forum How to develop a secondary protagonist into a major villain?
Started by @Retr0inactive public

people_alt 58 followers

@Retr0inactive public

Exactly as the title says. I have a character who is basically a scientist in my fantasy world and he is usually alongside the main protagonists. But as time goes on, disagreements happen and major conflicts that eventually turn him into an antagonist.

How do I write this without it feeling like it came out of nowhere? I’m thinking of showing a few instances where displays signs of emotional instability or moments where his more violent side shows, without completely turning him into a villain yet… not until the one moment when he finally cracks and says “Fuck it, I do crime now”


ooh that sounds really interesting!! I love a good protagonist decay story!!
I think there are a few ways to break this down -

  • would it help to distinguish between "villain" and "antagonist"? An antagonist is technically just someone who hinders or comes into conflict with the protagonist, whereas I think the word "villain" carries a sort of… grand moral connotation, if that makes sense? like if you wanted to write a decline into villainy it might go down the road of antagonism - the character's ideas and plans are different from the protagonists' (either they always were and it wasn't relevant before, or they experience something that significantly shifts their perspective), and that disagreement escalates first into working against the heroes and then maybe into full-out "now I might as well watch the world burn", if that makes sense?
  • it also might help to establish how deliberate it is on your character's part. Is he a grand opportunistic mastermind who just joined the protagonists out of convenience? Is he gradually overwhelmed by circumstances and his reaction to pressure and fear is lashing out and isolating himself from other options? Or is it some kind of combination - he always had a certain opinion or motivation, and as time and cricumstances go on he doubles down and becomes more and more entrenched? Once you've established the trajectory, it might be easier to signpost it along the way, even if they story isn't told from his perspective.
  • generally there's an interesting question of whether this is a more plot-driven or a more character-driven scenario - ideally it's a bit of both, of course, but a character in extreme external circumstances making the choices most consistent with their personality can be different from a character experiencing mainly internal emotional or mental pressure that causes them to act even if the circumstances haven't significantly changed.
  • along with that, it also depends on the timeframe - how long has he known the protagonist? how much time does he have to develop into a villain?

sooo yeah - I think it's mainly a question of the character's exact situation, his dynamic with the team and his role in the plot, which would help you determine how all of these things play into each other