Chaotic Evil, an alignment most notably characterized by the Joker. But, that is a bit cliche in my eyes, the laughing maniac running around killing everything because they think it would be fun. There is a way to work with a “Chaotic Evil” character in writing and especially in fantasy.
A character can play the long game and appear to everyone around them that they are working for the greater good but in private they are working just for themselves or for something a bit more sinister like a demon or some evil god. All of the good things that they are doing could be for a very nefarious purpose. How can this be written though?
Think of the novel as more a game and work in the biggest picture possible. And, foreshadowing is going to be your friend. In a project I am working on my character does not know that what he is doing is evil. He is mostly doing what he does for the money and personal gain. That is one way to do it or the character can know exactly what they are doing, like Cersei Lannister in early Game of Thrones. This allows the character to be more manipulative than a puppet working for a dark shadowy master.
While I am working on the former my favorite to read and to play as a character. These characters are smart and clever and always know more than they let on in their interactions with other characters. But, my question to all of you: What is your favorite type of secretly evil character to write, read, or even play? I am very curious to know what other writers and readers think so please let me know.
Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Orcs, and even stranger things have become synonymous to fantasy and these races are almost always used for something. It can be to illustrate racial tension in the culture of the writer or it can be used in an allegorical sense equating a race to a group of people who were being killed for just being who they were. The most famous example of the latter is the Dwarves in JRR Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings.” He uses the Dwarves to symbolize the jews in Nazi Germany by having them being killed by the Orcs or Uruks who represented the Nazis. But, there is another way to work with other races in fantasy work that I don’t believe has been really explored to much.
Classism. Now, don’t worry this post isn’t going to be my very own communist manifesto. Races can be used to demonstrate classes. Taking a look at Elves, Dwarves, and Humans the picture can be painted that the Elves are at the top of the wealth pyramid and symbolize the illustrious 1% or the .001% of people on the planet in developed countries that control 99% of the wealth of the world. The Humans can be used to symbolize the middle class, they can make as much as the Elves but they don’t have the lifespan to accumulate as much wealth as an Elven family making it impossible for them to overcome the Elves. Finally, Dwarves are the working class and the poor. Why do I say this? Because, if there is a society run by Elves then the Dwarven kingdoms wouldn’t flourish, their society wouldn’t become as great as it could have been or it wouldn’t be seen that way in the eyes of the Humans or the Elves.
This is an idea I am working on in another project I am working on that is a modern fantasy work that really plays off of classism and class warfare where Eves are the 1% and control the wealth and the government of the world. I have not seen this symbolism done but I could be wrong, someone may have beat me to it. But, I am curious as to how you write other races in fantasy works. Do you use them to symbolize systemic racism in society of do you use them for classism or do you have them represent something completely different that I have not even listed? Please let me know. I would love to talk with you about these ideas.
Escapism and fantasy are very different from the world we live in. The very nature of fantasy is to be an escape and be different. Magical some might say. But, this brings forth a very interesting question about the current fantasy front runner A Song of Ice and Fire(Game of Thrones). Why is it so accurate to real world politics?
Escape and the over powered protagonist are great but they tend to wear thin as the reader ages and matures along with their literary tastes (I am well aware some people never grow out of what they read as a child). Readers still want an escape but don’t want the protagonist to be able to mow down scores of enemy soldiers or navigate a deadly encounter through sheer luck and being a one trick pony. Readers want tension and uncertainty which is a feat not easily done by something that advertises it’s length as much as a book does. It can be done and quite well which brings us to the answer as to why GoT is so popular.
All the really needs to be done is to introduce more realistic combat and removal of supporting characters no matter how major that supporting character may be. Those characters that seem safe throughout the entire novel dying unexpectedly because of a realistic combat injury is something that brings a lot of tension into the novel. There is another way should you be too infatuated with your characters that killing them off feels like killing a little bit of yourself (like when losing a D&D character).
