I clearly think too much about writing. But then again, I probably wouldn’t be trying to make it as a writer if I didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about writing (shameless promo!). You may remember the eloquent essay I espoused on the career of villainy (“Villainy Doesn’t Pay“). Well, apparently my brain wasn’t done tossing around the idea of what it means to be a villain. The end result of my tormented writer’s mind is a hopefully amusing five or ten minutes for you.
Naturally, the villains in any genre tend to lose (unless the genre is specifically designed for villains to win, such as horror). The most melodramatic of villains express surprise that their perfect plan has one fatal flaw that they did not see but the hero did, and exploited it, thus leading to the villain’s downfall. My argument is that some villainous plans all have the same fatal flaw – success.
1) The Plan – Doomsday Device
You can’t defeat the hero. You’ve had enough of being foiled. You’re going to just destroy the world and then what will the hero do, huh? That’s right, nothing, because the world is gone. It’s the perfect revenge for all those that ever wronged you. So what’s the problem?
I hesitate to even point this out considering any villain seriously using the Doomsday Device plan is probably crazy beyond reason, but where are you going to keep your stuff? Unless you have an orbital moon base or something, you live on this planet too. And unless you have the environmental needs of a cockroach, well, you need the planet to be inhabitable at that. Maybe you ought to back away from that death laser.
2) The Plan – Break the Hero
You, the villain, are having a hard time defeating the hero on an equal playing field or else you would have already won. So you dig deep and sink low, really low. You kidnap someone near and dear to the hero but instead of using the victim as leverage as in a normal hostage situation, you decide to arrange for the hero to kill the victim. The goal is to psychologically break the hero by having them destroy those they love and therefore be unable to summon the righteousness to fight injustice. At a cursory glance, this seems like a great plan. It takes your level of evil up to eleven. It reduces the hero to a broken shell of a human being with nothing more to live for. So what’s the problem?
What happens when you take away the hero’s loved ones? You know, the ones that constantly remind him/her that vengeance is unacceptable and that justice must be served? The ones that keep the hero away from the Moral Event Horizon and firmly on the side of good? The ones for whom the hero’s love and respect for are keeping him/her from pounding you into nothing more than a smear of red and bad memory? The ones for whom the hero’s love and respect cause him/her to take you to jail with both of you fully aware that soon you will be free again to embark on yet another evil plan? Basically, when you carry out this plan and succeed in breaking the hero, what is there now to stop the now ex-hero from enacting a terrible and swift vengeance on the person who just killed his/her loved one(s), that is – you? That’s right; you just took away your own protection. The only thing that keeps the far more powerful hero from just killing your evil self is his/her loved ones. They’re not just a human shield in a hostage situation, they are literally all that stands between you and the hero’s unrelenting violent hatred. In short, if the hero has nothing left to live for and nothing to lose, you are the first one s/he’s taking out.
3) The Plan – Just Like Me
So you’re having trouble defeating the hero. It’s doubly obnoxious when you realize how much you both have in common. Where did you go wrong? Where did s/he go right? Why do you have to keep fighting when the hero could be such a useful minion? And then the light bulb goes off. You think yourself, “Why not make the hero a villain?” After all, you’re so much alike already, all it would really take is some clever psychological traps and manipulation. Within a few months, you convince the hero to turn his/her back on the path of righteousness and join you in a life of crime. So what’s the problem?
Well, as described before (“Villainy Doesn’t Pay”), it’s pretty rough for villains to make it. There’s a lot of competition, and despite rumors, there is no honor among thieves. Now there’s one less hero to try to take out your competition. But, you say, surely this is balanced out by having a new, powerful minion. But you know that no self-respecting villain wants to stay a minion. That means inevitably your new minion is going to betray you. You thought you had trouble defeating him/her as a hero? Now you’ve let him/her into your criminal organization. S/he’s learned your secrets. S/he’s learned how you think. S/he is now better equipped than ever before to defeat you. Also, you gave him/her keys to your evil lair. Where will you hide now? Maybe you should have thought that one through a little better.
Conclusion – The takeaway for any aspiring villains? Think your plans through. The best result from the above scenarios is finding yourself sitting on a pile of rubble at the end of the day and realizing that the true price of victory is mucher higher than the price of defeat.