Aug 17 2010

15 Interesting Motivations for Villains and Heroes

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1. Romance. Villains frequently have ulterior motives (like marrying Aunt May to steal the nuclear power plant she inherited?) and improper means (such as sabotaging rivals). True romances are rare for villains and can make them deeper and more interesting. Mr. Freeze’s romance with his wife Nora in Heart of Ice turned him from a corny ice-themed punchline into an Emmy winner. (He later devolved into a corny ice-themed punchline after being played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but some things can’t be helped).


2. Revenge. This might be heroic if the crime is particularly heinous and/or the regular authorities are not willing or able to resolve the situation. It might be villainous if the character is overreacting or not being careful enough about hitting only the people responsible.  When working with revenge plots, I think it’s usually more interesting if the revenge develops into something more than just killing/stopping people A, B and C.  For example, in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, the villain is getting back at the love interest that rejected him, which introduces relationship issues that present their own challenges to a protagonist trying to get over a long-dead relationship of his own.


3. To distinguish oneself. It depends on why the character wants to distinguish himself. A hero whose main goal is fame/status will probably gain a more substantial goal over the course of the story. (For example, Booster Gold). I think it’s seen as a superficial, temporary goal. In contrast, “be true to yourself” is more purely heroic… Unless being true to yourself involves psychically decapitating people and sucking out their brains.


4. To fit in/gain acceptance. A lot of heroes seek to gain the respect of their peers (see any story about “the new guy,” particularly students). However, gaining acceptance might be more sinister based on who the protagonist wants to impress and/or what will impress them. For example, 1984 ends with Winston Smith rather unhappily gaining acceptance by betraying his innocent girlfriend: “…he had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”


5. Justice. This is like revenge, but usually less lethal and targeted more carefully against the perpetrators. Nonetheless, justice can sometimes be villainous. For example, the main goal of the robot antagonists in the I, Robot movie is to prevent humans from getting hurt, and they think that putting human under house arrest is the most logical way to do so.


6. Greed. Although realistic, I think this motivation tends to be used in a one-dimensional way. For a bit more depth, maybe the character is hoarding something (money, power, remote-control ninja stars) on behalf of somebody else. Also, I think it’s cliche for antiheroes to be sort of greedy because their authors are afraid to let them do anything actually unpleasant. I’d recommend going all the way.


7. Fear. This strikes me as a more interesting, dramatic motivation than greed. It’s usually more morally complex because the character might actually be right. Maybe Lex Luthor is correct that Superman will eventually turn on us. Fearful heroes usually perceive threats that are current rather than potential, but they may be paranoid wrecks anyway (see Question/Rorschach, possibly the psychiatrist from Halloween and Batman, etc).


8. Desperation. I feel this is a more interesting motivation for both antagonists and protagonists than greed because it raises the stakes and heightens the conflict. A greedy character is usually driven by stupidity: stupidity is the only reason he can’t be satisfied with what he has. In contrast, a desperate character can’t back away from the plot. He can’t escape the conflict.


9. Social cohesion. Most commonly, this means keeping a family together. However, any books with significant racial or class-based conflict probably deal with this to some extent. Some examples: X-Men, probably Harry Potter, American Beauty, The Incredibles, Dark Cloud Descending, etc.


10. A desire to better oneself. Depending on what the character is trying to change about himself, we may approve of the transformation. Here’s a thought for your hero: is he trying to change anything about himself besides becoming more powerful? What about the villain? This could play out in a more sinister way if the character’s desire for self-improvement or self-advancement gets other people hurt. (For example, it’d be really shady for a police officer to put down a case just because pursuing the case could harm his career).


11. A desire to better humanity and/or society. I find altruistic villains especially fresh. They’re harder to dismiss as stereotypically evil, cardboard cutouts.


12. Curiosity/search for knowledge. A hero searching for understanding may be an amnesiac, some sort of wanderer, etc. A villain is probably uncovering secrets better left untouched, although his intentions may have been pure. More unexpectedly, an eventual villain might go on an innocuous search for understanding but come away with exactly the wrong lessons from life. If starting point A is a relatively normal person and ending point C is a villain that kicks dogs without any hesitation, the journey is what connects the two points. What sort of life experiences would warp someone that much? (See The Heart of Darkness, for example).


13. A desire to gain power to achieve a goal. This training/self-development angle comes up in many superhero stories, particularly those with rookie protagonists (such as Kickass). However, it was notably missing from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.


Could I recommend against a stereotypically heroic goal for the heroes or a stereotypically villainous goal for the villains? While world domination is a fine feat, it is not exactly uncharted territory for supervillains. If the villain is vying for world domination, why? It might be more interesting if his bid for supremacy is somehow tied to altruism, fear or desperation. For example, maybe the villain is a time-traveler that knows about some grave threat, so he’s trying to take over because he’s the only one that knows how to avert disaster. If the alien invasion starts in 20 years, you don’t have very much time to unite the Earth. (Also, this would lend itself rather well to a sequel: the hero successfully stops the “villain” at the end of the book, but discovers that he has to defeat the impending alien invasion).


14. To escape one’s destiny. This comes up quite a lot in classic American literature, such as The Grapes of Wrath, Catch-22 and The Great Gatsby. In contemporary superhero stories, the element of fighting destiny comes up most often when a character decides to become a superhero. Very few superheroes are born into their line of work. What leads the protagonists to decide that this is their calling? A supervillain rebelling against destiny, such as Sylar or the Kingpin, is usually born into a decidedly mundane and powerless family. Another common type of escaping destiny is fighting with one’s parents and/or dealing with stereotypes.


15. To achieve one’s destiny. The favored goal of Chosen Ones and megalomaniacs everywhere. I don’t think this is nearly as interesting as escaping destiny because a destined hero isn’t really driving his own story so much as conducting a train on a track laid by somebody else. If I had to shroud a character in destiny, I’d rather make it the villain The Boy That Lived, The Chosen One, the child born under a rare astrological sign, the subject of a great prophecy, the heir to an ancient and illustrious organization, etc. It’ll make the hero’s journey all the more challenging if he has to overcome all that on his own.


Feel free to mix and match! For example, one of my villains has his romance is aborted by the untimely demise of his lover, so he searches for knowledge to help humanity by overcoming destiny (human mortality). Cue the Lovecraftian horror music. What do you think? Do you have an interesting motivation you’d like to share?

83 responses so far

83 Responses to “15 Interesting Motivations for Villains and Heroes”

  1. NicKennyon 17 Aug 2010 at 3:58 am

    Great post! My main villian can absorb the powers of people by killing them. His main motivations have been revenge and world domination which are, sadly, too cliché. I could have the governing body for mutants to be trying to eliminate that ability seeing it as a stain upon society. Thus* bringing in a sense of desperation, fear and, to some extent, the attempt of escaping his destiny.

    I do love that word.

  2. Goaton 17 Aug 2010 at 10:18 am

    This really makes me wonder what the Joker’s motivation was…

    Also, could brainwashing be a motivation or is it just something else?

  3. Johnny-Con 17 Aug 2010 at 10:33 am

    Like Sylar, NicKenny?

    And uh, My hero, Crimson. He fights because he believes it’s his duty to. It was a family thing, you know, like a inheritance. His father died, and it’s passed onto him.

