The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

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The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby sierramcconnell » 24 Sep 2010, 08:58

For those of you with battle scenes...do you find it as hard as I do to write them?

So far I have about six people. Five people riding in on an airship and one being held captive by the main enemy and his metal soldiers.

Two (one side main and a side character) take out the main enemy. Someone dies.

The captive is rescued and they go do battle with the metal soldiers. Someone dies, but it's been mentioned through the book that this person needs to as they were brought back to life erroneously.

The thing I wonder though, is that the "main character" does not kill the "main enemy". The actual bad-bad-guy got away before, and this is the guy who took power from him. But he gets killed by someone else.

Is that a bad thing to do in a book?

Does the main character HAVE to kill the "bad guy"? Or can a side-"good guy" do it?

Really, his only "quest", his purpose, was to learn loss. And he does. By losing his friend as he should have years ago.

There are other books in the works, but...I'm just curious if I have to rework this scene. I've written it five different ways and I suck at battles.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby sgf » 24 Sep 2010, 09:43

Does the main character HAVE to kill the "bad guy"? Or can a side-"good guy" do it?


I usually hear the term cliche used to describe something in a negative way, but personally I think sometimes cliche writing can actually be a good thing. Predictable or dull as it might be, it's also comfortable in a way. It fulfills expectations. But to answer your question, I don't think it's essential to have the MC kill the MBG (main bad guy). As long it's credible, then I having a secondary character deal with the MBG should be fine.. it's hard to tell without looking at the actual scene. If it's just a few pages, I'd be happy to look at it.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby dios4vida » 24 Sep 2010, 09:53

sierramcconnell wrote:The thing I wonder though, is that the "main character" does not kill the "main enemy". The actual bad-bad-guy got away before, and this is the guy who took power from him. But he gets killed by someone else.

Is that a bad thing to do in a book?

Does the main character HAVE to kill the "bad guy"? Or can a side-"good guy" do it?


In my last novel, I had a "bad guy" who was out to kill my MC and an "evil race" that my MC was trying to destroy. The "bad guy" was killed by the "evil race." A few of the "evil race" were killed by the MC, but others got away. It's set up for a sequel, and I plan for a side "good guy" to go hunting the rest of the "evil race" while my MC goes onto another mission.

My betas loved how I did it - they all said it was exciting and refreshing to see something other than "good guy" kills "bad guy" and rides of into the sunset with the girl.

In short, I see absolutely no problem with it. As long as you do it well and in character with everyone, it can work way better than the "cliche" ending.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby sierramcconnell » 24 Sep 2010, 10:08

My betas haven't said either way, but one beta said they weren't sure what the message of the book was.

Of course, that was the same beta who didn't understand half of what people were saying and had to have things pointed out to them that was written in clear English, so maybe I'm reading too much into it...
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby Margo » 24 Sep 2010, 11:50

sgf wrote:Predictable or dull as it might be...


Those are pretty much the main reasons cliche writing doesn't work. Comfortable is also not something I think readers want to be. I think they want to worry (disclaimer -- I'm repeating old hat advice I've appropriated from a couple of editors). Predictable writing gets in the way of the reader worrying about the characters, turning pages to find out what's going to happen next. Rather than saying readers want to be comfortable, I'd say they want their expectations to be met.

Back on topic, I don't think it's cliche to have the hero kill the villain -- that's archetypal. I'm drawing a blank on stories I've read wherein a secondary character kills the villain, but I'm sure I have read some. The idea doesn't immediately send up a red flag. That may be one of those 'it's all in the execution' situations. So long as the MC is the driving force of the plot (rather than its whipping boy) and plays an essential role (that only the MC can play) in the downfall of the villain, I don't (theoretically) see a problem.

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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby Mira » 24 Sep 2010, 12:26

I've never written one - and I've always thought that battles looked incredibly hard to write.

But in terms of who kills who - it's really hard to say without seeing the actual work, but I would take into account how disappointed the reader will be if the hero doesn't kill the Big Baddie. The reader tends to identify with the hero, and there is something very satisfying about living through the hero and being the one to bring down the Big Bad.

I don't think of it as cliche, per se, it's more story structure - the story builds to a confrontation between two people, and involving someone else can throw off the narrative and be unsatifying.

