Author Topic: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?  (Read 4256 times)  

Offline SerenityEditing

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #50 on: October 16, 2017, 02:11:48 PM »
My immediate first thought was Hannibal Lecter. A bad guy can carry the lead if s/he's intriguing and complex, IMO. Someone who's a one- or two-dimensional bad-guy character is boring but even a really completely terrible person can still be interesting, and that's what draws me in. (For fiction. Not for real life.)
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Offline Stagewalker

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #51 on: January 17, 2018, 05:49:23 PM »
You might take a look at "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence" and ask yourself if there are any "good" guys in that film. They are all "bad" guys. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find any truly "good" guys in most of the classic Hollywood westerns. It's all a matter of degrees. In one of my favorite books, "Catch Twenty-Two", the only "good" guy is the one who dies on the airplane. So, to answer your question, "bad" guys make fascinating characters.


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Offline Rod Little

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #52 on: January 19, 2018, 08:15:14 PM »
It's okay (and even more interesting) if the Bad Guy just fell into that role. Such as in BLAZE by Stephen King, or Mr. White in Breaking Bad.

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Offline Seann

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #54 on: February 03, 2018, 12:08:38 PM »
I think having a Villain Protagonist works best if the character is a) sympathetic and/or b) facing off against something or someone worse.

For examples, I'd say look at The Black Company by Glen Cook and the anime/manga Death Note.

The Black Company are mercenaries who work for evil overlords, but they remain sympathetic because the story is narrated by their chronicler, who straight up admits at one point that he glosses over some of the worse things they do. And while they do spend a decent amount of time in the first book putting down a rebellion, they also face off against a rival evil overlord to their employer.

Meanwhile, Light from Death Note is an unrepentant monster with a god complex and the ability to kill anyone so long as he knows their name and face. However, his stated goals are the start are noble and play into a common power fantasy ("get rid of all the bad people and make the world better"), and the fact that he's a charming person and a model citizen helps to make the audience like him. It's not long before it starts becoming clear that his utopian ideals are just a smokescreen for his arrogance and childishness, but by the time that becomes obvious, the audience is already invested in him. It also helps that the story quickly shifts into complicated mind games that keep things interesting.

...Actually, that's probably the last piece of the puzzle. The story needs to be interesting. The Black Company essentially offers a bog-standard fantasy story, but the perspective flip breathes new life into it. Death Note is ultimately a story of two very intelligent people trying to outsmart one another through a series of gambles, misdirects, and manipulations.

I also think humor is a good shortcut to a decent Villain Protagonist story. Someone upthread mentioned Soon I Will Be Invincible, which isn't a comedy necessarily, but it's tongue is planted firmly in-cheek. Flashman and Ciaphas Cain also use humor liberally despite starring selfish cretins who work for corrupt and awful military bodies, and those series are both quite popular.

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Offline LarryM

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #55 on: February 03, 2018, 01:18:53 PM »
While binge-watching the Breaking Bad series a few years ago, at some point in probably the 2nd season, I realized what was happening.

Maybe we're not supposed to like or root for the 'bad guy', but the Walter White character and the story were so compelling, it was hard not to.

The Godfather has several characters readers and viewers root for, or at least identify with.

Maybe it's because most of those characters had at least some redeeming qualities.

Except maybe for Michael Corleone when he had his brother Fredo killed (I can't remember if that happened in the book, or only in the later films.)

It is a good example of a plot device to remind the reader/viewer that you're not supposed to like Michael.
Larry



Offline Carey Conley

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #56 on: February 10, 2018, 06:26:49 AM »
Stories where the bad guy is the main character are common. The character is considered an "anti-hero," as he does bad, even terrible, even horrific things, usually for some noble purpose. They're written in a way that has the reader rooting for them, and fearing that they'll get taken down by the real good guys, other bad guys, or fail at their goal. The reader is usually left cheering for them in the end. The genre of the anti-hero is most commonly referred to as noir, and the most common anti-heroes are assassins, drug dealers, and the like.

I have no problem whatsoever with well-written noir. Eric Jerome Dickey's Gideon series, starring a young assassin of the same name, is one of my favorite book series.

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Offline Stagewalker

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #57 on: February 15, 2018, 06:52:29 PM »
I have two books where the protagonists are "bad guys". One redeems himself. The other knows that he only has a limited time before his past catches up with him, and he does what he can to leave a legacy that belies his transgressions.

Bob


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Offline grimshawl

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #58 on: March 05, 2018, 07:34:42 AM »
Personally I just get tired of so many of the main characters nowadays being unlikeable, depressing misfits that somehow come out on top. Its like many authors today write these stories where I get drug through the mud trying to care about an unlikeable loser that doesn't really have any redeeming qualities or even really much to make them interesting other than one Uber characteristic that they are using to run roughshod over everyone else in the story. To me that gets old real quick. I want likeable characters even if they are the bad guys, if they are the main character I want to relate to them and enjoy their story. Anyone else feel like that?
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Offline Stagewalker

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #59 on: March 05, 2018, 03:10:55 PM »
Grimshawl,

That's the hard part of making the bad guy the protagonist. For it to work, they can't be all bad. In one case in my books, we don't find out that the protagonist is killing people to fund his business until the very end, but up until that point, we want him to succeed. In a second case, the protagonist knows he's a jerk, but forges one last chance for himself to turn that around. In a third, everything about this guy points to him being good until we realize that his botanical research is based on stolen seeds. So, for the bad guy to be the protagonist, we need to want them to succeed until either we find out the truth or they fail.

Bob Cherny


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Offline Kyle Bell

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #60 on: March 05, 2018, 06:36:03 PM »
The villain can be the main character as long as he/she is affable. There needs to be some redeeming qualities about the main character in order to draw the reader in to connect with him/her. As far as the villain coming out on top, it's fine as long as the theme and character development make logical sense for the story being told.
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Offline Jeff Tanyard

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Re: What do you guys think about bad guy as main character ?
« Reply #61 on: March 13, 2018, 01:19:42 AM »
Personally I just get tired of so many of the main characters nowadays being unlikeable, depressing misfits that somehow come out on top. Its like many authors today write these stories where I get drug through the mud trying to care about an unlikeable loser that doesn't really have any redeeming qualities or even really much to make them interesting other than one Uber characteristic that they are using to run roughshod over everyone else in the story. To me that gets old real quick. I want likeable characters even if they are the bad guys, if they are the main character I want to relate to them and enjoy their story. Anyone else feel like that?


I agree.  The Villain Protagonist can work, but only if done correctly, and doing it right isn't a trivial thing.  It's not something most authors should attempt, in my opinion.

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