One of my greatest writing pleasures is meeting a new villain! They are some of my most favorite people in all of fiction – books, movies, tv shows. So much so that I used to have a problem with my antagonists overshadowing the main characters. If anyone has ever found themselves in a similar situation, we fix that pairing the villains with more interesting “heroes.” People who are just as fascinating, if not more.
In my current project, who the “bad guy” is a little harder to decipher than usual. Dare I say, I don’t have a “bad guy” in the story at all! It’s a matter of interpretation, of course, but I see the antagonist in “Winter’s Siren” as a state of being. Specifically, suffering.
Without being super spoilery, one of the things I hated about the live action Cinderella was the fact that Cinderella didn’t have to suffer very long. I could maintain a sickeningly sweet disposition, too, if I only had to “suffer” for a few months.
Honestly, let’s look at dear Ella’s version of suffering versus the animated version and the original fairy tale.
Live Action: Three months of being called “ashy” and being bossed around and oh no! You can’t go to the fancy ball because your bratty stepsisters tore a sleeve off your mother’s ugly dress? Life is so hard for you. 🙄
Animated: Several years of being belittled and emotionally and mentally abused. Can’t go to the fancy ball after working like a dog all day to make a modest dress that is LITERALLY ripped to shreds. Then she has a heap of pointless chores dumped on her head. Disney is too PG to say what the consequences for not doing those chores are, but we all know her stepmother was beating the crap out of her.
Grimm: Several years of being kicked, insulted, and treated like a common sewer rat.
So, live action Ella is a weak, whiny, loser.
Anyway. While on the topic of villains and Disney, one of my favorite villains of all time is Ursula, the sea witch. She’s brilliant, powerful, manipulative, and PURPLE! If I had to be a Disney villain, I’d want to be Ursula. Only I’d get away with it because I’d tie Eric up in my room instead of trying to marry him. If he’s tied up he can’t stab me with the trident and I win!! Muhahaha. ^_^
Speaking of “The Little Mermaid,” if I was a Disney princess, I would also be Ariel. That is exactly the kind of mess I would have gotten myself into at her age.
In the fairy tale version of this story, it would be easy to point to the sea hag as the only antagonist, but might I point out that there’s another antagonist in “The Little Mermaid” (both fairy tale and movie). And that antagonist is longing and obsession. If Ariel wasn’t so obsessed with Eric (not that I blame her), she wouldn’t have gone to the sea witch in the first place.
Therefore, Ursula is not the only antagonist. She may not even be the antagonist at all! She could be an agent working with the antagonist. After all, Ursula couldn’t get her purple hands on the trident without Ariel’s obsession. Because Ariel wasn’t just obsessed with Eric, she was obsessed with people in general and their stuff. She was also obsessed with the pursuit of knowledge. It made her curious and curiosity and longing and obsession led her to Eric. Who she also became obsessed with because that’s what people who obsess about stuff do.
None of this makes Ursula blameless. She knew Ariel was obsessed with crap and baited her the first chance she got. Get it? Baited. 😀
In the upcoming “The Puppet Box,” a similar argument could be made for the main antagonists being more abstract. After all, aren’t antagonists to blame for the vast majority of the conflict in a story? In the movie “Twister” it’s a tornado. In “The Little Mermaid” it’s obsession. In “The Puppet Box,” I could say it’s dissatisfaction. Because without it, there wouldn’t be a story to tell. Yes, there’s an Ursula-like agent feeding off the emotion, but the villain in “The Puppet Box” wouldn’t be involved in my main character’s life if she hadn’t been so unhappy when they met.
What do you think? Am I just being crazy here?
Before I go, quick THANK YOU to everyone who helped out with my cover reveal last week!! 💜 #allthefeels ^_^