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The (Not-So) Villainous Monologue
“Their dreaded monologue is more frightening than death itself” said no protagonist ever.
So you’re nearing the point of no return—about to fist-bump with death—and after a hard fought battle and being antagonised by some crazy-eyed entity staring you down, they begin regaling you of their brilliance; of their rise and your fall, stretching out time because they’ve “won”, of how you stood no chance and—
—you better order some delivery, it’s gonna be a long one.
Can I just say that I get why most villains need to go through their grandiose spheel but I don’t fully understand why. At least not quite to the extreme of antagonists who earnestly want to rid themselves of do-gooders who foil everything fun about being…well, “evil” or “bad”. And you know who the worst offenders are? The one’s who yammer on-and-on [about basically anything] and then by some miraculous unicorn magic, coincidence just happens to mosey on over and save the protagonist; effectively ending the battle (and so often the war as well).
I understand that it’s part of human nature to want to root for the characters we see ourselves in (meaning we hope the villain slips up). But you know what? We should also acknowledge that sometimes protagonists shouldn’t receive any get out of jail free cards for the sake of dramatic effect—and to be frank—antagonists shouldn’t give them any opportunities to “win”. I know it’s not fun, “fictionally fun” even, but that’s just the most realistic approach. Only it’s seldom portrayed like that.
This isn’t directed to any singular book or character but just an overall thought that protagonists are so often rewarded with delay of plot-time, lacking consequence for their actions, and coincidences that become so far-outreaching that it destroys the sentiments and convictions of the antagonist archetype.
But don’t get me wrong: I understand the info-dumpy nature of these in-your-face rambles while Queen’s “We Are The Champions” is spinning on vinyl—it’s necessary to fill the gaping unknowns in perspective and build context. So maybe it’s the placement of these recappy monologues that simply feel like they’re inserted at the wrong moment; especially if you build up this frantic tension that has protagonists teetering between life-and-death. Not to mention that when these villains start ego-tripping, they lose a sense of their bad-guy prowess, wit, caution, …everything.
Can you imagine?
[Pre-dialogue battle ensues.]
Hero: Oh no, shits not looking too good for me right now. I’m feeling woozy, bloods spewing everywhere, and my best friends aren’t moving either—
(As a reader: This is pretty grim…the villain’s got em’ beat. (but secretly hoping for some miracle; am I right?) Nooooooooo—).
Villain: Remember that time you tried ABCDE? HAHA, good times.
[A flying unicorn. A fire is ignited. A third party enters the equation. The antagonist slips up. The protagonist…wins?!]
(Moment is exaggerated for artistic flair. I rest my case.)
With everything that’s happened, it’d likely destroy the construct of a narrative to just end things abruptly (re: killing off a hero), and that’s not always ideal storytelling (whatever that means). I couldn’t imagine anyone even wanting that to be the final revelation; considering the payoff to be extremely shoddy, perhaps questionable, and definitely rage-inducing (unless it’s warranted). So I’m simply not sold on how the tides might turn in favour of the protagonists after getting their ass handed to them. It’s even more difficult to digest the plausibility of happily-ever-afters when it isn’t deserved. Villains need to do what they do best, and giving a compelling monologue isn’t going to win them an Academy Award if they’re dead by the next page.
You can be hesitant. You can flaunt your superiority, You can even show remorse; but please…pull that damn trigger. You have one life to live and I would expect nothing less than that which you cherish. Unless of course you wanted out in the first place–then why go through all the trouble in the first place? You’re the perfectly misunderstood character; the antagonist, so put on those Nike’s and Just Do It.
That’s it—I’m out.
I hope I’m not the only one who gets peeved by a protagonists moments of triumph after getting demolished in the final boss battle.
1) Have you come across these moments of villainous monologues followed by the wind changing direction and everything just starts happening in favour for the protagonist? What’s your take on these moments? (And do you have examples you’d like to share?)
2) How would you feel if villains were suddenly ballsier and actually went through with killing off lead characters (following the mantra that true consequence exists)?
