Writings About Writing – Those We Love, Part Three

Part 1 and Part 2

Here’s a tough question. (One I don’t have an answer to, too.) Why do people like some villains?

I mean, really. They’re the bad guys. (Ahem, Loki, Moriarty… Read more in this post from my other blog.) We’re not necessarily supposed to like the bad guys.

That said, maybe we can learn a lesson or two from these bad guys, to apply to the characters we want our readers to like.

Appearance. We live in a culture that is totally concerned with how people look. If you think about it, yeah. Most of the characters that get fangirled over (if that’s even the right term) are “cute”.

Backstory. This is the bigger of these two points. Now, I don’t know about Moriarty, since I haven’t watched BBC’s Sherlock, and he certainly wasn’t that likable in the books, but (from what I’ve watched, remember that I’ve only seen him in The Avengers) Loki’s got a pretty sad backstory. Adoption, under his brother’s shadow, and all of that. People like characters with sad backstories. Just don’t give your character a tragic backstory that has absolutely nothing to do with your story. Have it play in somehow.

That said, it’s back to editing… So long, friends!

Do you like characters with tragic backstories? Do you like Loki or Moriarty? Do any of your favorite  characters (in your stories or others) have a sad story, and how does that play into the overall story? Do you think a backstory needs to affect the overall story?

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39 thoughts on “Writings About Writing – Those We Love, Part Three

  1. First off, let me say I really like your nice, short posts about writing. I really dislike all those long and tedious posts other people write.
    Anyway, I like how you addressed this issue of liking villains. I think the villains people most fall in love with are the ones who are human; who have some hope of redemption. And all of us strive to see redemption. I have not seen anyone fall in love with Sauron from LotR, for example. Also, I’ve seen part of Sherlock, and I really don’t understand why people like Moriarty; I don’t like him at all. 😉

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    • Thanks! I agree, I don’t like super long posts, which is why I try to keep mine short. 😉
      I think the Moriarty fangirls are more like David Tenant fangirls. I personally don’t care for either. 😉

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  2. Characters with tragic backstories? In general, yes, though it depends a bit on the backstory. It doesn’t necessarily have to be tragic for me to like it- it just hast to create drama and conflict either within the character or with the character’s situation. (So, yes, it definitely should affect the overall story.) Loki? He seems cool, though like you, I’ve only seen him in the Avengers.

    Several of my favorite characters, both in and out of my stories, do have tragic (or at least sad) backstories. Many do not. I don’t do tragic backstories in my writing as much as I used to, but I have one story in which almost all the characters have a sad backstory. (It was necessary, as it’s a Rapunzel/Twelve Dancing Princesses remake.)

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    • Dramatic backstories. I think that’s better than “tragic” since it envelopes more possibilities.
      That sounds really interesting! I must admit, most of my characters’ backstories have been pretty insignificant or boring. 😛

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  3. I think girls fall for “villains” because they want to “fix” them and feel needed. And I think you’re also right in that sometimes we like characters that are villains because we feel sorry for them because of their past. 🙂

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  4. To be fair most heroes have sad histories as well. With that said I think they have to provide an excuse for the villain to give them a reason for what they do. As for why girls like them…I have not idea, just like how I don’t understand how I become more attractive when I play guitar.

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  5. Hmm… Well, I didn’t know that Moriarty had a fangirl following… the guy was completely psycho.
    As to why people like the villains… I have no idea. More and more often these days, I think the villains are more obstacles to the heroes than just being evil. It’s getting rather annoying. Which is why I’m writing a villain who you think is the hero at first but then begins to go sour, leaving the other protagonist to take the role of the hero and eventually pitting them against each other. And best of all, the villain isn’t even especially tragic–just weak, vacillating, and ultimately despicable. Here’s a clip from the climax:

    “I don’t care what happened, my queen,” Winter snapped, not bothering to keep the leveled blade between them. He clutched the wound on his abdomen with his left hand. “I can only see where your lust for power and control, your hunger to rule the world of men, has gotten you, and believe me when I say this: I despise you. But I remember who and what you were before you became this. I don’t care what happened. I just want to know why.”
    Tairya smiled, her face a twisted mask of malice, a thing so hollow that Winter thought it looked like the face had no skull behind it, just an empty shell. “There is no why,” she said, and jumped.
    Too late, Winter reached after her. “Tairya! Your son! It is still not too late!” He leaned out of the window. On the cobblestones below lay Tairya’s broken body, empty eyes staring up at the stormy sky, at him. A spreading pool of red mingled with the puddles in the courtyard. Winter fell to his knees, clutching the window frame, and retched.

    What say you?

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    • I looove it! It sounds very interesting. And I totally get what you mean by them not having a horrible backstory but still being identifyable. (although I’m sure that’s not the right spelling. 😉 )

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        • That, too. 😉 And it’s hard to write without randomly inserting pieces of deep wisdom:
          “No calling is less honorable than another,” said the King. “Knight or Ranger, healer or priest, they are all different, yet equal paths… The trick is following those paths aright until they lead us to God,” Toman added, with a humorous twinkle in his eyes.

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        • I know, right? I had some good parts like that come out of Raltan’s mouth, surprisingly. And then Darrin’s version of Captain America’s freedom speech in The Avengers:
          Look around, Raltan. Everywhere you look, there’s cruelty. You’re encouraging people to abuse the lower classes. The poor don’t look at you as their helper and liberator, the look at you as their oppressor. And that’s exactly what you’re doing: oppressing people. Not just the boor but the rich and – and everybody! You’ve become nothing more than a power-hungry tyrant. You don’t care about the poor, or any of the people. All you care about is yourself!

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  6. I really prefer the heroes who can overcome their pasts and still be cheerful and kind and everything. It’s why I like Obi-Wan so much. He may not have had a traumatic childhood, but he was still abruptly brought into adulthood by a traumatic incident, and things just got worse after that. And unlike Anakin, he can cope with it. Sure, Anakin is okay at dealing with pressure and fairly good at improvising, but he doesn’t have anything on Obi-Wan’s endurance… mainly because in the great majority of situations, he doesn’t really need it…
    Ironically, unlike the rest of the Avengers, I’m pretty sure Cap had a fairly good childhood. Not perfect, clearly, cause nothing is, but… ehhh, he’s also the most stable… Unless you count knocking down the Christmas tree…
    *CRASH!*
    “Sorry!”

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