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choppy
April 20th, 2005, 04:35 PM
In the interest of generating some conversation (which seems to have been trickling off lately)...

What defines a hero?

What defines a villain?

More specifically, do you as writer try to independently define the characteristics of your heroes and villains, or do you try to reflect archetypical (is that a word?) or pop culture characteristics?

Hereford Eye
April 20th, 2005, 05:48 PM
A hero manages - at least once - to act on behalf others whilst a villain generally acts in self-interest.

kater
April 20th, 2005, 07:36 PM
Archetypal was the word you were looking for I think :) Can I go with hero good, villain bad? :D I don't like either to be honest, I much prefer the idea of grey characters who at the point you meet them in a story could be classified as a hero yet in their past would have been deemed a villain or vice versa.
Particularly soldiers/warriors, I think they above all are the most interesting colour of grey - killers and family men, patriots and murderers, lovers and savages (sorry for the gratuitous examples) I try, emphasis on the word try, when writing to show different sides to my characters so readers don't pigeonhole them, I'm not interested in writing extreme characters with either few faults or an irredeemable personality, and if I have to have a 'villain' then I try to make them megalomaniacs - power being the ultimate corruptor of even decent human beings. Every character you write has to have something unique and identifying about them, reusing the accepted, everyday attributes of 'heroes and villains' is pretty boring to me.

Sir Stephen
April 20th, 2005, 08:24 PM
for me, "hero" is whoever you happen to be rooting for in a story. I like the idea of the reader chosing their own, hell, if your messed up, you may even be rooting for the archetypal "villian" - unlikely, but you may feel sorry for him/her.

When I was a kid watching childrens tv, I'd often be secretly rooting for the "villian", since I realised he had little chance of actualy coming out tops. For example, I was more into Skeletor than He-Man, purely because that poor skeleton was always doomed to failiure.

Now, who asked for conversation?

Expendable
April 20th, 2005, 10:05 PM
In the interest of generating some conversation (which seems to have been trickling off lately)...

What defines a hero?

What defines a villain?

More specifically, do you as writer try to independently define the characteristics of your heroes and villains, or do you try to reflect archetypical (is that a word?) or pop culture characteristics?

A hero.
An individual acting selflessly, doing what needed to be done, often (but not always) without promise of reward.

Or someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A villian.
Someone abusing a position of trust and authority.
Someone who does whatever it takes to assume or keep power - lie, cheat, steal, murder.
Someone with a complete disregard for the lives of others.
Someone who does evil.

Or someone who has been misunderstood.

Two things to remember:
History is written by the victors.
Hearsay and media distorts.

Heros may exist on both sides.

Dawnstorm
April 21st, 2005, 01:05 AM
A hero.
An individual acting selflessly, doing what needed to be done, often (but not always) without promise of reward.

...

A villian.
...Someone who does whatever it takes to assume or keep power - lie, cheat, steal, murder. ...

Hmm... What about someone who selflessly lies, cheats, stels, murders to assume or keep power? Because he thinks it's his duty? He'd like nothing more than to run in the opposite direction, but he has to go on, and the only way he knows is the "received" ways to power (or to stay in power)...

To me, the most interesting thing about "Heroes" and "Villains" is how the people deal with the label their assigned.

"Hero, you say? Me? Is there coin in the fame? Hmmm...."

"Villain, haven't I heard that before? Fine, I'm a villain. Any thing important to say?"

"Goddamit, I'm a Hero! Won't you folks realize that I did it for YOU? You ungrateful [Censored]."

;)



When I was a kid watching childrens tv, I'd often be secretly rooting for the "villian", since I realised he had little chance of actualy coming out tops. For example, I was more into Skeletor than He-Man, purely because that poor skeleton was always doomed to failiure.

Hehe, that could have been me. (Not for He-Man, watched it now and then, but I rooted of Orco (sp?)). But I get the drift. For instance, I always rooted for Lex Luthor. Anyone who hates Superman can't be all bad. ;)


for me, "hero" is whoever you happen to be rooting for in a story. I like the idea of the reader chosing their own, hell, if your messed up, you may even be rooting for the archetypal "villian" - unlikely, but you may feel sorry for him/her.

I hate you. I wanted to say that. :p

Now, I'll have to nitpick and say that if you're rooting for the "villain", he's still the villain. Heroism is relative, but it's not arbitrary.

For example: Odysseus: hero for the Greeks; villain for the Trojan's. In his character, there are traits that support both interpretations, were you inclined to look at the matter from an "objective" perspective (which I'm not, btw). However, it's highly unlikely that Odysseus would be considered a hero by the Greeks. Which is not to say that no Greek could root for the Trojan's, but s/he'd be aware that s/he's rooting for the villains.

Of course, there's the personal level... "My hero!" he said, swooning...

Okay, I really shouldn't nitpick...

PaxNoctis
April 21st, 2005, 09:01 AM
I generally don't do 'heros' and 'villains' per se in a lot of my fiction. I try to mirror reality in some ways at least, and who, in this world, can you call a hero? Or a Villain? Everything is subjective, and trying to make one character altruistic and the other ignoble always seems forced to me. I'd rather present the characters, warts, wickedness and all, and let the reader decide who they're rooting for.

The being said, I define a hero as a character whose motivations involve more than himself. Be it love, duty, kingdom, friendship, he strives for something outside of himself.

A villain is a character whose motivations involve only himself. Money, power, status, rank and priviledge. He strives, often harder than the hero, but everything he strives for is exclusively for himself.

~Pax

KatG
April 21st, 2005, 01:23 PM
Ok, which is the hero and which the villain, the Coyote or the Roadrunner? :)

Right now, one of my favorite heroes is Al Swearagan on the T.V. series "Deadwood." He heroically, well, has people killed ruthlessly for his own personal gain, but he's also trying to build a town on the American western frontier, a man of vision and perception who has a soft spot for many more do-gooder characters and even his own rivals and you end up rooting for him to succeed against other bad guys. Even though, really, he's evil, sort of.

Which is not to say that you can't have a straight out villain. Fantasy, particularly, often looks at putting the essence of evil into concrete form, but even in that case, the villain is often more complicated than at first glance. I don't know that I've ever run into an out and out hero in sf/f fiction. The characters in the "good guy" roles are always feeling guilty or upset over something and in certain matters end up not acting particularly nobly or bravely. There've been a few who have a code of honor that personality-wise may make them squeaky clean, but they usually end up in circumstances where they have to make icky choices either way.

I look at characters as being more in opposition to each other and having to bargain or deal with one another. But I can't say that I ignore the roles of hero and villain in writing either. (That doesn't really advance the conversation much, does it.)

Hereford Eye
April 21st, 2005, 03:54 PM
Gollum saved the wordl by biting Frodo's finger off. Does that make Gollum a hero? Doesn't heroism require intent? As opposed to sympathetic protagonists and anti-heros.

choppy
April 21st, 2005, 05:32 PM
My characters tend to be a little more black and white. I know that goes against a lot popular wisdom.

It seems these days, what's popular is character realism. No one is perfectly good or perfectly evil, and I think as western culture realizes this, we demand good characters with dark sides and bad characters with good intentions.

I see this as a reflection of realism. As a writer, I think that when I create a character, if I follow this school of thought, I'm basically just reflecting what I think other people see. I also think that there may be some lost opportunity here. As a writer, by creating a sympathetic character, I have to opportunity to define heroism.

Don't get me wrong, I haven't come down with a sudden case of 'my writing has mass influence.' It's just something that I think about when I start typing. I try to emphasise certain traits in my characters - loyalty, grace, honour, discipline, etc. Sometimes I don't see these things in pop culture heroes.