  4. Loysquaredon 17 Aug 2010 at 12:52 pm

    While reading the eleventh motivation, Ozymandias popped into my head. That guy is truly an altruistic evil genius! lol

  5. NicKennyon 17 Aug 2010 at 2:17 pm


    Come on. Yeah his power is similar but that’s like comparing every superfast character to Flash or every weather manipulator to Storm. It’s our personalities that make us differant.

    And why goat???

  6. B. Macon 17 Aug 2010 at 2:44 pm

    “Yeah, his power is similar but that’s like comparing every superfast character to Flash or every weather manipulator to Storm. It’s the personalities that make them different.” That sounds reasonable. If I could quote one of my articles, I think the key to differentiating your characters is giving them a distinct personality, voice, attributes, flaws, goals, obstacles, background, etc. If you have those things, you don’t need unique superpowers. If you don’t have those things, unique superpowers won’t save you.

    There have been so many thousands of characters that giving your heroes unique powers is all but impossible. Even if you go for something as freakishly particular as a mutant crocodilian, it’s still been used several times before (such as Killer Croc, TMNT’s Leatherhead, Vector, possibly Lizard, etc). Even though one of my two main characters is a mutant crocodilian (a decidedly eccentric commando), I’m not at all worried about seeming like a ripoff because his voice and personality are entirely different than theirs. Also, as far as I can tell, he is the only mutant crocodilian whose archenemy is an accountant.

  7. NicKennyon 17 Aug 2010 at 3:11 pm

    Thank you!

  8. Wingson 17 Aug 2010 at 3:44 pm

    Hmm. Of all my sets of villains, I think that HTSTW’s (Crimson, Empress, and technically Pyric) are the weakest, and that TSBLAD’s (Shift, Pathos, Alcatraz, and Scapegoat) are the strongest.

    Shift: Charismatic, manipulative shapeshifter with more Light Yagami*-esque traits than can be healthy. although it’s probable that he sees his motivation as a particularly twisted version of 11, it’s more vague and closer to a villainous 13 in that he wants to kill all heroes.

    Pathos: Variation of an empath; he feeds off emotions to prolong his lifespan (He looks like he’s in his 50s and his real age is never revealed, although it’s suspected to be over 100). His motivation is a bit like a mixture of 6 and 8. Although I am of the opinion that the guy could be a psychologist or something and get a lot of free emotions from his patients, but…He is a wealthy crime lord (Or, rather, the well paid Dragon** of the real crime lord, Shift) who clearly relishes the fact that he is feared by his minions.

    Alcatraz: Gunwoman and professional thief employed by Pathos and Shift. Her motivation isn’t on this list – she has an addiction to the thrill of breaking into secure areas (It’s mentioned that early in her career she broke into high security vaults often, but left without the loot). Overall, she’s a Punch Clock Villain*** who happens to like her job.

    Scapegoat: Victim of a science experiment either Gone Horribly Wrong**** or Gone Horribly Right*****. Has an inhuman tolerance for pain and the ability to rebound pain onto his opponents. Savage, violent, and most likely insane, he’s effectively just a weapon for his employers. Motivation an odd fusion of 6, 13, and 15, as he effectively works for the villains just for the freedom to slaughter.

    - Wings






  9. Wingson 17 Aug 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Eh? I just posted a comment here, I’m certain of it. This is the second time this week this occurred! Am I making a lot of accidental double entendres or something?

    - Wings

  10. B. Macon 17 Aug 2010 at 7:31 pm

    Whenever a comment includes more than 3 links at a time, our spam filter holds the comment until a moderator or I review it. If your comment doesn’t show up immediately, just remind a moderator or me to free it from the spam filter’s icy grip.

    (Our spam filter frequently strikes me as rather bothersome, but it’s caught all but ~five of the ~70,000 spam comments we’ve received and I think it’s incorrectly blocked ~20 comments out of ~18,000 legitimate ones).

  11. Ashleyon 17 Aug 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I liked that idea with the villain being the Chosen One. I’m surprised I haven’t heard of any plots like that before.

    As for other motives, what about if it was their job? I guess that depends on the situation.

  12. Loysquaredon 17 Aug 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I think Raven, from Teen Titans, is a villainy chosen one. She is the bringer of Doomsday, and she’s constantly fighting her inner demons.

  13. Cassandraon 17 Aug 2010 at 9:30 pm

    What I find interesting is what a character will *say* they’re fighting for, as opposed to what they are fighting for, in actuality. As an example, if asked, my MC would say–and believe–that she fights for justice and because she wants to make the world a better place. In reality, though, she fights because she loves the recognition, fame, and thrill of the fight. As the story progresses, however, she starts to fight more for justice and care less about the fame.

    It also took me awhile to figure out proper motives for my villains that kept them from being cardboard characters with flat motives. I’m slowly fleshing out villains in the series. The believe the villain in my first book is executed quite well. And I think that one of my villains later in the series has enough face-heel turns to become quite intriguing. However, I’m still working on perfecting the tragic villain of the second and third book. The villain’s first draft version started off with the simple “world domination” motive but has now become a pawn of a larger (“evil”) organization which is at odds with another (“so-called good”) organization. It’s a mess. I’m still working on details but I figure that a lot of it will change as I continue writing.

  14. B. Macon 18 Aug 2010 at 12:59 am

    “As for other motives, what about if it was their job?” I’d generally recommend going a bit deeper than just leaving it at that for a main protagonist or villain. For example, soldiers will fight terrorists because it’s their job, but what led them to enlist to begin with?

    I think it depends on the situation, though. Outside of superhero stories, I don’t think pure-action protagonists need as much motivation as most other protagonists. You could probably gloss over a police officer’s motivation for joining the force because it’s a pretty ordinary decision. In contrast, becoming a master ninja vigilante is not at all ordinary and should not be treated as such. Extraordinary decisions probably require more character motivation because we can’t just guess what it is that would lead somebody to do something that outlandish.

  15. B. Macon 18 Aug 2010 at 1:53 am

    For fear of assassination, a desperate accountant must better his skills to become a secret agent and gain the acceptance of the only people* on Earth that can save him.

    I wonder what the tagline would be. “You won’t believe a taxman can spy*“?

    *I use that term loosely.

  16. Ashleyon 18 Aug 2010 at 5:20 pm

    Ah, okay, so my characters wouldn’t be too much a stretch. It’s the start of a war and they’re all patriots willing to die for their country.

    I completely forgot about Raven. That’s odd because I used to watch Teen Titans nonstop.

  17. Ragged Boyon 18 Aug 2010 at 5:58 pm

    Afflictus’ journey started out as 12 with pure scientific intention, but once he made a big discovery he was corrupted. Now he seeks to do his own version of 11. I wanted to keep his “for the betterment of the universe” edge, but his method would definitely be considered villainous.

  18. B. Macon 18 Aug 2010 at 6:49 pm

    I’m interested to see how #12 (a search for knowledge) gives way to a villainous #11 (the desire to better humanity/society). I think it sounds promising.

  19. Lighting Manon 19 Aug 2010 at 11:15 am

    Great article, thanks. I hadn’t thought about it in quite these terms before.

    I think if I had to describe my main villain in my work as it stands right now, he’d be a combination of 11, 7 and 14, but more Willy Loman than Ozymandias in scope. He’s living his life the way he does in response to his fears about failing his family, letting them down and he’s committing these heinous acts to protect them, and better them, but he ultimately knows that he will fail them more than he already has, all because of an undeniable darkness that he can’t explain in the depths of his soul.

