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=MECH= Motivation, Backstory, and Everything Evil

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7/11/2009 11:55:41   

Ouch, that didn't sound /anything/ like "Sugar, spice, and everything nice." There goes my shot at making an arresting title. Ah well.

Credits to Xirminator for inspiring this thread with the following statement:


About Doro in Wild Seed. His evil is justifiable (no worries, I won't spoil it), and you'll come to understand why he does what he does as you learn more about him. Every time he is in the scene, tension arises, because you know that he unstoppable and has absolutely no qualms about killing. The other main character, Anyawu, who comes into constant conflict with him, is someone the reader will come to support and be afraid for.

I still haven't read Wild Seed yet as of now, but this statement really got me thinking. If evil is justifiable and the person has reasons for what they do (I know a bit about Doro from other sources, so I get where Xirmi is coming from), then how can they be still considered a Complete Monster? This was brought up in a discussion about how hard it is to create a round, deep, believable character that has no good qualities whatsoever. Xirmi brought up Doro, but judging by his statement above... does Doro even count as a Complete Monster?

So... today's discussion will be based on the following question:

Where do you draw the line between "Big Bad Villain" and "Complete Monster" in characters?

To broaden up the topic a bit, all commentary about Complete Monster characters is welcome. I'm just particularly interested on what is your criteria for labelling a character as Complete Monster when some other villain would not get the same treatment.

My personal measuring stick is, ultimately, motivation. Does this character commit those atrocities simply because he/she likes being evil? Or are those wrong deeds simply a means to an end that he/she believes in? No matter how twisted the motivation, how deluded the villain is in achieving his dream, I think that if they themselves at least believe in the good of their goal, they are not a Complete Monster. The only time when it gets fuzzy is when the goal is power for themselves (and they're probably going to use it for evil). In that case, I will look at their backstory. Do they have a significantly sympathetic backstory to cause them to become this way? Were they raised to believe that power was everything, so they have no choice but to be stronger/attain ultimate power in order to survive?

I'm going to be honest and say that I prefer semi-sympathetic villains over Complete Monsters. But though I don't personally love them, I've learned what kinds of Complete Monster characters are considered well-crafted. The villain (not revealing who) from Dean Koontz's False Memory was a monster, but a 3D monster to the core. If you prefer an anime example, the anime Johan Liebert is from is /called/ Monster, so you kinda get what kind of character Johan is. By contrast, villains I consider not to be Complete Monsters include Akasha from Queen of the Damned (a damned--excuse the pun--/awesome/ female villain) and--again, if you prefer to think anime--Light Yagami from Death Note (who does become less and less sympathetic as time wears on, but he starts off with a justifiable motivation and it's understandable that anyone with a Death Note will probably sink deeper and deeper into evil).

In short, I judge whether a character is a Complete Monster or not by whether they have a sufficiently sympathetic goal and whether their backstory justifies the way they are today.
AQ  Post #: 1
7/11/2009 13:29:34   

Hm, this is difficult. I've never encountered a character whom I've considered a complete monster before. Every villain I've seen seemed quite easy to sympathize with, even if I didn't want them to succeed. Well, there were some cases where I did want them to utterly demolish the hero, but that's another story. Oh, wait, I think I just thought of one: the really, really main villain in the Saga of Darren Shan. He seemed like one to me. His only motive for doing what he did was because it was getting boring, and he wanted some excitement.

Your combination of motivation and backstory sounds... sound. I usually judge mainly on motivation, and if they can help it or not. Maybe a mental disability, maybe they were being controlled by somebody else, just about any situation where they couldn't comprehend what they were doing. Those who knew what they were doing and fully understood the consequences edge closer to the monster category.

