The Momentum Blog
Posted February 11, 2014 by Craig Hildebrand-Burke
It is often said that a hero is only ever as good as the villain. And while it’s not wholly successful to reduce all stories down to a good-guy-bad-guy dichotomy (or even good-girl-bad-girl), for those stories that do require the presence and actions of a villain, it’s prudent to consider how they can affect the story, and influence the actions of the protagonist.
Furthermore, it’s interesting to note how an under-developed antagonist, or one that perhaps lessens the final impact of what might otherwise be a resoundingly great story.
So, make the villains good, in the bad way. Whatever type of villain they may be.
The all-conquering villain
This is the one who basically wants entire eradication of the good side. They’ll wage wars (The Lord of the Rings), consume everything in their path (The Matrix), and traverse the galaxy in order to hunt and destroy everything that opposes them and doesn’t dress in dark clothing (Star Wars et al). Basically, they have one, shark-like psychology: to head forwards and destroy. Kill at all costs. Be bad, look bad while doing so, and oppose the ‘good’ forces at every turn.
The problem here is that these villains don’t seem to have thought things through. In a sense, they only exist for the duration of the story, which usually ends with their vanquishing. If the story considered the reality of these villains’ agendas, it would become apparent that villainous victory would be hollow and fruitless. There is no real victory, because they want to destroy everything. They champion enslavement and brutality, but after victory, who can they enslave? What do they actually want? Voldemort in Harry Potter tries to circumvent this problem, but ultimately it’s hard to imagine how this character could operate once entirely in power. (And yes I know they’re villains and therefore mentally unhinged and thus they don’t think things through properly, but that’s not the point.)
I suspect victory would result in a fairly lonely existence for these villains. They are the schoolyard bullies whose being is only validated by having someone to bully.
The psychopathic villain
A lot of fun can be had with this, because the villain here is basically a manifestation of whatever internal struggles the hero is processing. Similar to the all-conquering villain, they only exist as foil to the hero, but in a different way.
They have no agenda, they are not here with some master plan, they are the uninhibited id that haunts our hero running rampant all over the scenery. This accounts for just a hell of a lot of comic book villains (Spiderman, The Dark Knight, to begin with), made most famous in the recent Joker incarnation. Also a lot of monster stories (Alien, Jurassic Park) work with this in mind, the best example being Jaws, wonderfully sent up by The Onion here.
Additionally, they can be found as byproducts of other, larger problems. They are the mutated chemical waste of societal ills and moral corruption (IT, The Stand, a lot of Stephen King to be honest), the end-result of human folly and ill-advised endeavour (2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix again,Terminator).
The best example of this, knowingly so, is in No Country for Old Men, with Anton Chigurh chaotically destroying his way through a narrative on nothing but the whims of a coin toss and the echoes of a cattle gun.
Great fun, but in some sense they’re ultimately more of an embellished plot device than a fully realised character.
The secret villain
Here you find a lot of accidental villains. Villains who got caught up in the thrill of the bad thing, for a large portion of the story can appear to be sympathetic ‘good’ characters, only to be revealed at the end as working for the other side.
Many crime thrillers and spy novels operate with this dynamic (Tinker, Tailor, Solider, Spy for instance), as does a lot of J.K. Rowling’s early Harry Potter books, and the villain appears to be one that relies a lot on mystery and the surprise reveal. They often come encumbered with hastily included exposition at the end, so that the reader is completely aware of the reasons and machinations behind the mysterious plot. But while it can benefit rereads for a spot-the-clue type game, it also reveals how the author has a bit too overtly manipulated the reader.
The sympathetic villain
Not really sympathetic, but understandable. I think it was Gary Oldman – among others – who said that really great villains don’t think they’re villainous, they actually think they’re doing good (interesting given his career playing psychopathic villains). There’s something to be learned here, in that all characters – good or bad – should be written as characters, as real people with real motivations, and not just as foil for the main guy strutting about on his white pony.
Some of the great villains of literature and cinema reside here, questioning just how ‘good’ the good guy is, how pure their motivations are, and how normal the world is with them residing in it. We find Hannibal Lecter, and Nurse Ratched, Michael Corleone and Travis Bickle, and with them a legion of classic characters that carve out their own piece of the story, rather than remaining bit-parts.
Tagged: Books, movies, plot, reading, stories, villains, writing
Posted May 3, 2012 by Nathan M Farrugia
For part I of this post, see here.
