I’ve actually heard debates about this quite often. Do you need a philosophical ‘bad guy’ in a story in order to create a working plot and tell a story?
The answer is, simply put, it’s complicated.
Let’s think about this for a moment, does every story need a Maleficent? Do they need, at the very least, a one-dimensional villain with little to no backstory to overcome? To that, I said no, not really. We see plenty of stories where that is simply not the case. Honestly, making Hans in Frozen a ‘surprise’ villain right at the end was not only unnecessary, but detrimental to the plot.
Let’s explore that for a second. If you remove Hans’s subplot, what’s lost from the story, anything? If you think about it, Anna and Elsa already had a villain to overcome; their awful parents.
The poor, albiet well-intentioned, parenting of Arendale’s rulers left Anna desperate for attention to the point where she ‘falls in love’ with the first guy she talks to for more than a minute, and left Elsa a complete recluse who was scared of herself and unable to control her temper after years of bundling her emotions. The two princesses already had to overcome what their parents had done. Hans being a bad guy was completely unnecessary to the plot and actually somewhat unbelievable, given his behavior during the rest of the story.
So in that way, I guess you could technically say, no. You don’t need a villain, however you do need some kind of antagonistic plot point that the villain usually fills. You need to give them something to struggle against or at least overcome, because if you don’t… you really don’t have a story at all.
So what do you all think? Is having a villain or antagonistic plot point necessary to a story? Let me know!
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I have been writing for several years, have 4 published works, experience with publishing and independent work, so I can hopefully be of assistance.
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