“Every villain is a hero in his own mind. So part of me has to sort of have my arms around Loki because the moment I’m judging him is the moment I cease to be able to play him. It’s a strange relationship ‘cause I kind of love him even though I know he’s really tragic and misguided.”
Actor Tom Hiddleston, everybody. Loki wouldn’t be nearly as popular if Tom hadn’t played him so brilliantly in Thor. And he played him so brilliantly because he understood him. He didn’t think of him as a generic heartless villain: he considered his pain, struggles, and motivations. And he helped create the most three-dimensional villain since Severus Snape.
So if you want to write about a Battery City character in a fanfiction or put one in a roleplay, you’ll have to think like Tom. It’s easy to throw together another generic villain, but where’s the creativity and insight in that? Developing a character you wouldn’t normally sympathize with is a great exercise, and will not only make the character more believable, it will improve your writing skills.
1. Don’t set the character up to fail.
I’ve seen a lot of this in roleplays (this isn’t an actual quote, just an example):
“Hello, Killjoys. This is ~Dracushit. BL/ind wants you to return to Battery City. You foolish Killjoys waste your time running around in the desert. You could be working for BL/ind right now, having the time of your life. We have wonderful mind control pills that will erase your emotions and personality. Everything is black and white, with no silly colors or happiness. Join us today.”
The writer doesn’t sound like she believes what her Drac says any more than the pissed-off Killjoys do. No one in their right mind would read that and think “I’m foolish? They have pills that erase your emotions and personality? No colors or happiness? Damn, I’d better join Better Living!” That post only reveals how little the author thinks of Better Living-- she thinks they actually believe a ploy like that would work.
So instead, think about what would encourage Killjoys to join Better Living. Safety? An easy life? No pain? If your character actually has a decent argument, it’ll make the reader think and provide a fun challenge in roleplays.
“Everyone Is Right” by Caro Clarke is an excellent article about character motivation. It’ll help you make your BL/ind character (and other characters as well) more believable.
2. Think carefully about medication.
Many people create BL/ind OCs who don’t take medication. Here are some problems that arise:
1. Don’t people notice that he has emotions now? (Even if he’s good at hiding them, wouldn’t he slip at least once?)
2. Wouldn’t suddenly having emotions be a bizarre and traumatic experience for him, especially now that he can feel sadness and pain? I say this because a lot of OCs just stop taking the pills and that’s that, no side effects whatsoever. Imagine living most of your life without a care in the world, only to be suddenly overwhelmed by strange feelings that you don’t know how to deal with. Difficult stuff.
3. What gave him the idea to stop taking the pills in the first place? He lives in a society that does nothing but promote them.
4. How does he dispose of the pills?
5. Doesn’t BL/ind make sure that citizens take the pills? And if they don’t care, why are the pills an issue in the first place?
If you can satisfactorily answer those questions, you probably know what you’re doing. If you can’t, you might want to think about it a little more.
3. Think carefully before making a double agent character.
I’ve lost track of the number of Killjoys who claim to be double agents. This is the most common scenario: a Killjoy pretends to be a Drac or citizen, sneaks into BL/ind, hacks their computers, steals their info, and sneaks right out. Well, here are some questions that arise.
1. Wouldn’t BL/ind notice if an extra Drac/worker/citizen suddenly appeared? Don’t they keep track of who shows up to work?
2. How did she get into Battery City without being detected? (They must have a desert/Battery City border with plenty of security to keep Killjoys from running in and starting trouble.)
3. Wouldn’t BL/ind do a background check? The common answer is “Someone hacked into their database and added fake records.” How?
4. How was she able to pass as a Battery City citizen if she doesn’t take medication and has lived in the zones for most/all of her life? Where did she learn how to act?
5. Where did she live while she was in the city? How did she get food, supplies, etc.?
6. How did she get into BL/ind headquarters in the first place? (Assuming she snuck in instead of pretending to be a citizen. Please don’t say “She snuck in the back door,” haha. Or “She beat up all the security guards,” because then the building would be on alert and she’d be even more likely to get caught. Plus, one girl beating up all those guards is a bit unlikely.)