That's about it on my part.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 2
7/11/2009 13:50:05   

Well, in /theory/, being a Complete Monster means said villain is completely beyond sympathy and redemption. Does it work in practise? Nope. I know many people think Johan (of Monster, who is almost the definition of, well, a monster) is classy and cool, even if he's totally evil. I, for one, liked Harry Potter's Voldemort (even if I liked Harry more), but even /if/ he's not a Complete Monster, he's pretty darn close (to be very objective, I do think Voldemort fits the bill of Complete Monster, but I hesitate to label him so because he does have a goal and backstory, even if neither is really sympathetic). I also didn't hate A Song of Ice and Fire's Joffrey Baratheon nearly as much as many other characters (Melisandre, for instance) even if he has technically the least justification for the things he does. So I agree with you that almost every character could have something in them that makes the audience not hate them. But that something doesn't necessarily have to be goodness. And I'm saying this as someone who, generally, does not believe in the plausibility of most Complete Monster characters just like I do not believe in flawless heroes.

Oh, there have been times when I wished the villain would just win. I was like that with Light, though I knew he wouldn't and couldn't. =P How much I support the villain is directly proportional to how cool the villain is, how sympathetic their cause is, and how idiotic the hero is. Trust me, there are times when I support the villain just 'cause the hero sucks.
AQ  Post #: 3
7/11/2009 20:42:30   

If you want to make a story interesting, give a good backstory to the main character, make everything seem like the usual hero. But leave things out from the reader. And then, throw a bomb shell on them. Things are more interesting when they meet someone they think is good, especially the "Knight in Shining Armor" and they turn out to be evil. But don't make it obvious... at all. Just make him seem like a normal hero, and make sure there is nothing to leave the reader with to think he was anything other than a knight in shining armor.

I've personally done this, and the sooner you can give a credible backstory to your character, the better. There are some things of a turn off, as in having a three part 1000 page book and at the end it turns out the good guy is evil. But some things are a turn on, as in the beginning seems normal. A good guy fighting bad guys, then the good guy becomes (or already was) the villian.
DF MQ  Post #: 4
7/11/2009 21:13:20   
Fleur Du Mal

I think one complete monster would be Melkor, from Tolkien's Silmarillion, later known as Morgoth, the one who corrupted eg Sauron to evil.

At least Tolkien doesn't give him much redeeming qualities, if any. He had the most power and knowledge of the ainur, the first beings that Eru (the one that is) created. He wants more power, he starts to add his own, unfitting notes to Eru's music of creation before the world has even taken form. And so starts his deceit and spoiling he carries on to the earth (Valinor and Middle-Earth, later also Numenor).

Tolkien doesn't elaborate on the origin of Melkor's evil will that much. I found some blurry sentences of him walking a lot alone and therefore starting to think differently than his brothers. He also seemed to think that Eru didn't give enough thought for the void. In any case, he grows to be the main villain for many years, creating horrid beasts, such as Ungoliath, the giant spider that sucks the light out of the sacred trees of Valinor; he and his minions are always fighting against the elves, corrupting humans to evil ways, etc, etc.

He is this huge obstacle that Middle-Earth and Valinor have to overcome.

Sauron is easy to beat compared to him...

It is very hard to sympathize with him, because no truly understandable reason for his rebellion is given, (except that he is scolded when he tries to mess with Eru's music, and that from the scolding came shame and from the shame secret hate) and as the story progresses, the reader is told time and time again that he's evil, he torments elves to orcs, the orcs don't even breed, they /multiply./

All in all, he looks like a spoiled child who didn't get to play with the legos as he wanted and is now trying to ruin everything that Eru created with them. But why didn't Eru let him play isn't really explained so that he could understand it. Does the reader?

In the somewhat unlikely event that the reader would feel for him in the beginning of the book because he didn't get to create life, all that malice he produces throughout his tantrum wipes that sympathy off.

He is a magnificent foe, but is he a good character?


I never wanted Melkor to win, but I expected him to.