It is one of my favorite things to do when I am writing a character and that is to give them some big flaw. In one of my projects it is crippling mental disorders and in the rest of the projects I am working on it is a foul mouth and a terrible nicotine addiction that dictates how they spend their day. Flaws add a layer of relatability to characters and makes them stop seeming like this god like being in the story using their over whelming powers to get through the challenge. But, it is best not to over do the flaw so that it seems that the character is skating by on luck through the entire work or series if you make it that far as a writer.
What I am doing in my main project is a bit of both. Not to spoil anything but the main characters have mental disorders that will grow to cripple them as people over time and I make sure that if they are in a situation that is overwhelming then they will not make it out alive unless by some crazy magical means. But, as an author I am curious as to what others do in their stories.
Do you give characters terrible flaws but let them live? Do you go the George RR Martin approach and drop them like flies? Or do you write a mixture of both. Please let me know as I am very curious.
It is no secret that tropes exist and a lot of people complain when they are used and writer’s try to avoid them at all cost. But, I want to offer an alternative. What if a writer used a trope or cliche as a characters defense mechanism to who they really are.
This idea brings up a lot of ideas. Having a heroic character actually be a psychotic murderer. A person who uses adventuring as an excuse to kill indiscriminately or every D&D character ever. Or you could take the jolly male character and make him terribly depressed, using the humor like most real people do to cover the suffering they feel inside. Or what about the coward, this is an interesting trope. Taking the Paris character and turning them into someone who is brave and will lay down their life for the right cause can be tricky.
I see this as a way to write a fantasy book or really any book and not focus on straying away from tropes and cliches but rather using them, more than usual, and then using different possibly darker chapters to show that the trope is a mask, a facade, or any other defense mechanism. It’s not often that a fantasy book would get as self aware as what I am describing but I think it could be an interesting adventure.
Tell what you think. Should authors take this direction? Should they go the more Martin route and disregard them or become the trope ridden fantasy novel?
As a student of history and a fantasy author this question has plagued me with every sentence that I have written down. Can I make my world fantastic and still make it believable in a sense of historical and real world function?
I believe so but it requires being present while writing. It doesn’t require a medicine degree to know that a sword slash across a body is close to fatal or that if one person is fighting an army they probably are not going to survive that fight. It has been historically done but only in desperate times as a last ditch effort to help other people out. Not as a method of combat.
I have to remind myself of tactics a lot since my main characters are quite outnumbered even with an army. So they use terrain and surprise to their advantage. It’s a bit of a challenge because I play barbarian in D&D mostly so I enjoy the run in and smash type of fighting, but I’ve been good so far with making it more methodical and thought out so that it doesn’t seem that my characters are magically surviving because of plot armor instead of combat prowess and intelligence.
I am curious as to how other authors do this. I know George R R Martin does similar things (with the exception of Battle of the Bastards). Do you as an author keep conflicts more one on one? Or do you go with the amazingly powerful lead character? Please tell me as I am very curious.
I have made it no secret that I am writing a book. I have also stated that it is a high fantasy setting (sorta). High fantasy because of plate mail, magic, and army sizes. And, sorta because the story revolves around eight main characters. Five of which are the children of what would be a real medieval barons, the estranged son of the king, a slum rat, and a barbarian. When they are all together it has a “large party D&D campaign” feel.
I say all of that for two reasons: 1. Drum up exposure for the eventual release and 2. Give some pretext to the world. I know some fantasy authors will make a world that works completely different from Earth and have that be a basis and others will use long convoluted names and magic. Honestly I went with the second one. The world works similar to Earth but there is magic and everyone has a long “fantasy” name. I was curious as to what other writers use to make their fantasy world. Is it fantasy races like elves and dwarves? Crazy, long, hard-to-pronounce names? Or a world where seasons last for decades?
Further questions are: how do you use magic? Personally, I made it dangerous, with very steep consequences. What about dragons? Tameable? Mindless killing machines? Able to speak?
As you can see I am very curious. If you are a Fantasy writer let me know any of these things! I would be more than happy to discuss any and all questions I posed with you.