Thursday, June 10, 2010

Creating Compelling Villian and Hero Final Moments

One of my favorite movies of all time is First Knight starring Richard Gere, Sean Connery and Julie Ormond. And as I was watching this movie a couple of weeks ago, I got to thinking about creating villains, and creating villains that perfectly compliment the hero. You might be scratching your head over that one, but read on and I will explain.

First let's look at the hero. We want a hero that is strong, moral, has his weaknesses, but in those weaknesses, he can find his strength.  He isn't perfect by any means, but usually has a bravado to cover for what he can't do. And he must be handsome (okay, maybe I just threw that in because I wanted to ; )

Now the villain, must posses the exact same qualities, but with exact opposite reason and intent. He needs to be everything the hero is, but with the obvious evil that sets him apart.

 In First Knight, Richard Gere plays Lancelot, a gypsy sword fighter that fights for money. He loves no one and is the best sword fighter within miles of his sword tip. In some ways he is reckless, merely living life with no apparent reason to live, one of his first lines in teaching a rookie about sword fighting is: "You have to not care whether you live or die." And that is Lancelot.

Malagant  is his arch enemy, though Lancelot has yet to know that. Malagant  wants Camelot, wants to defeat King Arthur and at first the viewer thinks that the movie will be about King Arthur defeating Malagant, but when Lancelot sets his sights on Lady Geneviere (Julia Ormond),  he suddenly has something to live for. Something to fight for. And Malagant, who wants Lady Geneviere's country, becomes the arch enemy of Lancelot

Malagant, to make him the perfect enemy to Lancelot, is his perfect match, if not better than Lancelot. He has the speed and ability of superb sword fighting. The determination and the reason to fight. He wants Camelot, that is his motivation. And every villain, like the hero needs a motivation and a reason to fight.

Lancelot has a motivation, to protect Lady Geneviere. And he does time and time again, putting his own life on the line to rescue her, going up against Malagant for her safety.

Now I could go on and on about the other reason that play into this movie, but for right now I want to just focus on the hero and villain's final fight.

This fight needs to be the strongest battle of the novel or movie. But before you can get to the final fight, you must see the villain and hero's tendencies. All throughout the movie we see Malagant and his vicious tactics at fighting. It is brutal and bloody, he cares not what harm he leaves in the swath of his path.

But we also see Lancelot and his fighting abilities. He fights with honor and purpose. He fights with the ability to beat everyone he comes into contact with strength and determination. No fight is left untouched by his abilities. But the one fight that is conspicuously absent is the clash between villain and hero and the viewer waits for it with baited breath. They have been set up through the entire movie and know that the fight between Lancelot and Malagant is inevitable.

And that is very important for the author to remember. To create a compelling villain/hero fight, you must show their tendencies, both weak and strong so the reader will be fulling prepared for that final moment.

Creating that final moment must be breathtaking. It must never slow on pace. It must never let the viewer or reader take a full breath until the villain has been vanquished.

So how do you create it? Here is what I observed from the First Knight.

A stunning beginning. Malagant rides in and threatens to kill Arther and burn down the city of Camelot. The fight ensues with Arther commanding his people to never surrender.

Lancelot grabs up a sword, but he does not rush at Malagant. That would be too soon. The final battle must be drawn out just a bit longer, or it will feel too rushed. He fights those around him, first with a flag pole and then a sword. Leaving a swath of destruction behind him. We see he is strong and in his prime.

But one glance to the right and so is Malagant. And then. Then they see each other and both instantly know that the moment has come. Their swords clang, but something comes between them, driving them apart.

Again prolong the fight a bit longer for dramatic effect, but too long and your reader will start to skim to reach the next turn. Malagant shoves someone aside and the two rush at each other again. They are even, exchanging blow for blow. Both dancing away from danger, only to lunge forward again.

