I’m going to preface this by saying not all of the tropes I dislike are bad, and I’ve highly enjoyed and continue to enjoy some of these. I just think that they can be overdone, and because they’ve been done so often there are a lot of them that are done badly. A lot of people see these big themes are so successful for big name authors and decide to get in on the action. The problem is not everyone is good at these things. Alright on to the things I get tired of.
Part II – The ultimate battle against ultimate evil!
Since the beginning of time Lord Blah has ruled over the land, first as a man and then as an evil immortal something or other. Etc Etc. Our heroes must then go on a fearful quest into a land usually entirely populated by bad guys to destroy the Evil Thing, or kill the Evil One.
Ultimate evil is boring. There I said it. I want a bad guy who at least at some point was trying to do the right thing. Maybe he turned to evil because he thought it was the only way to accomplish a good goal, or to save someone. Maybe he was a good king who was corrupted, I don’t even care if he was corrupted by some evil artifact and you have to kill the evil artifact. Most people don’t decide to do evil things for the sake of evil, barring sociopaths of course. Sometimes sociopaths can even do good things ala Dexter.
Also in the evil land of evil doom who is feeding this ultimate evil if he/she (it’s usually a he let’s be honest) is mortal enough to need sustenance? Who is feeding his minions? Most of them are mortal most of the time. Even orcs need to eat! No wonder they are trying to take over the rest of the world because they’ve screwed everything up with lava and an evil miasma and now nothing will grow. Not that they seem to have any peasants to do any of the farming. Or to build the evil fortress, or barracks for the minions…
In my opinion, and these are my opinions not guidelines, it is far more interesting to have the villain have at least a few sympathetic qualities. Since everyone is talking about Episode 7 I’ll use a Star Wars example. As much as I’m annoyed with Return of the Sith and think Anakin Skywalker was a whiny little shit anyway, Darth Vader has some sympathetic qualities. He’s a genocidal bastard with zero self control and a catastrophic temper, but he didn’t start that way. I personally think that having all those nightmares of his mother being tortured and murdered drove him a bit crazy. It never says how long he had those dreams, but it implies it was more than long enough to have been able to save her, and the fact no Jedi ever suggested maybe it would be better not to have their chosen one worrying about his enslaved mother and rescued her bothers me too. Then he started having the same visions about his wife, who he’d been keeping a secret for a really long time. A little more crazy injection. In the EU it is implied that the Dark Side makes you paranoid and inhibits your ability to control yourself. He did horrible things but all in an effort to save the only person he thinks cares about him. He has been so twisted up that he thinks all the Jedi are afraid of him and are holding him back on purpose so he only trusts Padme.
That is so much more believable to me than a villain holed up in the wasteland of his kingdom and occasionally coming out to destroy humanity once an eon. Alright that is my two cents for awhile, I’m going to go write and work on my own villain!