    The secondary villain, I think she’d be a straight-up 2, she had an opportunity to have something great, something she’d earned and longed for and the hero denied her it for self-absorbed reasons, so she’s dedicated to making him fall, revert to his old ways

    Meanwhile, the main protagonist would be a 7, 10 and 14. The Happy to the villain’s Willy, he’s driven by fear of his true nature, that inherited darkness and his dedication to put it to a good use, while seeking to redeem himself for his past crimes and indiscretions. His abilities were gained directly as a result of his father’s failures, and he knows that is a part of him, dwelling deep within and holding him back from being the man that he wants to be, and the world may need him to be.

    Thanks again, great read!

  20. Ragged Boyon 19 Aug 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Yo, Lighting Man

    Your protaganist’s motivation sounds pretty neat. I was planning a story about a character with inherited darkness. Although, our ideas are different beyond that. Anyways, cool concept.

  21. Loysquaredon 20 Aug 2010 at 2:33 am

    And what about a Mr. Goodie-two-shoes hero who plots against a rebellious tabloid-magnet counterpart? Not necessarily because of his popularity, but because of his undeserving status as a “hero”.

  22. B. Macon 29 Sep 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Loy, if you have a Boy Scout character plot against a bad boy tabloid-magnet superhero, who would be the antagonist and who would be the protagonist? Here’s a possibility that strikes me as interesting: what if they’re both protagonists? For example, I think it’d be a promising example of a dysfunctional partnership, a match made in hell.

    I think it’s refreshing that you have them fighting over something besides a love interest.

  23. HiddenTigeron 23 Feb 2011 at 9:35 am

    My heroes save lives because they work for a branch of the military. Good or bad idea, do you think?

  24. B. Macon 23 Feb 2011 at 5:02 pm

    I think it could work. For example, I really liked how Bitter Seeds worked superpowers and some sorcery into an otherwise pretty serious WWII story.

    One potential complication is that your characters (and audience?) are young adults, HiddenTiger. I haven’t worked with YA and don’t know what the market for YA/military is like. Tomorrow, When the War Began did very well, so that’s encouraging.

  25. The ReTARDISed Whovianon 13 Mar 2011 at 2:57 am

    There’s a really good villain who fits with 11.

    Hattori in Nabari no Ou wants to harness a power that the main character Miharu has. Hattori has been in a war zone, he’s seen the hate and the fear, and innocent people being killed. So he decides he needs to help.

    By erasing everyone’s memory.

    He figures that people can then begin anew, but he doesn’t really consider the people who will be killed so that he can get the power he needs. He doesn’t think about how that would ruin families and relationships, and confuse people. But Hattori doesn’t care – he wants world peace, dammit, and screw anyone who stands in the way of utopia!

    In this way, I sympathised with him, because after all he’s seen so much horror, so it’s understandable that he’d dream of peace. But the way he goes about it is not exactly moral.

    From the same manga/anime, Yoite fits with some of these: 7, 8 and 15.

    This is a guy who has been treated badly his entire life, and is afraid of his impending death (that’s not really a spoiler because it’s mentioned in the episode/chapter he’s introduced in), he’s desperate for some kind of acceptance and praise (hence why he’s helping Hattori) and he wants to achieve what he sees as his destiny – to be forgotten. Yoite is so fed up with his past, and his current situation, that he wants to be literally erased from reality, for every trace to be wiped out, as if he was never there. So he also wants Miharu’s help, because Miharu holds the power to do that.

    Needless to say, I wanted to hug Yoite really tight because his life sucks.

    I find the best way to make ME sympathise with a villain is to make them suffer, totally break them, make their life hell, and then have them acting out in order to get acceptance or in the hopes of being noticed a little. Then I’ll cry when the heroes win because that defeat will only make the villain MORE broken. XD

  26. From the Soulon 04 Aug 2011 at 2:04 pm

    So, if you happen to have a villain that when asked why “she’s doing this” replies, “Because I want to,” is that cliche? She’s kind of like the guy Alfred is talking about in this quote:

    Alfred Pennyworth: A long time ago, I was in Burma, my friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never found anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.
    Bruce Wayne: Then why steal them?
    Alfred Pennyworth: Because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.
    (From the IMDb website)

  27. B. Macon 04 Aug 2011 at 2:26 pm

    I think that a character that’s just psychotically committed to destruction for its own sake is probably not very interesting. (Even Godzilla and alien invaders usually have at least a vague survival motive).

    But I don’t think TDK’s Joker was actually such a character, despite Alfred’s assessment. If the Joker’s motivation was actually just to create as much destruction as possible, why give the ferry passengers the opportunity to save themselves rather than just blowing up both ferries? (Because he was trying to prove that ordinary people can become monsters under the right circumstances–I think that’s similar to his targeting of Harvey Dent). Why protect the secret identity of Batman even though he’s the main obstacle to blowing stuff up?

    So, if you happen to have a villain that when asked why “she’s doing this” replies, “Because I want to,” is that cliche?

    It’s not cliche, but I think it’d make for a pretty thin motivation (unless there’s something she’s not talking about*). Pretty much every motive ever boils down to “because I want to” or “because I need to,” so she appears to have an extremely generic motivation. WHY does she want to? I think that’s a more interesting question, but “because I want to” skips over it. I don’t think this would be a massive problem for a side antagonist, but I’d prefer to see more from a main villain. Even Godzilla and alien invaders usually have some sort of survival motive going on.

    *I can think of several reasons a villain might not want to talk about her motives. For example, if the heroes know her motivations, it’s easier to guess what she’ll do next and prepare accordingly. Alternately, if the villain’s hiding a secret identity and/or wants to keep her past hidden for whatever reason, revealing her motivation might make it easier to find out who she is.

  28. From the Soulon 04 Aug 2011 at 6:28 pm

    Yeah, she’s not one of the lame villains who tells her plan to the heroes (you know, so she can assure her pwn defeat….) And, she also does not want to give up her secret identity in the event the heroes escape (’cause that NEVER happens)

    Her answer definitely will NOT be “because I want to” which is a horribly stupid answer (of course you want to, why else would you come out and attack the good guys?) On the other hand, I do not for sure know WHY, but am thinking of that…

    On that note, any ideas?

  29. B. Macon 04 Aug 2011 at 7:31 pm

    She doesn’t sound like she has a tangible goal in mind. Maybe something more emotional. Maybe she’s really bored and/or frustrated with her life. Maybe she feels bored because she thinks she’s better than the mundane life she could be leading and/or because feels destined/entitled to something more out of life. The money probably wouldn’t hurt, either. Maybe she’s trying to prove something to herself and/or others.

    Possibly relevant: An increasing amount of U.S. prostitutes come from middle-class and upper-class backgrounds even though they probably don’t need the money. It’s possible that she might be acting out of similar motives (i.e. she may feel she’s taken more seriously as a villain, she may like the attention/respect, she may feel it’s exciting, she might have been recruited by someone exploiting an emotional gap, etc).

