Author Topic: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?  (Read 2608 times)  

Offline Joseph M. Erhardt

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #25 on: December 15, 2016, 04:37:41 PM »
Thanks.  I didn't mean to make you google it for me.  It sounded like you knew about it.

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« Last Edit: December 15, 2016, 04:39:42 PM by Joseph M. Erhardt »

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Offline Dwight Holing

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #26 on: December 16, 2016, 03:40:09 PM »
A bad guy/bad gal as a main character works as long as the characterization and writing are both really "good." It all boils down to crafting the prose and storyline in such a way that captivates the reader and enables them to relate to the character in terms of behavior, motivation, and humanness. Just as good people can do bad, bad people can do good. Perfect heroes are rarely as interesting as flawed ones. A protagonist that must battle their own shortcomings gives a story a deeper level. This allows the writer to explore more themes, including guilt, temptation, injustice, and social mores. In my opinion, as both a writer and a reader, few things are as rewarding as when a character finds redemption through their actions.


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Offline 5ngela

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #27 on: January 02, 2017, 09:22:04 AM »
Thank you for everyone insight.

Offline Debbie Bennett

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #28 on: January 02, 2017, 10:21:10 AM »
I"m very character driven.  The ONLY bad guy books I'll read are where the bad guy is redeemed.  Meaning, he can start out bad, but through the book, he starts to question his past and make better decisions.  In the end, he usually saves the day.  He might be embarrassed about it because he was formerly 'Not to be messed with" but he still changes.   

This. I found it very hard to do myself - it took me a long time to figure out how to make a reader empathise with somebody who admits to having done a whole lot of bad stuff.













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Online Kal241

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #29 on: January 13, 2017, 10:56:30 PM »
I play around with good and bad a lot in my own work. Gray vs. black morality is a heavy theme in my current project. I don't think it's a problem that a good guy/girl does a few bad things or has traits common in bad guys, because it makes them more interesting than flat hero characters. I also find bad guys interesting because they have different motives and perspectives, and because bad guys can sometimes be redeemed. IMO, it is villains who are the worst, and I distinguish bad guys from villains in that the villain will not be redeemed and will do things that even the bad guy might not like or agree with.

A bad guy can be the main character as long as they change or grow over time, just as good guys traditionally do. I've read books in which the protagonist is arguably not good, but they're up against good taken too far that it becomes evil, or evil that is worse than they are. These are interesting because a bad guy can usually agree with the things a villain would do, because they're both on the dark side of the spectrum, but are forced to fight the villain for some reason. This is unusual, and makes you question whether bad is as bad as people think it is.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2017, 10:59:04 PM by Kal241 »

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Offline Wolfman

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #30 on: January 31, 2017, 12:50:02 PM »
I've always disliked the flat villains that seem evil for the sake of being evil. Cartoon villains are good for cartoons only. In real life and in good literature, good villains have reasons for doing what they are doing. If their reasons are purely selfish--greed, power--then no, I would not enjoy a story from their entitled perspective. If it's for revenge, struggling to make it, saving a loved one, or something far from totally selfish, then that could make for a good story. That being said, I don't feel the need for them to triumph. I can enjoy a tragic tale and who better to be the protagonist of such a tale than a bad guy?

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Offline RightHoJeeves

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #31 on: January 31, 2017, 11:07:15 PM »
A really well written "bad guy", or morally dubious protagonist, can be totally fascinating. But it's probably harder to pull off. Done poorly, it would probably just be unrelatable. Done well, it would be a protagonist that makes the reader challenge their preconceived notions about what they would do in a certain situation. A lot of great noir works like that. But of course, they probably aren't straight out bad guys. Closer to anti-heroes, or just protagonists who've gotta do what they've gotta do.

If you wanna check out a great series with a protagonist who is basically a full blown psychopath, go with The Talented Mr Ripley. There's no doubt he is morally bankrupt, psychopathic and basically irredeemable... but he's also bizarrely fascinating. He probably not a good example of what I mentioned in the previous paragraph though, because he doesn't seem to be written to make the reader question themselves. He just is a straight-out nut job.

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Offline dgrant

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #32 on: February 02, 2017, 06:42:11 PM »
I've very rarely seen this done well. The best one I can remember is Soon I will Be Invincible, which has alternating first-person characters including supervillain... and for him, it's a tragedy. I don't generally read tragedies, but like Othello or Breaking Bad, the guy was just so darned determined and compelling and sucked you in... even though you knew it was going to end badly, because you could see how his blind spots led him to self-sabotage.

And, the crimes were all very abstract. No blood or gore or degredation of people; it was things like starting a new ice age or other comic-book silliness "rule the world!" that didn't make him seem like the sort of person that makes you want to scrub your brain with bleach after reading.

...Not unlike, in its own way, Despicable Me. I mean, there's people who rape and murder, and then there's the guy who wants to steal the moon. I can read about or watch the guy who wants to steal the moon, and enjoy it!


