In first person, though not particularly sympathetic, consider:
Two examples spring to mind right away. First is not a novel or fantasy exactly, but Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog is a nice take of a story from a villain's perspective. Perhaps a better example for your purposes because it is actually a novel is Grendel by John Gardner which retells Beowulf from Grendel's point of view. That being said, both of these stories are rely inversions and rely on your familiarity with the superhero genre or with the epic poem Beowulf. But I think that looking at Dr. Horrible in particular is a good case. As an audience we identify with him more than the "hero" Captain Hammer "Corporate Tool" despite the fact that he does indeed want to rule the world and join the evil league of evil. And even if it doesn't prove helpful for your writing, Dr. Horrible is still worth watching for some good old Whendon humor and surprisingly good music.
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