From Tolkien's mightier villains, I've always preferred Saruman... =P

EDIT: Just to be sure, I added some spoiler tags for those not familiar with Silmarillion

< Message edited by fabula -- 7/11/2009 21:27:03 >
DF  Post #: 5
7/11/2009 23:20:10   
Prator the Legendary

Where's the line drawn between a "Villain" and a "Monster?"

That's easy. The line is drawn at the point where it is no longer possible to sympathize with the villain at all, and you no longer consider the villain(s) to be "human." It's different from hating people, or disagreeing with them; it's treating them as the Other, as something that no longer attracts any emotion (except possibly fear, or hostility) because they are mentally different enough that they are not people anymore. They are animals, or worse. It helps if the "monster" in question is not, in fact, a human being at all. Some Examples:

King Haggard of The Last Unicorn is a man who desperately wants to be happy. The trouble is that seemingly nothing makes him happy, and so he is willing to try absolutely ANYTHING in order to find happiness, up to and including mass murder, senseless oppression, and the capture/enslavement of several thousand unicorns. Bad as his actions are, it's suprisingly easy to pity him for his motive; in person, he's depressed far more often than he is cruel.

Charnel of Sacrifice is the god of Death, whose virtue is Conflict. His actions are those of a complete monster, insofar as his goal is kill absolutely everyone and turn them into undead slaves, who will then fight eachother for his amusement. His reasoning for this is that nothing good or pleasureable in life ever comes without some amount of suffering (preferably the suffering of others). Even if you don't buy into his philosophy, he's hard to hate. Why? Partly because he's kind of cartoony (just note the first 25 seconds or so), and partly because he's very cheerful in his malevolence. His endless stream of wit somehow mitigates the fact that he's probably the most destructive and evil of all the Sacrifice gods.

Captain Penhoet of Master and Commander and Post Captain is a perfect French gentleman, the sort of man who will gallantly defeat you in a duel and then invite you to dinner (in the book, that's exactly what he did, only the "duel" was between two navies). His skills as a sailor and a captain are unquestionable. In fact, the man's only fault seems to be that he's French, whereas the protagonist is British, and the two nations are currently at war. Sure, he captured protagonists' ship, nearly leading them all to be hanged at court-martial, but that's war for you. Hard luck, mate.

Cthulhu is an ancient alien creature from before the dawn of time/beyond this reality. A monster in the literal sense, Cthulhu is so unlike humanity that for any man to come into contact with him means madness or death, perhaps both. His cultists are demented by the standards of other humans, and the deity himself is described as indescribable. Cthulhu cannot be sympathized with, because he has no qualities that appear human, let alone qualities that could attract sympathy.

Anton Chigurh of No Country for Old Men is a serial killer whose motivations are obscure and whose ability for systematically finding and destroying people is indisputable. If he enters the scene, you know that terrible things are going to happen in the near future. The weird thing is that it's hard to pin him down as "good," "evil," or anything else, because there is no explanation in the book for most of what he does. He'll kill based on the outcome of a coin toss, reasoning that he doesn't really have any more freedom of choice than the coin. For that matter, none of the people he kills had any choice in their destinies either. He's like a force of nature, killing without an apparent reason for doing so much of the time, and yet he's much more focused than a tempest or a flood. In the end, you stop thinking of him as a man and start thinking of him as "Chigurh," just because it's hard to grasp what he does in human terms.

The Shivans of Descent: Freespace - The Great War are a race of aliens whose goal is... unknown. They're not out for conquest, since they never stop to colonize any system they conquer. They're not out for vengeance, since they will freely attack people who were previously unaware of their existence. They're not out for technology, since everything they have is more sophisticated than anything available to the other spacefaring races. No one's really sure what their culture's like, or even what they look like. The only thing that's known for sure is that they actively eradicate any spacefaring race that starts colonizing other worlds or warring with other spacefaring races. They'll destroy entire planets to achieve this goal, and apparently have done so for thousands of years.. They meet any attempts at communication with violence. Other alien races have some qualities about them that you can identify as vaguely human-ish. The Shivans, however, are purposefully kept in the shadows, unknown and undefined. You don't know who or what they are. You only know that they're trying to kill you, and so it's impossible to think of them as anything other than monsters.

