Introducing a new antagonist late in the game

shamguy4

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I haven’t posted in this thread in quite a while!
It used to be called aspiring authors.
Now it’s writing discussion?

well this change is just completely throwing me off. I spent five minutes looking for the aspiring authors forum LOL. I was convinced writing discussion was the wrong place.
Anyways....

Yes, I’m still writing a novel. It’s going on over 10 years of on and off writing. Mostly world building. I got to a point where I decided to stop writing this book without knowing as much as I can about the plot.

I fixed many holes and created some new cool ideas, but in the process uncovered some other ones.

My story has turned into a series. Currently I’m dealing with an issue where I have a main antagonist throughout the series and I want to reveal another one who has been pulling all the strings very close to the end of the entire series and I’m afraid this would upset readers.

Imagine Sauron in Lord of the rings and close to the end you find out someone else has been in control the entire time.

is this a bad idea?
 

Brian G Turner

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Imagine Sauron in Lord of the rings and close to the end you find out someone else has been in control the entire time.

Welcome back. :)

In the first two Star Wars films Darth Vader is the chief antagonist, and the Emperor barely gets a mention. It's only in Return of the Jedi that the Emperor finally makes his appearance. So I'd suggest that you don't make it a complete surprise, just keep the focus on the initial antagonist. The more mysterious and mythical a second one is, the better - until they show. :)
 

shamguy4

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Good example!
Although I believe he is mentioned in the first one.
And I think he shows up in a second one.
second meaning the original trilogy.

in my world the main antagonist is mentioned in book one. Everyone thinks he died long ago. But he still has a following. In the second book it is revealed that he still alive. I’m hoping for 5 books.

In the last book I want to reveal that there is someone who was thought to be good and turns out not just to be a traitor but the one pulling all the strings and I’m afraid it’s too much.
 

-K2-

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I disagree 100% with what you're concerned about. In fact, I'd say in most cases--real life--the true antagonist is typically behind the scenes, often seemingly on the protagonist's side until they're caught, IF EVER. Name just about any real life scenario, and the really dangerous opponents have everyone, even both sides, dancing like puppets. I'd even go so far to venture that notorious crime lords to national dictators have someone truly sociopathic nudging them to do what they're doing.

Those 'big bosses' who seem to be all encompassing evil, I'm of the opinion are usually not smart enough to be directing the show. If they were, you'd never know about them. They're simply the face, much like Brian mentions about Darth Vader. The real brain doesn't get their jollies from fame, but from what they can make happen, and who they can manipulate with no one else the wiser.

I also don't agree that you should reveal this early on.

They should be in the picture early and throughout. I believe you should also give VERY VAGUE clues that they are 'more than they seem;' perhaps even enough that a VERY-very clever reader might figure it out... but, that 'reveal' shouldn't happen until after your big turn of events. E.g.: The protagonist is combating this problem and that person, perhaps even many and nothing seems to get resolved. Then at the turn, the protagonist realizes, discovers, or starts to believe it's this supposed good-guy, who is maybe even on his side... then the Pr'st. can go after that person to wind up the story.>>> you might even choose to drag that out even longer, the pr'st. finally realizing the source of the problem is elsewhere, pointing them that way, yet not until near the end realizes exactly who it is.

Lastly, good guys all too often get 100% wins over evil. That's just not how the world works. They might thwart all of their current plans, yet those really bad guys often set themselves up to be insulated. So, the bad guy goes back to square one knowing they're discovered, leaving the good guy to stew over it... and so, the cycle continues. That's life.

K2
 

HareBrain

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I think you'll have to try to foreshadow it just enough so the reader thinks they should have seen it coming, but didn't.

I don't know if you're familiar with the Final Fantasy games, but number 8 royally annoyed me by revealing an ultimate Big Bad right at the end (against whom you had to have a very protracted boss fight). Apparently there was some foreshadowing, but it was minimal and I'd missed it.

