Characters,  Movies,  TV,  Writing Journey

Letting the Bad Guy Win

Guys! Have you ever been watching a movie and wanted the villain to just…get away with everything?

I don’t want this all the time. There’s something so satisfying about watching a hero rise up and slay the beast, metaphorically or not metaphorically speaking. But sometimes, I want the bad guy to win. Sometimes I identify too much with them. Sometimes I don’t like the hero!

One of my favorite movies of all time, that will remain nameless for this example to avoid spoilers because that twist is too good, has a main character who’s being stalked by a someone who’s getting increasingly more threatening to our hero every time he shows up. However, as the movie nears the end, it turns out the hero is literally out of his every-loving mind. And we don’t realize it until right before he snaps and kills someone (else), and the whole time, I’m horrified, but rooting for him, and…it’s just awesome.

I have a story that I’ve been working on, for too long, and I’ve tried to spin things so my main character comes out the other side with her hands as free of blood as possible, but the fact of the matter is, she’s a bad girl, and I love her so much for it. And I want this story so bad. The only way it’s going to work, because I’m that kind of writer – you know, the kind who lets my characters dictate everything – is if I let her be a bad girl.

And I’ve thought, “People will riot. People will hate this.” Then I was like, “I like this. I want a story like this.” So then I decided to do it anyway. And no one is a special snowflake, so I’m not the only one who wants a story like this. Though, honestly, at this point in this story’s journey, it wouldn’t matter if I was anyway. In any case, I was struggling a bit. I kept struggling after chapter one, because I kept taking a wrong turn. But instead of it being frustrating, I was just like, “I’ll get some sleep and try it again.” And again. And like, 20 more agains. BUT. Then I watched this show, which will also remain nameless to avoid spoilers, but it’s based on a book, and I saw some of the reviews on that book. And I’m like…people love that book. The main character is certifiable, but people enjoy it. And I enjoy it. And I’m like…I should get on with my bad self! In moderation. But the story is slowly coming together. I might even not have to start over this time.

I’ve had a lot of issues with this story over the years, but the biggest has not been understanding what I wanted from the story in the first place. Which now I know. The whole “I’m chasing a feeling” thing I talked about like in February or something. That wasn’t the final piece. Letting myself write the story however it needs to be written was the final piece. As in, if I need to do a bunch of flashbacks, then I’m doing flashbacks. At least I’m good at them. But I also needed to get over the whole main character being a bad guy thing. And that TV show is a nice reminder that it’s okay to do what I want. 🙂

I have a coworker (a writer) who said that she never wants the bad guy to win. And I have another coworker (also a writer) who said that there HAS to be consequences for this girl’s actions, and I’m like, “There are. She has to live with it.” And honestly, that’s good enough. She may or may not feel guilty. I dunno. I haven’t come anywhere close to finishing the story, but I do know she’s not that broken up about it, and I’m fine with it, because I understand why she’s doing it and why she feels this way.

Six months ago, someone telling me that they want the good guys to always win would have thrown me off balance, again. But this time, I brought up this movie I like, where the bad chick dies at the end, and how I always wanted her to win, and my coworker was horrified, but not in a judgmental way, and I realized that I’ve made a lot of progress since I last tried to work on this story, like in December, I think, and that’s really good!

I know no one knows what story I’m talking about, I’ll talk about it if I actually make it to that “make or break” 25k mark, and so far, I haven’t gotten to even 10k, but it’s nice to see progress, even if it’s not on the page. 🙂

So! Tell me I’m not alone. Any villains that you’re glad won or wish had won?

10 Comments

  • A.S. Akkalon

    I don’t like to think in terms of good guys and bad guys, but I will happily follow an antihero if he or she is sufficiently charismatic or interesting.

  • Thea Landen

    After mulling it over, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that in general, I don’t mind if the “bad guy” comes out ahead at the end (one variation on the “downer ending”), but I think it works out better overall if there’s a sequel, or if the downer ending is part of a bigger arc. Or, in other words, I think most people are happier if whoever’s more objectively “good” ultimately wins in the end, especially in a standalone story. Like, a ton of people say The Empire Strikes Back is their favorite one of the original trilogy, but would that be the case if it hadn’t been followed by Return of the Jedi? (Possibly! I dunno.)

    • Krystal Jane

      I wish I remembered those movies better. In the movie I mentioned, the ending is different in the book. It’s still a good story, but it’s unsatisfying because I do feel like the last victim in the movie, who survived in the book, is the more worse person in that scenario.

  • Kristy A.

    Ooh, I know what movie you’re talking about. Definitely go for it! You’re in really good company. Antiheroes make stories unpredictable and fun. And even when you’re appalled, like in the case of The Silence of the Lambs, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Gone Girl, Scarface, The Crow, Bad Santa, etc, it’s still really interesting.

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