< Message edited by Prator the Legendary -- 7/12/2009 12:00:36 >
AQ  Post #: 6
7/12/2009 6:59:08   

Mostly, I think that complete monsters are villains that we cannot understand. We know that they have a credible reason for what they do and what they're like, but it's a reason that we - as humans - cannot understand.

Take for example an insane serial murderer. We know that his insanity drives him to kill, but we know that his reality is different from our own. He cannot be reasoned with and we cannot understand his perspective of the world, so we are afraid of him.

Another example is the alien race from Armageddon Reef. (I forgot what they were called though.) The characters in the book know very little about them, except that their technological advancement has become stagnant - although their technology is still superior - and that they destroy any race they find, without any warning, mercy or consideration of negotiation. There probably is a reason why they do that - (although it hasn't been revealed in the book, since it's part of a series) but it's not something we can understand at first glance. Because of that, they seem to be monstrous.
AQ DF  Post #: 7
7/12/2009 13:30:45   

I love suprises, but they have to be adequately supported by fact in order to be believable. If Person X was such a bad person, why did they do the good things? Don't get me wrong, I really like your idea there--and I've used it myself. However, I find that I have more fun deconstructing by /slowly/ revealing how the knight in shining armour is actually a crazy psychopath who doesn't care about human life.

I, too, prefer Saruman. Though I've forgotten so much of LotR that I'd be hard-pressed to say why.

@Prator & Xirmi
You guys seem to be slightly more lenient towards what constitutes Complete Monster than I am. By your definition, folks like Voldemort won't be monsters at all.

Of course, even if we go by my own definition, "take over the world" types aren't without ulterior motives for the atrocities they commit. So you guys are probably saying the same thing I am anyways, XD.
AQ  Post #: 8
7/12/2009 15:07:23   

Well, in my opinion, Voldemort isn't a monster either. Well, having everything dictated by a prophecy is kind of out of control, though there is the possibility that it's a self-fulfilling one.

And it does appear that people have similar opinions. Strange. Whenever I try to get into a discussion with other people, I usually see more varied arguments.
AQ DF MQ  Post #: 9
7/12/2009 15:51:05   

I see! So what your saying is your want to slowly bring together the pieces of the puzzle and let the readers learn it themselves?
DF MQ  Post #: 10
7/12/2009 21:30:44   

I don't like shoving characters into boxes/roles and I don't like telling the reader what to think about specific characters. The characters are people, with their good points and their flaws. No one is all right and all wrong, and no one possesses the right to arbituarily declare what is "wrong" and "right." So I let my hero do whatever fits his personality, and the audience is free to think of him as a knight in shining armour or a psychopath. Tricks like deliberately giving the villain only a semi-sympathetic backstory because the author is afraid the audience would sympathesize /too/ much... no. I rarely if ever pull those tricks, and when I see it being done, it often baffles and annoys me.

EDIT: In essence, I give them the pieces and let them put the picture together however said reader deserves.

< Message edited by Firefly -- 7/12/2009 21:31:35 >
AQ  Post #: 11
7/12/2009 22:26:32   
Prator the Legendary


You guys seem to be slightly more lenient towards what constitutes Complete Monster than I am. By your definition, folks like Voldemort won't be monsters at all.
That's correct. By my definition, Voldemort is still human enough not to be a monster. That doesn't alter the fact that he's an incredibly dangerous man and should be killed in order to preserve the peace and safety of the world.

The way I see it, the more you know about a character, the more you empathize with them, and the more you understand their point of view. You may not agree with that point of view, and empathy does not automatically equate to forgiveness, but it's that very ability to attract empathy which distinguishes a human from a non-human. A person who is still human enough to qualify as a "person" cannot be a monster, you dig?

