Posts Tagged ‘writer’s bane’

You have to admit it. Villains love to talk.

They don’t mean to be so talkative. Villains are supposed to be cool, dangerous people who don’t say anything and just nod at their ax man to chop off people’s heads. But a lot of authors end up making their villains talkative, and therefore giving the hero plenty of information to defeat the villain with.

For instance: Let’s say Joe is the villain, and Sam is the hero. Sam is just going along, la-dee-da, and gets caught by Joe’s henchmen. OH NO. So Sam is being all brave and stuff, struggling against his handcuffs, whatever, and stares up at Joe insolently as Joe paces back and forth in front of him. Joe clasps his hands behind his back, looking for all the world strong and lethal and all that good villain stuff.

And then Joe begins to talk.

Actually, first Joe laughs his evil, maniacal laugh. (That’s a whole separate post in and of itself.) And then he begins to talk. Usually it goes something like this:

“Oh, dear Sam, why struggle? Your strength is no match for my evil awesomeness. In a little while, I will have you sent to my chambers of doom where you will be killed very slowly and very painfully. After you are dead, I will use my minions and my secret ninja power which no one knows about (SHHHH!) to take over the world. First I will attack New York, zeroing in on the Empire State Building. Then I will move onto the other larger cities, et cetera, et cetera. You shall be helpless to my incredible power! Because you will be dead! MWAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAA!”

In doing so, Joe has effectively told Sam everything he needs to know. So if Sam escapes (which he will, because he’s the hero, and, sadly, heroes tend to have superhuman survival powers), he’ll know exactly how Joe will take over the world, and will be able to thwart him easily.

This makes the villain seem dumb.

Villains are not supposed to be dumb.

See, villains are supposed to be smart. They have to be incredibly smart to take over the world. Duh. But it always seems that the villain’s smartness completely fails him once he has the hero under his power. Once that’s accomplished, it’s perfectly fine to reveal his nefarious plots of doom, because of course the hero won’t escape. You would think after alllll of those stories of hero-survival, villains would pick up the hint that maybe it isn’t okay to tell your worst enemy everything they need to know to defeat you.

Of course, the villain could be so full of himself that he really believes the hero won’t escape. In this case, why does it matter if the hero knows what’s up or not? He’ll be dead anyway. No matter what the villain thinks will happen to the hero, there is no scenario in which it would be good to keep him so informed. It’s just DUMB.

I recently finished reading the Percy Jackson series (mini-celebration! I’ve completed the first goal on my 2013 reading challenge!), and while I really enjoyed the books, Rick Riordan fell into this trap occasionally (okay…pretty often). As the series progressed, he didn’t do it as much, but in the beginning of the series, he let his villains talk. And that was how Percy could escape them all (most of the time…all of the other times Percy just used his wits, of course. Or Annabeth’s. ‘Cuz she’s the smartest. Or they didn’t escape at all and died. I’m kidding. Maybe). While this talkative-villain alternative is definitely convenient for the author, it’s really annoying to read it. I have to suppress an urge to roll my eyes and/or throw the book down in irritation when I come across this kind of scenario. It just gets old. And boring. And also, the reader can tell that the author didn’t really want to put much effort into this part, because otherwise the hero would find everything out using his brain.

But as an author, this option can be…very tempting. Why go to all the trouble of writing extra scenes when you can dole out all of the information in one? From a length perspective, this looks very appealing. You know you’ll have to cut thousands of words from your novel anyway; why ramble when you know you’ll just cut it? Well, I can assure you that while going to the trouble of making your hero find things out the hard way is irritating at best and downright frustrating at worst, this option is a lot better than just handing the information over with a cherry on top.

In other words, if your villain ever feels like going on a spiel about his plans to your hero, it’s time to get out the duct tape. For the good of the story. And the world.

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