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View Full Version : Should antagonists have convenient flaws or only inconvenvient?



ironpony
May 15th, 2020, 11:36 PM
Before when I was writing my story, which is a crime thriller, I found that the antagonist was too un-catchable for the main detective character, because he was too perfect. So I had to give him flaws to make him more catchable. But now after reading the story again after putting it away for a bit, I find that perhaps the antagonist's flaw maybe too convenient to get him caught in the end, and maybe that's bad.

So that makes me wonder, perhaps antagonists having convenient flaws is bad, and they should only have flaws that inconvenience the protagonist? Or it not be a flaw then, if the protagonist was inconvenienced as a result, and therefore antagonists having convenient flaws is good?

hvysmker
May 16th, 2020, 12:31 AM
Make sure you mention any flaws early in the story so the reader knows about them.

ironpony
May 16th, 2020, 12:33 AM
For sure I can do that. It's just before I was advised not to give the villains any flaws, because it forces a convenience on the main character's goal, and instead to upgrade the MC, so the MC is going to have to go to further lengths to bring down a flawless villain instead. So I am wondering, should I do that then, rather than give the villain a flaw that helps bring him down?

hvysmker
May 16th, 2020, 12:38 AM
Flaws, especially to the MC, add realism to a story.

ironpony
May 16th, 2020, 01:08 AM
Yeah that's true. I know the MC should be flawed, I just wonder if the villain has a flaw that leads to his downfall, if that might be seen as too convenient rather than the MC pushing even harder to try to bring down a flawless villain?

vranger
May 16th, 2020, 03:54 AM
I'm going to disagree that flaws should always be mentioned early. That can cause you to telegraph plot elements you'd rather keep for a surprise. If your hero is subject to seizures, then the reader may expect that the hero will be inconvenienced by one at a critical juncture. Plus, a flaw need not be consistent. If the character is an alcoholic, that doesn't mean he will always miss opportunities because he's drunk. So if you do reveal the flaw early, I believe that it's good to display it when it doesn't matter, to keep the reader off balance.

On to the antagonist/villain: I definitely wouldn't reveal his flaw early. That's REALLY going to telegraph your solution. I don't know that you have to reveal a flaw at all. In my experience with crime dramas (and comedies), murder mysteries, etc., generally the villain is outed through a mistake the hero catches on to, or a progression of inevitable clues. That's not necessarily a flaw in the villain character. Some flaws (like fatal hubris), or clues (like guilty knowledge), are simply overworked. I'd rather see a battle of wits between two clever people who are indeed clever, but not perfect in word and deed.

Sometimes the villain is caught because he is TOO clever and the crime "too perfect". Check out "The Kennel Murder Case" with William Powell. The crime was so perfect, it made the method seem impossible. Once the solution to why it wasn't really impossible was uncovered, it severely cut down on the number of people who might have pulled it off. But the murderer wasn't any sort of genius master criminal, just an ordinary person who managed to create a locked-room mystery and obfuscate the time of the murder.

Of course, a lot depends on the type of plot you want, Whodunit, Reverse Mystery, or something else. In a whodunit, you don't want to be shining the spotlight on your culprit.

ironpony
May 16th, 2020, 04:10 AM
Oh okay thanks. Well if the villain makes a mistake that outs him, then would that mistake be considered a flaw in him though?

vranger
May 16th, 2020, 05:54 AM
Oh okay thanks. Well if the villain makes a mistake that outs him, then would that mistake be considered a flaw in him though?

I think that may be more a matter of semantics than character development. If the villain is human, he's not perfect. So here's the semantics issue. I consider a "flaw" in character development as something dramatic -- something that's going to "cause a scene" (double meaning on purpose LOL). A mistake, on the other hand, need not be dramatic at all. It can be a subtle clue -- the fingerprints inside the discarded rubber glove cliche, for example.

So my flaws would be things like drug addiction, alcoholism, chronic reckless driving, unreasoning desire for revenge, willingness to break rules (cross the line) -- something that could cause a crisis all by itself. However, neither character has to have that to be real or interesting. I have certainly read books where the author introduced a major character flaw because they thought they had to, not because it was in any way organic to their plot. You could tell it was molded onto the story, rather than a carefully planned part of the story.