You'll notice that all the "monsters" I listed are characters that are left undefined for one reason or another. In all three cases, I suspect that they're not left undefined in order to avoid attracting sympathy. Instead, I believe that they're left undefined so that they'll be more feared. When real monsters aren't left undefined, it's usually to emphasize how monstrous they are, as is the case with Demons and other things that are supposed to be personifications of everything that is evil and bad.

Now that I think about it, I can only think of a few characters who have well-defined backstories AND qualify as monsters. Most of them are characters in Ayn Rand novels. Bah, I HATE Ayn Rand... The only exceptions are villains from Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, and most of those monsters either actively worship an evil god of death/corruption or seem to be inspired by characters from Ayn Rand novels.
AQ  Post #: 12
8/1/2009 0:23:33   

Well... I will write three examples from the same series, so I can compare them.


This, really, is a villain whose main running for the title is simply because, well, he's on the side that would be considered 'evil'. In A Song Of Ice And Fire, a perfect example would be Tyrion Lannister. Tyrion was born a misformed midget, although he was also blessed with brilliance and a charismatic tongue. Most of his actions through out the book are selfless- he does all he can to protect the common people who are under his family's rule, and he also helps to keep his family in power. What makes him a villain, you might ask? The people he is trying to keep in power are either terrible rulers, cruel people, or both. Also, by keeping them in power, he is working against the 'heroes' of the book. So, although he is ultimately a sympathetic character, with complex motivations and good intentions, he is a villain. He is an anti-villain, a good person who is very easy to sympathize with, but has either the misfortune or misguidance to be on the side of evil.

Straight Villain

Tywin Lannister, the father of Tyrion. He is a ruthless military leader, and does not hesitate to murder innocents to further his own goals. Also, his past is filled with cruelty to Tyrion, his son who he hates because of his deformities. He can be sympathized with, however, due to the fact that he is doing what he thinks he is right, and is motivated in a large part because of a love of his family. He is a normal villain, one who is human (meaning they show human needs and wants, and things we are able to sympathize with) but is still unquestionably in the wrong, and often has cruel and evil traits in addition to their sympathetic ones

Complete Monster

Gregor Clegane. A soldier in the service of the Lannisters, and a monster of a man. He is sociopathic and psychotic, reveling in rape and murder. He exists solely to kill, and although we may pity him for being born a monster, we cannot sympathize with him. He is the true example of a complete monster, a character who has no sympathetic or even really human traits, and only exists as an outlet for the reader's hatred.

Examining these characters has led to me a conclusion on what makes a Complete Monster and what makes a normal villain. What sets a normal villain apart is that they have human needs and human wants- most importantly, the idea that if circumstances were different than they are, they might not be on the side of evil at all. If Tyrion had been born to an understanding family, and his talents had been to use, he could even be the hero of a book. Tywin, if he was the leader of a world where his family was not contested for the throne, would be a great leader, due mainly to his genius. He would be a great father, had Tyrion not been born with his deformities- and had his wife not died giving birth to him.

Gregor Clegane, however, would have been a murderer regardless of where he had been born. He is truly an evil person, even from birth- no matter what had happened to him, he would be a monster. And that... that is a Complete Monster.
AQ  Post #: 13
8/1/2009 4:04:37   

Big bad villains can still have some amount of emotions for people other than themselves; possibly even motivation for other people.

Outright monsters work only to further their own ambition/insanity/ruling/power or what-have-you, killing to get there even when it can be avoided. Outright monsters can sometimes be controlled by a different object, person, or cause.

