I’ll tell you the secret. When you begin with a character, you want to begin by creating a villain.
” … sometimes.”
I’d say often or usually, at least in genre fiction. One of my most common faults is starting a story without really understanding who the villain is… the story then gets stuck until I figure it out.
A lot of the time the villain is driving the plot, so they’re more important than the protagonist.
Even more generally, if you don’t have at least a general notion of the forces in opposition to your protagonist… that way lies Mary Suedom.
True, but I have greater success in figuring out my protagonists first, and then seeing who or what is forcing him or her into action.
Also, a lot of genre fiction doesn’t have a villain, unless war or natural disasters, for example, are classified as villains. In this case, I think that Marc’s notion of “opposing forces” is much more appropriate than “villain,” which is probably what’s bugging me about the quote.
I just think that most of the one-size-fits-all writing advice sucks.
Indeed. “Opposing forces” or “challenges” fits more genres and subgenres.
Many of the best SF stories are about solving problems, going places and doing things, or just surviving a hostile universe. No villain or even antagonist in sight. One of the great SF novels of the 20th is Poul Anderson’s TAU ZERO, which has no villain or antagonist. Just a bunch of humans being human while grappling with the laws of nature.
Conversely, I’ve seen a fair share of otherwise fine stories brought down by an artificially-injected conflict where none was needed.
Well, he couldn’t have written Tau Zero without knowing that the villain was the speed of light :).
(If I’m remembering the story correctly)
You remember the story correctly. But the speed of light is what let them live. The hero! The “villain” was the random meteoroid that landed them in the mess.
(I also thought of THE COLD EQUATIONS– short story version– but the movie, while watchable, confused the issue.)
sometimes… the hero and the villain are the same person.
That’s pretty much the case with the short story I wrote over the weekend; the apparent villain is really an innocent bystander, and the protagonist is really the villain, but doesn’t realize that himself.
Huh. I actually did that with the trilogy I’m working on now (something like halfway through book 3). Maybe I should try to do that deliberately in the future. Villains are fun!
It seems silly to me to assume there is a villain at all.
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