megalomania as motivation

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megalomania as motivation

Postby JohnDurvin » 14 Apr 2011, 09:26

Why in the world would somebody want to take over the world? I'll be honest here, my writing is heavily influenced by non-literary sources: movies, comic books, even video games. I try to avoid having those "Big Bad" type villains, evil fellows with superpowers and black capes, but at the same time, a story needs an antagonist, and sometimes those antagonists are ruthlessly gathering power. Happens in real life all the time. I realized the other day, though, that I don't really "get" this urge--why on Earth would somebody want to be in charge of everything? Is it a superiority complex, thinking everybody should do what they say? Is it dissatisfaction with the way things currently are? Something else?
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby J. T. SHEA » 14 Apr 2011, 11:29

In my case it's mainly the cape. I look good in black.

Of course, I've also been ruthlessly gathering power since I was about two. Superiority complex? Wanting to be in charge of everything and have everybody do what I say? All that too!

And of course I'm dissatisfied with the way things currently are! Because I'm not in charge yet! Just you wait! But I'll spare your life, JohnDurvin, because you asked such an interesting question.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Mike R » 14 Apr 2011, 11:50

It makes for a more interesting story if the antagonist feels they are doing it for the greater good. A selfish bratty bastard is seldom able to sway people to his/her cause and nobody can take over the world alone.

But you also need some superiority in there; I'm smarter, more moral, understand what the Gods want, etc. Bear in mind, people don't like to think of themselves as evil or a megalomaniac.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Margo » 14 Apr 2011, 11:54

JohnDurvin wrote:Why in the world would somebody want to take over the world?


Let's see...off the top of my head...taking a few notes from history...

To reverse and seek revenge for oppression

To earn one's way into a religious paradise

To spread a deeply held political or cultural ideology...or eradicate one

To stop someone who is, in the antagonist's view, destroying the world (I'm thinking ecoterrorism)

A survival of the fittest mentality that demands the antagonist secure a position of supremacy for himself (and his clan, maybe)

All of these can be couched in difference terms to fit historical period and genre.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Margo » 14 Apr 2011, 11:55

Mike R wrote:Bear in mind, people don't like to think of themselves as evil or a megalomaniac.


Very important point to note. No mwhahaha villains, and especially no mwhahaha 'I do it cuz I'm insane' villains.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby J. T. SHEA » 14 Apr 2011, 12:04

'Selfish bratty bastard', Mike R.? You say it like it's bad!

You too, Margo! What's wrong with 'Mwahahaha 'I do it cuz I'm insane.'? It worked for Ghengis Khan and Stalin and Mao.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Mike R » 14 Apr 2011, 12:12

If anyone can pull it off, it's you. J.T. But if you really want a challenge, try a selfish bratty hero.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Margo » 14 Apr 2011, 13:20

J. T. SHEA wrote:It worked for Ghengis Khan and Stalin and Mao.


And me, but I'm speshul.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Sommer Leigh » 14 Apr 2011, 14:04

I agree with Mike. The "Take over the world" villains are much, much better if they think what they are doing is for the greater good, not because they are villains and that's what villains do. Muahahaha and all that.

It seems like the really scary ones have actually picked a group of people as their own personal villains and they take it as their mission to eradicate these villains from the world, thus making it a better place.

Those scare the crap out of me because you can't talk them out of it. Look at anyone you know who has an extreme belief in something. Maybe they aren't trying to take over the world, but you can tell they kind of wish someone like them would. I had a coworker once who was an extremely conservative republican who would talk about how democrats and married couples who don't try to have children should be killed or stripped of their rights and sent to labor camps. She was totally, honest to god serious and she said it not because she was evil but because she felt like people who fell in those two camps were ruining America and that it would save us in the long run to force them to work for the betterment of the country. Years later and I still use her as a template for some of that extremism in some of my bigger villains.

(This is not, by the way, a political commentary in any way. It's just a comment on how scary and passionate she was about her beliefs. That's the kind of passion I want for my villains.)
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby J. T. SHEA » 14 Apr 2011, 14:46

Selfish bratty hero, Mike R.? A good challenge indeed!

Of course you're speshul, Margo!