In the PS2 game Summoner (for some reason I can't think of examples from books) there is a switch halfway through where one of the main supporting good guys is revealed as a major baddie. Again, I didn't pick this up in advance, and I don't think anyone else would have either. But because it happened halfway through rather than at the end, it was exciting rather than annoying. So the success of doing this will depend on several factors.
 

shamguy4

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I think you'll have to try to foreshadow it just enough so the reader thinks they should have seen it coming, but didn't.

I don't know if you're familiar with the Final Fantasy games, but number 8 royally annoyed me by revealing an ultimate Big Bad right at the end (against whom you had to have a very protracted boss fight).

exactly! I’ve played similar games, I’ve watched movies, where they introduce somebody right at the end and it is very out of place.

Imagine Harry Potter learns in the last book that Voldemort is nothing compared to somebody else and he will have to face off against this person too.

@-K2-
I understand that in reality the main bad guy might be in the background. But in books, there needs to be some drama and the story. Real life is very boring! If I keep this main bad guy so well hidden, it won’t be a surprise when they are revealed. I fear readers will just rolled their eyes and slam the book shut.

I find that on TV shows they can get away with introducing even worse baddies every few episodes to keep the story going as it ever changes till the writers run out of ideas and the show is canceled.
 

-K2-

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I understand that in reality the main bad guy might be in the background. But in books, there needs to be some drama and the story. Real life is very boring! If I keep this main bad guy so well hidden, it won’t be a surprise when they are revealed. I fear readers will just rolled their eyes and slam the book shut.

It's your story, so I'm not trying to insult your vision. YOU know what works best in it toward the goals you want.

Nevertheless, the drama in the story comes from all of the other events and people as the protagonist tries to resolve the problem. Just to be clear, I didn't suggest that the super-antagonist be entirely hidden. You can have clues, but they should be sedate enough that it nags at the reader the protagonist is missing something... what exactly, not clear.

As an example (since I'm very proud of the story... the writing, uh, not so much :cautious:), I have a 211k word western where the protagonist seems like some perpetual victim. She keeps trying to just find a calm little corner to live out her days, yet at every turn, something seems to happen--reasonably and realistically--to dash all her plans and force her to move on. Throughout, in every chapter I leave clues. I even in the forward tell the reader to 'discount nothing.'

In the end, the last chapter where it all comes together and life works out... we discover that the protagonist is a psychopath. A psychopath who has walked into or generated every single situation to give her an excuse to do all the terrible things she has done 'to save herself.' Yes, most of the people she harmed deserved what they got. Naturally there were those who simply got in her way. But, it's only in retrospect that all those clues make 100% sense... they just seem odd and out of place until the end.

Ultimately, the reader realizes that the person they invested in, cheered for, worried about escaping and so on--because we all want to think the best of people--that the reader very well might have empathized with in real life, is a monster. Anyone who encountered her and escaped unscathed, is simply because she was too busy with bigger fish to worry about them. It made a lot of readers wonder, just how many people they had encountered in their lives were the same.

But that's just my story, not yours. My best wishes on finding the balance you seek ;)

K2
 

sknox

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This trick is done all the time in thrillers. Take a look at the Jason Bourne books as just one example.
 

Overread

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Harebrain makes a very good point that a lot of this is down to timing (also great example in picking Summoner - an often overlooked little gem of an RPG game on the PC).

With the Starwars example the Emperor is in each of the first three films in the sense that you know he's in charge of the whole Empire. He's not actually all that hidden save that he doesn't appear on screen directly very much until the last film. He's the sinister background evil that you very much know is there, just that the characters have no way to tackle or deal with him directly and must work against his agents - eg Vader and the Imperial Fleet.