An approach that works is taking a character with a handicap and exploring how they overcome it to accomplish their goal, such as a blind detective. However, in that type of story, the approach isn't really meant to be a flaw, but a challenge. Again, I see a flaw as something which primarily hampers the character and worries the reader, where the handicap primarily inspires both the character and the reader, though it can certainly hamper and worry at the same time.

But again, this is all pretty general, because I'm shooting in the dark on your plot type. Whodunit vs Reverse Mystery vs dramatic conflict would each put their own spin on the discussion, I believe.

(When I mention "dramatic conflict", I'm thinking about something like The Untouchables, where the good guy and the bad guy both pretty well know who's who and what's going on, so it's a matter of conflict and who wins it.)

ironpony
May 16th, 2020, 06:16 AM
Oh okay. Well in my story, the villains need a flaw to all get them caught and arrested in the end. I wrote it so that the leader of the villains, has leverage evidence on all of them, that's a dead man's switch, so if they turn on him, he will bring them down with him, especially if he is killed, hence why it's a dead man's switch. The leverage evidence on everyone is the flaw or mistake, that gets everyone caught in the end.

However, looking back, I don't like it cause it feels like I put it in there, just because I need the villain leader to have something, for the main character detective to find, just to get all the villains caught. It feels like it's just there, just so the story can end. So should I try to perhaps come up with something else? The problem is, I cannot find a mistake that would get the villains caught. Everything in their crimes and planning just seems perfect. Unless I add a flaw that is sure enough to get them all caught like leverage evidence on all of them, that the leader has hidden away, or something like that. But is adding a flaw good, or is it bad, as oppose to trying to find a flaw that is already there, but in this case isn't? Or is the antagonist having a convenient flaw, that gets them caught, good?

Kallisto
May 16th, 2020, 09:07 AM
So, there is a nature to flaws that I think is worth mentioning. We certainly all have things that could be classified as "character flaws" such as a bad temper or maybe being a pathological liar. Certainly, these things are all plausible for a criminal, particularly a serial killer or a sociopath.

But then there's just the flaws of being human. The fact we're not omnipotent. The fact we don't know what another person might be thinking. We simply have a limited perspective. For example, if a dresser tips over in a child's room, then the entire internet is exploding saying, "How did those parents not realize that dresser could have fallen over?" Well, simply, they're not omnipotent. Even things that are obvious can sometimes be overlooked.

With that said, consider that you don't have to have a glaring flaw for your villain to be caught. They just have to make a human error. Consider the story "Red Dragon." How did they find the killer? Well, they realized he had made himself a copy of people's home movies and was using that to select his victims.

When I watch crime shows, it's often not the criminal's own short comings that get them caught, but the fact they just can't account for everything. They might miss a finger print or leave a shoe print.

apocalypsegal
May 16th, 2020, 12:48 PM
Oh okay. Well in my story, the villains need a flaw to all get them caught and arrested in the end. I wrote it so that the leader of the villains, has leverage evidence on all of them, that's a dead man's switch, so if they turn on him, he will bring them down with him, especially if he is killed, hence why it's a dead man's switch. The leverage evidence on everyone is the flaw or mistake, that gets everyone caught in the end.

But, that's not a flaw. It's a way for the leader to make sure he doesn't go down alone, which is a good plot device. I don't think you understand what a flawed character is, and you should be studying accepted books about writing to learn how to develop characters, not to mention plots.

However, looking back, I don't like it cause it feels like I put it in there, just because I need the villain leader to have something, for the main character detective to find, just to get all the villains caught. It feels like it's just there, just so the story can end. So should I try to perhaps come up with something else? The problem is, I cannot find a mistake that would get the villains caught. Everything in their crimes and planning just seems perfect. Unless I add a flaw that is sure enough to get them all caught like leverage evidence on all of them, that the leader has hidden away, or something like that. But is adding a flaw good, or is it bad, as oppose to trying to find a flaw that is already there, but in this case isn't? Or is the antagonist having a convenient flaw, that gets them caught, good?

