NanoMongering 15: The See-Saw of Hero-Villain Symmetry


Let's get this out of the way first, so that I can finally stop procrastinating on writing. Currently, I am 700 words away from 30k. Hopefully I can at least make that tonight.

I found a song that is oddly applicable to Ethan and Aurana's relationship, inside the Dark Arcana setting. (Memento Mori by Kamelot)

I'm afraid that there is a whole lot of darkness in store for them. :-(

The See-Saw of Hero-Villain Symmetry

This is a thought I had after watching Avengers and the new James Bond movie, Skyfall. Note: Please feel free to call bullshit on me at any time. The idea is that a hero and a villain are two sides of the same coin. Same background. Same characteristics. Same history, with the same traumas. Sometimes they even look the same. Same or highly similar powers. Same fears. They could almost be the same person, but for a single personality trait that is different for each of them, and which drives the choices each makes. 

Loki and Thor. Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort. Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. Frodo and Gollum. James Bond and Silva in Skyfall (this one is certainly arguable, I included it because it was while watching this movie that I thought of the symmetry). Voldemort, raised in a muggle orphanage, and his rabid fear of death and love of power due to insecurity. Harry, raised by muggles, but kind and loving, but also protective of those he loves, also because of insecurity. Yet, though Harry and Voldemort are so far apart in deed, Harry is still aware of how close he is to becoming the evil that is Voldemort, especially in the fifth book. What keeps him safe is the power of love, which sets him apart from Voldemort. Even Voldemort might have been redeemed, had he defeated his fear of death (which Harry defeats), and learned the power of love.

The surface actions are different. The gut fear is the same. This is the heart of the story.

Their fates are so tightly bound that when one gains, the other loses. Same skills, same fears, but two different driving forces, two different world views. There can only be one triumph in each area (physical, emotional, etc.) A hero may win the war, but a villain can gain enlightenment, etc.

That deep mirror symmetry is what makes the conflict memorable. Actions are forgotten. On some level, both characters know and fear what they could become, at any moment. Any villain can go 'MWA HA HA HA!' and blow up a town, and any hero can kick them in the pants. What readers remember is the emotion, the personal stake that both have.

In a moment of truth, the villain gets inside the hero's head, accesses their shared deepest fears, and tempts him to come to the Dark side. The hero does the reverse to the villain. Being cut from the same cloth, they begin to understand each other. They both could turn. They stand on the edge of the knife. It draws the hero straight into the "long dark night of the soul," where all is dark and there's no light at the end of the tunnel. It is the turning point, where one choice determines everything, and that choice hangs on the single strength that sets apart the two characters. We see just how thin the line between good and evil is, because it all depends on the one thread of difference between the hero and the villain.

This is the ultimate conflict, where the hero has to draw on the personality characteristic which he alone possesses, in order to defeat the thing that the dark Lord could not. This is where Lord Voldemort falls to dark magic, because he fears death, but where Harry triumphs, because he does not fear death, and also knows the power of love. Yet, the victory is all the more poignant, because at the moment he triumphs, the hero understands the villain more completely than the villain himself. He wins, then, not out of the hatred which started off the story, but only with the deepest sadness for the twisted thing which he almost became. In killing the villain, he also kills himself, and the darkness within.

At the same time, the villain also faces a choice. Just as the hero can choose to defeat the darkness, the villain has a chance to let go of the weakness which drove him, and embrace the light. Thus, the symmetry. In Harry Potter, Lord Voldemort failed to do this, and dies, unable to face his doom. However, in Star Wars, even as he dies in defeat, Darth Vader does manage a personal triumph of his own, where he acknowledges that Luke was right.

Thus, the most complex stories in the world boil down to this. The heart drives the theme. Love can defeat even death. Change is inevitable, but even a small creature can shape the direction it takes.

Sorry about the word vomit. I have edited this thing so many times that I'm going nuts. I know I have probably left something important out. It's still not the way I see it in my head. It sounded so much deeper there. I have probably cluttered up the point with a bunch of unnecessary worlds. If only I could remember what my point was in a way that doesn't make it confusing.

I need to stop typing now, don't I?

Dark Arcana

Now if only I could find the symmetry in mine. I know I have at least two sets of hero-villain pairs in Dark Arcana. One is Aurana and Caliiry. (I know I said her name was Ante, but it keeps getting stuck as Caliiry, so it's staying that way.) Another is Ethan and Oscar.

As for Caliiry and Aurana, both of them were poor children ripped out of their world, who ran off in pursuit of greater things, and were bitterly disappointed by what they found, both by circumstance, and other people. They both cope by going off in self-destructive cycles. However, while Caliiry copes by aggressively trying to shut out other people and letting her fear force her to make other people fear her, Aurana longs for other people, but her timidity and fear makes her withdraw within herself.

For Ethan and Oscar...different backgrounds.

Actually, now that I think about it, I wouldn't be surprised if the pairings ended up being Aurana/Oscar and Ethan/Caliiry.

Aurana and Oscar are...very similar people.
And Ethan and Caliiry have similar faults.

In a purely random thought experiment, I wonder what would happen if I tried to combine Caliiry/Aurana and Ethan/Oscar.

...Nope. World would explode.

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