  30. From the Soulon 04 Aug 2011 at 8:08 pm

    I’m not sure if this sounds stupid or unrealistic but, maybe, have it she needs the money to save her own superpowers? I was thinking of having her powers been brought on by a serum being created by the government (however, this has happened before in other stories, the serum part I mean) and she needs money to keep on getting the treatment….Okay maybe scratch THAT idea because she could probably just take the serum by force (unless you possibly have a way to make it actual work, or seem probable)

    “Maybe she feels bored because she thinks she’s better than the mundane life she could be leading and/or because feels destined/entitled to something more out of life. The money probably wouldn’t hurt, either. Maybe she’s trying to prove something to herself and/or others.”

    -Okay, maybe she finds out she’s a person with superpowers after living a normal, if not boring and mundane, life and thinks that this is her chance to finally do something exciting after being told that she “isn’t what we’re looking for”
    -Wants to become a superhero, but a string of events leads people to think of her as a villain (crashes a hospital’s power grid, causing a few lives to be lost, an out burst blows up all cellphones in a 1000 foot radius, etc)
    -But, she (no name yet, Superhuman Intelligence, Technopathy, Cyberpathy) has to use her abilities under another person (classic millionaire who contributes the technology she needs, no powers, just influential) to get protection from the government after the string of events (again)
    -Soon feels that she is better than the villain and humans because of their lack of superpowers, and takes over, but still feels like she has to prove herself by doing bigger and badder things (inferiority complex, she and Aleksander would have a lot to talk about)

    (and if that option was totally cringe worthy, well I made it up on the fly…oops)


  31. B. Macon 05 Aug 2011 at 1:09 am

    “I’m not sure if this sounds stupid or unrealistic but, maybe, have it she needs the money to save her own superpowers? I was thinking of having her powers been brought on by a serum being created by the government (however, this has happened before in other stories, the serum part I mean) and she needs money to keep on getting the treatment….Okay maybe scratch THAT idea because she could probably just take the serum by force (unless you possibly have a way to make it actual work, or seem probable).” Hmm. It’s possible that the government originally created the serum, but she’s become addicted and she’s been cut off from government supplies. (They might be aware that certain people respond to the serum in unhealthy and/or criminal ways–perhaps it exacerbates psychological conditions?)

    –A criminal scientist might be able to replicate the serum (or come pretty close), but coming up with the ingredients might be really difficult and/or expensive. She can probably buy most of the ingredients (assuming she can steal enough money), but some of the ingredients might be tightly-protected (like weaponized uranium). Also, she’d probably have to pay the scientist for his time (either in case or in favors).

    –A government serum raises questions about why she was selected, though. Is the government just giving out superpowers at random? What did it see in her? What was the goal? (Was she being trained to be a superhero? Why didn’t that work out? Something tied to her personality and/or key traits, I hope? For example, she’s got something of an inferiority complex, which suggests that she’s not as confident/assertive as most superheroes. The people running the superhero program might have weeded her out because she wasn’t commanding enough to inspire confidence during a disaster and/or because her work was sloppy. (If she’s causing power-grids to fail, maybe she’s not cut out for this superhero thing).

    –I could definitely see Aleksander trying to manipulate her and her inferiority complex leading to an eventual confrontation with the other villains. If she’s been embittered by a lifetime of criticism, minor things could set her off.

  32. From the Soulon 05 Aug 2011 at 11:31 am

    -She already had the intelligence, but the serum escalated it to sueprhuman levels. Due to her want for power (more like recognition), she needed the serum and thus will do anything to have more (doesn’t want to go back to being a nobody).

    -And for why the government wanted heroes, they felt like because North Korea (or is it South?) was getting ahead in nuclear weapons and they needed something to get back in the running (darn America and our competitiveness). The whole superhero thing for her didn’t work out because of the power-grid fail thing, is what I’m going with. I’m also going to go with the inferiority complex (once again.)

    -Just wondering how a man with an inferiority complex can manipulate another person (better yet, a female) with an inferiority complex….

    ~Has this kind of villain been done before? Maybe not 100% like this one, but at least 50% the same?

  33. B. Macon 05 Aug 2011 at 11:51 am

    –”And for why the government wanted heroes, they felt like because North Korea (or is it South?) was getting ahead in nuclear weapons and they needed something to get back in the running…” Hmm… Do you feel comfortable working with that plot element? (If you’re not comfortable with the subject-material, it might be easier to try something else). One slight tweak would be that the government is scared that criminal groups are making headway into generating superpowers. (I suspect it’d be easier to incorporate criminal groups rather than North Korea into this villain’s plot? Also, I have some plausibility concerns about NK coming close to the US in nuclear weapons*).

    –”Just wondering how a man with an inferiority complex can manipulate another person (better yet, a female) with an inferiority complex.” Playing on her sense of weakness/low confidence would probably work. “They are trying to kill you. You won’t make it on your own, but I can help you. First, I need you to…”

    –As the relationship progresses, she might be initially reluctant to say no to him because she doesn’t want to be a burden and/or fears that he will throw her to the wolves. Over time, as she becomes more experienced and perhaps confident, she will probably be harder to control.

    –For a female/male angle, maybe he presents himself as a chivalrous soul concerned about the well-being of a innocent lady. I don’t know there.

    –I feel like villains with low confidence are pretty fresh. I haven’t seen tons of failed-heroes-turned-villains, either. (A few, sure).

    *PS: On a geeky political science note*, I have some plausibility concerns about NK as a grave threat. North Korea has maybe 2 nuclear warheads and there is no evidence yet that NK has developed a nuclear warhead small enough to fit on a ballistic missile. The U.S. has ~5000 warheads and much better delivery systems (ICBMs, vastly superior submarines, stealth bombers, etc). If you’re looking for a potentially hostile state, I think China would work more smoothly than NK. China is more technologically and economically advanced than NK.

    *I passed the Foreign Service Exam, which is almost as geeky as writing Star Trek poems in Klingon.

  34. From The Soulon 07 Aug 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Yeah, NK was the first thing to pop into my head. I do like the idea of criminal groups attempting to create superpowers. So for Aleksander and the villain to connect it’s kind of a, “I actually know what you’re going through, I’ve been through it, and I’m here to help you,” thing. OK, yeah that totally works.

    I feel like maybe people think that villains with low confidence are weak or not as cool to read about, so maybe that is why others prefer to skip over that genre. And with the whole failed-heroes-turned-villains thing, what else will you do with superpowers? Write an autobiography and get put in jail for being a metahuman? Haha, how about not…..

    And your “geeky political science note” was pretty informative, and is not even close to writing Star Trek poems in Klingon in coolness

  35. B. Macon 07 Aug 2011 at 5:43 pm

    “So for Aleksander and the villain to connect it’s kind of a, “I actually know what you’re going through, I’ve been through it, and I’m here to help you,” thing. OK, yeah that totally works.” Yeah, I think that’d be very believable. Somebody in a desperate situation will probably be open to the first person offering help, right?

    “I feel like maybe people think that villains with low confidence are weak or not as cool to read about.” My three main criteria for villains are competence, style and ambition. As long as the low-confidence doesn’t compromise any of those, I don’t think it would be a problem. (For example, maybe a villain doubts that he could take the heroes in a straight-up fight, so he is extremely careful about hiding his tracks–that’s competent). I would consider Ozymandias low-confidence in some regards*, and he frequently ranks on lists of the best villains in comic books.

    *He isn’t sure that he actually has the ability to pluck a bullet from the air and he’s cautious about engaging the heroes in open battle. He’s not very confident in his combat skills. On the other hand, he is TOTALLY, megalomanically confident in his mental skills. He is so sure of his reasoning that he destroys a city to avert nuclear war.

