Posted on May 22, 2014 by

Gordian Knot

No matter what kind of fiction or nonfiction that we write or read, there must be CONFLICT. Without conflict there is little interest. So what creates that conflict?

Disney Villain

Disney Villain

The villain, antagonist, shadow, giant/monster/ogre or whatever kind of “evil” figure can exist, needs to exist, for a STORY to exist.

There can even be many different antagonists within a single story.

Cinderella and her evil  stepmother and stepsisters

Cinderella and her evil stepmother and stepsisters

Yet there must be something that blocks the hero in some way. As a reader, you may not be aware of this (which is fine!), but as a writer, the villain is paramount, and the character of the villain is also important.

Evil-the snake

Evil-the snake

As a writer and a thoughtful reader, it may be useful to think of the hero and the villain relating to each other in some particular  ways.

One way to look at them is through Carl G. Jung’s theories of a personality with these dichotomies:     1. Introvert/extrovert (general attitude)

Introverts generally think things through inside their heads; they are reserved or private. Extroverts are talkative, outgoing, and think out loud.

2. Sensing/intuition (mental function)

Sensing: focus on reality, attention to facts & details, described in literal ways, prefer the practical. Intuition: imagines possibilities, sees the big picture, how things connect, describes in poetic or figurative terms.

3. Thinking/feeling (mental function)

Thinking: decisions in impersonal and/or logical ways, values fairness & justice, finds flaws in arguments, reasonable and levelheaded. Feeling: decisions on personal values or how will affect others, values harmony & forgiveness, likes to please others & sees the best in people, warm & empathetic.

4. Judging/perceiving

(another dichotomy category, not by Jung, but Myers-Briggs)

Judging: likes matters settled, respects rules & deadlines, prefers detailed i.e. step-by-step instructions, makes plans, wants to know what you’re getting into. Perceiving: prefers options open, rules & deadlines are flexible, likes improvisation, spontaneity and enjoys surprises & new situations.

Yes! This is a lot to take in.

However, you don’t need to think about all of it. (And it is written down somewhere to look up for later.) The point is that unless characters are cardboard (cartoon), they may have all of these dimensions—and in different portions.

So if you’re reading, after, and I do mean after, you finish reading, might want to think about these dichotomies, dimensions if you will. However if you are a writer, these are important things to consider when both creating and writing your characters and particularly your villains.

A well woven story is like a symphony, one part needs to balance the other either by opposition or similarity.

Gordian Knot

Gordian Knot

Likewise with and within the characters. If the villain complements or contrasts with either your hero or major characters, then the writing and reading will be much richer, fuller and perhaps better perceived. If the hero and the villain have intertwined characteristics which complement and contrast each other, then there is also a greater likelihood there will be more conflict, and therefore more interest.

Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai

Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai

For example, the heroine in Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai, Kozaishō, is an extrovert while one of her early nemeses, Tashiko, is definitely introverted, providing a sharp contrast. In a similar manner are the characters Michimori and Tokikazu: the former leans toward introversion, while the latter is more extroverted. These two men vary in other ways, including their physical appearance (mesomorph vs ectomorph).

Think Dr. Jekyll and Mister Hyde.

Dr. Jekyll and  Mr. Hyde

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde






In archetypical language, Mr. Hyde would be either the VILLAIN or the SHADOW. With either nomenclature, this dichotomy of character makes for a classic tale. The former trying to help mankind, the latter completely and totally self-seeking and self-centered. The more well-formed a villain, the better he or she is.

Take the Wicked Witch of the West.

Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West

Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West

Now naturally, she did not get a name like “wicked witch” without earning it. However, she is not without motivation and a back story. It is her sister whom Dorothy clobbers with her house. So there is the revenge angle. Plus, she wants the Ruby Slippers. And since they belong to her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West probably has a little claim to them.


Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched

Louise Fletcher as Nurse Ratched

Don’t we all know someone like Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”?  I have worked with and for people like this. My experience generally leads me to believe that these are very fearful people. People would come from very dysfunctional backgrounds. Therefore they have a great need to manage their environment to make it safe for them. Read that, often dictatorial, tyrannical, controlling and managing to the minutest degree.

When I have work for them, it has been such earthshaking topics as how many spaces to put after a period.  UGH!

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