Sometimes the arch villain of the story is the one pulling all the strings in the background, and the protagonists don't know about them until the endgame.
And other times, the arch villain gets to clash with a protagonist (or an opposing character) that is also a mastermind pulling strings in the background.
If this happens, everyone else may become pawns in a game of chess between these two. A grand-scale mindgame ensues where the two duke it out from the background, using other characters and situations as their weapons or proxies.
In a duel like this, the villain of course comes across as a villain, but the hero (or ‘good guy’ character) may come across as less heroic. That is because whoever comes across as manipulating others loses some of the sincerity and directness that audiences generally associate with good characters.
It may also mean that the ‘good guy’ character also has a creed of ‘end justifying the means’ or a very cynical, even cruel streak which always comes in shades of gray. In these cases, the plot often gets a suspense along the lines of who will outsmart who but also how far the ‘good guy’ is willing to go to win. It may even be a ‘corruption arc’ for the ‘good guy’.
The good guy being morally ambiguous isn't necessarily the case. There can be mind games played when the ‘good guy’ player has a very clear set of morals and lines drawn; often to their detriment if the villain/opponent in the mind games is aware and uses those morals against them. The plot in this case may build suspense on who will outsmart who but also how the ‘good guy’ will manage to outmaneuver the villain without giving up their morals or crossing their lines.
Do you have masterminds in your stories? Where do they fall on the villain/hero spectrum and how good are they?
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Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, July 24, 2021
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