6. Does eating sugar cubes improve your night vision?
In Soviet Russia, bath takes you
The myth goes that Soviet soldiers would eat sugar cubes, claiming that sugar feeds the optic nerves, and then expose themselves to red light for ten minutes. Um, yeah. Red light is a means to minimize loss of night vision, but it certainly won’t improve it.
Vitamin B1 is actually a nutrition source of the optic nerves. If you eat a bowl of candy, the body uses up Vitamin B1 and voila – Vitamin B1 deficiency. This gives you eye fatigue and messes with the function of your optic nerves. Which could explain why 60% of Americans wear prescription glasses
7. Check yourself before you wreck yourself
I just wanted a cool way to say “check if you’re being followed”. That’s the best I could think of
Photo by Dylan Kitchener
- Can you see the shadow of the person behind you? Under streetlights a person’s shadow can run ten meters long.
- Know a house with a dog that barks at passers by? Good, walk past it. Then listen out to see if it barks again.
- Walk out of step on purpose. If someone is trained to follow you they’ll synchronize their footsteps with you.
- If you look at your suspected tracker/stalker/ex-boyfriend and they immediately stop walking or change direction, they are a) following you and b) also an idiot.
- Use distance to protect yourself. This is pretty obvious. As soon as you’re out of sight, get some distance between you and your tracker.
- Look for shine on their skin, this is an excellent way to identify someone in darkness.
- Is your suspected tracker walking at the same pace as you? This is usually a key giveaway.
- When trying to identify someone in the dark who may or may not be there, your brain will try to recognize a face first, then it will attempt to recognize a human-shaped body. If it fails at this, it can often make shit up.
- If you can’t see the tracker following you and you don’t want to arouse suspicion, purposely drop something and almost walk past it. This gives you an excuse to turn around and crouch to pick it up. While crouched, your tracker can be more easily identified if they are backlit by a street light or the moon. Remember, your night vision works on shapes and outlines, not color or detail.
8. Survive an attack at night
- If you’re walking on a footpath and someone ahead of you is standing near the curb to force you in towards the shop fronts, don’t. Cross the street or walk around them on the curb. You do not want to be boxed in and set up for an ambush.
- A valuable tool to carry with you is a torch. You can use it to shine in your attacker’s face and blind them. It will take your attacker at least ten seconds to gain enough vision back in order to chase you, let alone see you. Use those ten seconds wisely. Either escape or disable them.
- Don’t run if you can’t see in the darkness. The last thing you need is to run head-first into a brick wall and knock yourself unconscious. You’ve just made a mugger’s job somewhat easier.
9. How to Walk While Blind (Not the Drunk Kind)
- Hold one palm out at waist height and keep it there.
- Wave your other hand up and down in front of you, brushing from head to waist height. It might look like a slightly deformed swan dance, but it works.
- Take short, slow strides. This is the only time you should be walking with the heel (as most people do anyway). Test each step with the heel before committing. Keep your weight on your back foot. This is handy if you encounter a flight of stairs and don’t want to break your neck.
Okay now you’ve absorbed all that, get on over here and learn some more survival skills. Just in case you ever find yourself in the situation where you wake up and discover you’re a deniable operative.
Tagged: night vision, special ops, techno-thriller, villains
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Posted April 27, 2012 by Anne
NB would have had Patrick Bateman AGAIN but he’s not a villain he is actually a hero. Or an anti-hero. But not a villain.
Cersei Lannister – A Song of Ice and Fire, George R.R. Martin
Although her hotness is pretty much undone by the fact that she’s a fundamentally horrible person.
Mara Jade- The Thrawn Trilogy, Timothy Zahn
These Star Wars expanded universe novels feature a foxy redhead Jedi who wants to kill Luke Skywalker.
HAL 9000 – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke
Let’s face it, we all find technology a little bit sexy.
Lady Macbeth – Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Hmmm, I do seem to have a type.
Grendel’s Mother – Beowulf
Because she was played by Angelina Jolie in the movie.
Victoria – Twilight, Stephanie Meyer
Effie Trinket – Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Chopper Read – From the Inside, Mark “Chopper” Read
The Triffids – The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham
Plants are hot. I’m not weird for thinking it.Tagged: favourites, genre, hottest, Patrick Bateman, reading, romance, villains