Opposition: Why We Need Villains

A trope is simply a common or overused theme or device in a story. Some people like the word cliché to describe them and some like the word stereotype instead. It’s all the same thing and simply means that a story element has become popular and now everyone knows about it. A trope is not something you should avoid but before you use them you need to apply your creativity. Since an antagonist is necessary for every story many villain devices are seen as overused. Your villains don’t have to be that way!

You’ve probably read reviewers say that there wasn’t enough conflict in a story or the conflict was contrived. Opposition is needed in a story because it helps the protagonist grow. Growth in a hero helps the reader to relate to the character and want to take their journey with them. Growth only happens when the right kind of opposition is provided for the protagonist. Many times the wrong antagonist or villain trope is at the root of conflict problems. When conflict arises naturally from the relationship between an antagonist and protagonist a story becomes more enjoyable and satisfying.

It’s important to understand the difference between an antagonist and a villain. An antagonist has goals that actively oppose the protagonist’s goals. They aren’t necessarily evil so much as the opposite of the hero. A villain is a character whose evil actions or motives are important to the plot or a person or thing responsible for specified trouble, harm or damage. An antagonist opposes and a villain causes trouble.

There are many kinds of antagonists: nature, society, self. These sometimes don’t even have a human face to them, they can be a mega-storm, a dystopian government or dealing with jealousy, shyness or guilt. In fact most stories deal with some kind of internal struggle with your self and many are set in a society that causes conflict. Today we’re going to talk about the human variety of antagonists and their benefits for your story!

#1 – Mastermind

-Identity is a secret and must be learned by the protagonist

-Leads other villain types to oppose the protagonist

-Shares similar skills and abilities as the hero but differs in morals and ethics

-Example: Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes

-Perfect for a series

#2 – Anti-Villain

-On the opposing side of the protagonist but not an evil character

-Creates questions about morality and ethics due to the positions of the hero and villain in society

-Traditional Example: Inspector Javert from Les Miserables

-Non-traditional Example: Carl Hanratty, the FBI agent who captures Frank Abagnale, Jr. in Catch Me If You Can

-Perfect to use opposite an anti-hero

#3 – The Redeemable

-A shadow of the protagonist who is allowing their negative traits to dominate

-One focused goal of taking out or disrupting the plans of the protagonist

-All sorts fall in this category: bullies, good characters who are corrupted, entitled characters, constructs or creatures ruled by their programming or urges

-Example: Professor Snape from the Harry Potter Series

-Perfect when the protagonist grows by understanding and trying to redeem these villains

#4 – Charming Traitor

-Preys on the protagonist or someone the protagonist cares about like a love interest

-Uses their charm, good looks, sexual prowess, cunning and creativity for their own gain

-Manipulates and deceives protagonist into believing they are an ally

-Example: Truman Capote from The Swans of Fifth Avenue

-Perfect to build suspense or to create a twist ending

#5 – Savage Predator Menace

-The protagonist gets in the way of their base lusts, or provides challenge that amuses

-Option for the villain to be ruled physically by bloodlust and brutality or mentally through psychological manipulation

-Physical Example: Shere Khan from The Jungle Book

-Mental Example: Mrs. Danvers in Rebecca

-Perfect for stand alone books or for stories set in a particular location.

When we know what is common we can use it as a starting place to get creative. The important thing is to find the right balance with the protagonist for your story. We don’t just want to see a character in conflict with another character. The wrong type of villain won’t create the opposition a protagonist needs to grow. Experiment with these tropes and the benefits of each for your story. Using the best villains will create the best stories!

Relationship Wars: Unique Couples

You’ve just finished a book. You think: wow, that rivals my favorite “book of all time.” You can fill “book of all time” with any of your favorite relationships, story troupes or genres, but you get the idea, these are your favorites! It’s understandable when this happens, there are writers giving us incredible stories all the time. Enjoying many types of story I find myself frequently warring inside over which is my favorite fill in the blank as each type highlights differently.

I love relationships of every kind, color and make-up. Those between siblings, a parent and child, two friends – either of the same sex or of the opposite sex. There are also ones where strangers become allies, or enemies must work together for a common goal. Then there is the pièce de résistance of relationships, couples. So in honor of Valentine’s Day I’ve gathered a list of my favorite unique couples – the quirkier the better… Bring the war on!

Sci-Fi Pick…

Harrison and Glimmer in Prelude to Mayhem

I found this title right here on Curiosity Quills Press, set in a world where current day has jumbled with a world of future tech as well as a world of magical creatures. If you’ve read the book, you may argue that these two only loosely meet the requirements of a couple. I agree Glimmer’s wardrobe is made up of outfits literally stolen from Barbie while Harrison can’t double for anything other that a full grown human man. We follow them from their first meeting to their end destination across the country as the pair grow closer during their travels. What makes this couple work is the undertone of love and sacrifice between the two as they struggle against the dangers of their new world.

Film Pick…

Monkey/Sariatu and Beetle/Hanzo in Kubo and the Two Strings

This isn’t a perfect movie, but it’s excellent stop animation and historical world make the perfect setting for a quirky couple. Monkey is a wooden charm brought to life with the last of Kubo’s mother’s magic. Beetle is a cursed samurai, without his memory who followed Kubo’s father when he was younger. As they squabble the pair bond over their mutual affection for Kubo, the boy they are trying to protect as he fights to save the life his parents died to protect. What makes this couple work is the rich texture of monkey’s fur to Beetle’s hard tactile shell, visually and emotionally we believe in this odd pairing.

