Morals, Themes, and the Challenge of a Lazy Villain

“All this business of changing our way of doing things? DOING things at all? It all sounds exhausting.” – Duke Plebo, Drawful the Awful

I finally reached the culmination of the plot in my editing where the Duke Plebo’s responsibility and reasons for summoning Fallon of the Terrible Fire and Much Meanness come to light.

While Fallon is the “monster” of this fairy tale, he’s not the true “villain.” Fallon is acting according to his nature as a dragon, and as a dragon he wants to kidnap the Princess and challenge knights and other warriors who would try to rescue her.

Plebo is the villain for summoning the dragon, and Plebo’s reason for it? Laziness. He doesn’t like the prospect of his King’s son marrying Princess Brooke and potentially giving the Kingdom of Anathema more of a work ethic and go get ‘em attitude, so he summons the dragon to dissuade his Prince from the pursuit.

I’ve talked before about character mapping, wherein I lay all my characters out on a spreadsheet and go through a series of background and personality questions for each of them relevant to the plot and setting for the story. Once I finish that, I also take my characters and put them through a vice and virtue breakdown as well, relative to the story’s plot and moral.

What are my hero’s chief virtue and vice? How are those informed by their experiences, and how do those traits play out in the story and help them succeed or cause them to struggle? Similarly with the villain, what is their vice and virtue that makes them believe their course of action is just (I’m a moral relativist when it comes to writing in that I believe a good villain should believe that they are the hero of the story), but also what sin are they guilty of?

I feel as if a majority of villains we’re exposed to are guilty of pride, wrath, lust, or envy (from a seven deadly sins archetype at any rate). With Drawful the Awful I asked myself: “what about sloth?”

My villain’s chief sin and motivating vice is laziness. Plebo’s reason for summoning Fallon isn’t out of hatred of King Nick, or lust for Brooke, or envy of Drawful even- it’s just that he doesn’t want Prince Chauncey bringing their kingdoms together and forcing him to *shudder* work.

While this is something I sorted out on the character level in terms of Plebo’s individual motivation and character background, having a larger theme behind it -the sin of laziness- allows me to apply an archetype of morality and message thematically across the entire story, its plot, and for all my characters.

For both planning and subsequent edits, I strive to understand my characters at the level of their individuality and minutia, but to also have a larger blanketing thematic cohesion of where my characters stand in relation to the core plot, moral and message of my work.

We are gods unto our worlds and stories, and thus we should be arbiters of the morality therein.

Like God, we should have a complete perspective and understanding of each individual within our pantheon that is as nuanced as any of our own ethical codes and morals, even if we disagree with them.

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