Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Thursday's Children: The Death of a Villain

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Source: IGN

So I'm finally nearing the end of my revision/rewrite of 151, and one of the funnest parts has been rewriting the ending. Why? Because it means I get to rethink how I kill off the story's villains.

Now, I'm a firm believer in big impact deaths. After all, if you truly have a good villain (cruel, arrogant, despicably satisfied with their evil), then they've probably done some terrible things throughout the story. You've been building up a ton of tension and your reader can't WAIT for this villain to get what's coming to them. Shouldn't their death match the impact of their evil and the size of that tension?

Of course! It totally adds some good ol' satisfaction to the experience to see a villain die, and die big. So I thought about some of my favourite villain deaths — and I again rely on some Star Wars examples, so bear with me — to help me figure out what makes a good death.

(1) Ironic
This is when the villain's undoing has to do with their own greed (or whatever their flaw is), or when their allies or base of power turn against them. OR it can simply be a fun way for them to die, which is completely unexpected.

For example, in the Obi-wan vs. Grievous battle below, Obi-wan ends up killing Grievous with a blaster, even though both of them wield lightsabers, and blasters are, as Obi-wan puts it, "so uncivilized". (skip to about 5:50 of the video)

(2) Gruesome
Sometimes the manner in which the villain dies is so gruesome that it totally fits the terrible nature of their crimes. They die in a way that makes them suffer all of the pain that they've caused others. These are the deaths that make you cringe but at the same time... happy.

In Anakin "death" scene (spoiler alert: he survives), Anakin gets his legs cut off AND gets burned alive after betraying the Jedi and murdering innocent "younglings". Ignore the Japanese in the scene below and enjoy Anakin's gruesome death.

(3) Climax of the Battle
This is where the villain's death comes right at the moment that they believe they're about to win. Just as they've tortured the hero and have gone on about how their evil will triumph, they get what's coming to them.

The death of the Emperor is a classic one. He tortures Luke and revels in his evil superiority... and just as he's about to burn Luke to bits, his own apprentice turns on him (irony!!!) and throws him down a bottomless pit. Take that!

Do you have any favourite villain deaths? What made them satisfying?

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