Tag Archives: Sympathetic Villain

13.12: Q&A on Heroes, Villains, and Main Characters

Your Cast: Brandon, Valynne, Dan, Howard

You had questions about heroes, villains, and main characters. We have answers! Here are the questions:

  • How do you make planned power increases not seem like an ass-pull¹?
  • What do you do when your villain is more interesting/engaging than your hero?
  • How do you know when a character is unnecessary and needs to be removed from the story, or killed off in the story?
  • What tricks do you use when you want the reader to mistakenly believe a character is a hero, rather than a villain?
  • Which is more fun for you: creating a villain, or creating a hero?
  • How many side characters can you reasonably juggle in a novel?
  • What are the drawbacks to making your villain a POV character?
  • If your villain doesn’t show up until late in the story, how do you make their eventual appearance seem justified?
  • How do you get readers to like a character who is a jerk?

Liner Footnotes
¹ We hadn’t seen “ass-pull,” the a nouning² of the idiom “pull it out of your ass³” as a noun before.
² Bill Watterson gave us the verb form of the word “noun” indirectly in the final panel of this strip.VerbingWeirdsLanguage
³ For those unfamiliar with the extraction-from-orifice idiom, it means “make it up on the spot,” with a negative connotation, suggesting that the reader can TELL that this was invented in a hurry.

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Write about a female gamer who is trying to right social injustices using her gaming skills.

The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone, narrated by Cassandra Campbell

Writing Excuses 9.25: Adjusting Character Sympathy

This podcast references episode 9.13 where we introduce a three-slider model for characters. Here we talk about character sympathy, or rather the sympathy that the reader will have for the character, and how we as writers go about adjusting that sympathy — moving the slider, if you will. We also talk about why we want to make that adjustment, whether we’re dealing with villains, side-characters, or protagonists.

Some of our tricks for moving the slider include changing the characters around them, controlling the distance between the reader and the character, showing character weaknesses, and using humor to mask the unsympathetic moments. We talk about how we’ve deployed these tools in our own work, and how we’ve seen it done well in the work of others.

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Take something that you’ve written recently. Swap out all of the dialog with completely different words (you can keep articles and pronouns) but retain the meaning.

The Butcher of Khardov: The Warcaster Chronicles Volume 2, by Dan Wells, narrated by Marc Vietor.

Writing Excuses Season 3 Episode 29: Antiheroes

What is an Antihero? There are lots of definitions of this word, so Dan boils it down to just three: The Frodo, The Punisher, and The Talented Mister Ripley. And that third definition is the one Brandon believes to be the most correct, at least in the strict literary sense.

This was a difficult ‘cast for Howard because he’s familiar with Frodo and The Punisher, but has no experience with The Talented Mister Ripley beyond movie trailers. He gets by, though. He’s seen a lot of movie trailers.

Have a listen, and learn a lot.

Writing Prompt: Write a true, classically-defined antihero in such a way that Howard will enjoy it.

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