Big Bad Villain: Mordred (Arthur's Bastard son in 'The Book of Mordred' and, of course, the history books)

Outright Monster: Evil Step Mother in the Movie "Snow White: A Tale of Terror".
AQ DF  Post #: 14
8/3/2009 12:44:02   

To add to Rational's post (and to prove to him that I really did read the series!), there are many more characters in ASoIaF that satisfy the different levels of villain-ship. Jaime is another anti-villain, especially after his reformation (which was a little sudden and unbelievable, but I'll stop the critique there before Rational bites me). In fact, it is implied that he was an anti-villain all along, and nowhere near a bad person as people thought--he was simply extremely misunderstood due to the circumstances he ended up in. (He /had/ to kill Aerys, or else the Mad King would've burned down the entire city). His twin Cersei is a straight villain like her father Tywin, though I'm growing less and less certain of this after many events that were previously implied to be Cersei's fault actually turned out to be the doing of others. Her son Joffrey is a complete monster, displaying a cruelty that is even more astonishing because of its pettiness (and he also lacks the redeeming qualities of other villains, such as Cersei's desire to protect her children or Tyrion/Jaime/Tywin's sympathetic backstories).

If the circumstances were different, would they always be a villain...? I like that measuring stick, Rational. Simpler to use than mine. ;)
AQ  Post #: 15
8/6/2009 8:38:07   

Well, i don't have any good examples from books though i do have a few villains from other media that i consider to be Complete Monsters.

Xykon (Order of the Stick): This...just this
He did it for the lulz.

The previously mentioned Chigurh.

Hojo (Final Fantasy 7): Let's see here.
-It's Hojo's fault that Sephiroth even exists in the first place.
-A great deal of ShinRa's corruption is because of Hojo.
-Deepground is Hojo's fault.
-Vincent's condition is Hojo's fault.
-Zack's death is Hojo's fault due to him not wanting the "Specimen" to be free.
-He tried to breed Red and Aeris/Aerith.
-He was the one who insisted on the Nibelheim coverup, which included turning the survivors into test subjects for producing Sephiroth clones.

Pretty much everything that has ever gone wrong in that world can be tracked back to him somehow.
The main conflict was caused by him.
And the conflict before that.
And the conflict after the main conflict.
And the conflict after THAT.
If it weren't for him...You get the point.

His reason for doing it: SCIENCE! (Cackles madly while experimenting on innocent people who were grabbed of the street)
The guy is seriously demented beyond human reasoning.
AQ DF  Post #: 16
8/7/2009 5:22:26   


Well, in my opinion, Voldemort isn't a monster either. Well, having everything dictated by a prophecy is kind of out of control, though there is the possibility that it's a self-fulfilling one.

I don't beleive that Voldemort is a monster either, but for different reasons than the ones mentioned above. To be really specific, there has been no prophecy to my knowledge that drives Voldemort to do commit such atrocities. The only prophecy mentioned in the book was one that


detailed how Harry and Voldemort were pre-destined to fight each other to the death.

Instead, through Book 6, Rowling reveals to us Voldemort's motives for his actions.

He wanted immortality because he feared death, having his mother taken away whilst he was at such a young age would have probably instilled that fear in him.
He wanted revenge because he was abandoned by those who should have loved him.

In light of these factors, readers can sympathize with Tom Riddle, or at least understand what drove him to such extremes. However, it goes without saying that if every child in every orphanage of the world becomes a psychopathic mass-murderer, we would have a very large problem on our hands. But then again, there is a reason why Harry Potter is a children's fantasy series, we can't expect everything to mirror reality. ;)

Back to the original posters question. I concur with Firefly's judgement of what makes a complete monster as opposed to a 'villain,motive would be the best determining factor for differentiating the two. Even then, however, doesn't the classic evil archetype of a mad scientist wanting to take over the world have their own motive, which is to rule the world? I guess that's where the character's context and backstory would come into play.

I've never read any book with a character in it that I could define, at least to my standards, as a complete monster. Maybe I've just been reading the wrong books, but methinks it would be better for the author if he creates characters the audience could relate to, or at least identify as being human. Otherwise, the reader will have no connection with such a complete monster, if it does exist, and it will as a result cause disbelief that will cause the reader to lose interest in the character. Unless of course, you suspend your disbelief, which is what we're expected to do when watching Gore Horror type movies but what I've never actually had to do for a book. Maybe I haven't looked in the right places. Can anyone recommend a book that provides such characters that could be generalized as 'complete monsters'? I would love to enlighten myself to such characters and how they are used beyond the context of Gore Horror films.