    “And with the whole failed-heroes-turned-villains thing, what else will you do with superpowers? Write an autobiography and get put in jail for being a metahuman? Haha, how about not…” If the only options are “be a hero or go to jail,” then that makes sense. But why would lawmakers force them into that choice? If being a metahuman isn’t a crime, then there are some great alternatives.

    For example, if I were the head of a power company, I’d definitely be willing to pay an electricity-themed civilian a million+ dollars per year if he/she can power as many homes and businesses as a power plant without the pollution. Building a nuclear power plant usually costs billions of dollars, sometimes north of $10 billion, plus operational costs. If I could avoid those costs by offering him a $10 million contract for 10 years, that’d be a STEAL.

    If a water-controller can control water molecules, a public utility in California or Japan might be willing to pay him/her gobs of money to turn saltwater from the Pacific Ocean into drinkable freshwater. Desalination operations are pretty complicated for people that can’t control water molecules.

    Even some pretty useless powers might be valuable to somebody with money.
    –If you can’t have anything stolen while it’s in your possession (like the protagonist of Playing for Keeps), I’d imagine that somebody would be willing to pay you to serve as a personal safety-deposit box. Hell, speaking of nuclear missiles, maybe the U.S. would pay you to hold the football. :)
    –The ability to shrink things could be worth a LOT to a shipping company.
    –The ability to control garbage (which I’ve heard used as the epitome of uselessness once) could be worth a lot to a waste-disposal company. If someone has the ability to replace 20 waste management employees averaging $50,000 / year, he’d be a bargain at $500,000 / year.
    –A miracle healer probably wouldn’t be extremely useful on a superhero team, but could surely make much more than the average doctor.

  36. From The Soulon 14 Aug 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Yeah, I don’t necessarily get why humans always seem to want to get rid of mutants, just think how much money they could save–and even make–by using them. It kind of makes me laugh to think that maybe the Mutant Registration is to help humans find mutants with advantageous abilities so they could make money. Though most know that’s not it….

  37. Chihuahua0on 14 Aug 2011 at 10:08 pm

    I think it’s an evolutionary instinct. People tend to shun people that are different from them. Would you be scared, or at least a bit paranoid, when people start spontaneously developing powers?

  38. B. Macon 15 Aug 2011 at 12:10 am

    “People tend to shun people that are different from them. Would you be scared, or at least a bit paranoid, when people start spontaneously developing powers?”

    –I think there’d be probably be more fear if there have been high-profile instances of superpowered people going crazy and/or trying to take over the world.

    –I think there’d be more cause for panic if it appeared that there were a lot of people that had powers that could overwhelm the police.

    –How have superpowered people generally been using their powers? If–as in most superhero stories–the vast majority of people with superpowers end up becoming violent criminals and/or vigilantes, I think there’d be cause for alarm. In some circumstances, people might look down on groups with a reputation for violence even if they are more likely to become police officers and/or soldiers. (For example, I think some Frenchmen look down on Corsicans and some Americans look down on Southerners because of a reputation of violence*). In contrast, if most of the people that have developed superpowers are doing utterly uncontroversial things, like becoming super-healers, I don’t think there’s much cause for alarm… unless you’re a doctor/nurse/pharmacist that has been put out of business. (Then you’d have an economic incentive to have the government restrict the number of superpowered healers with regulatory regimes, and it might).

    *Although it’s actually Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic cities that tend to have the worst crime rates. Of the 10 American cities with the highest murder rates, only New Orleans is Southern. (Whereas Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City and Cleveland are Midwestern and Baltimore, DC and maybe Newark are mid-Atlantic). In terms of all violent crimes, only 3-4 Southern cities (Memphis, Nashville, Atlanta and possibly Miami) make the top 25.

    –I think people tend to be more receptive to individuals than groups. Superpowered people might develop a reputation for clannishness if they mostly hang around with other superpowered people. (For example, how often do they marry themselves rather than regular people?) Relatedly, I think people are more afraid of well-organized groups than loosely-organized ones. (One powerful person is not as much of a threat, but it’s easier to fear that “they’re taking over” if they seem pretty cohesive). In the heat of the moment, the public might even interpret conciliatory remarks by Charles Xavier (“hey, let’s not panic”) after an attack by Magneto’s forces as a sign that Xavier’s mutants are somehow sympathetic to Magneto’s cause.

    “It kind of makes me laugh to think that maybe the Mutant Registration is to help humans find mutants with advantageous abilities so they could make money. Though most know that’s not it….”
    MUTANT RESPONSE: “I’m fully capable of putting an ad in the Yellow Pages, thanks.”

  39. EducatedAmateuron 04 Oct 2011 at 9:33 pm

    I developed a villain whose name was Dr. Venn and his motivations were a very odd combination. He grew up in the baby boomer generation and loved superhero comics so much that he decided that he was gonna be a superhero when he grew up. Naturally, this led to much derision and alienation from his fellow classmates, who constantly remind him that heroes and villains are only make-believe. But he’s a genius, and is determined to make his dream a reality. It takes many years, and he is older by the time he develops nanobots that can successfully give superpowers, but three out of every five test subjects die. By this time, he is in charge of a major technology company and decides to create a field test. He releases the nanobots, which quickly dissipate, killing hundreds and empowering dozens (thus creating the Hero, whose name I have yet to determine). He eventually tries to release the nanobots all over the world but is eventually convinced by the hero that this is the wrong course of action. He dies stopping most of the nanobots, but a few escape, causing a new age of superheroes.

    “He wanted to be the Hero, but became the villain in the process.”

  40. B. McKenzieon 05 Oct 2011 at 9:36 am

    “He grew up in the baby boomer generation and loved superhero comics so much that he decided that he was gonna be a superhero when he grew up.” I feel like tying this character’s dream to comic books cheapens him a bit? Could you come up with an alternate reason he might want to risk people’s lives to give them superpowers?

  41. LeFlamelon 03 Apr 2012 at 11:53 pm

    I have a protagonist motivated by revenge, an antagonist trying to better society, and a Master Mind manipulating them both because of romance. Win? :D

  42. Carl Shinyamaon 03 Apr 2012 at 11:57 pm

    @ LeFlamel:


  43. B. McKenzieon 04 Apr 2012 at 1:52 am

    LeFlamel, I am digging it.

  44. YoungAuthoron 04 Apr 2012 at 4:32 am

    @LeFlamel- sounds good, post up some writing

  45. Revengelon 04 Apr 2012 at 7:50 am

    @ LeFlamel – what they said :)

  46. MoguMoguon 04 Apr 2012 at 11:17 am

    @LeFlamel: Where is this I want some plz

  47. M. Happenstanceon 04 Apr 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Okay, the site’s over, everyone go home. LeFlamel just won everything.

  48. LeFlamelon 04 Apr 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Hahaha wow thanks :) I’m not really sure where to post on this site but I have a bit of my work up on my site. My mainstay (where the first post applies) is Avenger Chronicles, but I’m recently coming out of a writer’s block full to the brim with new ideas so don’t expect all of that to stay. I would much appreciate any input on this or that site.

  49. MoguMoguon 04 Apr 2012 at 11:03 pm

    @LeFlamel: You can get a review forum if you want. Either way, I want to read this very much.