Fantasy Pick…

Meg and Simon in Written in Red

Meg Corbyn is a cassandra sangue, a human who can see the future when her skin is cut. In the Others book series she gets mixed up with a group of supernatural beings that rule an alternate earth. Enter Simon Wolfgard, the shape-shifter leader who hires her to be the others’ human liaison. When this glorified mail lady touches the lives of every one of the others in the courtyard Simon finds his instinct is to protect his own and Meg has become one of them… The biggest thing going for their relationship is she doesn’t smell like prey, i.e. the residents have no desire to eat her. What makes this couple work is the totally unique reinvention of a much beloved troupe.

K-drama Pick…

Grim Reaper and Sunny in Goblin: the Lonely and Great God

This is a mega-hit where it runs on TV in South Korea and weaves Asian traditional beliefs of reincarnation and death ceremonies into a modern story. If you search out a subtitled streaming version of this 16 episode series you can see what the hype is for yourself… A grim reaper guides souls to the after life due to the great sin he committed when he lived. His past is a mystery to him until he meets Sunny, a stunning modern woman who causes him to cry when they first meet. What makes this couple work is the visual contrast between the couple’s history in the distant past to the present day situation. And this isn’t even the main couple!

Manga Pick…

Mafuyu and Takaomi in Oresama Teacher manga series

Oresama is a Japanese term meaning you are putting yourself and what you want above everyone else around you. Takaomi Saeki is the title character of this Japanese comic and Mafuyu Kurosaki’s homeroom teacher. He has a history with Mafuyu as her delinquent next door neighbor who taught her to fight and defend in spite of her being a child at the time. There is a large age gap between them which could turn you off at first as well as several other men in her life, but she can’t help but assist Saeki in all his endeavors at the school. What makes this couple work is the expressions of our couple as illustrated by the mangaka coupled with the almost innocently platonic tone to their relationship.

Young Adult Pick…

Oren and Lark in the Skylark series

Forced out of the dome city she’s lived in her entire life, Lark develops agoraphobia, the empty presence of the sky above too much for her. Oren a wild boy she meets in a pocket of magic starts to follow her and she eventually realizes she couldn’t have made it without him… but what now? There are no easy answers for these two whose bond has become one of life and death. What makes this couple work is Oren makes sure to remain the one constant in Lark’s life as she’s chased across their magiked steampunk world.

To be completely frank this is a war I can’t win… I love all of these unique couples, book series and other forms of story included. Favorite “anythings” manage the perfect balance of elements to touch our hearts and make characters come to life.

5 Life Lessons from Video Games

Video games are seriously addicting. For whatever reason you play, the game world mimics one thing better than real life: success. As we reach each level, our advancements in the game imbues us with the power to keep leveling. We seek this power for our real lives. Every year we set goals to reach, but accomplishing them can be hit or miss. By applying 5 skills you learn gaming, we can level up our ability to succeed in the real world.

#1 – Commit to the Best Things

Video games are designed so that everything we do in the game will work toward our leveling up. If we are committed to our goal we must set up our activities so they work the same way. Real life is full of distractions, many of them aren’t bad things, but by seeking those things that best benefit us we are motivated to continue. If a quest’s experience or loot is not good enough, we don’t throw down the controller and abandon the game. Instead we find a better quest in the same area and keep leveling. Commit to the best things and reach your goal!

#2 – Practice What Works

It takes practice to advance through dungeons so we can take on more difficult opponents. Our experience is one of our best assets as a gamer and as a human being. If we are attacking at a distance, and its a single enemy, we use magic missiles, there’s no need to try our new fireball spell. In life, it’s easy to get so caught up in what is making us struggle that we forget what our experience has taught us. Yes, we learn new skills and are given opportunities to expand and grow, but we can’t forget to keep doing what has proven to work effectively. That’s the first rule of leveling up, but the hardest to remember.

#3 – Try Things Differently

Even when we start a new mission or enter an unknown dungeon, we basically know what to do. We confidently stride forward and practice what works. What happens though when we’re hit with a situation where our battle strategy isn’t working, where the struggle is eclipsing the rewards? We pull out that new fire ball spell. We back track and approach the boss from another direction. We use a potion we’ve been saving for just such a moment. This all adds up to trying things differently. If we aren’t completing our mission, defeating the boss and winning the treasure we change our tactics until we overcome the obstacle to our progress.

#4 – Shed What No Longer Serves

Whether a rogue or a sniper, in a video game we have access to a select group of abilities. Every one of these skills contribute to the aim of the character: annihilation of whatever stands in the way of our goal. In life priorities change, we learn new things. Just as we abandon abilities when we re-spec our characters we need to shed what no longer serves our best things. There’s no shame in letting go of methods that while still efficient, lack effectiveness. Doing this allows us space for more powerful and advantageous methods moving forward. If we don’t shed what no longer serves it weighs us down like too much cheap loot and we can’t make progress.

#5 – Be Who You Want to Become

In a game we choose who we want to become before we even start playing. We choose skills and abilities based on what type of player that is: rogue, sniper or elementalist. In order to use these life strategies effectively we must have a vision of our future self. It’s not enough to desire specific rewards. Unlike a game we don’t all receive the same loot when we reach the same goals. By making choices that will lead us to become what we envision, we do get to keep the changes we’ve made to ourselves. Everything in life is our own choice. Choose to be the person you want to become and the rewards you seek will follow.