Sunday, July 07, 2019

Every Villain Needs a Hero

Villains drive the story.  Without them our heroes would just walk in and get the treasure.  Or they'd keep their day jobs and never leave the farm, never run off with Obi-Wan, never enter the ADAA Regional Dodgeball Qualifying match, etc. etc.  However, a villain alone cannot complete a story.  You cannot have Yin without Yang.

So I needed a hero.  My heroes in just about all my previous stories were rather serious types.  This time I wanted something different.  I wanted a trickster hero who was part Brer Rabbit and part Punisher.  I wanted someone younger and more of a smart alec.  But I also needed someone driven by something dark and powerful in their past.  I needed someone set on a bloody goal who could not be persuaded to remain on the farm.  I came up with Conradus de Enghien.

Enghien was (and probably still is) a village in the old County of Hainault in what is now Belgium/Luxembourg.  The First Crusade came largely from French lands and Enghien sounded sort of German even though it was sort of French. I wanted a hero who could possibly be multi-cultural with some exposure to a wider world.

Conradus is a name I found in a list of medieval names in that area and at that time.  It's likely a holdover from Latin and it can easily be shortened to Conrad and that's a familiar sound to modern ears and so that was that.  Name and home town from 'reality', everything else from 'imagination.'  He would be young but haunted by a violent past.  He would be quick with a quip or sly comment but ready to go dark and commit murder in the next breath.  The best heroes are the ones where you're not exactly sure what they're going to do next.

The story I envisaged was a personal struggle between Conrad and Baldwin as they each went after the MacGuffin.  Personal struggles make the best heroic conflicts, by the way.  Darth Vader is just a guy making a bad fashion statement until we find out he's Luke's father.  Therefore, Baldwin had to do something bad to Conrad and what better bad thing than to destroy his family.  This was the connection.  This was the powerful darkness in Conrad's past that would inevitably force the two of them together, locked in conflict that can only be resolved by blood.

And that's how you write a good story.