Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Foiling the Villain by Sandra Ardoin

Image Courtesy of PublicDomanPictures.net
The movie Star Trek: Into Darkness came out in May and we had to see it as a family since we enjoyed the last one. 

So, I was sitting in the theater, enjoying the movie and minding my own business, when one line of dialog detonated in my head like a photon torpedo. I’ll paraphrase the idea since I didn’t whip out pen and paper to write the exact wording in the dark. The idea was simply this: Find out what he (the villain) wants and see to it he doesn’t get it.

Okay, that’s such a simple concept that my reaction should have been, “Uh…yeah, I know that.” But, oddly enough, my thoughts went immediately to the antagonist in my project and that person’s reasons for doing what they do. Honestly, I ended up feeling a bit sorry for the poor creature—but not enough to let my hero and heroine fail.

Like our heroes and heroines, our villains need a goal and motivation, and they need to be things in direct opposition to what the good guys want. Much of the time, the antagonist believes he or she is in the right, and (in their minds) there's a certain justification to what they do, but they don’t go about accomplishing their goal in the right way. Discover what your antagonist wants more than anything and why, and let the protagonist stop him before he gets it.

Overall, I found Star Trek: Into Darkness to be an excellent lesson in the tug-of-war that should take place between the characters. Another gem: let the bad guy win on occasion. It ups the stakes and keeps the tension high.

When was the last time you experienced a sudden explosion of understanding—when you heard or read something that boiled down a concept you already knew into such simple terms that it left you reeling? (I doubt I’m the only person that happens to.)

Have you ever watched a movie and come away with a concept that helped your writing?

~~~

Besides being part of the fabulous Seriously Write Blog team, Sandra writes Christian romance, with her focus on Historical Romance. You'll find her children's short story, "Get a Clue," in Family Ties: Thirteen Short Stories.
Personal Blog: www.sandraardoin.com
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8 comments:

  1. Isn't it crazy how that happens sometimes ~ how a phrase or idea captures your attention and you latch on to it like you'd never heard it before? Since we don't go to many movies, this probably happens most to me while reading my Bible. Not like I hadn't seen the passage before, but God strikes a chord in my heart. Love this post, Sandy. :)

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    1. It is strange how a switch is hit and an idea we've known about for FOREVER is suddenly spotlighted so it's seen in a clearer way. And, yes, that happens all the time when reading the Bible. God illuminates something we've read over and over again, but we see it in a different light. I love it when that happens, Dora.

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  2. Great insight! I can see where making your villain three-dimensional really help. I guess I need to sit the bad guy down on the therapist's couch, too.

    James Scott Bell used The Fugitive, Gone With the Wind and Casablanca to bring out some really cool ideas about plot structure and character development at the conference. I'm a visual person and "seeing" the concept really helps me, too.

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    1. So glad you had a great time at the ACFW Conference, Angie. I've already heard a lot about James Scott Bell's class. From reading his posts on The Kill Zone, it's clear he's a big fan of movies, especially older ones. Sounds like it was wonderful.

      Now get that antagonist on the couch and ask him why he's being so nasty. :)

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  3. Good advice! I glean lots from movies and books, but my mind is blank at the moment as far as an example. :)

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    1. Movies are a great way to "see" those three-dimensional characters. Thanks, Jennifer!

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  4. Helpful post, Sandra!My antagonist's goals were foiled in a very satisfying way in the book I'm currently "polishing." But I'm also putting ideas together for the next book, and you have my wheels turning. Thanks for reminding me that I need to be intentional about the villain.

    I also watch a lot of movies, but I can't think of a specific example to offer at the moment either.

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    1. Glad you found it helpful, Dawn. Giving our villains a "sympathetic" reason for what they do--even though it's wrong--can make them more real and less formulaic.

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