A Double Edged Sword
I’ve been adding to the Garia Cycle in my spare time. The first book, A Kingdom of Glass, was my first publication. It shows, and that’s part of why I’ve put the series on the back burner; it doesn’t have many fans who’ll get wound up if they have to wait for the next book (also, the next book refuses to cooperate, even when plied with large amounts of caffeine. Later books are coming along just fine).
But I’ve been picking away at the series, all the while convinced that it’s going to be fantastic, assuming I haven’t bitten off more than I can chew, which is a distinct possibility. The character journeys are enough to drive me up the wall; no character has a particularly complex journey, but they have to fit together exactly right, with enough foreshadowing to keep the reader engaged.
Of course, there must be a villain. This villain, like so many others, thinks he’s the hero. He has no illusions of being a good person, but he thinks he knows best, and the people around him are idiots.
This guy has one great virtue, and it’s his downfall. He doesn’t give up. Ever. And he doesn’t stop what he’s doing for any reason, not even to listen to what people are telling him. It makes him a great leader, but not such a good politician. And when a hated event comes to pass, he has a breakdown, even though he was warned repeatedly that this was going to happen. He couldn’t stop himself from arguing against the event, and convinced himself that everyone else agreed with him, they were just keeping quiet about it.
The hero also has a virtue that bites him in the ass: he thinks people like him. It’s not an unreasonable conclusion. He’s a likeable character- smart, funny, considerate of the people around him. But he doesn’t understand that his enemies really hate him, mostly for political reasons, and that most of those enemies have enough power to get rid of him. The hero is still young, and thinks that people can be talked into thinking the same way he thinks. And if he can’t convince them, he thinks that a straight up, toe to toe fight will clear up the misunderstanding. It worked when he was tussling with the other boys in the schoolyard. Not so much when his enemies each have an army at their back, and enough money to hire assassins.
This book, the sixth in the series and tentatively called Son of the King, has a theme that I didn’t quite realize until I started writing this post. A character’s greatest virtue is their greatest vice. At first, I thought this only applied to the villain and the hero, but now I’m taking a look at other characters, and it holds true.
There’s the elderly king, who is the Only Sane Man in this mess, and assumes that everyone else is equally rational, not realizing that obsession can drive a person to do strange things. There’s the practical and straightforward princess, who has nothing to hide and doesn’t realize that other people keep secrets. The villain’s right hand man is proud of his high position in the hierarchy, and wants to keep his rank and possessions at any cost.
All of these characters have one thing in common: they’re forward, driven people. There’s not a slothful one among them. But even that’s not always a virtue; sometimes their momentum leads them into weird and dangerous situations.
But the villain has one extra trait that makes him the villain, even when surrounded by characters who have both virtues and vices: he doesn’t see any need to change. He thinks that sheer bloody minded persistence will be enough to see him through any situation, and can’t understand why he should cultivate his ability to charm and persuade. And he’ll never be satisfied with anything less than the entire kingdom of Garia, which makes him a massive headache for the rest of the characters, even the ones who are on his side.
Enough rambling. Have you written a character whose greatest virtue is their worst vice? How did it affect the story? Do you enjoy reading about characters in this situation? Do you think it’s true in real life?