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The Darth Vader/Dr. Doom Builder Book List

  1. Dec 26, 2014 #1
    This idea came to me while jotting down some notes to get a handle on my villains. There is a thread here dedicated to what some of our favorite science fiction novels are. If I needed to study some form of physics, astronomy, or cosmology I could put out a call and you nice folks would provide me with a list of resources to study. There is no list of books or resources to study when it comes to the creation of villains. Seeing as how villains (or at least antagonists) are part of almost all stories it occurred to me that suggestions on things to study for the creation of bad-guys might be a good idea. Does anyone out there have a book or other resource that deals with the psychology of villains that might be of use to writers in the forum?

    Let me start the list with one of the best books on extremist motivation I have ever read: The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. It is a great contemplation on how people might be motivated to join groups such as ISIS. The central thought that Hoffer offers to the reader is that the world is spoiled to such people in a way that simply cannot be fixed. The world as we know it must be destroyed and replaced by something less corrupt (as defined by the destroyer).

    Anyone else got anything to add
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2014
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 26, 2014 #2

    Drakkith

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    Villains are not really any different than any other character. Their motives and goals simply tend to conflict with the protagonist's. For characters in general, I recommend "Characters and Viewpoint", by Orson Scott Card.
     
  4. Dec 26, 2014 #3
    I have a female dictator, at first i saw her entirely negative, but now i see she will be a better character, if she isnt a simply psycho, but for example really cares about her family and people on her own way, she simply thinks that freedom isnt something valuable (unlike something material), and everything is allowed against those who oppose her.
     
  5. Dec 26, 2014 #4
    For my purposes I try to play a bit with socio-dynamics. Not what's the personality of the head of the state (or ruling group), but why anyway there are legions of quite loyal followers.
    -Is it the leader able to show his followers that is successful? (not necessary propaganda, maybe a few genuine victories)
    -Is it able to offer proper carrot and stick?
    -is there any ideology that would make his people support him for greater goal? (nationalism, fundamentalist religion, or something in this line like communism)
    -can he show himself to his people as lesser evil? (both national socialism and communism needed the other to claim being good in comparison) Or maybe a thuggish law and order is preferable to anarchy and permanent civil war? (Before mocking that if you had to live in Iraq - would you prefer to live under Saddam Hussein (after end of Iraq-Iranian war) or after toppling him by American invasion?)

    For my story (black-grey morality) conflict, the "good" guys:
    -consider freedom of speech as something which sometimes is useful because it let a mismanagement be discovered, but generally value more social harmony
    -consider rules of war as binding only when the other side follows them. When their ally civilians were taken as hostages, they simply started raiding the other side villages for civilians to have someone for exchange. When part of hostages were executed, their retaliation took form of indiscriminate fire bombing and using anthrax. (they would object a genocide against a honourable enemy, but in such case it's OK)
    -because of disliking violating their own laws, they officially suspended human rights for part of their enemies, while made them only being protected by animal welfare regulations
    -don't mind using mass surveillance techniques, prefer punishing criminals with electroshocks because is swift, inexpensive and let such person return to society next day
    -put heavy taxes on all, use that on big investments programs
    -use effective social engineering (and really heavy taxes in not followed)
    -weed out defective genetic traits through eugenics
    -consider letter of marque as an example of Public Private Partnership

    The ruling group is meritocratic and governance is competent, while acceptable quality bread and circuses are provided for masses.
     
  6. Dec 26, 2014 #5
    Yes and no. There are stories where there is not so much a villain as there is an antagonist--not quite the same thing. Say we're doing a story about NASA and the funding of future projects: Mary might want to use that money to build some sort of L5 settlement while Jill (notice how politically correct I am) would want to use that money to fund the settling of the Asteroid Belt. If the story we're writing is from the point of view of Jill Mary is an impediment and an adversary, but hardly a villain.

    On the other hand, in the case of say Star Wars, or Jack Vance's The Demon Princes, there are people who can be quite categorized as villains, and some thought would be given as to how and why they became villains. If you've never read the Demon Princes novels much of the action involves discovering just who the heavies are, which means a great deal of those stories deal with the biographies of the bad guys, and a certain amount of time is spent seeing how the bad guys became bad guys. Koker Hekkus in The Killing Machine, and Howard Alan Treesong in The Book of Dreams are prime examples of this.

    If you want to create a Star Wars you are going to have to create a Darth Vader, and if you create a Darth Vader, it usually behooves you to give some thought as to how Darth Vader became Darth Vader.
     
  7. Dec 26, 2014 #6
    You may want to give Eric Hoffer's The True Believer a read anyway; people are usually not as rational about their political choices as academics like to think. There really is no such thing as Economic Man, making those scrupulously rational economic choices about his life. Most of us are far more lead by our emotions than we care to admit. I'm sure you've heard the criticism that Skepticism has often taken the place of a religion to many people who practice it. What is the rational reason for these supposedly rational skeptics to do such a thing?
     
  8. Dec 27, 2014 #7

    Stephen Tashi

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    You can study popular villains if the goal is marketing. However, if the goal is to enjoy writing then pattern villains after people you don't like - or at least give them traits and mannerisms you don't like. You can even use irritating characteristics of your friends as models.