That's very different to hiding the evil character both visually and also story wise. Like Harebrain mentioned, readers don't much like if the whole story flips head over heels in the very final act if the hints leading up to it are far too subtle and easily missed. You can end up with the risk that the reader might feel like you're trying to tell them a different story which can make many of the struggles leading up to that moment feel cheaper. I'd say introducing a brand new "big evil" in the very last parts of the story is only a good thing if that last part of the story actually turns into the middle or beginning of a new struggle and story.
Otherwise you've got to pause and ask yourself if the new big-evil that you're revealing is really all that terrible. If they've been so far in the background that they were impossible to see or hint at; then suddenly they appear and are defeated within a few moments they end up feeling like a very weak character.



It might be better to try and weave your story so that during the rough middle regions your lead character gets stronger and stronger hints that there's some other power/person pulling the strings. Much like you can see the Emperor pulling the strings of the Imperium. You don't see the Emperor, but you see the result of his choices, his influence over the Imperium and how he is directing them. You can even use it to hide your actual evil character much better by having the new evil appear to behave differently to the "old dark one" who everyone thinks is dead. So you setup for your reader that there is this darker secret one controlling or at least influencing/affecting the world around them from much earlier in the story. However they are also led to think that it sa totally new character, not one already referenced as dead. So now you've got that same element of surprise; but also layered it with the preparation that the reader doesn't suddenly think that this new character only has 5 minutes of fame since they've been in the story from much earlier. Furthermore you get to show character development in your evil character. They aren't just the same evil from before, they've changed, adapted and altered to a new situation and changing world.
 

sknox

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>picking Summoner - an often overlooked little gem of an RPG game on the PC).
Not to mention one of the funniest clips of all time, Summoner Geeks,
 

-K2-

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>picking Summoner - an often overlooked little gem of an RPG game on the PC).
Not to mention one of the funniest clips of all time, Summoner Geeks,

That makes trying to figure out, setup, and play a game of PanzerBlitz for the first time seem simple. :LOL:

K2
 

sknox

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Oh man, Panzer Blitz? !!! My all-time favorite Avalon Hill game. I had that game for years. Only got rid of it three or four years ago.
 

tinkerdan

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Part of the protagonist or the hero's journey is discovery and one of those discoveries can be that the one he labeled his worst foe is only the tip of the iceberg. How he reacts to that can be a seminal moment in the hero's growth.
 

-K2-

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Oh man, Panzer Blitz? !!! My all-time favorite Avalon Hill game. I had that game for years. Only got rid of it three or four years ago.

Hehe, why I said it. We've had this discussion before ;)


K2
 
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olive

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I think to me as a reader, the most important point would be the strategical position of the character (could be his occupation, birthplace, relation to other characters, skills; what he does) in connection to the main plot, before the timing of revealing the nature of the character as a villain. I would like it to be a convincing position.

I know it will look like a weird example because first, he is not one of the main characters and also defined as chaotic neutral and I am trying to point out something else, so don't take the character literally, but remember Jarlaxle in The Dark Elf Trilogy? In my opinion, he is the most realistic, individual villain created in the whole story that nobody would feel contradicted if he was solely responsible for many plots at the most unexpected times and places.

Because he is into everything. He is always ahead of everyone, everywhere. I think that is because of the position he was put in the story. He is a merchant and an assassin but actually he is not, he is a mercenary. He seems to be loyal to something or somebody, but in fact, he is only loyal to himself and you would expect everything from him whatever be the situation. He doesn't have any traditional drama or tragedy in his life like Entreri -as far as I remember- he is just like that. He is a better villain than Entreri who comes as a 'killer robot' after some point.

When suddenly he appears in the middle of the story we don't feel any question about him. It doesn't feel awkward or artificial.
 

MemoryTale

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I think this sort of thing can work well, but it's all in the execution. If Ultimate Mastermind shows up at the end of the book to pull a Gotcha, or early in the second with no warning, then it feels like you've just invented a new villain to keep the series going. The Harry Potter series is a good example of this done well. Voldemort barely shows up in the first three books, but he's an ever-present threat and all the filler villains are directly related to him, so when he finally shows up at the end of book 4 it's a good indication that things are Getting Serious.
 

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