Villains and antagonists

We finally saw The Avengers on Monday and I enjoyed the hell out of it. Most of my enjoyment was because of the villain, Loki. I’m a complete sucker for complex villains and anti-heroes. Heroes are too heroic, too good for me. Unless done very well, they’re usually bland and blah in my eyes. They do good because it’s the right thing to do and that’s about it.

Villains, now villains make me swoon. And the writers of The Avengers did a wonderful job carrying Loki’s complexity over from Thor. They made me empathize with him. They hit my protective/comforting buttons and made me want to say “Somebody just needs to give him a cookie and a hug. And I’ll be the one to volunteer.” He’s not the villain simply because he’s evil; Thor gave him layers and complexity and reason.

Yesterday on Twitter, Del Rey Spectra asked: “Best sff protagonist and villain?” and CE Murphy replied with Gerald Tarrant from CS Friedman’s Coldfire Trilogy and my heart went pitter-patter because he’s one of my top five favorite antagonists. His backstory is so powerfully complex and compelling. He knowingly chose his life and everything he does is deliberate and you shouldn’t be able to feel for a person who does the things he does, but you do. Or at least I do. If it weren’t for the end of the last book, he would rank as my #1 antagonist.

One of the absolute worst sins a writer can commit is redeeming their formerly unrepentant villain at the end of the story. This happens more often with female villains I think which I find doubly egregious. Let them be bad! And let them be so very, very good at being bad. If you feel you absolutely *must* redeem them in the end then you’re going to have to go above and beyond everything else to make me believe that it was the appropriate course of action.

Ana Ramsey

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6 responses to “Villains and antagonists

  1. raymondbolton

    Leaving the reader yearning for something at the end of a book, like redeeming a villain, is a very good thing. I don’t believe all the loose ends should be tied in the way the reader would like or expects. Otherwise she should be telling the story and not you.

    As for protagonists, my current one is not heroic so much as driven by his inner nature, frustrated by his inability to ignore things. If anything, he is the victim of who he is, and in trying to resolve his inner turmoil, he sometimes does vengeful things, disturbed by not being able to simply turn his back and go his own way.

  2. Yes! *dances* I adore Loki. (and there’s much atwitter on the blogs about the tear that supposedly appeared in the corner of his eye when he does that thing to Thor … sorry 😀 spoilers … toward the end of the movie)

    Excellent villains are the Best Thing Ever.

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  4. LOL–It doesn’t hurt that the actor who plays Loki is sexy as hell! 🙂

  5. I was scheduling a post about this topic tomorrow (villains) and your post came up as a related article. I had to pop over and check it out. You sound like a kindred spirit, Ana! Long live the bad boys and girls. They make life (and fiction) much more interesting. ~Brit

  6. Pingback: Creating the ultimate fantasy villain | J. Keller Ford (The Dreamweaver's Cottage)

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