Evil Is As Evil Does


On Heroes, Villains, Protagonists and Antagonists

Heroes and villains are common characters. A hero embodies a certain palatable morality while the villain usually has none or one that is questionable. A protagonist is a character in the story who the readers are supposed to sympathise/agree with while the antagonist is someone opposed to the worldview of the protagonist. Often, heroes become protagonists and villains antagonists.

A perfect example of a (super) hero/villain binary comes from the recently released Infinity Wars. Captain America is a hero while Thanos is a villain. The former is also an (one of many) protagonist while the latter is the antagonist.

Note that the movie has sparked many debates on Thanos’ ‘solution’ to the problem of overpopulation. These discussions do not affect his antagonistic positions because the movie actively tries to show his view as less than desirable.

Why do we have heroes and villains? It provides ready-made conflict and often a simplified ideological/moral framework to the text.

The Impure Evil

Pure evil occurs when the villain is evil and their evil is motivated by nothing else but to be evil. They are often fundamentally opposed to what the hero stands for and motivated by singular, less-than-desirable feelings. Joker loves chaos, as opposed to Batman’s vigilante desire for order in Gotham. The Fire-Lord is power hungry and disruptive, as opposed to Aang who is supposed to bring stability and maintain balance.

However, evil comes in all shapes and sizes. Impure evil, for our purposes, is nuanced evil, where the motivations arise from something other than seizing control over the universe.

An example of such evil is Black WarGreymon who is fining answers to his existence or Zuko who is trying to prove himself.

Example

Remember that impure evil characters are not as fun as pure evil ones; their stories are often gloomy and sad. Writing nuanced evil characters is not better writing; it is just one version of an evil character.

Goose screwed the lid of the bottle shut. A few drops still dribbled down her chin and fell on the moist patch of ground that she had just finished filling in. “There mom,” she said, “You have a companion now.”

Exercise

Write a short entry (max. 1000 words) with an impure evil character. The entry must be complete, which means that cliffhangers and rants are a strict no.

A few tips:

  • This is a lot to do in a single piece. You need to have a backstory for the character and a story arc. Try reducing both of these to single scenes and fusing them in a flow, rather than breaking up the story into distinct present and past sequences.

  • While backstories are an important way of showing the layers of a character, a simple character response may also help with demonstrate that your character is hiding more than a superficial version of themselves.

  • The story attributed to the evil character should not make them appear good.

Prompts

Here are a few prompts to get you started. You can choose to ignore these and write your own ideas.

  • Chudiyon-wali-chudail, the ghost about town, carries off little children into the forest. The villagers are out to lynch her.

  • Unorganised labour in the city has recently come under the mafia.

  • A story where children are good and evil in a situation.

Further Reading:

Author: Ayush

I love writing, and this blog serves as a slow growing collection of all my writing endeavours.

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