For example, imagine if Harry didn't kill Voldemort, because someone else ran up and stabbed Voldy in the back when he wasn't looking. Somewhat of a let-down...

But you know the story - what do you think?
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby sierramcconnell » 24 Sep 2010, 12:36

Mira wrote:But you know the story - what do you think?


That the story isn't about the battle. It's never been about the battle. It's about the characters learning and growing. That MC learns to lose. That Secondary-MC learns to accept his path.

That the story is far from over.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby Louise Curtis » 24 Sep 2010, 17:16

As long as your MC is active and has the most important task (ie not necessary killing MBG), it's all good. It's possible for that main task to be accepting he doesn't always win, but I think a physical conflict almost always reads better than an emotional one.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby maggie » 24 Sep 2010, 17:30

Mira wrote:For example, imagine if Harry didn't kill Voldemort, because someone else ran up and stabbed Voldy in the back when he wasn't looking. Somewhat of a let-down...



I agree a little bit with this. I don't think a battle necessarily has to end in a cliche way, with the hero lopping off the head of the villain or whatever, but I think it might be a bit of a letdown if the hero has nothing to do with the resolution of the main conflict. Not knowing your plot, I'm not sure if killing the baddie is this resolution or not, but even if not, if the hero is not going to be the one doing the killing, can he at least help? That might even be more powerful, in some instances.

This is an interesting dilemma.

(ps- With the name "Voldy," I am picturing He Who Must Not Be Named all cute and cuddly with sweet little cherub cheeks, and it's kind of disturbing.) :)
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby knight_tour » 24 Sep 2010, 17:43

For some reason I find battle scenes very easy to write. I have put a couple examples from my book either on my blog or on Authonomy and people really seem to like them. For the record, my MC does not kill the big baddie. It makes perfect sense in my story how an elderly mute ends up being the big hero!
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby limabean » 24 Sep 2010, 21:00

I think the critical thing to remember with Harry Potter is that we were told he had to kill Voldemort long before he actually did it. I believe it was book 5 where he knew for sure, but it seemed implied in 4 as well. You can't tell your readers something like that for 3+ books and then have, say, Neville swing the sword a second time after he dispatches the snake (sorry, spoiler?). And then there's Katniss Everdeen, who said flat out she wanted to kill President Snow in the beginning of Mockingjay. It sets an expectation.

WIth your story, I'll play the broken record and say "it depends." If you set it up like J.K. Rowling, that's one thing, but from what you're saying I don't think the way you have it is a problem.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby sierramcconnell » 25 Sep 2010, 04:37

They don't really even know who the final bad guy is or how many soldiers there are. Basically, the MC's words are, "At the end of this, I have to let him go." So that's the expectation I would assume, and that is met. We all know that no matter what happens in the battle, his friend is going to die, and whether or not by his hand, he has to stop trying to bring him back.

Because he has to learn that he wants to rest and that death is an inevitablity that even his magic can't stave off for good.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby Mira » 25 Sep 2010, 14:19

sierramcconnell wrote:
Mira wrote:But you know the story - what do you think?


That the story isn't about the battle. It's never been about the battle. It's about the characters learning and growing. That MC learns to lose. That Secondary-MC learns to accept his path.

That the story is far from over.


Sierra - I think you know your story. :) This is an interesting discussion, but I think the bottom line is - write the book the way that feels most true and right to you. Don't worry about rules - write your story.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby Heather B » 25 Sep 2010, 20:00

My main character is someone who does whatever is best for her. Every move she makes is calculated to make a better life for herself.

Until the end.

She finds out who the bad guy is, goes after him, kills some minions and then find out that by killing him, it will literally kill her best friend.
She chooses the path of the greater good and goes after him anyway but can't do it at the last moment. She takes a risk, loses and then puts her life on the line to save a best friend that has made her choice.

My story too, is about the 'hero's path' but I think the ending works itself out. As others have said: it's all out the execution.
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Re: The Final Battle...does it have to be a cliche?

Postby J. T. SHEA » 25 Sep 2010, 20:41

Luke Skywalker does not kill the Emperor. Indiana Jones kills none of the principal villains in any of the Indy movies.
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