Now here is another great moment in the hero/villain fight. The hero must be hurt. He must be rendered in pain is some way, but not life threatening. The reader can't breathe at this point, all is surely lost. The villain leaps forward to take the final plunge on the fallen victim. And then. Then this is the moment when the hero must dig deep and become stronger than the villain.

In First Knight, it is when Lancelot sees and grabs the King Arther sword, in Christian fiction, it is when the hero or heroine calls out to God and begs for help. The hero needs a salvation, the hero needs something stronger that the villain cannot beat, but it must be realistic to the reader or they will become frustrated. In First Knight the viewer cheers when Lancelot grabs up the sword and becomes invincible, we have seen the strength and power of Arther and Lancelots' respect for each other and their swords fighting.

In Christian fiction, the heroine or hero needs to have been led down the inevitable path that calling out to God is the only option, the most viable option.

This moment is the turning point. No matter what injury, the hero can prevail. Take the upper hand and defeat evil.

This moment is the moment the reader has been longing for, cheering for and it must be perfectly matched, so let's go back and do a quick revision.

~The hero and villain must share the same abilities and to a certain extent the same values, but don't take this too far. One for good, the other for evil.
~They both must have a compelling reason to fight later on, prolong that fight for as long as possible
~When that final moment reaches a head, don't jump right in. Throw in drama wherever you can during the fight, prolonging that clash, but don't take too long. Run on instinct here.
~The hero needs to be wounded by the villain, the moment where everything seems lost
~But the hero cries out, digs deep and comes out stronger, defeating the villain

This moment does not have to be just in action books or movies. It can be in the character driven novels, the battle between good and evil for a person's soul. That is the greatest fight of all.

But no matter the fight, these steps will need to be implemented to create that perfect clash that will leave your reader breathless. And by the way, it doesn't hurt to have two handsome heroes battling for the same heroine's affection, drives up the action and stakes even higher. : )

Okay, maybe I said that so I could include this picture, I just love it. : )

So, do you have a strong hero and villain conclusion? I would love to hear about it. : )


Pepper said...

GREAT post, Casey.
Don't you think Lancelot is the anti-hero in this movie too :-)

Btw, you are so right with the movie having two handsome men fighting over the same pretty lady. What a cast!

The interesting part to this post is... setting the scene in a contemporary novel (even comedy), because you're less likelyt o have an actual 'fight' scene.

Some of the biggest battles come from fighting ourselves or our pasts. I think that happens a lot in contemp fiction, since we're less likely to throw in a few medieval sword fights ;-)
And like you said, the characters can 'cry out ot God' at that moment. Near the end of my wip, my heroine is trapped in a car that is filling with water. Her battle is against nature and is a reflection of what's happening in her own heart. She's 'drowning' in her sin.

Thanks for the insights.

Unknown said...

Wow, Casey. That was a great post, and timely.

Makes me want to Netflix this movie. I think I will.

Also, it gives me the desire to tweak my villains, and revamp my final fight scenes. And, yes, with YA Fantasy I've got plenty of great swordplay in them.

Lots of work to do before the Conference!

Pepper said...

Ooo Chris,
YA fantasy!!! I want to pick your brain!
I'm working on one too.

Casey said...

Thanks Pepper, it was an exericise for me personally to write it.

And yes I can see what you are saying in a contemp it wouldn't have as much conflict, but that is where the battle for the soul comes in. It might not be as dramatic, in certain cases, but even more important.

I thought about going into that, but would probably have just put the readers to sleep with a long post, like I'm doing now...

LOL, so glad you liked it. ;)

Casey said...

So glad it was helpful Chris, it was a fun post for me to write. And definately get the movie, it will be wonderful especially if you are writing a fantasy. I just love that movie...can't ya tell??

Thanks for stopping by and I am so glad you liked it. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I hadn't really noticed that the villian shared the same abilities as the hero. It's been there, but so well disguised I hadn't noticed. You've pointed out some great ideas to help us take our writing to an new level.
Great post.
FYI I own this movie too. Great flick:)

Mia said...

