(cont) and so he’s superior to my mc, who knows nothing about fighting
except the basics and whose strenght is cardio. If barely anything hurts
him, not even being on fire, I know my mc will never be able to defeat
him directly. I just want my mc to be able to learn something that might
save him if the “demon” ever gets serious. Like I said, I know nothing
about fights but wanted my character to be able to survive withou having
to rely on a “miracle” that ruins the story. Hope this is more clear
Okay, I’m going to start by saying: don’t apologize.
Part of the reason why we avoid taking fantasy questions is that while we can discuss what is possible for us, we can never really give you specific tips and instead generalities. The first rule to understand and internalize when writing fantasy is that you must (or at least should) figure out the specific rules that allow it to function. Terms referring to general monsters like demons, faeries, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, unicorns, etc, are for the most part worthless because they contextually change with the setting.
Even if you explain at length, we may not be able to help you or even point you in the right direction. We do have a fantasy and urban fantasy tag, and we’ve talked about writing monsters in the past. However, it’s a much, much bigger subject than most people realize if they haven’t spent a lot of time interfacing with the genre.
So, instead of any of that, let me talk about antagonist/villain building.
#1 Rule: Build an antagonist you, the writer, can figure out how to defeat.
It’s very easy to create an OP villain. Villains are fun, they will run your story if you let them because that’s just their nature. They want that spotlight most of the time and it’s their way to say “Neener neener, you’ll never defeat me.”
It is much more difficult to build a protagonist who can reach them.
Especially if you buy into their BS.
However, should you do so, you’ll end up in a corner with your head in your hands like you are right now. Crying about how you need a miracle to win.
Well, every hero and villain you write come from you. The same ingenuity that made your villain a swaggering unbeatable asshole in the first place means your hero can come back swinging.
When you figure out how to defeat your villain (note: not how all stories say you’re supposed to defeat your villain), then you can develop a plan of action or a character arc which focuses on getting your hero where they need to be in order to win.
Usually, this will encompass the plot of your book.
Spend more time with your hero.
Spend more time with your villain.
Try working from the inside out rather than the outside in. The answer often lies less in what they’re capable of or they’re statistical abilities but rather who they are.
And, honestly, if you genuinely can’t figure out how to defeat your villain, then you can always kill your hero and see what happens next.
#2 Rule: Define what winning means.
Violence is about exploiting your opponent’s weaknesses. You act in a
manner so as to become aware of your surroundings, pay attention to
what the villain does, and develop a plan of action which exploits their
Horror movie monsters are terrifying because they are
the unknown. You, the audience, don’t know how they work or where
they’re going to come from next. The characters in the movie definitely
don’t know and it’s that lack of knowledge which leads to terror and
Terror and uncertainty are what keep you from developing the plan necessary to come out on top.
What does it mean to win?
It doesn’t have to be the classic ending. It can be over throwing an evil overlord or simply be survival or sacrificing just to ensure your friends survive.
#3 Rule: Figure out the enemy’s weakness.
If your villain is impregnable, that means you haven’t spent enough time with them. Antagonists/Protagonists need balance. If the villain is genuinely undefeatable in physical combat and the hero can’t catch up… try something other than combat.
One of the major problems which came from Buffy’s approach to monster hunting/fighting monsters is that it pretty much always boiled down to: “punch the monster”. That’s because the monsters on Buffy were initially there to highlight the human experiences rather than be the focal point of the show.
When a lot of people chase Buffy, they often chase the “punch the monster” aspect which is ultimately the show’s least interesting aspect. The drama mostly revolves around the monsters like family drama, friend trouble, and emotional trauma which one cannot punch through to victory.
If you can’t come up with physical flaws, try intellectual or emotional ones.
If you can’t figure out how an underdog might win, go spend some time watching some Horror movies with happy-ish endings, abused, gutsy protagonists standing up to their abusers, and some sports movies.
Guts and grit rather than “Haha, sir, we are now evenly matched!”
Check which storytelling motifs you are using such as “The Chosen One” and look to others who have used something similar.
The more you know, the more options you have.
#4 Rule: Balance it out.
One of the major problems when you’re an inexperienced writer is a concept called balance. Balancing your antagonist with your protagonist so that they are scary but defeatable can be tricky and usually when you get stuck in the cog wheel, it means you’re coming at it from the wrong direction.
I have no idea what that direction is, by the way.
Some gets an upgrade, someone gets walked back, or a new compromising solution is reached that is neither a total victory or a total loss.
#5 Rule: Trust your gut.
One of the big, and sometimes most difficult, skills to learn is trusting your gut. If you have a thought that keeps coming back over and over, address it.
Less right way or “supposed to be”, more your way.
If you’ve got a character that is honestly trying to say, “I can’t beat this guy conventionally, the gap is too big.” Then take a leaf out of the great stories of both literature and cinema by trying an unconventional approach. Maybe he needs a cadre of friends to help him win. Maybe he needs to pull a Sarah Connor and run for his life then come back stronger. Maybe he’s gotta try a Ripley.
Maybe he isn’t perfectly set up to have that big boss battle and maybe that’s okay. It doesn’t mean his ending can’t be epic, or that he’s weak, or a bad character.
A Normal Joe facing impossible odds is not going to turn into Rambo overnight. He won’t, but him figuring out how to fight the villain he can’t beat might be the story. And if it is, then it starts by running then trying to figure out the villain and how they work rather than getting a power upgrade to be totally badass so they can fight now.
Figure out the story you are trying to tell and damn the rest.
(Tumblr is also screwing up the italics right now, so sorry for the inconvenience.)