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Manga Writers => General Manga writer discussions => Topic started by: OhGodHelpMe on September 08, 2019, 05:31:17 PM


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Title: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: OhGodHelpMe on September 08, 2019, 05:31:17 PM
So, this is a concept I've been ironing out as I wrap up the Senkumo War Stories series I've been working on.

One of the biggest themes in both parts of Book of Betrayal can be summed up in one word. Phantoms. Literal phantoms of past enemies rising from their graves. The feeling of fighting an unseen enemy that's controlling things behind the scenes. The phantom sensation of losing a limb, or a metaphorical pain of losing a loved one. These are the kind of themes I wanted to use based off of that one word.

The events of Book of Betrayal 1 give rise to a villain that appears in Book of Betrayal 2 called the Man in Black. I was just going to go through the usual cycle of Villain Rises>Confronts Protag>Protag goes on journey to stop Villain>Protag loses and low point>Protag returns with renewed spirit and defeats Villain, but then I had a wild thought. What if this villain actually became more of a threat after their defeat?

Many stories end with the hero defeating the villain, but what about the influence of the villain? That doesn't go away after they die. In my case, I wanted the Man in Black to have a lasting, psychological influence on Tsukiakari and the Senkumo clan as a whole, keeping in mind the theme of phantoms.

The Man in Black is undead to begin with, having risen out of his grave in the Katsura river. He's aided by three literal phantoms in his quest to take revenge on Tsukiakari and the Senkumo clan for their massacre of his village and the rape and murder of his sister. He inflicts a terrible loss on Tsukiakari for the sole purpose of ingraining himself and the trauma he caused in her mind forever. So, even after the Man in Black is captured, tried, and executed for all he's done, Tsukiakari feels as though he's still there. She sees his visage and hallucinates his presence, but she manages to vanquish him from his thoughts when she deals with the phantoms that aided him. He disappears, but vows that his phantom will return when her inner peace is shattered once more.

Well, towards the end of Book of Betrayal 2, he keeps his promise. Tsukiakari finds out that her clan was destroyed while she was unconscious, waiting to reawaken after reincarnating. The resulting grief serves as the perfect vector for the return of the Man in Black's psychological ghost. He traps Tsukiakari in a recreation of the trauma he inflicted upon her. She breaks free and pursues him during this hallucination, and finds an opportunity to strike him down.

When she comes to her senses, she realizes she's just murdered Chiharu, the only surviving Senkumo. The Man in Black then uses Tsukiakari's grief and urges her to turn it into rage. Acting through her, the Man in Black sparks the events of Book of Revenge, where Tsukiakari sets out on a mission to kill Bishamon and all of his co-conspirators.

All of this while the man is dead, and his phantom isn't a literal out-of-the-grave phantom, but a psychological impression. In death, he manages to inflict even more pain upon Tsukiakari, and then uses her to kill the leaders of the clan that destroyed his life.

Protagonists will usually carry the memory of a good friend after their deaths, so why not their enemies as well? If an enemy could shatter the protag's heart or beliefs and inflict a terrible trauma upon them, then their deaths wouldn't matter all that much, in the grand scheme of things.

It's like when someone's attacker, rapist, or the murderer of their loved ones faces the death penalty, or gets locked up for life. If the trauma is strong enough, you'll still feel as though they're creeping into your bedroom, or watching you from across the street. You'll still have nightmares and relive what they put you through, long after they're gone. That's the kind of phantom enemy I wanted to make, I guess.

I feel that, in this way, the villain stops being a separate, adversarial entity, and starts becoming part of the protag herself. How hard the fight must be to maintain one's sense of self, while dealing with the lingering nightmare of an old enemy. The battle between them becomes a battle within, a showdown of morality, values, and sanity.

