Need your input

Question: In the novel I'm writing, there isn't a single main antagonist exactly, but an organization that takes up the whole antagonist role. The organization is an order of monks/priests who literally worship evil as a principle in and of itself. I cannot stress enough my desire to portray them as more than the cheesy "we follow an evil god" kind of villains. They are actually deeply philosophical, intelligent and piously devout to their spirituality. Importantly, these monks do not practice religious fanaticism or imperialism; they do not attempt to "convert" or "preach to" anyone. They believe that good and evil are an eternal balance upon which the universe rests, and that their purpose in existence is to be wicked. One monk speaks of his faith to a supporter of the hero, "The light attempts to seep into all corners of the world, leaving none in peace till it has covered all. The darkness seeks only to keep its fair share. It rests in its deep places, content and unobtrusive". In response to a tirade by a white-clad woman, another monk (in a black habit) asks, "How would your dress glow without my robes set against it?" I want these to be philosophical villains who make the reader stop and consider what good and evil really are and their roles against and beside each other.


Too cheesy? Can I be clearer? Any suggestions? I would love a pro's advice on this concept! Thank you!

Answer: It is perfectly acceptable to have an organization be the antagonist, especially if it tends to appear as a homogenous group - like the ants in the short story "Leiningen versus the Ants" or the Borg as they first appeared in Star Trek.

Of course, sometimes it becomes necessary to give this group a voice, as in the Borg Queen. But if that spokesperson can just as easily be replaced with another, the principle holds.

The trick with the good/evil theme is that everyone thinks they are on the side of good. Just like certain Wall Street types who will argue that "greed is good," and believe it, even though thousands of years of moral philosophy and experience say otherwise.

Comments for Need your input

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Nov 29, 2012
What about the premise?
by: Anonymous

What do you think of the idea of a religious antogonist group THAT DOES NOT PRACTICE ANY OF THE WRONGS THAT TODAY'S SOCIETY ASSOCIATES WITH RELIGION? These guys don't do sexism, racism, religious imperialism; they believe true evil doesn't discriminate, and that only petty bullies would base their cruelty on such trivialities as skin color. In fact, the minks live by a dark sort of honor code. They respect the good guys' commitment to their morals and sincerely applaud their efforts. They simply view themselves as the opposite principle. Can such a spiritual, meditative and darkly honorable group pull off being antagonists? Keep in mind, they still do HORRIFIC things, they just don't do it so much out of personal animosity as out of "raison d'être". Thanks again.

Nov 29, 2012
Response
by: Glen

If you can give them behaviour and goals that are consistent, then why not?

Dec 21, 2012
Yes they can...
by: David V.

I think the original poster here is not asking whether any of the members of the evil monks should be the antagonists, but rather he asks if he should make it the entire organization as opposed to a single person.
IMO and based off what I've read here on the site, I don't see a big problem either way since all an antagonist does is impede the progess of a Story Goal.

However, personally I would be hesitant to make an entire organization out to be the antagonist, since you have a finite space to fill each chapter with specific characters that will serve as the antagonist. One should use these characters that interact with the protagonist as the antagonists since they are the ones the reader gets to see (it would be impractical to have every single individual of the monks all have a scene in the book where they antagonize).

Dec 21, 2012
Missing the point, guys...
by: David V.

I think the original poster here is not asking whether any of the members of the evil monks should be the antagonists, but rather he asks if he should make it the entire organization as opposed to a single person.
IMO and based off what I've read here on the site, I don't see a big problem either way since all an antagonist does is impede the progess of a Story Goal.

However, personally I would be hesitant to make an entire organization out to be the antagonist, since you have a finite space to fill each chapter with specific characters that will serve as the antagonist. One should use these characters that interact with the protagonist as the antagonists since they are the ones the reader gets to see (it would be impractical to have every single individual of the monks all have a scene in the book where they antagonize).

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