7. If she officially got a job at BL/ind instead of sneaking in, wouldn’t becoming a Draculoid or S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W officer be a long, difficult process? (I know everyone has different headcanons, but I’ve seen people claim their OC just waltzed in and joined the S/C/A/R/E/C/R/O/W.)
8. How was she able to stay off medication? Wouldn’t they notice if someone wasn’t taking the pills? (And again, if they don’t care, why are the pills an issue in the first place?)
9. How did she hack into their files? Where did she get their passwords, and how did she get long periods of time alone with their technology? How did she know where to look and what the information meant? (Their most important stuff is probably coded and hidden, not sitting in a Word file labeled “BL/IND SECRETS.” )
10. Regarding OCs who have a rude attitude and smart off to Korse/Dracs all the time: wouldn't that blow her cover very quickly, or at least get her punished or kicked out? Even today, you can't insult your boss without getting in trouble.
There have been many double agents in history that leaked important information, but these people were incredibly dedicated and hardworking. Being a double agent is a full-time job that can go horribly wrong in an instant. In other words, Killjoys can’t just waltz up to BL/ind, steal their secrets, and be back before dinnertime. It’s entirely possible to make a double agent character, but it’s a lot of work...kind of like being a double agent.
Here’s a revealing article from the C.I.A. about what it takes to be a double agent. It could give you some inspiration.
4. If you’re creating a villain, don’t make another generic bad guy.
My drama teacher once said “If you don’t understand your character, you make a mockery out of them.” This happens all too often with villains. They serve one purpose: to be hated, mocked, and killed by the heroes. Some of them have the potential to be interesting characters, but the author doesn’t bother developing their personality. Others are just horrible from the start. The main problem is that they lack motivation. Why do they want Killjoys to return to Battery City? They’re jerks who like torturing people. Why do they force citizens to take pills? They’re jerks who like torturing people. Why do they do anything whatsoever? They’re jerks who like torturing people. How one-sided and dull. But sadly, many authors don’t go any further than that. Even they hate their own character, and they make it incredibly obvious.
Severus Snape (from the Harry Potter series) is a good example of a developed villain. When we first meet him, he seems like another run-of-the-mill villain. He hates Harry the second he meets him, and bullies him throughout his years at Hogwarts. Harry suspects that he’s a dark wizard, and later learns that he once worked for Voldemort but claims to have switched sides. Snape is so nasty that the reader can’t help but share Harry’s suspicions. How can Dumbledore trust him when he’s so obviously a double agent?
But as we read on, we learn that Snape isn’t a monster. He was bullied as a child, particularly by Harry’s father. The woman he loves abandons him after he turns to the dark side, and Voldemort later kills her. Snape abandons the Death Eaters after that, but lives the rest of his life bitter and regretful. Even in the first book, we see that Snape isn’t necessarily what he seems: in one scene, Ron and Hermione think that he’s trying to curse Harry. But we later learn that he was actually trying to save him, and a completely different character was responsible for the curse.
So how do you give your villain motivation? Develop his personality like you would a Killjoy character. Don’t make him an evil jerk: give him a balance of strengths and flaws. Think about his backstory and how it affected his life. If you stop thinking of him as a villain and start thinking of him as a person, you’ll find that he’s a lot more interesting, and maybe not so villainous after all. When you force your into characters specific roles-- hero, villain, comic relief, etc.-- they develop little, if at all. Treat your characters like people, not stereotypes.
But to be clear: understanding your character doesn't mean agreeing with everything he does. Tom Hiddleston sympathizes with Loki, but he never justifies his actions. And we've all seen the OCs who do horrible things, and their authors make excuses and dismiss all criticism. You don’t have to agree with everything your OC does-- in fact, it’s good if you don’t, because it means that he's starting to develop a life of his own. But never push him into a situation without real motivation.
