Cheering the Monsters Panel

The Cheering the Monsters: Why We Sometimes Want the Antagonist to Win panel will be held on Sunday, August 19th at 11 AM EDT (Just before the winner’s announcement for this year’s Best of the Independent eBook Awards!).
Moderator: Samantha Payne

Rick Gualtieri

Em Leonard

AF Stewart

Jessica Marie Baumgartner

We’re also giving away a free puzzle featuring the art for Em Leonard’s upcoming novel, The Mictlan Murders. Just visit the author’s Facebook page or our Facebook page to enter! Winner will need to provide a valid mailing address and phone number for shipping.

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94 Replies to “Cheering the Monsters Panel”

  1. I want to give a big thank you to our wonderful panel and all our attendees for a great discussion! It’s been a real pleasure.

  2. I’m reminded of the old saying that a man s judged by the quality of his enemies.Do you think part of the need to “cheer” for the villain is that a stronger villain makes for a better hero?

    • There is something to be said about that. There’s an old Marvel comic in which the Thing from the Fantastic Four fights some bad guy – knocking him out with one finger flick – but explains that the guys writing the comic had to make the bad guy a threat who almost wins because otherwise the Thing would just look like an overpowered bully otherwise.

    • Sometimes. Batman for instance, is more interesting when he goes up against the Joker than most other villains because the Joker is so strong. It raises the stakes. But a badly written hero can get overwhelmed by a strong villain.

  3. Based on this very important subject can we all now agree that THANOS WAS RIGHT!?

  4. Well, I’m sold. You’d all certainly be antagonists I’d root for! At this time, I’d like to open up questions and comments from our attendees!

  5. These responses have been great and certainly insightful, but before I turn things over to our attendees, I have to know…If you were a villain, what might that look like? What would be your motivation and how would you get the audience to root for you as you attempt to crush your rival protagonist?

    • I’d have the body of Godzilla with the head of a Pug and terrorize civilizations by snorting and licking them to their untimely doom….

    • I think in this day and age I’d make sure I had a healthy social media campaign going to continually paint myself as the hero and my enemies as the bad guys.

      Oh, but of course, any of my minions who posted things that didn’t get plenty of likes and shares would be instantly vaporized. Gotta keep them motivated. 😀

    • Oh man, I would go full on nature nanny and unplug anything humans create that destroys the natural balance of the planet. I would probably end up with crazy dreadlocks that stick out at all angles and have birds I rescued from pet stores sitting on my shoulders at all times. And of course the media would call me a “murderer,” because lot of people would die. haha BUT I’m only trying to make sure that we stop killing everything to further our destructive interests.

    • Hmmm, I’d definitely be dressed in classic black, all broody and menacing magic, trying to overthrow some medieval fantasy government. Maybe I’d have some nicer ulterior motive, like trying to stop magic from being regulated or something, or maybe I’d just like kittens. Who can hate a person that loves kittens?

  6. I know a few of you have talked a little bit about specific antagonists, and I’m interested to know, are there particular antagonists you can recall leaving an impression on you whether you were rooting for them or just appreciative of their opposition to the protagonist. Who were they and what about them resonated with you?

    • I think I already mentioned Doctor Doom. What I’ve always enjoyed about him is the supreme confidence he has and the chops to back it up. (and yes, I know I said earlier I hated smarmy arrogance, but Doom’s arrogance is a step above :).

      Other awesome bad guys: The Emperor, Hans Gruber, Admiral Thrawn.

    • Jack Skellington. He was trying to understand something he felt would make him a better person, oblivious to the consequences. He F’ed up “normal” Christmas and in my opinion made it better. He even abducted Santa but for some reason this was OK.

      • But Jack wasn’t really the bad guy, his misconceptions were. (At least that’s how I always saw it)

    • I’m gonna lay down the Harry Potter card and bring up Voldemort. He was a looming darkness for a long time which offered mystery that accelerated fear, but then his backstory really offered both worlds of sympathy and treachery. At first he seems tragic and just a product of his scars, but when you find out all the opportunities he wasted to do something great for himself and others by turning into a monster you hate him and love him for stepping into that role.

      • This panel has made me think so much more about the ‘monsters’. I shall be looking with more knowledge and insight in the future. So much of what has been said has made me think deeper.

  7. Do certain genres lend themselves to creating antagonists readers are more likely to root for over others? If so which and why might that be?

    • I’m not sure a sympathetic antagonist is impossible in any genre. But I know there are some where I’d like to see them more.

      For example: Urban Fantasy vs pure horror. I think I’d more prefer to see a sympathetic monsters in UF. In horror, just bring on the body count. 🙂

    • Psychological horror perhaps… Something that gets you closer to what the villain in thinking rather than what they’re doing. it’s much better if you have a connection too the ‘why’…

    • I see a lot of it in horror and fantasy, people saying how they love the villains. In horror, it may be the fact the genre is fear based, and you need a really strong antagonist to pull that off well. And the same may be true for fantasy (at least epic fantasy) as you need high stakes and strong antagonists to stand out against the fantasy elements.