< Message edited by khalim456 -- 8/7/2009 5:23:13 >
AQ  Post #: 17
8/7/2009 10:59:33   

Hmm, it looks like we're a lot more lenient than the folks at TV tropes...

Meh, Voldemort's motivations were never explicitly stated, but I guess anyone will come to those conclusions after Book 6. However, I think nature plays as big as role as nurture--like you said, no other orphan became like this. And he was rather creepy since he was a /baby/, but I think that could've been a manisfestation of his astonishing powers rather than an indication of how he would use those powers.

I guess we'll just say that we cannot hope to sympathesize with Voldemort, but we can kinda understand him.

Quite a few complete monsters were mentioned by people on this thread. The A Song of Ice and Fire examples Rational and I gave were, admittedly, for minor characters (For the most part. Joffrey wasn't that minor, and he certainly had effect on the story, including screwing over the plans of many much more devious villains with his sheer cruelty). If you mean that only the ax-crazy, serial-killing, no-backstory, and four-eyed alien type could be considered "monster" in your eyes, then it might be hard for me to find a book example without it being, literally, a monster. However, if you just want someone extremely abhorrent, completely beyond redemption, and not even bothering to justify their actions, then I suggest reading Dean Koontz's False Memory which I mentioned in the first post.


The villain's reason for what he does is this: "life is short, so have all the fun you can while you're alive." His definition of "fun," being mind-controlling, torturing, raping, fooling, seducing, and murdering countless numbers of people. Because he has a definite personality and a long backstory, you might not be able to see him as "monster" in the way of horror/gore movies. But really, the more of his backstory is revealed, the more you're tempted to hate him more 'cause you never find out anything vaguely sympathetic--just a bunch of past crimes and morbid curiosities.

Again, this character is not the shallow ax-crazy type. This is a monster with complexity and interest. But he is definitely no better a person than the horror movie serial killers.

If this still isn't monster enough for you, then you're better off finding villains that don't have their nature revealed much, since that gives them no time for motivation/backstory. However, judging by your view of Eragon, you'd like those villains no more than I do. =P
AQ  Post #: 18
8/12/2009 3:50:00   

Firefly: Judging by the description you wrote in the spoiler about the antagonist of Dean Koonst's False Memory, that would be as close as it gets to a complete monster in my definition. An axe-crazy, serial killing, no-backstory, four-eyed alien type would just be silly.

I guess I have been reading in the wrong places. And you are also right in your assessment about the type of villains I like to read about. Not the Disney Fairytale type that is purely 100% evil 'just because', but those with complexity, depth, personality, backstory and a realistic context. I get even more delighted if they have redeemable virtues, making us as an audience able to empathize or relate to them in some way.

To quote Hayao Miyazaki, one of my favorite directors:


"If you portray someone who's evil, then you off him, what's the point?" Miyazaki asked. "It's easy to create a villain who's a maniacal real estate developer, then kill him and have a happy ending. But what if a really good person becomes a real estate developer?"

I have also reserved a copy of A Song of Fire and Ice in my school library due to be picked up tomorrow. I beleive that it will be an interesting read and an enlightening experience.

AQ  Post #: 19
8/12/2009 7:04:59   


An axe-crazy, serial killing, no-backstory, four-eyed alien type would just be silly.

I don't believe something like that is workable. If there's no backstory, and the villain just happens to be there, the reader would start thinking 'convenient'.
AQ DF  Post #: 20
8/14/2009 1:11:47   

I think it's possible, but such a creature wouldn't be a villain and will be a force of nature (or a monster, literally). If humanity was forced to fight monsters, and those were what they had to fight, that could work. But "villain" is a term reserved for what is generally human vs. human (or other intellectual being).

