While walking in the desert today, I saw a dead rattlesnake. I hesitated to take a photo, not wanting to memorialize death, but it was so beautiful lying there, that I went ahead and snapped an image of it. Although it looked vibrant, as if it were sleeping, I could see that it had been run over. This made me think how even such a fearsome creature as that Mojave green rattler had enemies, though its four-wheeled killer was one it could not even imagine.
And so it is with a story’s villain.
For a hero to overcome her nemesis, she has to come at the villain from a different direction, not go at the villain from his position of strength. If the villain is the strongest person in the world, he cannot be vanquished by the second strongest person, but he can be vanquished by intelligence, perhaps even middling intelligence. If the villain is strong and smart, he can be vanquished by a determination to win at all costs. If the villain is smart, strong, and equally determined, he can be vanquished by esoteric knowledge, something the villain cannot even imagine.
My NaNoWriMo project has no villain. My poor character has to deal with her husband’s death, the loss of her home, the loss of her daughter’s respect. Since he had been the focus of her life, his death left her unfocused. Moreover, she finds out he is not who she thought he was, so to find out who she’s been all those years, she has to find out who he was. I’m wondering if her way out of this conundrum is to do or be something she’s never thought of before, something that until now has been unimaginable to her. Like what? I don’t know, but it will give me a direction to follow.
What about your characters? Do you have a hero/villain situation? What special strengths does your villain have? What special strengths does your hero have?
November 5, 2010 at 8:21 pm
I’m not currently taking part in the challenge, but I like your perspective on methods of vanquish-ment. Great post.
November 6, 2010 at 3:09 pm
November 6, 2010 at 5:21 am
The hero in my story is an eight-year-old boy. The villains are two evil-hearted small-time criminals. The power the villains need to hold onto the child they capture long enough to carry out their plan, they do not possess. Faith and hope are the strengths of this boy. The villains are no match for the forces of Heaven that favor this boy.
Your hero has an unseen villain perhaps more powerful than a human predator. She may not outsmart or overpower, but she may be equipped to win by the all-powerful enemy of her hideous villain. Like her author that understands her precarious position, she may be enabled to persevere through the storms of doubt and fear that come against her and boldly emerge into the light of a new beginning stronger and wiser.
November 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm
Carol, that is my hope — that she emerges into the light of a new beginning. Poor woman, she has so much to contend with! And I have to throw even more at her (as soon as I can think of more trauma for her to endure).
November 6, 2010 at 10:06 am
Your snake found out a villain doesn’t necessarily have to be human. Perhaps in your story, as Carol Ann has suggested, the antagonist is something more abstract and unseen such as the effect of death itself. In the end that may be what causes the changes your character experiences… the ‘character arc’… throughout the story.
November 6, 2010 at 1:49 pm
Death is definitely the villain, maybe even the past death of her dreams, her self-differentiation. It’s turning out that she gave up much of herself to help her husband follow his dreams. They were so much more important than hers, since he devoted his life to saving abused children.