So with 2015 in full swing, I’m hoping to shoot these Think Aloud discussions out every week (bi-weekly at the latest). I’ve compiled quite a few random topics that make no sense but I’m still going through with them. If you’d like to be featured or take part in a discussion, please feel free to let me know. Alternatively, if you have quirky discussion ideas you’d like me to talk about, let’s hash it out!
15 thoughts on “[Think Aloud] – #6 – The (Not-So) Villainous Monologue”
I’m with you. If you are the bad guy you are used to being the bad guy. I think they need the protagonist to feel for them. I don’t want to see my protagonist die, but it certainly would seem more real if the protagonist die, or at the very least least the bad guy killed all the friends.
Protagonist death seems like such a taboo area to venture into; especially in YA fiction in particular, but it’s perhaps the most realistic approach (if everything is truly dire).
Everyone dying to protect the king (the hero) is kind of another iffy thing that I’m definitely going to rant about because let’s be honest: 12387190217318 people dying in place for the hero makes me laugh at how contrived it sounds. It’s even more maddening when they feel guilt (among other emotions) but still carry forward with their efforts. The protagonist sounds like the real murderer now!
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Voldemort seems like one of the worst offenders.
I would really appreciate it if protagonists started winning using their own cleverness instead of the villain’s idiocy.
That’s the dream, isn’t it? But I guess if everyone were geniuses, then it wouldn’t be as fun.
I’d rather have a bunch of geniuses than morons who get everything handed to them, though. But that’s just me.
Sooo … The main character was actually killed in one of the books I read recently (he came back, but that wasn’t point; he actually totally died). And it was terrifying and traumatizing and absolutely wonderful. Then again, I’m also that writer that tends to end short stories with the villains winning, so what do I know?
One of biggest pet peeves EVER is when it’s so clear that the author has contrived a scene just so that the good guys win. Monologues don’t piss me off as much, but the exaggerated example you used with a flying unicorn is exactly what I hate. A lot. I can love the rest of the book and hate it just because of that scene.
In other words, awesome discussion. Thanks for sharing 🙂
~Liza @ Classy Cat Books
Call me a masochist but I often do feel more oomph (I don’t know how else to describe it LOL–impact?) from protagonists who end up dying or endure irreversible anguish. It really is wonderful.
I think dumbing down any part of what a villain is and their propensity to be bad in order to let the protagonist win irks me; especially when it’s so glaringly obvious that they ought to be the winner. I think monologues just stood out to me but it definitely could be a number of things.
But yes, I think I’ve come across novels that are contextually sound but falls off right at the peak of the story. It’s definitely frustrating!
I love The Incredibles’ take on this. So great. Have you seen it?
I had to re-watch that part because it’s been so long since I saw it but yes that is definitely a great representation on this! We laugh at the monologue but to play devil’s advocate, it’s also completely dumbfounding when villains aren’t able to follow through on their convictions.
Granted however that Syndrome did check if he was dead. I guess he didn’t learn from Game of Thrones that if you don’t see the death happen–are they really dead?
I don’t read much fantasy, but still managed to run into some of these ‘villainous monologues’ and yeah, I could do without them. And since I always seem to have a soft spot for the villain, I also wouldn’t mind if the “Hero” would lose/die from time to time. I get that most villains are megalomaniacs and just LOVE to speak about their own greatness and in general hear their own voice… but maybe, just maybe, they could do it at some other time and not during the “boss fight”:P
I think these antagonist scenarios can happen in any genre and in any novel. I guess fantasy does seem to be the one that sticks out the most (maybe?).
Well written villains aren’t hard to come by but there’s a difference between those who you can feel for and those that are just follow the pure antagonist archetype that really works as well–and they’re both solid. I do feel as though readers start any journey with some inclination towards hoping for a happily-ever after and that in itself doesn’t always sit well with me (especially when the odds are always stacked against them).
It just seems like a complete cop-out when these things happen. And then I’m forced to go full out rage mode.