The problem you have, then, is that you can't find a way for a mistake to happen, perhaps a coincidence that leads to the capture of these villains. It doesn't have to be a flaw, per se, but there has to be a way for the good guys to catch the bad guys, if that's how you want the story to end. Does that have to happen? How could that happen, how could the villains leave a clue, or make a mistake, or have an internal rift, or whatever you can think of?





advised not to give the villains any flaws

I don't know who told you that, but I have to wonder if they are someone you should be listening to. The villain can indeed appear to not be flawed, but could still be. The flaw may not be something huge, but if they have one it reflects in their actions, their behavior. Humans are flawed, and I'd guess aliens would be as well. Flaws add to the character, they can enhance plots, and readers certainly expect characters to have them, to some degree.

ironpony
May 16th, 2020, 03:46 PM
Oh okay thanks. I just thought having leverage on everyone is a flaw, because it what allows him and the others to get caught. If it's what gets them caught, then is it not a villain flaw?

As for having something that gets them caught, I could go with the leverage on everyone, does it feel too convenient in the sense, that why is it that the leader of the villains go through such painstaking lengths to cover up all the forensic evidence of their crimes, yet has leverage video evidence on everyone? Is it inconsistent cause he has been so careful, yet in this one area, of the leverage videos, he is so careless and risky?

Before I wrote it so that the police are surveying them and they catch them in the act of their next crime, when they all meet up together to commit and arrest them then, but I was told before, that this is a legal plot hole, because they cannot arrest them if they think they were going to commit a crime, and they need evidence on crimes they already committed, hence why I came up with the idea of the leverage evidence on everyone. So I really just came up with it to solve a plot hole, but wonder if it comes off that way.

vranger
May 16th, 2020, 05:39 PM
I like what Kallisto said.

Something I should have probably included in my earlier discussion is that no one can provide to you a definite "answer", because there simply isn't one single answer. The solution to your doubt flows from your creativity, and must be something you are comfortable with.

I don't see a problem with your "dead man switch". You've introduced a flaw in your villain: Paranoia.

That's OK. The reader will buy that. Just don't tip it off too soon so that the reader is expecting that shoe to drop pages and pages too early. LOL My own thought is that the hero's discovery of that evidence should coincide with your climax, which is fairly standard, but it's standard for a reason: it creates the requisite drama and satisfies your reader. Your typical reader KNOWS the crook is going to get caught, and as long as your solution doesn't involve the most obvious of coincidence, the reader going to be looking forward to discovering your solution more than critiquing it.

ironpony
May 16th, 2020, 05:43 PM
Oh okay I just maybe it was too convenient in the sense that the villain is so careful to cover up evidence of all the crimes, yet he keeps some on hand, that may not even be worth the huge risk. As long as it's not seen as too easy. The main character finds out about it just before the third act.

I guess I am also thinking it may come off as a deux ex machina, but as long as it doesn't.

Sir-KP
May 17th, 2020, 03:36 AM
I don't really get with this 'in/convenient flaw' term, but imagine playing chess with yourself. You shouldn't walk the opposite-side's Queen out just so when you return to the other side, you could finish that Queen off with a Peon.

ironpony
May 17th, 2020, 09:49 AM
Oh thanks. By convenient I mean that the protagonist can use the flaw to his/her advantage when bringing down the protagonist, as opposed to inconvenient for the protagonist.

apocalypsegal
May 18th, 2020, 01:18 PM
Before I wrote it so that the police are surveying them and they catch them in the act of their next crime, when they all meet up together to commit and arrest them then, but I was told before, that this is a legal plot hole, because they cannot arrest them if they think they were going to commit a crime, and they need evidence on crimes they already committed, hence why I came up with the idea of the leverage evidence on everyone. So I really just came up with it to solve a plot hole, but wonder if it comes off that way.

First of all, how do the police know to be watching this group? That will require some level of evidence of wrong doing, which means someone has made a mistake, something which brought the group to the attention of the authorities. And no, they can't be arrested without proof of intent of a criminal act, so maybe there's a wiretap, so the police can use that information. Still, in court, they'd need proof of an actual crime, something already done.

