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1/5 manga» naruto
❝In the ninja world, those who break the rules are scum, that’s true, but those who abandon their friends are worse than scum.❞
artificialpace asked: Hey, I want to create a character (the antagonist) where it’s unclear just exactly how evil or how good he is? I want him to fall somewhere in the middle, not just be black or white. I was wondering if you had any ideas how I could do that?
These types of villains from our Villains page seem to fit your profile of ambiguity:
- Master Orator - a villain that has a fantastic talent for words, and often uses their speeches to motivate and/or manipulate crowds, whether they be people or their own minions. The Master Orator can also be a literal corrupter of minds, using magic or some other evil force in conjunction with his powerful speech to persuade one person or many people to his side.
Ex. Gríma the Wormtongue from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Adolf Hitler
- Tragic Villain - A character who, although acting for primarily “evil” or selfish goals, is either not in full control of their actions or emotions and the reader or viewer can sympathize for due to them not being evil by choice; but rather by them being a victim of circumstance. These villains can face a crisis of conscience in which they submit to doing evil. The Tragic Villain often have confused morals believing that they are doing moral when in fact they are doing evil.
Ex. Darth Vader from Star Wars, Davy Jones from Disney’s Pirate of the Caribbean trilogy, Jack Torrance from The Shining, Norman Bates from Psycho
- Anti-Villain - the opposite of an anti-hero. While the anti-hero often fights on the protagonist’s team, but with selfish motives, the anti-villain plays a villain’s game, but for what’s at least in their eyes a noble cause. They may be personally more noble or heroic than an anti-hero but the means to achieve their ends are often considered immoral, unjust, even evil. Sometimes they may simply be a villain with gentlemanly qualities or a code of honor or some sense of justice. Anti-villains will occasionally side with their rivals (usually the protagonist) if a greater threat than themselves comes or it is in both of their best interests. Often also considered “grey” characters due to their moral ambiguity.
Ex. Magneto from The X-Men, The Jigsaw Killer from The Saw Series, Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lecter
There are several very good examples of ambiguous antagonists in the Game of ThronesSeries where there is no clear “bad guy” but lots of bad people. Once Upon a Time has an ambiguous antagonist in Regina (The Evil Queen) because the audience is encouraged to sympathize with her perspective. True Blood or The Southern Vampire Mysteries has blood-thirsty murderers in the role of sympathetic protagonists and antagonists (especially Eric Northman and Pam Ravenscroft).
You may also what to check out our page of Character Virtues and Vices. This page takes you through the process of adding positive and negative traits to a character. For antagonists, there are generally going to be more “vices”, but for your purposes you could craft an antagonist who has an even number of each or whose vices are more forgivable. For instance, readers are more likely to sympathize with an antagonist who is “cranky” over an antagonist who is “murderous”.
For more on ambiguous antagonists, check out these articles:
- Grey and Gray Morality
- What are some of the best movies with ambiguous protagonists/antagonists?
- The “Villain” Spectrum: Creating a Layered Antagonist
- Types of antagonist
- Seven Types of Antagonists (especially “The Hater” and “The Crazy Friend”)
Thank you for your question!