villains have better backstories

My sweet, generous son always wants to play the villain. “I’m gonna be the bad guy,” he says before a game of make-believe. And why not? One thing reading all those simplified stories in children’s books has reinforced for me is that villains have the better backstories. The good guy is good just because that’s what he is; good never seems to need an explanation. The bad guy needs a reason to be bad. We must know

bobgoblin

My son’s favorite villain, Bobgoblin from Wallykazam

what went wrong and turned him that way. It’s kind of nice because it presupposes that every one starts out good, but it also means villains are more complex and therefore interesting characters. It’s why I always prefer the second of three acts, because the villain having it their way is supremely more entertaining. I understood this before I was old enough to describe it. That’s why studying stories comes so naturally for so many of us. Even as toddlers we can see how they’re made.

 

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