But again, you still don't understand what a flaw is. Here's a definition from a quick search:


a mark, fault, or other imperfection that mars a substance or object

So, in your case, the person having evidence against the others is not a flaw, something in his character, but a bit of self-protection. I think it's probably a smart move on his part. If he goes down, he can take them all with him. Or at least use the evidence to make someone getting a bit soft straighten up. A flaw would be if a character was a beloved priest, who had urges to have sex with young children. Or a supposed good husband who has affairs, or gambles the family's money away, or drinks and beats his kids. Or a trusted employee who's shifting money to their own use. It's something that makes them less perfect than they may seem.

InTheThirdPerson
May 18th, 2020, 05:22 PM
Oh thanks. By convenient I mean that the protagonist can use the flaw to his/her advantage when bringing down the protagonist, as opposed to inconvenient for the protagonist.

"The target area is only two meters wide. It's a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port."

Convenience is a matter of hindsight. If you write your story well, the protagonist discovering the flaw of the antagonist will be seen as thrilling and lead to an exciting climax -- such as a bunch of X-Wings attacking the Death Star's newly discovered weakness -- and won't be seen as merely a convenience. That is unless you're Disney and decide you need to make a movie 40 years later to explain something no one really asked to be explained.

ironpony
May 18th, 2020, 06:33 PM
Oh okay, I guess the Death Star is a good point. I just thought maybe it was inconsistent cause the villain has been so careful not to give the police evidence this whole time, yet he chooses to keep evidence around, as long as it's leverage on everyone.


First of all, how do the police know to be watching this group? That will require some level of evidence of wrong doing, which means someone has made a mistake, something which brought the group to the attention of the authorities. And no, they can't be arrested without proof of intent of a criminal act, so maybe there's a wiretap, so the police can use that information. Still, in court, they'd need proof of an actual crime, something already done.

But again, you still don't understand what a flaw is. Here's a definition from a quick search:



So, in your case, the person having evidence against the others is not a flaw, something in his character, but a bit of self-protection. I think it's probably a smart move on his part. If he goes down, he can take them all with him. Or at least use the evidence to make someone getting a bit soft straighten up. A flaw would be if a character was a beloved priest, who had urges to have sex with young children. Or a supposed good husband who has affairs, or gambles the family's money away, or drinks and beats his kids. Or a trusted employee who's shifting money to their own use. It's something that makes them less perfect than they may seem.

Yes the police have three suspects now from throughout the story, and are surveying them.

As for a flaw, I thought that a flaw is something a character has which leads to their downfall, and the villain keeping this evidence on everyone, leads to everyone's downfall, and his own. So therefore, I thought it was a flaw.

But if it's not a flaw, and just a character trait, I guess I feel like the I created the character trait as a convenience to get around the 4th amendment in the writing. The fourth amendment prevents the police from being able to see any of their crimes when they follow them around, because the crimes are always committed indoors. So they cannot see any of them happen and bust them for the ending I originally wanted. So I came up with this prior leverage evidence the police find on everyone, and use this to arrest them for past crimes instead. So I felt that I came up with the leader villain's character trait, only to solve this fourth amendment problem. So it feels cheap to me that way therefore. But maybe it isn't, and maybe the villain needs to have a character trait, where he would have freebie of evidence for the police to find, so the arrests can be made?

InTheThirdPerson
May 18th, 2020, 07:36 PM
Oh okay, I guess the Death Star is a good point. I just thought maybe it was inconsistent cause the villain has been so careful not to give the police evidence this whole time, yet he chooses to keep evidence around, as long as it's leverage on everyone.

Historically, some serial killers who left little to no evidence at the scenes of their crimes kept souvenirs that helped to convict them when they were eventually caught (often due to some mistake resulting in their over-confidence). Souvenirs and over-confidence could be seen as pretty convenient flaws that allowed law enforcement to catch and convict them.

ironpony
May 18th, 2020, 08:28 PM
That's true. I couldn't use the souvenir idea, because in order for the main character to find the leverage of evidence, he has to trick the leader into having a reason to go get the leverage, and thus, leading the main character to it. Where as I couldn't really think of how you would trick someone to be compelled to go get a souvenir, and thus leading him to the rest of them souvenirs.