But in books, even monsters seem to have a "big boss" who is relatively more complex. Movies do get away with shoddy villains and ridiculous big bosses, but in my opinion, movies get away with too much. =P

And speaking of silly villains, try The Dark Tower series by Stephen King. I heard a rumour that King hates the "Evil Is Cool" portrayal and that was why his villains grew very, ah, /lame/ by the end of the series. The man in black from the beginning was pretty cool though. Other villains... not so much. If you really think about it, the whole story is pretty silly, but he pulls if off seriously and sometimes even horrifically. And that's coming from someone who thinks absolutely adores a sympathetic villain or two.
AQ  Post #: 21
8/14/2009 2:11:43   
The Extinguisher

I think what makes characters like Voldemort and Xykon "complete monsters" is that there is no reason to what they do. They are just Evil. There's no catastrophic event that turns them evil, they don't have a good cause for why they're evil. They just are. It's frightening because it's completely unrealistic, as no one in the real world is evil like they are, and they are over-the-top. These characters cannot be redeemed, because there never was any good in them to begin with. Doesn't mean they aren't human or complex, but they are simply evil.

They're my favourite characters to write, as I feel the audience should HATE the villain. They're evil, and trying to destroy the heroes and everything they love. While they're not always the big bad at the end of the dungeon, they're an essential character in the story.
Post #: 22
8/14/2009 6:11:47   

Actually, complete monsters like that exist. Take Hitler for example. Voldermort is very similar to him with his anti-Muggle idealism. Voldemort had a reason why he hated Muggles (his father abandoned his mother) but why he turned out evil is where it gets murky.
AQ DF  Post #: 23
8/15/2009 11:52:01   

It depends on what definition you use for "complete monster." If any villain that cannot be redeemed is a complete monster, than Voldemort certainly counts. But I have to disagree about Voldemort having no reason or motivation. As Xirmi said, his abandoned childhood definitely had something to do with it. And had his father not been a muggle, he might not have felt so strongly about muggles. But he was a very prideful individual, so realizing that his father was a muggle insulted his pride quite a bit. Many things factor in, and though there is no specific reason, I hesitate to say that no matter the circumstances, no matter his childhood, no matter what, Voldemort would've turned out evil.

Yeah, he is very similar to Hitler, though I shall make no further comment about real life complete monsters. I can think of quite a few, but they'll only cause controversy in a thread about fiction...
AQ  Post #: 24
8/20/2009 6:05:29   

Getting a Song of Fire and Ice is about as hard as finding a needle in a haystack. >.>
Searched 5 libraries and all of them didn't have it, so I picked up Dreamsongs instead.


If you mean that only the ax-crazy, serial-killing, no-backstory, and four-eyed alien type could be considered "monster" in your eyes, then it might be hard for me to find a book example without it being, literally, a monster.

Found one. And in no other book but Dreamsongs. Apparently before the 'American Tolkien' (how many American Tolkiens are there anyway) started writing A Song of Fire and Ice he was very into DC and Marvel comics. A lot of his earlier works were very: "I sense a shroud of pure evil encompassing this godforsaken place. Come out monster... if you dare." and "I haven't shown you my true power yet!" BOOM!!!! type pieces.

Funny thing was, he had a tiny biography in the front of Dreamsongs, which I mistook for a story and got really bored until I realized what it was. *headbang*

With that aside, judging from the author's past context, I can see how he was influenced by genres which had the moral dichotomy of good and evil at its highest, albeit the occasional dash of anti-heroes and tragic heroes somewhere in between. So maybe, just maybe, a complete monster in his books probably wouldn't be that hard to find.

Still pending on A Song of Fire and Ice, hoping to obtain a copy before the weekend begins.

< Message edited by khalim456 -- 8/20/2009 6:06:41 >
AQ  Post #: 25
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