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How Bad does a Bad Guy Need to be?

Gyarachu;2047633 said:
Terry D;2047602 said:
Nowhere? Really? A new writer reading through this thread will see that it's important to consider just how she wants her antagonist to come across, and might realize that the nature of the antagonist could very well depend on the genre in which she plans to write. They might also learn that the most important criteria for designing an antagonist is the story itself. A world-eating-mega-demon might be just what's called for in an epic fantasy tale, or the charming sociopath who coaches your kid's baseball team on weekends could be just the ticket for a thriller. Sure, we didn't come to a consensus, but how can we when the needs of our chosen genres vary so much?

Yes yes that's all well and good, but it's not what I was referring to. The very fact that this is your response reinforces my conclusion that our discussion went nowhere. Not exactly in a negative way. Just a misstep in communication, it seems.

Cran;2047624 said:
OK. And yes, these sorts of black and white morality tales exist ... for children. However, the popularity of anti-heroes and shades of moral grey tell us that even older children understand that not everything - in fact, almost nothing - is empirically black or white, good or bad.

We like heroes who face moral dilemmas. We like good people doing bad things. We wanted Butch and Sundance to get away from the Bolivian soldiers. We wanted Han Solo to smuggle stuff and shoot down Empire fighters and bombers. We wanted Wolverine to trash the place. We wanted Gladiator to kick the shit out of the Emperor. We wanted Robin Hood to take Maid Marian (sp?) away from the duly appointed Sheriff of Nottingham, and her maidenhood in the process. We wanted Batman and Spider-Man to kick the crap out of the real villains and escape the vigilante charges against them. We wanted Firefly to outrun the reavers and the central authority to show the people what the real crime was and who did it. We want post-apocalyptic worlds where laws are forgotten and heroes make their own rules, and their own choices.

Perhaps the pendulum will swing back, and perhaps you would be ahead of the curve, but I think that as a story-loving society, we have grown well beyond the simplistic good is good and bad is bad. We know better, and we want stories that don't insult our intelligence.

If the enemy is not redeemable, then it is a waste of space and must be eradicated. Starship Troopers. Lord of the Rings.

As usual, responses like this continue to miss the point entirely. Little better than strawmen, and arguably as simplistic as the "morality tales" they're employed to rail against.

But I've tried. We've tried. Many have tried. I think it's just the way it's going to be.


Every person is an onion. You've got to peel them back layers at a time. You can't look at the dirty outside and conclude with absolute certainty that the whole vegetable is spoiled, and was *always* spoiled since its conception.

I believe that most things in life are a certain shade of grey. However, grey does require there to be - somewhere - an absolute black and an absolute white.

Having said all that, if your antagonist / villain is going to be human, I'd think it should share some believable human qualities. If your antagonist / villain is simply "the force of evil", then I'd suppose that it doesn't.

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Terry D
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