Casey, THANK YOU!!! Today I just reached the climax in my book, and since I switched the plot to something more dramatic at the last moment (hah, I never stick to my notes), I was starting to get a bit clueless. This post just made everything 'click' for me. And lucky for me, even though it's set in modern time, it's a real fight with guns and kicking and punching, which makes this post even more valuable. My problem will be prolonging the fight, drawing it out. In action scenes, I get so caught up in the story, I rush through the scene, and the entire thing is done within 3000 words. Grrr...

Kaye Dacus said...

Crafting villains is something I've been learning about as I've written my Ransome series. In the first book, the villains are intellectual villains---in other words, they're not coming after my hero and heroine with swords or guns. They're plotting and scheming against them. In the second book, the antagonist to one of my main characters is also plotting and scheming---but sometimes, things do get physical. And there's a more amorphous villain when the ship comes under attack by an unknown assailant. But in the third book, I have a good and true villain, a pirate, who wants nothing more than to take his (very physical) vengeance on the main characters. I think one of the reasons I'm so far behind with this book (due August 1, and me sitting at only 21,000 of 105,000 contracted words) is because I'm doubting my ability to not only write such a villainous bad guy, but also to write the fight/battle scenes that go along with him.

Great food for thought!

Casey said...

Ah, Mary I don't watch the movie a whole lot, but when I do it always reminds me just why I love it so much. It has it all, passion, good versus evil and a stunning hero/heroine. Sighhhh. Wish we could all get together and watch it. :)

Casey said...

Oh, so good to hear it helped Mia! 3,000 words that's pretty good, that is usually what I write in a day.

Just be careful when you write it, keep the tension flowing and tease at the inevitable fight, otherwise your readers will become guilty of scimming and you don't want that to happen. :)

Keep it up and thanks for stopping by!

Casey said...

It's an honor to give you some food for thought Kaye. I am so glad you liked it and found a bit of help in it. :)

You'll get the book done, I know you will, keep up the good work, there are plenty of faithful readers cheering for you!!

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Casey!!! I love First Knight! Sigh...what an angst filled love triangle. I have 2 villains in my book. Sisters...a touch insane, really. Lots of swords and fights (medieval, you know) and I love it! The final battle was more of a showdown...not a battle per se, but very tense. I hope it works, anyway.

Great post!

Pepper said...

I can't wait to read your final scene. Wowzers! What fun.
In my medieval, I have a final rescue scene + battle. LOVE. IT.
It happens at night and my heroine is supposed to be burned at the stake by a zealous priest who is trying to rid King Henry VIIIs land of traitors - especially those secretly sharing the Tyndale Bible.
My hero rides in with is army. While his soldiers shoot fiery arrows toward the enemy, he rides through the middle - directly for the heroine.
Oh my, oh my....I even have a song that I play when I get ready to write that scene. ZoeGirl song. :-)
Okay - sorry. TMI

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wait, Pepper. You are writing a medieval??? Did I know this? lol You have more stories than anyone I know! What a fantastic, imaginative brain you have! LOVE IT!

Pepper said...

Mornin' Sherrinda,
I know - it boggles the mind. When will I ever have the chance to write them all. AHHHH! God knows :-) But one of the kissing excerpts I wrote for my Kissing Blog series was from it. The one where it was the young girl's first kiss. Julia and GEoffrey. Sigh.

My medieval is a small subplot in my contemp, but it has its own entire novel too. Someday it MIGHT be more than random scenes strewn together by my imagination ;-)

Casey said...

You ladies are too funny. :)

Sherrinda, two sisters fighting in medival? Sounds great! Is like a Julie/ hunky hero tight of novel?

And Pepper, I want to know which Zoegirl song you listened to while writing that scene. I listen to that group. :)

Pepper said...

Hi Case,
The song is called "Never Alone". It fits the scene perfectly - I even have it choreographed in my head ;-)

Casey said...

Hmmm, I don't know if I've heard that one, what cd is it on? I like Good Girl. :) That's a good one.