    • Oh yeah. Horror villains are expected to have that extra “umph.” From movies, to comics, to books, horror is everywhere so to avoid the same-old-same-old an author has to construct something very different or at least charismatic.

      Fantasy and science fiction focus more on the outcomes of the villain, I think, so they play a big role but don’t need as much “meat,” so to speak.

      In fiction, like lit, the antagonist is often the misunderstood character who could flip perspectives and be the hero if told from their side. But we’ve already established that that can happen in many types of stories.

      • Someone mentioned back story and I think this is very important. It’s satisfying to find out why a character behaves so badly and I like the process of trying to decide if it’s nature or nurture that makes him/her so bad.

  8. “…a revenge-based villain or someone doing bad things for a good reason.”

    Yes, A.F. it’s so much easier for me to take to this sort of person and root for him – and I love that feeling of urging someone on to sort out a situation, even if it’s a bit heavy handed. That’s all right in fiction, isn’t it!!!!

    • It makes for complex characters, if done right. The revenge angle is what I tried to do with the antagonist in the first book of my fantasy trilogy, and I think I pulled it off.

  9. Do you think there are certain types of antagonists that people are more willing to root for over others? For example the sympathetic villain versus the antagonist that is simply bad for bad’s sake? Do you find yourself drawn to specific archetypes or is it more about the motivation?

    • The monster as a force of nature or the result of man’s arrogance is usually pretty easy for me to root for.

      I think much like in real life, the thing that makes me want to root AGAINST the bad guy is usually smarmy arrogance. That attitude that just makes you want to see them fall into their own shark tank.

      Take away that, and I think a lot of combinations can be easy to root for.

    • Yes, I think some villains are easier to root for; it’s harder to feel sympathy for a self-centered villain or a creepy stalker/killer, than, say, a revenge-based villain or someone doing bad things for a good reason.

    • I used to love tragedy and feeling bad for the “bad guy”, but as I get older and write more I just want bad guys to be bad again. I want a female villian who is heartless for no damn reason. The people who are just born to be evil or embraced their flaws and accept the pain they experience as part of life and don’t care about others rock it for me now.

      • There is definitely a place in fiction for the occasional villain who is eeeevil simply for evil’s sake.

    • I just wrote a story about starting a new job and despising the people that work there. In ends in a disturbing mutilation. While that end may be over the top, it’s coming from the perspective of a normal, introverted individual that anyone can identify with.

      • I remember the feeling when I left a job I loved – for much more money – and found the new place was full of, hey that gives me an idea…

  10. So we have our compelling antagonist, but what makes readers want to support them? Can you think of a time where you wanted the antagonist to win, either in your own work or another piece of fiction? Why? What was your reasoning?

    • I wrote two books where the villians do win, so yeah, I love to route for the villains. And, let’s face it, sometimes they are just more interesting characters than the heroes. They get to do all the fun stuff.

    • I like to cheer on someone with conviction. Even if they’re totally wrong, someone who refuses to back down is easy to love. They’re also fit to go head-to-head against a true hero.

    • Marvel comics has often explored the whole “What if Dr. Doom won?” scenario, and the thing is … in a lot of them he’s not all that bad of a ruler.

      I guess for me, some stories feel almost as if they’re shoving down your throat “this is the hero!”, when that hero’s motivations or personality aren’t all that great. In such a case, I would have no problem seeing the monster stomp them flat in the end.

    • Jack Torrance in the Shining, as I read – felt a connection towards his decent into crazy. Or King Kong – by the time he got to New York we felt sorry for him. I wanted to see him destroy stuff and burn it all down. It’s easy to cheer if we despise the victims.

      • There is something to say about the glory of watching someone destroy societal constructs.

  11. Alright, it’s that time! Before we start talking about why we sometimes want the antagonist to win, let’s talk a little bit about what makes an antagonist compelling. What traits/characteristics do you feel make for an interesting villain?

    • A villain who, in a different perspective, might easily be the hero is always appealing for me.

    • Backstory and personality for me – like Freddy Krueger.He had a cool factor that went beyond the typical slasher monster ‘never say a word’ personality. He brought to the table some bad ass punch line before he whacked them. It was cheer worthy. That’s why I think there were like 7 or 8 of these movies.

      • I will admit, I have a soft spot for villains who are willing and able to talk smack.

        It’s one of the reason why the Emperor in Return of the Jedi works so well. The guy is just a jerk and isn’t afraid to show it.

    • A lack of constraints is what makes an antagonist interesting for me. Characters that will go against society’s norms or even taboos to achieve their goals. I like the psychological nuances of what makes that mind set work. I like to know why do they go to the dark side.

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