Monday, January 25, 2010

Character Arc Part Two

Last week we looked at Character Arc for our heroes. What about our villians? Do we need a completed Character Arc for them, as well? I believe so. Readers like well defined characters, whether good or bad. Villians need to be real or we won't believe our heroine really is in trouble. And villians need growth and change. But don't get me wrong. It doesn't mean your villian must be redeemed, although that works for some stories (remember Return of the Jedi?) Change/growth can be for the good or bad.

How are you handling the Character Arc for your villian? I can't wait to hear.


  1. A believable villian must also have a reasonable excuse for being a villian. People love power, which is of course, essential to your bad guy, but few of us would acutally want to wield that kind of power. So your antagonist must have some kind of background story or ultimate goal (perhaps other than world domination?) to give him reason for slaughtering thousands of innocent people (or Hobbits, fairies, or elves or whatever you use)
    In that case, your character does have to be real, with real history, real methods, and real, tangible goals.

  2. My villain starts with a reasonable excuse, but then grows irrational and kind of goes crazy. Does that count as an arc? :)

  3. In my WIP I have two villains, the war chief and his right hand ogre (I call them foeturs)
    The war chief has found a magical weapon that has given him some control over others. He is using that power to get what he can. When he looses that power he struggles to get it back. At one point he talks to his underling and advises him to use power when he has it because all power ends.
    The foetur get to go from being no one, to being seen as a persistent individual, to having some compassion for his prisoner, to being on the loosing side and having nothing.

  4. I think we're not understanding Character Arc. It's the *growth/change* your characters undergo during the course of the story. In fantasy, we have the luxury of creating an evil character who is only that. Evil. Sauron in LOTR. Jadin in LWW. These kinds of villians don't change. They only get defeated.

    I'm talking about all the other charactes that DO change.

    Where is your villian emotionally, spiritually, mentally in the beginning, middle and end of the story?

    In the beginning of Fairyeater, Tzmet (the Fairyeater) is confident and focused on her plan, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

    By the middle of the book, she's starting to doubt her plan. And she's come to realize how lonely she is and longs for a friend, even though she doesnt' want to show weakness.

    By the end of the book, she is a broken woman and gladly gives her live to save another.

    See how her Character Arc changes? And the change didn't have to be for the better. Some characters change for the worse - whether they are villians are not.

    Does this help?

  5. Thanks, Pam. :)

    Okay, so, at the beginning of the book, the Dragon Hunter is killing off all of the dragons because his father was killed by a dragon.

    By the middle he gets seriously wrapped up in it and starts killing not only all dragons, but anyone who befriends a dragon.

    By the end he goes sort of crazy. But one of his men joins the other side.

    Is that an arc?

  6. Almost, Danielle. Think emotion and personality. How does your Dragon Hunter feel about what he is doing? Is he confident? Unsure? Focused? It looks to me like he is focused and angry in the beginning. He knows what he wants and does it. By the middle, he's slipped deeper into revenge mode and his anger is out of control. Perhaps he feels himself slipping, but instead of that pulling him back, it only serves to drive him further into darkness. By the end, he's totally lost himself. So, you see how he's changed for the worse.

    There's nothing wrong with a character changing for the worse, but you have to have a reason and it seems like you do.

    Does that make sense?

  7. My villains refusal to change defines him. He doesn't really have an arc, other than his increasing desperation to achieve his goal, nearly achieving it, then losing it.

  8. He also believes that since he survived an experience that should have killed him, he now is mandated by God to pursue his goals. He uses other people to reach those goals, but also has a need to be loved. This creates some sympathy for him, even though he expresses that need by manipulating people. It is actually his downfall, because he wants so much for one character to love him as the son he never had, that he fails to see that the same person is working behind the scenes to thwart him.

  9. Makes perfect sense. Thanks, Pam :)

  10. But your villian does have a character arc, Christine. He changes for the worse until he experiences a downfall.