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Saturday, April 1, 2017

GUEST POST: "Anti-Heroes & Villain Protagnists" by C. T. Phipps

I remember when I first completed my novel, Agent G: Infiltrator, and gave it to my editor to read. His response was something akin to, "I really enjoy the novel and it's well written but I have a concern. It's, well, your main character is a pretty terrible person." I was like, "Uh, yes, he's a professional assassin. He kills people for money and the only people he does care about are ones he'll tear the planet up for."

Still, my editor wasn't entirely convinced because he was so used to characters who the audience was supposed to root for. This is doubly ironic because I'd already written the well-received Supervillainy Saga books (The Rules of Supervillainy, The Games of Supervillainy, and the Secrets of Supervillainy) with a would-be criminal mastermind as the main character.

Part of this confusion had to do with the fact genre fiction often struggles with black and white morality while others have benefited from grayer stories. While some fiction like the Black Company and Broken Empire series skirts the line, too often it seems like we want our protagonists to be people we root for because they're in the right rather than they're simply charismatic interesting characters.

For me, Agent G was inspired by my love of two things: James Bond and cyberpunk. As much as I love James Bond, I've always felt he got a bit too much of a pass for being a professional assassin. Governments are rarely going to send you to kill people who are purely bad like with 007's foes and that's part of why I always liked the Jason Bourne movies (albeit, I wanted to see him working for Treadstone). Cyberpunk, as described by Cyberpunk 2020 creator Mike Pondsmith, is "high tech meets low life" and never has been about good people doing good things but often bad people trying to do slightly less awful things than even worse people.

This inspired me to do a book series from the perspective of a guy who would normally be the villain's chief henchman. A corporate samurai who was working for the bad guys for the very understandable reasons he wanted to rich and secure. I felt that opened up a new perspective on your typical cyberpunk megacorp as well as the motivations of your typical bad guys. Why do they do what they do and what is their outlook on the world?

For me, the trick is making sure the bad guy is someone you wish to spend a book's worth of time with. There's a reason why Dracula is the subject of countless stories and spin-offs and not the Harker family. Movies like Scarface and The Godfather also remember a quality which every author should keep in mind if they're going to use a villain protagonist: everyone is the hero in their own story.

A good villain and an even better protagonist can explain why they do the things they do in one sentence or less. It doesn't have to be a good reason but it should certainly be an understandable one. We all have our dark impulses which we want to lash out be they revenge, greed, or simple ambition to make the world our own. For Agent G, I wanted a character who was comfortable with doing bad things to strangers but who had a fiercely protective side to those people he considered "real."

Besides one of the real benefits of having a protagonist who is a bad guy, is you have places to go with the character as well as uncertainty about what they'll do. There were many times when I was writing Infiltrator that I was surprised by my lead's actions. He was often sympathetic and heroic when I thought he'd be mercenary then ruthless or greedy when I thought he'd show his softer side. Readers appreciate when stories go in unexpected directions and I think they'll feel the same when this book comes out.


Official Author Website
Order Agent G: Infiltrator HERE
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Esoterrorism
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Cthulhu Armageddon
Read Fantasy Book Critic's review of Straight Outta Fangton
Read Fantasy Book Critic interview with C. T. Phipps
Read "Giving Back Vampires Their Bite" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)
Read "To Mythos Or Not To Mythos" by C. T. Phipps (guest post)

AUTHOR INFORMATION: C.T. Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger, reviewer for The Bookie Monster, and has previously realeased The Red Room series. C.T. Phipps is also the author of The Supervillainy Saga, the first book of which, The Rules of Supervillainy, was released in 2015.

NOTE: Dracula artwork courtesy of Antonio José Manzanedo.



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