Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sargas Chronicles: Part 3

The Pay-Off

As has been discussed in previous posts on this blog, the creation of your villain is as important as the creation of your main character/hero. And, just as your hero should have his finale, your villain should have the pay-off.

Once you've created a suitable villain, allowed him to rampage through the book/story, and nearly defeat your hero, it's time to unveil his ultimate defeat. But first you must ensure that this defeat connects sufficiently with your reader's automatic sense of justice. 

No one likes to feel cheated. But especially so in a good story. A note to the wise:

The last thing a reader remembers is the end. 

If your end lacks the punch and pizazz that you've built up throughout your story, a reader tends to feel cheated, deflated, and with a bad taste in their mouth. This also holds for the "end" of a character arc, including your villains' own.

Here's an example.The movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

How would you feel if the leader of the cult, rather than falling to his death among the crocodiles, climbed up the ladder and was taken away by local police? Would you feel cheated?


Because after the build-up of how awful and terrible that villain was, you want him to die, and you want him to die in a way that is equal to the pain and suffering he has caused.

That's because of most people's inborn sense of justice. When most people were toddlers, and someone took your toy, you took it back. When they bit you, you bit back.

Equal punishment.

Though we know that's not true in real life, in books, most people wish to see equal or even greater punishment fall on those who have done wrong.

Making your villain truly despicable, someone your readers can hate with as much vehemence as they love your hero, is always a good idea. Just remember that when the end comes, when you finally have your villain face his/her defeat, that the pay-off is just as terrible as the build-up you've created.


  1. Hmmm. Interesting observation. I know I feel cheated when the hero has the chance to kill the villain but doesn't out of some sense of higher morality. So, instead, (s)he chooses to spare them, leaving them free to rampage again. To me that's just stupidity.

    (I'm talking about fantasy/sci-fi, where it is not inappropriate to execute justice by executing the villain.)

  2. Yes, in fiction, I like seeing the villain get their due. And speaking of Sargas, I can't wait to read how you dispose of that vile piece of villainy. (Assuming I didn't simply miss you posting that part for critique already. I'm so behind on critting people's stuff on WD.)

  3. @Christine

    Agreed. I get so mad and frustrated when that happens. Especially since the villain himself would have killed the hero if he got the chance.


    Thanks. And yes, it just got posted yesterday. It's so morbid of me, but I was seriously happy and cheering after I wrote the last line of the "death scene" for him. Very satisfying.