We are all familiar with those stories of heroes turning into villains. Whether they start taking darker steps towards a morally good goal or if they are corrupted by power, the character is human and interesting. We want to see if they fall into the tragic hero category or if they realize their decline and pursue redemption. Today we are going to talk about writing these characters.
Let’s jump into it!
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What is the Fall from Grace?
Heroes and villains are the staples of storytelling. We love to root for the underdog, witness their triumphs, and see them rise to greatness. But what happens when that hero falls? When they become the very thing they once fought against? That is the Fall from Grace.
From Shakespeare's Macbeth to Breaking Bad's Walter White, we are fascinated by characters whose descent into villainy is gradual, yet inevitable. These stories have captivated us for centuries, leaving us with a sense of moral ambiguity; can these characters ever truly be redeemed? Is there hope for them or are they doomed to suffer the consequences of their actions?
Through examining different examples from literature and popular culture, today I aim to shed light on how authors establish characters as heroes before foreshadowing their eventual downfall. We will explore external and internal factors that trigger a character's descent into darkness.
We will also delve into the aftermath of a character's descent; examining redemption and whether it is possible for these fallen heroes-turned-villains. Ultimately, we aim to provide lessons that readers can learn through studying these journeys.
The Fall from Grace ultimately challenges our perceptions of morality in storytelling by exploring complex characters whose motivations are not always black and white.
This is not just an exploration of fictional tales but an examination of why readers find themselves drawn toward morally ambiguous stories time after time again. By better understanding this theme across various works in literature and media we can better appreciate why certain stories resonate with audiences long after reading or watching them unfold.
Early Signs of a Character’s Downfall
The moment a character is introduced to a story, the reader forms an impression of them. The author has the responsibility to establish the character as a hero, regardless of whether they are the protagonist or not. This sets up the audience's expectations and helps them become invested in their journey. However, it is equally important for authors to foreshadow their eventual downfall.
Early signs of a character's downfall can manifest in various ways. Sometimes it is an internal conflict that slowly chips away at their resolve and morality. Other times, external factors push them towards self-destructive behavior.
One classic example is Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars. He was introduced as a young Jedi with immense potential and was expected to bring balance to the Force. However, his fear of losing those he loved pushed him toward the dark side, resulting in his transformation into Darth Vader.
Another example is Walter White from Breaking Bad. Initially presented as an underpaid high school chemistry teacher who started cooking methamphetamine for financial reasons due to his cancer diagnosis, he eventually becomes consumed by greed and power.
Creating such internal conflicts can be challenging but essential for laying the groundwork for transformation from hero to villain. It allows readers to understand why characters make certain decisions and empathize with their struggles.
Moreover, these early signs should not be too obvious but subtle enough for readers to pick up on, either upon subsequent readings or reflection after finishing reading a book or watching a movie or TV show.
To sum up, establishing characters as heroes while also foreshadowing their eventual downfall creates tension and investment in readers' minds. It is also essential for capturing that feeling that a Fall from Grace is known for.
Catalysts for Change
Characters are not born villains, at least not most of them. There is usually a turning point that triggers their descent from grace. It's essential to establish these catalysts for change in the story to create a convincing transformation.
External factors are sometimes referred to as "the call of adventure," where an event or situation outside of the character's control sets them on a path toward destruction.
Internal factors are those within the character themselves that lead them down a self-destructive path. These can be past traumas or flaws in their personality that make them vulnerable to temptation. In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby's obsession with winning back Daisy stems from his insecurities about his working-class background and lack of social status. His pursuit of wealth and status ultimately leads him down a path toward tragedy.
Sometimes, characters respond in unexpected ways when faced with these catalysts for change. They may embrace their newfound power or become consumed by revenge, leading them further down the path of destruction.
In Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen starts off as an innocent girl sold into marriage by her abusive brother but transforms into the "Mad Queen" after experiencing numerous betrayals and losses along her journey. Her desire for power becomes all-consuming as she seeks revenge on those who have wronged her.
