Not every character arc is a progression upwards into goodness. We can’t all be the hero who prevails and becomes brighter for it. Sometimes, the main character in a story will fall instead. And keep falling. Until they find themselves to be the villain in the story.
Writing a Descent into Villainy/Madness story is not an easy task. It takes careful plans to make sure that each step down has a logical progression – even if the character is no longer acting upon logic. Some examples of this arc include Hamlet by William Shakespeare, Breaking Bad, Wicked by Gregory Maguire, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, and Two-Face’s story in The Dark Knight. All of these stories share the common thread of someone good and wholesome becoming corrupted.
This kind of plot trope is a wonderful chance to explore the darker side of human psychology. What does it take for someone to break? What would it take for this good character to start making the worst choices? After all, the difference between the villain and the hero is not usually the goal. It is the means by which they want to achieve their goal.
Listen to this episode for more on how to write a Descent into Villainy/Madness plot, and what kinds of things to avoid.
First aired March 17, 2022.