Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Villain's Journey

I'm in the process of outlining, and I realized I needed a character arc for a villain.  I decided to go with a Villain's Journey that is basically the inverse of the Hero's Journey.

Well, I did a little googling, but didn't really find the results I wanted.  As far as I can tell, there's no 12-step journey for villains like there is for heroes.  If Christopher Vogler wrote one, I haven't found it yet.

So I figured I'd make my own Villain's Journey.  Should be easy enough using the Hero's Journey as an inverse template.  So here's what I've come up with.  I'll list the Hero's Journey (actually Vogler's Writer's Journey) step on the left, and then a slash, and then the corresponding Villain's Journey step.  Then I'll compare and contrast.

So let's get to it.

Ordinary World / Master of His Domain

Yeah, so I went a little Seinfeld-esque with that.  It fits, though.  In Ordinary World, the hero is mostly content but powerless.  In Master of His Domain, the villain is the inverse of that: he is powerful, but not content.  He wants something.  Which brings us to the next step.

Call to Adventure / Initiation of the Plan

In the Call to Adventure, the hero is beckoned by some outside force to enter a larger world.  His pleasant world has been disturbed.  He doesn't want an adventure, but starts to think he has to go on one anyway because it's the right thing to do.  He eventually accepts the call because it's the selfless and responsible act.  In Initiation of the Plan, the villain is the one doing the beckoning and disturbing.  He doesn't need his Plan, but he wants it.  It appeals to his vanity.  It's the wrong thing to do, and he probably knows it deep down, but he doesn't care.  His decision to initiate his plan is selfish and irresponsible.

Refusal of the Call / Hubris

In Refusal of the Call, the hero decides not to go on an adventure.  He likes the comfort of home.  He knows his limitations, or thinks he does, and he doesn't want to exceed them.  He is careful and afraid.  In Hubris, the villain wants the adventure.  He wants to initiate the plan.  He doesn't know his limitations.  His actions are bold but reckless.  He is not afraid, or at least not afraid enough, and it makes him careless.

Meeting the Mentor / Alienating Others

The hero meets the mentor, an ally who will guide him along the adventure.  The hero may or may not get along with the mentor, but he respects his wisdom and experience.  The mentor helps him grow in ways he couldn't on his own.  In Alienating Others, the villain may or may not get along with his peers and associates.  But he doesn't respect them.  He knows better than they, and he'll show them all by fulfilling his plan.  He fails to grow in ways that he might have if he hadn't alienated them.  The hero's mentor is often one of the ones alienated by the villain.  Examples of this are Saruman alienating Gandalf and Vader alienating Kenobi.

Crossing the Threshold / Blind Spot

The hero crosses the threshold into the new world, and the adventure has begun.  He is tepid and cautious.  He knows he's out of his element, and it scares him.  The villain, inversely, has a Blind Spot: he is bold and brash, overconfident and lackadaisical about the small, seemingly unimportant details of his plan.  He knows (or thinks he knows) he's the smartest one in the world, and acts accordingly.

Tests, Allies, Enemies / Challenging the Hero

The hero has to endure a lot of stuff.  This is the meat of the story.  He suffers numerous failures, but keeps on keeping on.  He gradually gains skills and confidence.  In Challenging the Hero, the villain realizes he needs to put some real effort into his plan.  He sends his lackeys out to do his bidding.  He always seems to be on the verge of winning, but can never quite put an end to that pesky hero.  He gradually loses resources and confidence.

Approach to the Inmost Cave / Underestimating the Threat

The hero gets ready to storm the castle.  The villain underestimates him, allowing him entry.

Ordeal / Fatal Mistake

The hero's Ordeal is the big fight that turns the tide of the story.  It's not the climax, but when it's completed, the momentum is on the hero's side for the first time.  The villain's Fatal Mistake is allowing the hero to seize the momentum.  The villain realizes, too late, that he has allowed the hero to become too powerful.  His Plan is now in jeopardy.

Reward / Loss

The hero rescues the princess, or whatever his goal was.  His confidence surges to a new high.  The villain loses something very dear to him.  His desperation surges to a new high.

The Road Back / Desperate Pursuit

The hero must return to the Ordinary World.  Along the way, he is pursued by the villain's agents.  He must maintain possession of what he took from the villain.  The villain engages in Desperate Pursuit.  He wants back what was lost.

Resurrection / Defeat

The hero engages in the final battle against the villain.  The hero wins and is born anew.  He is now master of two worlds--the ordinary world and the special world.  The villain is defeated.  Once the master of the special world, he is now master of neither world, and has indeed been rejected by both.

Return With the Elixir / Bereft of Power

The hero has saved the day.  Women want him.  Men want to be him.  The villain has lost everything.  He is either dead or reduced to an impotent shadow of his former glory.

So there we have it.  A Villain's Journey that is the equal and opposite of the Hero's Journey.  Isaac Newton would be proud.

And visit Vogler's site for more about the Hero's Journey.

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