It's important to note that these catalysts don't always have negative consequences; they can also inspire positive growth or change within characters. For example, Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games is initially motivated by survival but becomes a symbol of resistance against the oppressive Capitol. She is inspired to fight for what is right, even if it means putting her own life on the line.
To sum up, the catalysts for change that trigger a character's downfall can come from both external and internal sources. These events or situations set characters on a path toward their transformation, whether it be toward heroism or villainy. As writers, we must establish these catalysts early on in the story to make sure that our character's journey is believable and engaging for readers.
We’ve now covered the catalysts that triggered the character's descent. Now, we shift our focus to the transformation from hero to villain. This is a crucial point in a character's journey as it marks a fundamental shift in their moral compass and actions.
Characters often transform into villains due to a perceived threat or injustice that justifies their actions. They believe that what they are doing is necessary for their survival or the greater good. This justification can come from an external factor such as societal pressure or an internal factor like personal trauma.
The transformation from hero to villain is not sudden but gradual. It starts with small compromises of their values and beliefs until they cross a line they cannot come back from.
One of the key factors in this transformation is the character's belief system. They convince themselves that what they are doing is right and necessary, leading them down a dangerous path toward villainy. Taking a previous example, Anakin Skywalker's belief that he was saving Padme by embracing the dark side ultimately led him to become Darth Vader.
Another aspect of this transformation is how other characters react to it. Allies may become enemies, enemies may become allies, and bystanders may become complicit in the character's actions. These reactions add complexity and depth to both the story and its characters.
The impact of this transformation extends beyond just the character themselves but affects those around them too. Their actions have consequences on society at large, leading readers to question whether redemption is possible for fallen heroes-turned-villains.
Despite all this complexity, writers must keep one thing in mind when exploring this theme: authenticity. The shift from hero to villain must feel organic and not forced for readers to believe it. Characters must have real motives and justifications for their actions, or else the transformation will feel hollow.
The aftermath of a character's fall from grace is often just as important as the transformation itself. Let’s talk about the consequences of a character's actions on themselves and those around them, as well as the potential for redemption and lessons to be learned.
One of the most significant consequences of a character's fall from grace is the impact it has on themselves. They may experience guilt, shame, or regret for their actions. This internal struggle can lead to self-destruction or even suicide in extreme cases. For example, Macbeth in Shakespeare's play suffers from severe guilt after murdering King Duncan and becomes increasingly paranoid until his eventual downfall.
But a character's actions also have repercussions on those around them. Allies may become enemies, while enemies may become allies. Innocent bystanders can be caught in the crossfire and suffer greatly because of their involvement with the fallen hero-turned-villain.
Redemption is not always possible for characters who have fallen from grace. Some characters become so far removed from their former selves that they cannot return to who they once were. Others may try to make amends but are ultimately unsuccessful in redeeming themselves.
However, there are cases where redemption is possible. Characters such as Darth Vader from Star Wars demonstrate that even characters who have committed heinous acts can find redemption through self-sacrifice and doing what is right.
The aftermath of a character's fall from grace also provides an opportunity for readers to learn valuable lessons about life and human nature. These stories teach us about forgiveness, redemption, morality, and ethics.
To sum up, exploring the aftermath of a character's fall from grace allows us to gain insight into ourselves and our own actions. We can learn from their mistakes and triumphs, apply these lessons to our own lives, and become better people as a result. The journey from hero to villain is not one that should be taken lightly, but it is a story that we can all learn from.
The moral lesson from these stories I find to be the most important aspect. Far too many stories are written today to contain twists and shock factors, but hardly any lessons that we can recognize, let alone apply to our own lives. Those are the stories that have the most impact on the reader, or viewer.
I hope this look into the journey from hero to villain was informative and useful if you plan on writing such a character or telling such a story. If you are experienced with this kind of character or story, what advice would you give beginner writers for tackling it?
What challenges did you encounter? Let us know in the comments below.
Thank you for reading and as always,
Good day, goodnight, and happy writing!