Of course, this is all assuming that you’re making a villain. It’s entirely possible to make a good BL/ind OC. Which brings me to my next point:
5. BL/ind OCs don’t have to be bad.
If a writer hates BL/ind and refuses to think otherwise, she probably shouldn’t make a BL/ind OC. Her hate will show through in the character. He does nothing but spit insults, make stupid mistakes, and terrorize Killjoys. If you ask the writer why her character is bad, her response is “He’s a sadist” or “He works for BL/ind, duh.” There’s no motivation for anything he does, he’s just an asshole. And he’s doomed from the start to be defeated by the heroic Killjoys.
Here's the problem: Battery City is not inherently bad. For example, most people have an issue with the emotion-suppressing pills. How do we know that BL/ind is trying to destroy personality and enslave humanity? Emotions like loneliness, anxiety, and grief are horrible. The pills take these emotions and give people happy, carefree lives. This doesn't mean it's morally right, but BL/ind could be trying to help people, not harm them.
BL/ind also seems strict and controlling. This limits a lot of freedoms, but it also means the citizens are cared for and protected. In the short preview of the Killjoy comic, we see that the citizens live in nice apartments, have clean clothes, look well-fed, etc. We don't see much of the Killjoys' daily lives, but since they live in a desert wasteland, we can assume that their lives aren't so simple. Again, what BL/ind does isn't right, but how do we know that they control people just for their own amusement? Perhaps they're trying to protect humanity from itself. (Not saying that I agree with BL/ind or that people shouldn't have freedom, that's just a possible reasoning.)
As for BL/ind kidnapping the little girl and killing the Fabulous Four in the music videos: well, we have absolutely zero information on why they kidnapped her. Could have been trying to lure the guys in to kill them (though if they got close enough to kidnap the girl, they were probably close enough to take out the guys right then, and they didn't.) Could have been trying to give the girl a better life-- the video hinted at a possible relationship between the girl and Madam Director. At the time of writing this, we just don't know. And the Fab Four barged into BL/ind and started shooting-- killing innocent Dracs-- so it's a given that the Dracs are going to shoot back.
Basically, it's a matter of perspective. We could assume the worst-- BL/ind destroys emotions, enslaves humanity, and killed the Fab Four just for fun-- but that's a shallow way to think. The world isn't black-and-white, even if the BL/ind logo is. Everyone has a reason for their actions. Saying "bl/ind is full of evil jerks who hate emotion" only raises questions: why are BL/ind workers jerks? Why do they hate emotion? What happened in their lives to make them think that way? It's just not that simple.
Besides, in a large city like that, it's impossible for every single person to be bad. Imagine if someone said "All Killjoys are bad." Most people would disagree and say "You don't know that! You haven't met every Killjoy. They can't all be bad." Why is Battery City any different?
If you decide to make a good BL/ind character, keep this in mind:
6. Don’t assume that a BL/ind character must be Killjoy-like to be good.
Most of the good Battery City characters I've seen are basically Killjoys in white outfits. They hate BL/ind, refuse medication, and rebel whenever possible. These characters aren’t necessarily bad, and might actually be useful in a story or roleplay. But make sure you’re not just using them as a crutch. If you can’t make a positive BL/ind character without essentially making them a Killjoy, it’s time to try something new.
Like I said before, Battery City characters are not inherently bad. It’s entirely possible to have a good BL/ind character without any Killjoy-like traits. Many people assume BL/ind characters are the opposite of the Killjoys, who are loud, flashy, and in-your-face. So what are some traits that BL/ind OCs could have? Modesty, humility, and patience, among many others.
I think a lot of people view obedience, quietness, etc. as negative things. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen some bitchy loudmouth get praised for being “blunt,” “a strong person” and “not taking any shit.” Likewise, shy and polite people are mocked for being “too nice,” “dorky,” and “boring.” Of course, it’s possible to be too quiet and too obedient, but in moderation, those are virtues. Patience, kindness, and even-temperedness don’t make a person bland: they show that she cares about others and has good self-control. And rudeness isn’t a sign of toughness, it shows that the person has no self-control.
