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Thoughts on creating Sympathy for my Villainess? (1 Viewer)

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MorganaPendragon25

Senior Member
Thoughts on creating sympathy for my Villainess (who is my primary antagonist). I want her to feel very human, relatable to my audience. Yes, she is physically very strong and a capable fighter. But beyond that, I want to create a backstory that makes the audience hope she finds peace in her life.

So long story short, she is the sole heir to the throne. She’s part of a royal bloodline and she’s an only child. Her family and community put tons of pressure on her to have a baby. At first, she’d love to have a kid and she tries and tries really hard to get pregnant to please her family but later on after years of trying (she’s infertile) she eventually gives up on the idea of having a kid. The news hits her pretty hard at first but begins to accept the fact that she wasn’t meant to have kids, that was what fate had in store for her. Maybe all the pressure from family to continue the bloodline was weighing heavily on her that it was crushing. And her body having failed to produce a child makes her feel depressed but she climbs out of it.

What are your thoughts on creating sympathy for my villainess this way? It is possible I should have her having a miscarriage, that would make my readers even more sympathetic towards her?

She is the end of her bloodline. It is possibly she might adopt...if she survives the story (likely not). Since she’s the last member of her bloodline all she is going to do is make her family proud. And she’s like 40 years old or so. She feels kind of trapped but it’s all she can do. She has a pretty messy head.

She’s pretty hard on herself for her body “being broken” as she’s infertile but over time begins to love her body and gets stronger and more fearsome as an opponent.
 

Darkkin

WF Veterans
Likeable villians are awesome and can become some of the best and most complex characters in fiction. (One very dated example the Spike vs Angel debate. Hands down, Spike is the better character because he started as a bad guy, was a primary bad guy, and made a chioce to change. Megamind is another underappreciated bad guy.)
 
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indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I have 2 antagonists in my WIP.
One was raised in a forced labor camp and when his father was injured the guards placed bets on how long it would take for him to die. He grew into an assassin that specializes in horrific murders.
The other was adopted and raised in a very abusive home - and learned to use her sexuality to set her abusers against each other. She grew into a government official that manipulates and sabotages those around her in her quest to get ahead.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
Not having a baby is a powerful motivation. It could be a goal of a person. My cousin is not able to have babies due to her immune system attacking her baby. The babies she had couldn't live and put in risk her health. That is a powerful villain motive if fictionalized. The need for adoption is a long rejected ideal because of them wanting to have their close blood give birth or she herself in this case. Many movies have been made with this character though I will be hard pressed to name one. Let's not forget they might be frightened of losing their soul mate. They also feel some inadequacies or insecurities. It is a fear in and of itself and could create an easy struggle.
 
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Darkkin

WF Veterans
Consider the fact that things got much better for Rome when rule passed from Caesar's descendants...Caligula...Nero (some civil war and emperor turnover until Vespasian.)
 

thepancreas11

New Writers' Mentor
WF Veterans
That's an incredibly rich back story and certainly creates a sympathetic character.

For me, there are two ways to make great antagonists: either make them complete foils for the protagonist (think the Joker for Batman) or the antagonist views themselves as the protagonist of their own story. It already feels like you've got this second one going on. I think Killmonger from "The Black Panther" or Severus Snape. Both characters are going through so much turmoil, have experienced so much pain, and both characters want desperately to remake the world in their own version of what is right.

If your character felt a resentment for the dynastic pressure she experienced, she could feel the need to clip all the royal bloodlines, or maybe she's kidnapping heirs to prevent them from becoming the objects of parental scrutiny. I think just having a potentially sympathetic backstory isn't necessarily enough; it's what she does about it that makes her sympathetic or unsympathetic.
 

Theglasshouse

WF Veterans
That's an incredibly rich back story and certainly creates a sympathetic character.

For me, there are two ways to make great antagonists: either make them complete foils for the protagonist (think the Joker for Batman) or the antagonist views themselves as the protagonist of their own story. It already feels like you've got this second one going on. I think Killmonger from "The Black Panther" or Severus Snape. Both characters are going through so much turmoil, have experienced so much pain, and both characters want desperately to remake the world in their own version of what is right.

If your character felt a resentment for the dynastic pressure she experienced, she could feel the need to clip all the royal bloodlines, or maybe she's kidnapping heirs to prevent them from becoming the objects of parental scrutiny. I think just having a potentially sympathetic backstory isn't necessarily enough; it's what she does about it that makes her sympathetic or unsympathetic.
That's an excellent thought. Action and the motivation being important to each other to create emotion or the sympathetic character. That's well said, and now I feel like rewriting a story currently in the works in the workshop because of the good advice. If you will what you said helps creates events that need closure.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
What make this character a villain? For there to be sympathy for their actions the two should be related. The reason we have sympathy for Magneto from X-men is because we know how he suffered as a child from people during WWII for being different (Jewish) and now that he knows he's a mutant he fears being treated the same way again. Not being able to have children could explain why she kidnaps a baby, not as easy a connection to starting a war.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
Wow, you have changed your plot quite a bit. I thought at one point, she did not want to have children and was considering sterilization. Is this the same character?
 
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