Sommer, I agree. Seriously! C. S. Lewis and others have warned that sincere do-goodery can become the worst form of tyranny, and the appetite for power over others much worse than any mere greed for wealth.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby wordranger » 14 Apr 2011, 19:27

The best villains are the ones who don’t realize they are villains…. The ones who think they are doing the right thing, and they end up getting more and more evil along the way. They increase the body count as they come closer and closer to taking over the world, but they still think they are doing the right thing. They are driven by something… I don’t know… A little green man told them to do it… they need to do this to save their old, wrinkly mother… something, anything, and before they know it, they are too far gone, and the world is a mess, and they are nuts. Something made them start thought, and that something is a trigger that we can all relate to.

My husband and I were just talking about this the other day. My favorite villain (although he didn’t try to take over the world) is Mr. Freeze. He didn’t start out as a bad guy. He was just trying to find a cure for his wife that had a rare blood disease. Things just got out of hand. Now, THIS is something everyone can relate to… wanting to save a loved one. For him, though, is went crazily too far. A very sympathetic, well crafted villain.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby Cookie » 14 Apr 2011, 19:30

wordranger wrote: My favorite villain (although he didn’t try to take over the world) is Mr. Freeze. He didn’t start out as a bad guy. He was just trying to find a cure for his wife that had a rare blood disease. Things just got out of hand. Now, THIS is something everyone can relate to… wanting to save a loved one. For him, though, is went crazily too far. A very sympathetic, well crafted villain.


Mr. Freeze! I forgot all about him. He is a great villain.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby sierramcconnell » 15 Apr 2011, 07:19

I have two "big bads". Technically three if you count the moron who didn't make it. (Sorry Azazel, you failed and almost got killed.) Four, if you count the guy I still don't know what's up to.

And this is just the Chasing Series. In the Eden one, well, they're just fighting each other for Rank.

1. Nanyael - He just wants to get his children back. The fact that they're dead and in Hell? Well, that doesn't stop him from trying.
2. Azazel - He just wants revenge. If it means building an airship and flying it to Heaven to start another war with a bunch of mechanical winged monsters, so be it. Might be why he failed. It was a stupid reason. XD
3. Thelial - He wants to make the world a cleaner place. But it means killing and\or sending to Hell anyone who doesn't accept the brainwashing circlet treatment he offers to them. Oh, btw, he's the new God, because he tricked God into a bet to make Him go away for a while.

As for the fourth - Adouel - He's a demon, who's up to no good, and I really don't know what he's doing, but he's gathering a bunch of demon-nephilim crossbred children to do it.

And I realize there's a lot of el\al's, but yeah, it's an angel\demon world so meh.

Those are all very shallow reasons on the surface, of course, but when you dig deeper and build a lot of story around it, it's much better. I think that's what counts. Not so much the surface reason behind it, but the why behind it.

I mean, why write a book? Because it's fun. Well, that's no reason. But when you actually put it into an emotion many worded response and start doing it, there's no way to describe it. Because it's the most gut-wrenching, agonizingly painful, yet glorious thrillride you will ever send yourself on.

Or something. O_O
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby JohnDurvin » 15 Apr 2011, 12:43

My personal favorite villain would have to be Mojo, a little-known foe of the X-Men. He's a giant slug-man that is king of another dimension, which he rules using TV shows--most of them reality shows, recorded from various superhero battles. He's the most over-the-top, ludicrous villain ever, and I appreciate that about him. His entire goal is "ratings": the more people watch his show, the more he drains their souls to fuel himself.

"Know that you have sinned; if you had not, God would not have sent me." --Genghis Khan. Pretty bad-ass.

My own guy, Colonel Dougham, is taking over things in Huey Long style; there was a big war that lead to a depression and a massive rich-poor gap, and he's uniting the poor people against the rich. He's got a charismatic war hero on his side, his company manufactures assorted giant robots and weapons, and he's got propaganda campaigns convincing everyone the previous war's villain, the Coal Fire King (more of a Sauron-Cthulu type), is considering a second offensive. I *think* Dougham's just in it for the power, wanting everyone to have to obey him for ego's sake, and also since he thinks everybody else's plans have ruined the world; he's got the best ideas, so he should be in charge. I considered giving him some more sympathetic motivation about wanting to assault the Coal Fire Kingdom to get back his dead wife's soul that he sold to the King for power, but while it would be a richer character, I just don't like it as much.
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Re: megalomania as motivation

Postby sierramcconnell » 15 Apr 2011, 13:18

JohnDurvin wrote:My own guy, Colonel Dougham, is taking over things in Huey Long style;


I'm sorry, I misread that as Huey Lewis style and my brain broke from there. [smacks self]
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