Saturday, 16 January 2016

7 Types of Villain Deaths: Which is the best of them?

A while ago, Cait @ Paper Fury discussed the worst type of character death, and today, I'm doing the flip side: ALLLLL the villain deaths.

(There will be no examples and hence no spoilers in this post! Gifs do not necessarily relate fandom and death.)
7 types of villain deaths: which is the best? Read this post to see all the deaths broken down + grab an example of one in action!
Villains. Can't have a good story without them. But then again ... many stories end without villains, don't they?

Psst! Interested in a breakdown of villain deaths from several popular book series? I compiled the stats to see which villain death is the most popular:

Yes, email me the breakdown of villain deaths!
One of the easiest ways for the protagonist to stand atop a pile of books and scream "HURRAH VICTORY" and eat all the takeout is after the antagonist dies. Because clearly that means the protagonist has won!

BUT. But you can't just kill off antagonists willy-nilly! Otherwise we didn't see the protagonists suffer enough and that's no good. Us in the blookunity require the perfect balance.

Pssst, if you'd like to see a villain death in action, I'll be sharing one in February's email newsletter — so join my takeout army before 12/2 to receive this extra-special death scene!

Without further ado, 7 ways to kill your antagonists and villains:


The Classic: the villain goes down in a glorious showdown.


Basically, the boss battle of a video game. (More accurately, the boss battle after 300 times of dying, but I digress.) The hero defeats all the minor pesky mooks, travels all the way to the villain's lair, and either alone, with a few friends, or with an entire army, takes on the villain in one last showdown.
Delight rating: it's fine, but ... I mean, it's a very satisfying conclusion to the story, which is probably why it's the classic. But it could be more unique. Unless there's a fantastic twist to it, I'm not particularly partial to this one.

The Betrayal: the villain's ally betrays and kills them.

I mean, every good villain ought to acquire allies, if not minions. But sometimes these allies are about as villainous as the villain, and they make a lovely bloody Caesar salad. Sometimes, there's an enemy of my enemy pact between the villain's ally and our protagonists — other times the protagonist now has to take out the ally even though they helped the protagonist.

Delight rating: YAAAAS. This isn't a clean death—it's plagued by all the moral issues of accepting help from the enemy, etc., etc. Besides, all this betrayal means more conflict and more three-dimensional antagonists!

The Suicide: Erm, what it says


Maybe the protagonist has cornered the villain. Maybe the protagonist accidentally says something incredibly damaging! Or maybe this is just the villain's way of causing the protagonist even MORE pain. Anyhow, the villain whips out a cyanide pill, or a gun, or a dagger, and WHOOPS. The End!

Delight rating: Typically bleh. But if it's all part of the antagonist's plan and the protagonist suffers afterwards, I'm okay with it. I'm okay with anything that makes characters suffer, actually.

The Disney: where they die by a tragic fall (or other natural circumstances)


A close relation of The Suicide. Our protagonist is a shining rainbow of goodness, so he couldn't possibly kill the villain. But suicide is much too dark! It cannot be! So let the law of gravity decide this, hence absolving our protagonist of any guilt. Sometimes the protagonist will even try to catch the villain. Much goodness!

Delight rating: Argh, no. I like to see protagonists struggle. It may be passable if there are better villains around, but I think it's cheating.

The One Where They're Not Really A Villain and Dies to Redeem Themselves

I mean ... SOME villains delight in villainy *cough*Cait*cough*. But others actually have a moral compass and they might have an epiphany that they're on the wrong side. So they try to switch sides ... and boom. They're gone just moments after their decision. Sometimes the protagonist doesn't even find out about the change of heart until after they're dead and buried.

Delight rating: I'm always wary of easy redemptions, but most examples are fantastic. The key part here, I think, is how the protagonist handles the aftermath. They can't just skip merry circles over this "villain's" grave, but they also can't heap too much cake on the altar! It's a conundrum!

Interested in examples of villain deaths from real books? Get the breakdown of several popular series here:

Read all about which villain death is in popular books!

The One Where They're Not Really A Villain Because They Died 25% In


So there's this bad guy. He comes right in the first couple chapters doing baddie things and stealing children's cake — and then he dies?!? Maybe the hero succeeded too early and it's really about dealing with the fallout. Maybe he was killed by another villain! Maybe someone shot first.
Delight rating: Quite cool when done on purpose. But it can feel like a letdown if the replacement villain isn't as good as the initial one.

The One Where They're Not Really Dead


Well, yeah. Sometimes the villain dies and there's so much emotional impact but then ... it just feels like a void. There's nothing for the heroes to fight anymore. So to solve this problem, the villain is brought back for the sequel.
Delight rating: again, this feels like cheating. NEW, equally fantabulous villains should be introduced instead! But sometimes I loved them too much to really complain about the decision — besides, Deus Ex Machinas are always more acceptable when they conspire against the protagonist.

So that's the seven types of villain deaths!

Now, the delight rating is simply my personal feelings, but interested in how popular these villain deaths are in books? I categorised the deaths of major villains in Harry Potter, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, A Song of Ice and Fire, and A Darker Shade of Magic — and the stats are making me rethink how to kill of my own villains!

Get the breakdown of villain deaths in popular books!

Which is YOUR favourite villain death? Have I missed any villain deaths? (and mark spoilers for any passersby in the comments!)


Twitter-sized takeout:
P.S.: Using the terms 'villain' and 'antagonist' more or less interchangeably here, for the sake of simplicity.

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