Offline AjaxMinoan

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #33 on: February 06, 2017, 03:19:49 PM »
  I think having a villain for a  main character would be uninspiring unless the reader could sympathize with the villain on some level. I also think it could be really good if the story focused a little bit on the perspective of the people trying to stop the evil character. Then there is something for everyone. I think this very dynamic is what made Game of Thrones so popular.

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Offline Jake Parent

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #34 on: March 06, 2017, 09:36:23 AM »
It would definitely need to be done well. I think a lot of thrillers do a good job of having a bad guy parallel story, but in those cases they are usually a supporting role.

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #35 on: March 06, 2017, 12:49:04 PM »
My first instinct is to say I won't read anything like that, but after considering, it depends on your definition of "bad guy." Terrorist? Serial killer? Rapist? Creep who cons people out of their life's savings? I won't read it.

If "bad guy" means anyone who breaks rules and even laws in pursuit of truth, justice, and the American way as he sees it, I plead guilty to reading a lot of books like that. At that point, you're including a lot of mysteries and thrillers featuring both private and cop detectives, some pretty standard hero types in romances and westerns and probably other genres that I don't read.

Offline harpwriter

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #36 on: March 09, 2017, 09:56:18 AM »
I"m very character driven.  The ONLY bad guy books I'll read are where the bad guy is redeemed.  Meaning, he can start out bad, but through the book, he starts to question his past and make better decisions.  In the end, he usually saves the day.  He might be embarrassed about it because he was formerly 'Not to be messed with" but he still changes.   I wouldn't read a book where the bad guys, main or not, win.  I have read one book like that because I kept thinking it was going to change, but in the end it was a huge waste of my time and I was disappointed.  The only saving grace was that about halfway through, I became suspicious enough to read the ending.  I was sooooo disappointed.  And yup, it got a one star review.  I won't read anything by that author again either, even though I've been told she has another series that is more "standard." 

This is what I assumed would be the case for all books featuring a bad guy as a main character.  I'm not sure I've ever read a book where the MC is really...just...BAD.  And has no interest in changing.

An interesting twist--I recently read a book in which I personally thought the main character, around whom the book revolves, was not a very nice person.  She talked a lot of big ideals, criticized others and labeled them with all sorts of faults...yet in her actual one on one relationships with people, she treated people like garbage.  I got the impression the *author* however, intended her to be a "good" person--because of the high ideals she espoused.

I read another book where all the main characters started and finished as selfish, self-centered people who would do what they wanted in life regardless of the harm it did to anyone else.  Again, I don't think the *author* necessarily intended them as 'bad' people.

In my book, the MC does start out 'bad' but gradually redeems himself.  I don't think I'd like a book where the bad guy remained bad.

Offline WriterSongwriter

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #37 on: March 11, 2017, 09:03:33 AM »
I don't think I would like reading a book where a actual bad guy is the main character. I don't like watching shows like that either. It wouldn't matter to me if he/she got their due at the end if it means the whole book is from their POV and they are MC. Don't think I ever read a book like that.

I have to at least like some of the characters in what I read, and watch too. Otherwise I don't care. And since a MC would take up majority of a book, I don't think that would be for me.
Interesting thought! Because I was thinking of JR Ewing on Dallas. He was fun to watch, but maybe you're right he only is palatable because he was surrounded by lovable characters. Maybe the way Dallas did it is the way to introduce a bad character and still keep the attention of readers.

Offline barryem

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #38 on: March 11, 2017, 01:35:49 PM »
I think J R Ewing was fun to watch because he was a comic book character.  Really there was a kind of comic book aspect to most of the characters in "Dallas" although it was most prominent in J R.

That's not to say that can't work in a book.  I "Watch Me Die" by Lee Goldeberg, in which the main character was a thoroughly disgusting guy at the start of the book.  During the course of the book he grew some but never to the point that decent people would want him around.  He wasn't a bad guy so much as a scoundrel.

Anyway he was very comicbook-like among somewhat more real characters and that made the book work.  It was interesting enough but not something I'd want more of.

Barry


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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #39 on: March 18, 2017, 11:57:06 AM »
As seems to be the general sentiment, I don't like bad guys who are actually bad to be the main characters/victors. Messes with my world view when the good(ish) guys don't win at the end.

My newest series falls into such a category, though I prefer to think of my protagonist as an anti-hero rather than an outright bad guy. I don't think I could write a book where the main character rubs his hands together in glee as he pushes baby carriages into the street and whatnot.

Offline RJLawrence

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #40 on: March 24, 2017, 07:09:39 PM »
I like the idea, but I doubt it would perform well in the mainstream. It works in movies; I mean, the protagonists in Pulp Fiction could certainly be called villainous. That said, film allows bad guys to be more charming and compelling. It might hit with a few readers, but I think it would fail to engage the average reader. Silence of the Lambs had a compelling villain, but there's also a "good" protagonist. If you have a great angle, though, who knows? In the end, the character would need to develop into a good guy, though, I think.
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Offline RJLawrence

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #41 on: March 24, 2017, 07:13:26 PM »
One last thought: it might work if the villain serves as an agent of good or, bare minimum, satisfaction. Unforgiven with Client Eastwood, etc. In other words, there would probably have to be a worse character in the story with whom the bad guy protagonist comes into conflict.
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Offline Stevie Collier

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #42 on: March 26, 2017, 11:31:49 AM »
I was just thinking about this! I absolutely love the idea of having an evil character as our main. Think about it, it would be kind of like Dexter! However, it would be even cooler if our main was MORE evil than Dexter. I've always wanted to read a novel behind the eyes of an evil mastermind lol.


