HOW TO FEEL RIGHT ABOUT LETTING THE VILLAIN WIN
Some lights are seen better in contrast with dark.
NOT necessarily permanently – I don’t write downers or tragedies – but so you have done a good job when writing something that, in the long run, enhances the story.
A hero is a hero ONLY in comparison to the obstacle overcome.
The DIFFERENCE between the hero’s HIGH and the villain’s LOW is the STAKES of your story.
The answer to every objection is: Does it make the story better?
Even in a long book, you have only so much space to use the whole palette of emotions that go with your story. You don’t get to waffle about – you have to use what you have, and make it squeal.
This means that you have to be confident enough to do what the STORY needs, even when it hurts – or at least feels odd – when you get to the place where you have to write that the wrong character is winning.
For a while, you tell yourself.
So the ‘winning’ characters have something to overcome that is worth writing about.
But plotting it to happen and writing the scene are different
I knew what I was going into when I chose to start writing this novel trilogy. It is in many ways a fairytale for grownups, something that is highly improbable in the real world.
But I figured out a way to make it come out the way I wanted.
I found a way to make the ending POSSIBLE.
And, as you might expect, it required some finagling to make it interesting and not trivial.
It required making ‘highly improbable’ ALMOST ‘impossible.’
And then doing the writing to make it happen.
To me. Who am picky about plausibility.
Because the characters need to change
Some of them do.
And change of direction requires the application of force.
Nobody changes unless they have to.
And these characters had no reason to go looking for change, except that I wanted them to.
The bigger the change, the bigger the applied force needs to be
The applied force is the stakes, and I needed to make the stakes big enough to make a couple of very stubborn characters change, so it’s really their fault.
But then I got to the actual writing
And I found I had to make the reasons for change credible because the characters had turned into people I cared about.
So the actual writing of the lowest scenes not just in the middle novel, but in the whole trilogy, was hard.
Even though I knew it was coming and exactly what was going to happen.
I had to admit that there was no way around the difficulties I plotted in in the first place. Duh!
So I went ahead and wrote the first of these scenes, and it was as hard as I imagined it would be, and harder because I write linearly, and couldn’t postpone doing it now.
I am proud to say I survived
The story survived.
Some version of the characters survived.
The villain got to win.
At least for the time being, but mostly because it is necessary.
If you aren’t writing stakes you care about, I can’t see the point of putting in the kind of work this is taking. Because it is very hard to let the villain get away with things, even temporarily, because it is necessary to create that leverage for change.
And I had to give it the very best writing I could create – and make every tiny step in the win justified – because otherwise the villain is a straw villain, easy to overturn.
I hope it works for my readers after it works for me.
Or you guys are really going to hate me.
How do you feel about this kind of story – as a reader?
If you’re a writer, have you ever had to do the same?
I’ve earned some kind of reward.