Battery City characters don't have to rebel against BL/ind to be good. In fact, they could agree with BL/ind and still be decent people. How? Think about the previous point. Maybe they're genuinely happy in Battery City. Maybe they respect BL/ind for keeping them safe and freeing them from pain and suffering. Maybe they don't like Killjoys because they've seen the crimes they commit. Some Killjoy OCs bomb buildings, shoot up businesses, and murder Dracs and citizens, which means that innocent people die horrible deaths. If I lived in Battery City and saw on the news that a group of rebels attacked a shopping mall, I wouldn't think too highly of them, and I'd have respect for the law enforcement officials that stopped them.
(Of course, there are plenty of OCs that don't kill innocent citizens-- I just want to point out that the ones who do are not heroes, and we can't blame citizens for fearing or hating them.)
And let's face it: Killjoy life is tough. They live in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where daily life is a struggle for survival. Battery City OCs are not bad, cowardly, or stupid for choosing to remain in the city, especially if they have a family to take care of.
So while Killjoy traits can be good, they’re not inherently good. A BL/ind OC doesn’t need them to be a positive character.
7. BL/ind characters can have personality.
"These characters are easily ignored, as they are typically portrayed as 'brainwashed zombies' or something. But to my opinion, they're really interesting. And my fascination about them increased when I saw a certain page of the preview of the Killjoy comic. A lot of writers think they're like...brainless people who can't think for themselves. The fact that they're just humans (like BLi, or the Killjoys) is always forgotten. They have dreams, and wishes, and feeling, and doubts and all that jazz. And what makes them interesting is that they're in the middle of the 'war' between BLi and the Killjoys. They're like, the troubled kid of a fighting couple (and you never know what they'll become). They do not know what to do...the right from the wrong, the bad guys from the good ones. They're confused and lost...both BLi and the Killjoys have an effect on them in different ways. And that makes them a bit dangerous, I guess. I mean, you never know what they'll be."
In Gerard's original Draculoid concept, Dracs are described as “flashy,” “arrogant” characters who “love to party,” and have a “loose and good-looking Los Angeles vibe.” That crushes the popular belief that Dracs are cold, emotionless robots. Battery City characters might not have emotion, but they can certainly have personality.
While we don’t know much about the universe yet, there are hints that BL/ind has character. Look at Korse’s fancy outfit and the Draculoids’ masks. Those are far too strange and imaginative to be designed by a robot. In the Killjoy comic preview, we see that Battery City citizens wear colorful clothes, live in an ordinary-looking apartment, etc. And apparently they do have emotions, including fear and longing. Maybe Gerard removed the pills from the storyline, or perhaps these characters don’t take them. But even if they do take pills, that doesn’t mean they can’t have personality. I took anti-depressants for a year, and while they put me in a happy little bubble, I didn’t become empty-headed and bland.
Even if you assume the worst and say that Battery City citizens are under mind control, they can still have character. I know that most TV shows and movies portray mind-controlled characters as robots, but that doesn’t have to be the case: in the film The Avengers, the characters under Loki’s control still retain some aspects of their personality. The only difference is that they do things they wouldn’t normally do (i.e., help out a bad guy.)
Whatever the case, Battery City characters are human. They have likes, dislikes, dreams, hopes, desires, etc. just like the Killjoys. BL/ind didn't take that away.
“Underneath the steely cold veneer of his trickster charm is a certain vulnerability and sensitivity – the wounded fragility of an outcast brother and son. His mind is a box of cats though! But I love him.”
And yeah, that's exactly how I see it, too (and Gerard said in an interview ages ago that that's how the comic would be, but apparently he changed his mind at some point.) I think that's waaay more interesting than good vs. evil, because it makes you think. Plus, it's more fun to write. I really hate black-and-white villains (well, sometimes it's fun in action movies, but even then, you don't want it all the time.)
No problem, thanks so much for using it
You should do one of these posts about the Zones themselves because one of my pet peeves are people who treat the Zones like there's not a lot wrong and decide to play homemaker in whats supposed to be an irradiated wasteland with limited resources.
=hisironicprincess did one like that a while ago: [link] I'd write one, but I have no experience living in a desert I wish people would realize that, though, I'm tired of the "Killjoy life is one big party!" stereotype. (Someone told me that Frank said that once, so I guess that's where it came from. Thanks dude.)
Thank you for writing this, I enjoyed reading this very much.