Blog News and the Villain Problem

I’ve decided to devote this summer to a writing project. I had a couple of weeks off from work to get a start on it. Unfortunately, my job does include working summer school, so to free up my time I’ve prewritten several posts. At the end of August, I’ll have news about what my project is and how it will be published, so stay tuned.

July’s posts have a theme. There is a problem writers often talk about, typically called the Villain Problem (obligatory Writing Excuses link). It’s the tendency of villains to be more interesting than the protagonists. Villains are fun, while good guys are boring.

When I was a kid this bothered me a lot, because it was a sign of how people were overly obsessed with sinfulness or something. Young me was a bit zealous at times. Now I think its important to note that there are cases where this is simply what the story was supposed to be. There is a very common story type, arguably a megagenre, where the hero is an ordinary person, and the villain’s presence somehow disrupts their comfortable status quo. It is the hero’s job to bring things back to normal. In this case, the villain has several natural advantages, as far as interest goes. They are proactive, while the hero is reactive, at least for most of the story. The hero is familiar, the villain, as the deviation from the norm, is often more interesting. This story type includes classics like Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz and The Phantom of the Opera.

However, there is a difference between Luke, Dorothy, Christine, and the innumerable forgettable protagonists we encounter every year. If a story does feature the protagonist as proactive from the start, if there isn’t an interesting and well-crafted villain to overwhelm them, and the hero is still boring, there’s a problem. I’m going to post this month about the ways protagonists can be boring in a bad or unnecessary way.

The first of those will be up in a couple of days. Until then, thanks for reading!

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