Last week I began my blog post by reciting an age-old quote from the bible. For those of you who don’t remember, this was it:
‘A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the God of Writing said “there shall be character arcs!” and thus character growth and development was born, turning those drab two dimensional characters into something three-dimensional and fabulous.’
This week I would like to start my tenth blog post with another well know passage from this bestselling book…
‘The God of Writing also said unto them, the lowly creative writing students, “that when you create character arcs, you can also write them in reverse, instead of having villains turn into heroes, you can have heroes turn into villains”, because nothing more pleases the masochistic human brain than watching a nice guy turn into a complete knob.’
You probably shouldn’t try looking either of those quotes up. They occur somewhere towards the back. You should probably just take my word for it.
But I digress. The point I was trying to make was that for all the bad guys out there turning into good guys, there are an equal amount of good guys turning into bad guys. And here comes the science bit! Again!
(Let the HUGE spoilers begin…)
There are two types of hero-to-villain character arcs:
#1 — The Born-Again Villain:
This is your character who was a classic hero all along who, either by their own devices or through no fault of their own, becomes the villain of the story.
Example: Valkyrie Cain becoming Darquesse — Valkyrie was the lead protagonist through the first eight Skulduggery Pleasant books, and then in the final book, through no fault (well, a little bit of fault) of her own, she become the evil Darquesse, hell-bent on destroying the world.
#2 — The Undercover Villain:
This is when the character was really a villain all along, but they were undercover as a hero. They usually aren’t outed as the bad guy until the last moment, and 90% of the time the audience won’t know this secret, so it’ll make a good plot twist.
Example: Saruman The White — He’d secretly turned to the dark side but he led Gandalf to believe he was good until he outed himself later on as a baddie.
Whether the character has a type one or type two arc, we the audience (because we readers can truly appreciate good writing, plot twists, and character development…!) will start salivating with delight when we see goodies go bad. Whether it’s Professor Quirrell ripping off his turban and revealing Voldemort glued to the back of his head, or it’s Skulduggery Pleasant revealing that he used to be the infamous Lord Vile, we love a good hero to villain story.
And here, in traditional Olympic Medallist style, are my top three good guys gone bad. Prepare for AWESOMENESS.
BRONZE MEDAL: PETER PETTIGREW (The Undercover Villain) — THE HARRY POTTER SERIES, WRITTEN BY J.K.ROWLING:
Peter Pettigrew, born a wizard to Mr and Mrs Pettigrew, he started attending Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the age of eleven where he was sorted into Gryffindor. He met Lily and James and they became friends. Later on, he and his good buddies James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin created the Marauders Map.
After Hogwarts, Pettigrew joined the Order Of The Phoenix, but became a double agent when he joined Voldemort’s army as a Death Eater. He betrayed James and Lily, handing them over to Voldemort to be killed. He then faked his own death and framed Sirius for they betrayal.
Using his animagus powers to hide away as a rat that ends up being adopted by the Weasley family, he spends the next twelve years as Ron’s favourite pet, Scabbers.
Of course, the audience doesn’t find out any of this until the third book, The Prisoner Of Azkaban, where the truth all comes out. Scabbers turns back into Pettigrew, and Sirius’ name is cleared (well, only to Harry and Co.), and we learn that Pettigrew was really a bad guy all along.
So why does this work? Because it’s a plot twist none of us saw coming. We were all so fixated with the idea that Sirius was the villain that we could never even begin to entertain the idea that someone else could have done it.
Pettigrew manages to escape and he becomes a recurring villain through the series (who eventually gets his well-deserved comeuppance), and we have a brand new hero, Sirius Black, to fall in love with. Everyone’s a winner!
SILVER MEDAL: PEETA MELLARK (The Born-Again Villain) — THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES, WRITTEN BY SUZANNE COLLINS:
Poor Peeta Mellark. He was just a simple baker’s boy from district twelve who minded his own business, crushed on a girl way out of his league from afar, and who couldn’t hurt a fly.
And then that all changed. After surviving the Hunger Games twice — yes, twice — he was captured by the evil Capitol, forced to become President Snow’s own personal propaganda puppet, and was eventually tortured into complete madness.
All through this he remained a hero. He didn’t give in. The games didn’t turn him into a murderer. The torture didn’t turn him into a traitor. No matter what they did to him, he persisted as a protagonist.
And then they brainwashed him. Yep, poor Peeta gets brainwashed into hating/fearing the one person he loves most in the world — Katniss Everdeen. When they’re finally reunited, she goes running to him for a hug, and he runs to her for what she thinks is a hug… and then he tries to kill her.
He spends a large portion of the last book trying to kill Katniss, and as we’ve learned before, if you’re trying to kill the main character, you’re probably the bad guy.
Why does it work? Because it was unexpected. Because we readers were foolish enough to believe that Katniss was finally going to be happy for a moment, and this is our punishment for being so stupid.
And lastly we’ve come to our gold medallist (and my personal favourite)…
GOLD MEDAL: TANITH LOW (The Born-Again Villain) — THE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES, WRITTEN BY DEREK LANDY:
Ha ha ha. Anyone else remember that time Derek Landy took one of our favourite characters, a perfect heroine, a strong, funny, brave, intelligent character, one half of our Ghastly/Tanith OTP (one true pairing) and destroyed her? Ha ha. Anyone remember that? Ha. That was so funny. Good times. Good times…
Except it wasn’t good. Because he took Tanith Low, tore her from her friends, ruined her relationship with Ghastly before it even began, stamped all over our hearts, tore our souls in two, and stuck an evil Remnant inside her body that would possess her forever more, and make her an evil mastermind. Anyone else remember when he did that? Yeah, me too.
And suddenly Tanith Low, one of the huge heroes from the first five books, gets transformed (against her will) into an evil super-villain in Mortal Coil. And this one hurt especially badly because it wasn’t just her life who was ruined, it was all her friends lives that were ruined too. Valkyrie lost her best friend, Skulduggery lost a valued ally, and worst of all Ghastly lost the love of his life. Tanith becomes the bad guy, assumes her new role with relish, and thus the entire Skulduggery Pleasant fandom was thrown into despair.
Why does it work? Because it was sudden. Now, as Skulduggery fans, we know better than to assume that any character is safe, but when you see a character like Tanith, who literally gets tortured in every book and comes out the other side still smelling like roses, you just don’t expect her to her get taken down properly by anything, especially not something as stupid as a pesky Remnant. Least of all do you expect someone who is pure goodness through and though like her to became the one everyone is suddenly against. It was sad, it was painful, and it was heart-breaking.
It was brilliant. And that’s why she’s won the top spot for my favourite YA hero to villain character arcs. Enough said.
If you liked this blog post then leave me a message in the comments section below. If you didn’t like it then, um, you’re really weird.
Seriously though, no one was even a little suspicious of Ron’s pet rat lasting for twelve years? Isn’t an average rat’s lifespan four years? What were the Weasley’s thinking??