  50. B. McKenzieon 04 Apr 2012 at 11:31 pm

    LeFlamel, I’ve set it up for you here. You can post chapters in the comments and/or tell me what you’d like to have above the comments.

  51. ApolloDogon 04 Feb 2013 at 6:39 pm

    In my story, the antagonists are a pair of twins that discover that the protagonist is key to their long thought out plan of world domination. With that in mind, they attempt to coerce him and keep him close, making him believe that they are really his friend so that he can stay close and do essentially what they tell him.

    However, one of the twins end up forming a deeper relationship with the protagonist, and though he is still loyal to his brother, he has an inner turmoil over either following through with the plan or sacrificing the protagonist.

    So there is the motivation that the antagonists want to control the protagonist, but there is also a split between the antagonists. One twin does what he can to discretely protect the protagonist, but still has issues over what he will do when their plans will come to fruition and the sacrifice is required.

    The other twin wants to keep his brother close because of their familial bonds, but also wants to follow through with the plan by sacrificing the protagonist. His motivation is that he wants to escape the destiny set out for people like him and his brother (they are scorned by their community, and universally hunted).

    So essentially there is this triumvirate of conflict filled with multiple motivations. In this, I hope to flesh out realistic villains. Ones that think, feel and want like regular people do.

  52. Yuuki12on 26 Jun 2013 at 10:29 am

    I’m struggling with finding a motivation for my main character, Derek. This is crucial, as when I started writing this story( a while back), I thought I had a good enough motivation, but it seemed rather flat. This is coming from someone whose read a lot more than back then, and such has a greater understanding of character motivation and development, compared to when I first started.

    Alas, I digress. Perhaps, it will be helpful, if I tell his backstory.

    Derek Masters was born in New York City on March,25th, 1995. Derek’s life overall was a comfortable one. His mother, Lily back then, was a law student at Columbia, while his father, Eric, worked as a broker for Wall Street.

    His relationship with his parents was strong. This was especially with his father, whom he would spend plenty of time with(whenever he was free). Such examples include going to the countryside and observing stars and constellations. It’s a hobby that Derek partially takes to, even today. That said, such good times wouldn’t last. His father began to spend less and less time with him. At time, Eric had made a series of bad financial decisions, and such was struggling to rebuke from them.

    Even with his mother’s comfort, Derek felt very much disappointed. This all culminated one day, when Derek came home from school. Having come home early, his folks weren’t home, stumbling into their room. Eventually, he heard them come home, and such hide in their closet. Drunk, Eric staggered in, with Lily in tow. They got into an argument about Eric’s condition, and his atitude. This escalated to where Eric hit Lily and began to assault him. The scene, coupled with him being inside a closet, caused a young Derek to pass out. The results would leave him afraid of dark, particularly, of dark, confined spaces.

    Eventually, Derek’s mother, Lily, left his father, and he and his sister, Amanda(who was an infant) left for Seattle. Not being able to see his father, weighed at Derek. However, his mother stepped in, telling him how life can be mean, but one just needs to appreciate the good stuff one has, and stride onward. Derek took to heart his mother’s words, and moved onward.

    Alas, I apologize for how tedious this backstory is. Actually, it dawned on me that I see Derek being quite the hedonist. He’s one who strives to find pleasure in life in the things he does, because that gives him the most happiness. These include him being on the soccer team, enjoying astronomy(given his backstory with the stars), and star gazing.One of the ultimate pleasures is to meet his father once again. He’s the type to while acknowledge the bad things in the world, he actively tires to avoid them.

    This would be an interesting theme to explore, because given his powers of Sound manipulation(specifically his enhanced hearing), the problems of the world are much clearer. And while wanting to shy away at first, given he was forced to become a superhero, he comes to realize that the ultimate satisfaction of helping others.

    This was inspired by me researching different types of hedonism, specifically the differences between egoistic hedonism and altruistic hedonism.

    So how’s that? I understand that might be a bit vague, and such I could use some help further fleshing it out.

  53. B. McKenzieon 26 Jun 2013 at 10:05 pm

    “I apologize for how tedious this backstory is.” Hmm. Financial calamity -> family dysfunction -> he’s attacked by his dad… While perhaps mawkish, it really should not come across as tedious. One potential challenge would be how much space this backstory gets… I’m getting a vague vibe that the backstory is probably useful for understanding key traits about Derek, but probably will not be 100% critical to the main conflict of the book*.

    *Unless the father or the mother or Amanda ends up being the main villain, I suppose.

    “I see Derek being quite the hedonist. He’s one who strives to find pleasure in life… including him being on the soccer team, enjoying astronomy, and star gazing.” Hmm… When I think of hedonism, I think of people that crave physical pleasure, particularly sensory pleasure & stimulation (e.g. fine food, wine/alcohol, sex, drugs, fast cars, wild parties, perhaps thrillseeking in general, etc).

  54. RandomGuyon 06 Jul 2013 at 10:02 pm

    I was wondering if this is a good motivation for my character to become a hero. Ok my character’s name is Kane Thompson and he is sixteen years old. At the age of seven he discovers his mutant ability to generate,shape, and control water and ice. During this time his parents are having some marital issues and the discovery of their son being different does not help the matter.Especially considering that they are Christian and extremely religious, Kane’s father decided he has had enough and leaves Kane and his mother. Saying how Kane is a freak of nature and devilish spawn etc. This has a profound affect on Kane making him resent his powers and his mother for letting his father leave. However has he grows up into the present day he hones his powers and becomes a hero in the hopes of proving his father and people like him wrong and maybe even reuniting himself with his father.

  55. RandomGuyon 06 Jul 2013 at 10:35 pm

    added note: I’m thinking that Kane’s father is the central villian because since he realized his son’s potential the moment he manifested his powers he purposely left Kane to plant seeds of anger and distrust towards humans to shape him into an instrument of mass destruction. The reason for this plan? Because Kane’s father was tired of his menial life and job and wanted to strive for the top. So he sees Kane as a means to an end.

  56. Docrannon 10 Jul 2013 at 5:46 pm

    Let me think… my heroine is motivated by fear and desperation, mostly, as she is basically threatened by the superhero league into finding the source of the mind-control or else her family is essentially forfeit. Before that plot thread is introduced, her motivation is greed and money, as her family have barely enough money to scrape by.
    By contrast, my main villain is motivated by a desire to better society. He is a human in a society where humans are second-class to superheroes and so he schemes to ruin the image and reputation of superheroes and convince the masses of humans to rise up against the ‘superheroes’, by convincing them that they are evil. Unfortunately, he does this by mind-controlling the superhumans into committing mass-murders and causing destruction wherever they go.

  57. Elecon 12 Jul 2013 at 12:46 am

    The main motivation for my villain is to bring to justice the person who cause the great fire of London in 1666. This turns out to be my main character, who is (very) indirectly related to the person who burnt down the city. When the villain explains this, it sort of is a tiny bit of a monologue, but it’s short and extraordinarily important to my story. I might put it up on my review forum, actually.

  58. Thalamuson 02 Sep 2013 at 11:54 am

    I was thinking, for the character I have created for my story, that as the character is essentially a massive fantasy novel and Dungeons-and-Dragons nerd who happens to also be a sorcerer, his motivation for helping people could be that he wants to have a real life adventure such as the ones he has been reading about his whole life. I thought this could be an interesting motivation because it makes him relatable (he is fulfilling the ultimate desire of the person who reads fantasy for escapism) as well as more complex than your average protagonist (while he does care about others, he is mostly doing it for the thrill of being a real sorcerer on a real quest to “save the day”, and this could present problems with his will to continue if the adventure gets too dangerous or more painful, and the glamour wears off).
    If anyone has an opinion or any ideas on the thought, please respond.

