What is the villain's hidden agenda?

by Alyssa

Question: My villain is being quite secretive and won't let me in on his diabolical scheme, so I was wondering if you could help shed some light on it. My protagonist (the princess) journeys across the continent in disguise to evade the villain's soldiers who seek to capture and ransom her in exchange for complete surrender of her country in the war, or so she thinks. I know my evil king (for he is the villain) could probably win the war without going to the trouble and added risk of trying to use her as a hostage, so there must be something else he needs the princess for, but what? The princess or, in this case, animal trainer in a traveling circus is pretty clever, so I have no doubt she'll piece together the King's alternate motive; I only wish someone would clue me in on it. I suspect it has to do with the princess's uncanny ability to understand animals, or the fact she was gifted with said ability by the three goddesses themselves. Does that mean there is an ancient creature the villain needs the princess to control in order to. . . what? They've lost me again. Perhaps a fresh viewpoint would be of assistance? Any ideas would really help me out of this writer's block.

Answer: Well, I certainly can't tell you how your story should be written. That's between you and your muse. The best I can do is suggest a couple of things to consider while you're pondering the situation. For instance...

Princesses have often been valued because marriage to a princess conveyed legitimacy upon someone who was attempting to seize power. Being perceived as legitimate was necessary to win support from the people, and the people's support was needed to govern, even after a military victory.

In other stories, legitimacy is conveyed by possession of certain items, knowledge, or (possibly in your case) abilities which were passed down through a ruling family. Such stories tend to have a goal of obtaining. (Could the ransom be an attempt to obtain the item that confers legitimacy upon its possessor?)

Another option... if your villain lacks legitimacy and leans towards ruthlessness, he may feel it necessary to wipe out the previous ruling family entirely, to prevent any future attempt to reinstate them. (In which case, the ransom is not the real objective.)

You might also consider that winning the war may only be the first step in a much bigger plan by the villain--a plan that may also require the princess's abilities.

Best of luck.

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