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Offline Joseph M. Erhardt

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #43 on: March 26, 2017, 05:30:11 PM »
I've always wanted to read a novel behind the eyes of an evil mastermind lol.

If you want to write one, you need to familiarize yourself with this list:

http://www.eviloverlord.com/lists/overlord.html

:)

Don't forget to also see the lists in Cellblock A and Cellblock B.  :)

« Last Edit: March 26, 2017, 05:47:31 PM by Joseph M. Erhardt »

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Offline lmroth12

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #44 on: March 28, 2017, 09:30:28 AM »
Scarlett O'Hara was arguably the bad girl of Gone With the Wind and the main character. With her tendency to manipulate people and steal men away from other women she wasn't exactly the stereotypical heroine. But she did come to regret the way she treated others and wished she could undo much of her past. I think it's precisely because she was a vixen that the book became a best seller. Here was someone you loved to hate and felt pity for her victims. And hoped that she would see the pain she inflicted on others and change her ways. 

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Offline KyleConnor

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #45 on: April 05, 2017, 04:55:57 AM »
Very interesting. It works most of the times. (Joker - Dark Knight) Maybe a wrong example but let's admit it. We all loved Joker over Batman.

Offline A.G. Richards

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #46 on: April 05, 2017, 04:59:39 AM »
Bad guys can actually be extremely compelling as central characters. I'm thinking in particular of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley (a sociopath) and Richard Stark's Parker (a pragmatic thug).
« Last Edit: April 05, 2017, 05:01:45 AM by A.G. Richards »

Offline D.P. Prior

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #47 on: June 18, 2017, 08:25:08 AM »
It's risky for the writer as not too many readers want to identify with the bad guy. That said, if the character has the charm of Mephistopheles, grey areas of morality, perhaps a degree of humor, and maybe some plausible justification for what he/she does, it can work. In some cases it's a matter of creating a sense of collusion between reader and protagonist.

In general I prefer not to read bad-guy protagonist books, although it's less of a problem in multi-POV books if one or two POV characters are "bad".
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Offline LovingLife139

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #48 on: October 03, 2017, 08:23:14 PM »
Having "bad guys" as the main character, anti-heroes, good characters gone bad, and main characters that tread the line of insanity are probably my most looked for characters in anything, whether it's books, video games, etc. It is extraordinarily unique and intriguing to me. I never read books with goody two-shoes heroes. If they aren't at least flawed, they aren't believable or interesting.

Very interesting. It works most of the times. (Joker - Dark Knight) Maybe a wrong example but let's admit it. We all loved Joker over Batman.

Oh, thank goodness. Someone else mentioned this before I could. The Joker is interesting (though I prefer Scarecrow, personally). On the contrary, Batman is extremely boring and his methods of dealing with criminals are flawed. I know you posted this in April, but if you ever come back to this thread, I'd highly suggest you look into Sean Gordon Murphy's upcoming "White Knight" comic (issue #1 comes out tomorrow, I think). It turns the Joker/Batman dynamic on its head and makes Batman the bad guy. Who knows? It might actually make him interesting.  ::)

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Offline kdiem

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #49 on: October 16, 2017, 12:57:53 PM »
The answer to this is it probably varies by reader, like most things.

Generally, I prefer the protagonists to be a good person, not a flawless one. If they're well-written characters, good guys can have just as many flaws (or more) than the bad guys.

Batman (in most incarnations) is a good guy. Can you tell me that angst-ridden, OCD pessimist with all his commitment/communication issues and insistence on endangering children is flawless? Sherlock Holmes had a number of flaws, including drug use... and so on. Even shining examples like Superman aren't flawless, not unless someone's writing him poorly.

It's risky for the writer as not too many readers want to identify with the bad guy. That said, if the character has the charm of Mephistopheles, grey areas of morality, perhaps a degree of humor, and maybe some plausible justification for what he/she does, it can work. In some cases it's a matter of creating a sense of collusion between reader and protagonist.

In general I prefer not to read bad-guy protagonist books, although it's less of a problem in multi-POV books if one or two POV characters are "bad".

The antihero or ambiguous charming evildoers has be done well enough to attract people who prefer good heroes if you want mass appeal.

For all my preferences for good guys, I do enjoy Captain Cold/Leonard Snart on Legends of Tomorrow and Rumpelstiltskin in Once Upon a Time or Deadpool... fun! Let's not forget the Guardians of the Galaxy movie which acknowledges the characters are a mixed bag and sets up the sequels that way.

We all loved Joker over Batman.

Nope. Clearly some do, however, and that's fine for them. :)

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