  59. Proxie#0on 30 Nov 2013 at 7:18 pm

    Alright. First, I’d like to start by saying that I am taking a break from my two other pieces to begin work on something I’ve been thinking about and developing for
    almost as long as my first planned series. No one wants to plan a universe/20+ book series or another 3 book series without giving it a rest and coming back to it later with fresh[er] eyes, so I picked up this old sweater.

    Now, to the question at hand. In this work, which is, I hope, to be a video game, we have our Antagonist, Alexander Kenway as the brother of the Protagonist, Damien Kenway. When they were children, their father did not spend much time with them, as he was going to college for biochemical engineering (medical), as he had a dream of helping as many people as he could. Damien was good at both of those things as he grew up, but saw how the schooling and work could alienate someone from their family, and decided against it. Alexander, however, saw the good, nay greatness inhis fathers dream. He promised his father he would carry on with it, swore he would do whatever he could.

    Fast forward about ten years or so, and Damien is in the US Military, in the desert, and Alex is working, as the project lead, with a pharmaceutical company to create a sort of Panacea (cure all) to many diseases using stem cell/bacteria splicing research. The company in charge of this has their own security details hired from an in world “security firm” G5LInc.

    During the research, the Panacea formula is tested on several animals, and works fairly well, until they accidentally use the formula designed for another animal on a family of dogs, excluding one for a control. The dogs/subjects develop their own grotesque forms and gain very formidable abilities, and during testing of their limitations, escape. The parent company immediately puts Alex in the frying pan, and puts him in charge of locating the escaped subjects, and also have a lease on his life.

    So essentially, Alex must capture/kill the creatures as well as the people they infect (Panacea, as it is a living organism, is contagious, and this breed causes necrosis in humans) before his time is up and before the public finds out, as he would be tried for several criminal charges were these things to go public.

    Alex is also unaware of some side “human testing” that has gone on under his nose at a military facility in the desert. Of which, of course, his brother was a part. After the subjects escaped and the ramifications of the experimentation were extrapolated, the parent company (Ficleur Pharmaceuticals) decided to terminate the entire test group. It was disguised as a training accident. Damien was spared, however, as his general unreliability got him cut from the program weeks earlier.

  60. Proxie#0on 30 Nov 2013 at 7:42 pm

    Also, does this seem like it could be a good set up for the villian allowing the hero to live. If, say, Alex were to allow Damien some time to try his hand at making something to reverse the effects of Panacea (it wouldn’t work, of course. actions need consequences). Also, i seem to have failed to mention the sub-antagonists.

    Main Antagonist – Alexander Kenway

    Secondary Antagonist – Martin Douglas (Goes by Douglas or “Doug”)

    Leader of the squad of mercenaries meant to find the escaped subjects, who have fled to the same area that Damien is at, as well as contain the people affected by the Necrophage [name in progress, probably already taken]

    Tertiary Antagonist [Biggest Threat] – Escaped Panacea Subjects (AKA Chupacabras)

    These creatures have a higher intelligence, a certain kind of bioelectric field that CAN influence electronic devices, necrotic/acidic touch, can turn invisible/camouflage, and are completely silent. They also have three extremely long teeth at the front, and all teeth are razor sharp, as are their claws. Their legs are shaped to allow for incredible speeds as well as jumping prowess and distance.

  61. Proxie#0on 20 Dec 2013 at 7:41 am

    I hate bumping posts, especially my own. But I just want to know if the conflict and motives here seem fleshed out, human enough, and if my antagonists seem interesting/threatening enough to justify their position across the table from Damien.

  62. Davidon 24 Mar 2014 at 1:24 am

    Thanks for this, I’ve been telling people that its so hard to balance a characters motivations. The two most important motivations in my characters is a heavy sense of responsibility for his failings. The other is the self awareness of being able to fight through whatever life has thrown at the individual. This actually gives me a lot of scope to push a character extremely hard to see how far they would descend before they return from that darkness.

  63. Blinque589on 24 Mar 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Hello! Ok I have a PROBLEM! I have a main character who is the protagonist in my story and he’s a teleporter. I decided to call him Blink but then I was informed by a friend of mine that Marvel already had a teleporter under with the same name. So then I thought well okay let me do and adaptation on the word blink (blinque) but then realized that the combination of letters was to hard on the eyes and very strange looking causing me to opt out on the idea completely. Please help me name this character. And the thing about it is that in my story it’s the city’s reporters who give him a name based on his power of teleportation and he just decided to stick with the name. I realize this is a bit of topic but the page for naming superheroes has it comment disabled. Please help.

  64. Blinque589on 24 Mar 2014 at 4:27 pm

    I like the idea of having the character feeling so responsible for failure and the self awareness too. I have a character that has similar motivations and pushes himself to physical and mental extremes to do what he believes is right. This does rub the people closest to him the wrong way occasionally and leads to moral and even physical conflict between him and his friends/allies.

  65. Kevin Holsingeron 25 Mar 2014 at 7:01 am

    Good morning, Blinque589.

    Well, if you’re set on “Blink”, you could spell it, “Blincke”, since that wouldn’t be mistaken for “Blin-kway” the way “Blinque” might.

    Otherwise, it could depend on what the teleportation looks/sounds like. If it’s quick, some variation of “startle” could work. If violent, some variation of “explode” could work.

    Enjoy your day.

  66. B. McKenzieon 25 Mar 2014 at 12:06 pm

    “I realize this is a bit of topic but the page for naming superheroes has its comments disabled.” Yeah, I disabled comments on that article because it felt like most of the (750!) comments were requests along the lines of “What name should I give a character with this superpower?” I generally wouldn’t recommend naming based on superpowers. For example, I believe Nightcrawler is a more memorable name than something power-based like Warp or Shift would be because Nightcrawler goes further to establishing the character’s personality and what makes him unique compared to other characters who have similar powers. I feel that power-based names tend to be more generic. (Also, the more generic a name is, the more likely Marvel and/or DC have used it already on a forgettable side-character — e.g. Warp and Blink).

    If you like Blink, I’d recommend using that. Assuming your manuscript/script is otherwise publishable, a publisher will not reject your submission over Blink (although your eventual publisher may ask you to change the name later). In the grand scheme of things, changing a character name is a pretty small amount of labor. (In contrast, if the publisher felt that major changes had to be made to the plot or characterization, that would take a hell of a lot more time).

  67. [...] Darryl Rants On The Motivations Of Villain In DC Vs. Marvel [...]

  68. Jlbenj01on 26 Sep 2014 at 8:16 am

    I just stumbled upon this site. Great article. I found it very useful. My project isn’t exactly a superhero story but it will have a villain and a hero trying to stop him. I kept getting locked into the cliche motivations for my villain and after reading this, it opened me up to some new ideas. I knew what I had in mind where cliche but I couldn’t move past it. In #13 you mention “altruism, fear and desperation” and that really resonated with me. Even if world domination was the goal, you still have to explain why? And those three words break it down nicely. Desperation fit nicely with what I had already lined out. Then other ideas sprouted from that one puzzle piece being added. Again, thanks for posting this. I know, its been out for years but it still was helpful.