What are your thoughts on this? Any ideas or criticisms? Any good examples of something like this in another piece of work?
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: Coryn on September 08, 2019, 06:43:56 PM
For starters: Yes! This is a very solid idea! Having the villain 'follow' the hero even after they are defeated is not something that's around much, so it's definitely worth exploring! I'd be interested mostly to see how you plan to have the phantom interact with the characters. I've seen before (although am completely unable to recall exactly where) a situation similar to this, where they had the actor who played the villain continue in the series as a sort of imaginary 'friend' in the eyes of the protagonist. They would be walking around in the background of scenes, and act in a similar role to the Greek chorus. They would comment on the situation at hand, and make suggestions (from a villainous point of view) to the protagonist. The character was not an actual ghost, but they certainly acted as one. It was definitely a live action show, so the decision arose mostly from an urge to keep the actor on I think, but as a writer you can definitely chose to approach it from a different angle. Still, I would say that the idea of having a second perspective on a situation at all times is definitely a good way to approach it. You can have an interplay between the two 'minds'. See as the protagonist gets closer and farther away from the mindset of the dead villain. So yeah, you got a thumbs up from me!
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: bossx5 on September 09, 2019, 02:47:15 AM
I like it i was writing a story where the protag is slowly going insane the whole story revolves around a woman who personifies insanity. I found it her still do to make the readers to believe she msy be a real person i got the idea from a stephen king short story i think its called ridding the bullet. Anyway good stuff.
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: Operative13 on September 09, 2019, 04:08:44 AM
Since said leader is dead, it's more likely his followers will be the ones that amps things up a notch as a result. Typically decapitating the leadership is a surefire way of destroying an organization, but in some cases it may have the opposite effect. Take Saddam Hussein for example. He's practically the villain for all of the early 2000's until the US Coalition ousted him from power and swiftly hung him (For the Oil). What followed as a result was decades of civil strife, unrest, and more importantly, wars. And it just doesn't end.

Fanaticism is a scary thing.  :ninja:
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: OhGodHelpMe on September 09, 2019, 03:39:07 PM
Yeah that's what happens when you depose a dictator but fail to plug the power vacuum. It does upset me that powerful villains don't always have followers willing to continue their work. That would be a lot more interesting to see.

Coryn, I'm thinking that since the phantom is a psychological impression, he would manifest in the minds of the characters directly affected by his actions. It might actually be more interesting than only having the main protag see him. Tsukiakari, Taeko, Goro, and Chiya would all see him in their minds, in that case, since they either confronted him in person or saw the end result of his actions with their own eyes. Since the clan has dealt with actual phantoms before, it sure would be weird when they find out they're all seeing the same guy, but there's nothing they can do about it since he's not an actual ghost. I'm not too sure.

It's an idea I'm definitely still trying to grasp. I wanted to make a villain that factored dying into their plan to get revenge. As Op pointed out, killing someone may only make matters worse, and their specter may just hang over everyone's heads in the end.
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: suuper-san on September 09, 2019, 03:56:45 PM
"If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine"
said somebody, I think.
hmmmmmmmmmm

Even in a non-fantasy setting as you say, the followers can still follow their leaders ideals, perhaps with the second in command taking the new leadership on.
Seeing the phantom of the previous leader would probably bolster their audacity, perhaps in their belief that they cannot be killed, or will join/ascend the leader in the afterlife.

I did have a similar story idea at point point of someone planning to die, although that was sort of based on the bad guy dying, entering the spirit life, getting powers from there somehow, and then returning in some form or another. Kinda bleach-ish.
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: Crackhead Johny on October 02, 2019, 12:17:20 PM
Haunting is a common trope/cliche.
Sometimes it is for good, MC's family member, child hood friend, war buddy, victim of tragedy, old villain, last person to have the MC's job, etc is there to give them advice, help them, warn them, can't move on, etc. 
Sometimes it is for bad. Enemy, serial killer, other personality, last person to have the MC's job, victim of tragedy, etc.

They present as a voice, a hallucination, a image that viewers can see but the MC cannot, in mirrors, etc.

A common place that this gets dragged is possession.
So the haunter can take control of the MC. Cliche is blackouts, sleep walking, full on control, loss of consciousness, etc.

With the popularity of spirituality and ghosts in Japan you get plenty of haunting in anime.

More powerful after death. Very old. It was not new when Jesus came back more powerful after death. This is super popular with slasher film villains, Freddie Kruger, Jason Vorhese, Michael Myers, etc. Though of those examples only Freddie Kruger is a haunter.

For starters: Yes! This is a very solid idea! Having the villain 'follow' the hero even after they are defeated is not something that's around much, so it's definitely worth exploring!
Depends on how you define "follow". Shonen fighting has been riding the cliche of "Beat bad guy, receive follower" since Piccolo. 
As for "win and get haunted" it is popular due to popularity of ghosts in japan.
Title: Re: Creating a villain that becomes a more present threat after their deaths.
Post by: Coryn on October 05, 2019, 06:54:09 PM
I was speaking more metaphorical there. How you chose to represent the metaphor is up to personal taste. I just mean that the experience has ingrained itself into the hero.