Writerfield

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Category: character

Do stories need villains?

Can you think of a great hero who is made greater because of a villain who counters them perfectly?

Batman is at his most iconic when he’s facing the Joker. When Loki gets out of line, it’s Thor who has to be at the top of his game. And Harry Potter might have lived a relatively normal life without Voldemort causing trouble.

Sherlock Holmes has Moriarty. Ripley has an infestation of aliens. Luke Skywalker versus Darth Vader. Ariel versus Ursula.

Photo by Chris Sabor on Unsplash

However you choose to define a hero, you can often find an antagonist who has the exact set of qualities needed to make the hero who they are.

So does every story need a villain?

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Dealing with a boring main character

When writing a novel a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.

Ernest Hemingway

The clouds overhead begin to part as the alien vessel’s hull emerges. Weeks of radio transmissions warned us that this day would come. The scientific community has been rallying behind an elite team of brilliant minds seeking salvation while nations around the world put their disagreements aside in the hope of saving the world. Armies are desperately attempting to finding ways to work together as charismatic leaders try to spread hope among their troubled populations.

Who would you choose for your protagonist here? A genius who’s struggled to find academic success but just might have the one key to saving humanity? What about the prime minister of a global superpower? Do you go with a soldier who has to choose between leading the charge against the invading forces or staying behind with her family?

Or did you accidentally start with Jimmy, the complacent guy who seemed interesting but now just wants to watch the whole thing on TV?

What do you do when your story is compelling but your main character feels like a boring spectator?

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