  69. B. McKenzieon 26 Sep 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Altruism, fear, and desperation also sum up virtually every college application essay.

    “I know, its been out for years but it still was helpful.” Thanks!

  70. Freyaon 12 Oct 2014 at 5:54 am

    Another general motivation is the whole ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’.

    There’s the ‘accidental power gain thing,’ where villains who stumble upon some super magic power and accidentally absorb it become completely corrupted by it,

    or there’s the purposeful ‘power-gain-I-had-no-idea-would-turn-me-evil’ thing, where villains (pre-villainy) seek out power out of the interests above or even just pure curiosity. They end up with more than they bargain for, deep in soul-corruption.

    Would that be a sub-motive or an overall motive? Same with thrill-of-the-chase villains who only steal and do whatever they do because they’re addicted to the thrill; I’m not sure wether that’s overall or sub.

  71. Anonymouson 07 Jan 2015 at 1:18 am

    My hero is basically fighting the villain to keep himself alive (and Elspeth and Bram and Malkin) and avenge his mother…

  72. Richon 09 Jan 2015 at 7:57 pm

    I’m trying (Like Star Trek) to make the engineer the hero again. I think in an outsourced world, where we try to displace unions, this type of story line went to the way side.

  73. B. McKenzieon 11 Jan 2015 at 4:31 pm

    “I’m trying (Like Star Trek) to make the engineer the hero again. I think in an outsourced world, where we try to displace unions, this type of story line went to the way side.” This doesn’t strike me as a terribly promising reason to choose a particular hero. I’d recommend choosing the character’s profession based on what works for the story and/or what you can make interesting for other people rather than out-of-story concerns.

    And even in Star Trek, the engineers are fairly minor characters.

  74. […] Motivations for Villains […]

  75. Grinny faceon 27 Jan 2015 at 7:53 am

    Hey B.Mac, I’ve been reading on this site for a while and this post is a first for me. Apologies if I happen to ramble. I’ve got a question, do you have any ideas on how to give a fresh spin to the whole “artificial intelligence meant to help humanity but turns evil” trope? I mean, I still want the A.I. in my story to turn evil, but in a different way and for different reasons other than it just decides humanity is an imperfect blight on the planet or something.

    Any ideas?

  76. B. McKenzieon 27 Jan 2015 at 5:09 pm

    “do you have any ideas on how to give a fresh spin to the whole ‘artificial intelligence meant to help humanity but turns evil’ trope?” Perhaps it’s been programmed to have some human traits (e.g. it badly wants to survive and has some goal besides just existing). Another possibility is that it doesn’t have particularly malicious intent towards humans, but the goal(s) it’s working towards would create sufficiently serious problems for humans that there will be opposition. For example, an AI that’s been programmed to make humans’ lives easier may take that to an extreme along the lines of “whatever robots/AI can do more easily than humans can should only be left to robots/AI” maybe combined with economic shenanigans leaving hundreds of millions of people out of work.

  77. Grinny faceon 28 Jan 2015 at 1:26 am

    Thanks for the idea.

    I also have one more question if it’s alright, how can I realisticly show a normal person with normal morals turn into someone homicidal and crazy without just having “one bad thing happened to the person and they just snapped”? Kind of like in breaking bad but the difference being that in breaking bad they had a normal guy turn into lex Luthor( cold, calculating, rationalises away his crimes) while in my story I plan to make one of the characters turn from normal person into being joker-ish( chaotic, insane, kills for the fun of it). How can i show that, but without just giving the handwave explaination “he/she just lost it”? Any advice or tip would help.

    And again, sorry if this comment is too long or sounds like rambling, i’m not good at being concise.

  78. B. McKenzieon 28 Jan 2015 at 8:09 pm

    “How can I realisticly show a normal person with normal morals turn into someone homicidal and crazy without just having “one bad thing happened to the person and they just snapped?”

    Maybe they have some underlying character flaw (e.g. flashes of anger and/or volatility) to give you more room to show the character gradually developing into a psychopath. Intense trauma and/or a total loss of hope could also help explain it (e.g. Walter White’s impending death to cancer caused him to do unbelievably risky things that he probably wouldn’t have done if he had a better shot at long-term survival).

    I’d also recommend keeping the character as uncampy as possible to make it easier to take the character seriously (e.g. avoiding hysterical laughter*). I’d recommend checking out Heroes’ Sylar (season 1) here. For an example of a trainwreck, I’d recommend checking out any of the 1960s Batman episodes with Cesar Romero as the Joker.

    *Or at least keeping it to a minimum.

  79. Grinny faceon 29 Jan 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Thanks for the advice B.Mac, it’s helped a lot.

  80. […] seen in B. McKenzie’s post, “15 Interesting Motivations for Villains and Heroes“, its interesting to see how the potential driving forces in a hero’s quest to save […]

  81. Rin Satsuon 19 Mar 2015 at 7:44 am

    Hopefully this’ll be a good place to ask.
    I’m writing a story about a scientist who receives the power to manipulate the laws of physics when one of her experiments goes disastrously wrong, putting her lab partner in a coma after he tried to save her when he was already busy helping everyone else there.

    The problem is, I’m having a hard time coming up with a believable, human reason why she’d use those powers to become a superhero.

    In the current draft, she comes across a mugging in an alley and remembers her partner’s “sacrifice” (for lack of a better term since he didn’t exactly die). She realizes it’d be rather shitty to ignore it when she can do something, steps in to try breaking it up, and gets beaten up badly. On random instinct, she defends herself with her new powers, and in the panic of the situation, tries to use them consciously, succeeding but barely making it out alive.

    The idea I’ve got so far is that when the guy she saved thanks her, she realizes that as a scientist (who loves knowledge & learning), she can’t waste this opportunity to start experimenting with her powers in a way that could benefit humanity. I.E going around stopping crimes and studying how her powers work at the same time (this could play into some comedy such as beating up a thug and then having him answer a questionnaire when he clearly needs an ambulance).

    I’m not sure if this would be a viable motivation; it just doesn’t feel “human” enough. Like, I can’t exactly see a real person coming to that conclusion. In my opinion, if it took me that long to think up, then someone in her position wouldn’t think of it on the fly.

    I’m thinking maybe she’s got a bit of a complex where she’s nervous about trying new things, but once she gets even the smallest bit of experience, she begins to overestimate her abilities. This would explain how she gets into that mindset of “I’m invincible, now to run some tests and have fun learning while doing the right thing”.
    It would also throw in a contradiction in her personality, such as how a person can think they know everything while claiming to care so much about knowledge. I find that flawed personalities like that create more believable characters.

    What do you think? Can I make her motivation more believable?

  82. Comicfighteron 18 Apr 2015 at 10:30 pm

    Rin Satsu! Great idea. Sounds good so far. I’d say that maybe her ultimate goal is waking her assistant up. (And the fighting crime could be a way to test her abilities) oh! If you want a really good sounding plot, once the assistant regains consciousness. Have her say that she saw someone sabotaging their work or causing the experiment failure. That gives her deeper motivation to stop crime and find out: who, what, and why. Hope this helps :)

  83. Motivations | Follow Me And Die!on 12 May 2015 at 9:03 pm

    […] 15 Interesting Motivations for Villains and Heroes […]

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