    A character who is cruel to everybody comes across as a strawman. If we have a character who has friends but is stubborn or disorganized or sometimes lies, examples of such are in the realm of daily experience. It should be easy to write about them.
     
  9. Dec 27, 2014 #8

    Drakkith

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    That's true. I wasn't making a distinction between them, but a villain is not the same thing as an antagonist. Plotwise, a villain can be a protagonist or antagonist or neither.
     
  10. Dec 27, 2014 #9
    As economist I treat that challenge to homo economicus as blasphemy. ;)

    I'd think in line of bound rationality. With some typical biases. For example being selfrightous on its own has quite high reward. Also gathering data making one prior decision look idiotic is harder. In case of more complicated problems, we're never source of problems - that someone else fault.

    Not fully rational. But for an Arab guy who is poor, has no income and chance to marry, taking chances of abducting an infidel woman might sound tempting. Add to it overoptimism concerning his skill and chances. And ethical experts around that would say it's absolutely morally noble of him to do so and he even deserves that for joining Jihad.

    Book looks interesting.
     
  11. Dec 27, 2014 #10
    In Game of Thrones, Tywin Lannister is an antagonist, because he opposes Starks, but also a villain, who accepts methods too nasty for others (like assasination, burn a town to get rid of a very dangerous person) Entirely negative characters also exists, like Gregor Clegane.
    In W40K the Imperium isnt a really nice place, but the lesser evil compared to Chaos. (IMHO at least the Imperium is led by competent people, not like the ones in BSG, how disgusting to kill mass produced clones - who want to exterminate us - with a virus...)
    In my story, the villain can be a lesser evil, because while Earth is infested heavily by corruption, poverty and sin, her realm offers good education, college for everyone, ability to raise the allowed number of kids properly, total surveillance also creates very low rate of crime, good health care (if the one can be a good worker again, or was a stahanovist) and also mass feasts to color people's lives. While originally an agnostic, i think she will reintroduce some primitve Sun cult.
    She became like that due to an abusive father, and play the game of the mighty, but i think there should a scene where the heroine is also shown to enjoy break the will of someone.
     
  12. Dec 27, 2014 #11
    Create villains made up from people I loathe? Family members who annoy me? Moi ? :devil:

    Actually I started this process because I was having blind spots in one of my stories; places where I just had no feel for what was going on or going to happen. It occurred to me that I really hadn't given any thought to just how my bad guys were bad guys. I started to ruminate on the subject of bad guys in general, and it occurred to me that this discussion might be of use to other writers in the forum.

    While I was ruminating on the subject of bad guys I came to some thoughts I'd gleaned a long time ago from Eric Hoffer.
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2014
  13. Dec 27, 2014 #12
    Hoffer was an interesting guy. He made his living as a laborer, finally becoming a longshoreman in San Francisco. He moved to California during the Depression, and spent what time he could in county and city libraries. He started writing down his own thoughts and got them published--I don't know how; I bet that's a story in and of itself.

    He was a second-generation German-American, and spoke English with a heavy, German accent. He became fascinated with Totalitarianism and wondered why people would become involved in such movements. Some think he was just intrigued as to how his European cousins got themselves into the mess they were in. The True Believer is his rumination on the probable psychology of the sort of people who would become involved in totalitarianism.
     
  14. Dec 27, 2014 #13
    Another thing about said Muslim is that it might be easier for him to imagine himself bringing about another Caliphate than it is for him to imagine himself as another Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. I wonder if one reason why so many entertainers come from the poorest of the poor is that it is no more of a reach in a young girl from Tennessee's mind to imagine being the next Dolly Parton than it is to become an upper level manager at Dupont. Indeed, being the next Dolly may seem far more manageable and conceivable; who sees people being upper level managers?
     
  15. Dec 27, 2014 #14
    I dont think that an average jihadist imagine himself so easy to be a Caliphate, i think he imagines himself a reknowned warrior, instead of a lowly no one (either dead or alive).
     
  16. Dec 27, 2014 #15

    Stephen Tashi

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    She sounds like a female version of Huey Long ( Wille Stark in "All The Kings Men").
     
  17. Dec 27, 2014 #16
    Well the average jihadist would not be a Caliphate, he would be a member of a Caliphate. Which is another part of the allure; the feeling that you are part of something bigger than yourself.
     
  18. Dec 27, 2014 #17
    I rather thought about ancient Egypt or Incan Empire, and Queen Freddie.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fredegund
     
  19. Dec 27, 2014 #18

    Stephen Tashi

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    I don't see an outpouring of civic benefits and public works from that lady! On one hand, we have great freedom in imagining the character of people from ancient history since evidence of personal details is non-existant On the other hand, if nothing sparks our imagination, there aren't any convenient aids to get it going. With Huey, we have a more accessible record.
     
  20. Dec 28, 2014 #19
    I dont think that a male model for a woman is just enough.
    Sorry i dont expect my future to be all egalitarian, sometimes she can still feel: oh you are good, pity that you arent an alpha male.
    She is also likes to be seductive (well its a great weapon in my world), wear mini skirts if too much feminity isnt a disadvantage and she rather has to show the manly traits.
     
  21. Dec 28, 2014 #20
    If you are interested in the ultimate bad girls who abuse power you best remember Elizabeth Báthory as well as Fredegund. In fiction there are some pretty hard tarts in the Icelandic sagas.
     
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