TAP023: How to Write the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain Scene in a Novel
TAP023, How to Write the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain Scene in a Novel
So, you’ve reached the climactic sequence, and you’re wondering how to make these final scenes the most dramatic part of your novel; the answer is simple, by including a hero at the mercy of the villain scene. At this point, you’ve probably got a few questions floating around your mind. What is the hero at the mercy of the villain scene? Where does this scene sit within the climactic sequence? And, is this scene appropriate for my story?
If you’ve found yourself asking those questions or even wondering how to write the hero at the mercy of the villain scene, then this episode is for you. Along with answering those three questions, I will share three tips on how to write this plot point. You can also expect a few examples from film and novels to help illustrate my points and to help you write your own Hero at the Mercy of the Villain scene. So, it goes without saying, spoiler alert.
But, before we dive into how to write the hero at the mercy of the villain scene, I want to quickly discuss what you can expect from the remainder of season one of this podcast.
About The Series
Before I dive into the writing tips, this is the twelfth instalment in my series on Three-Act-Structure. If you’ve just joined me on this episode then, I will link the previous eleven episodes below.
- TAP012, What is Three-Act-Structure?
- TAP013, Plot and Structure: The Hook
- TAP014, How to Write a Great Ordinary World Scene
- TAP015, How to Write the Inciting Incident
- TAP016, How to Write the First Plot Point Scene
- TAP017, How to Write the Rising Action Scenes
- TAP018, How to Write the Midpoint of a Novel
- TAP022, How to Write the Climactic Sequence of a Novel
The Transition Between Season One and Two
After this episode, there are only two episodes left in series one, which is focused on story structure. The episodes will be on how to write the return to the real world scene in a novel, and how to structure a story using the hero’s journey; so keep an eye out for these in your favourite podcasting app.
Between season one and two, I will transition back to weekly Behind the Scene Podcast Diary episodes, where I will talk about my experiences with revision and the next steps in the publishing journey for my thriller novels, Missing and Silence. I’m also considering devoting an episode of the BTS Podcast Diary to answering a few frequently asked questions on writing and story structure. If you have a question that you’d love me to answer on this special show, then submit your question via the form by clicking here.
What is the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain Scene?
Where to Include this Plot Point?
But, Story Comes First
Is this Plot Point Just for Thriller Novels?
Tip #1 – The Hero Becomes the Victim
So, how does the hero become the victim?
The protagonist experiences an all is lost moment, leading up to the Hero at the Mercy of the villain scenes. It’s in that moment where the hero realises that he has nothing else to lose. This gives him the courage to face the antagonist even though the odds are stacked against the hero from the start of the climactic sequence. As a result, the hero is captured and comes face to face with the villain.
Just a side note, you don’t have to do things this way; this is an example of how you would take the hero from the start of the climactic sequence where he has an all is lost moment to confront the villain. In this confrontation, the villain is causing the hero pain. This is crucial; the villain needs to be the source of the hero’s pain, not an outside influence.
Tip #2 – Include The Villain’s Speech
It’s the villain speech that is the most infamous part of the hero at the mercy of the villain plot point. These speeches can be found across film and books, from Marvel to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. In the film, The Avengers we see a famous scene where Loki has a long, overconfident, and almost over-dramatic monologue that leads to his demise. I know this particular scene isn’t technically in the right place because the midpoint of The Avengers film goes on for quite a long time. You couldn’t do that in a book, but you can do this in film because it’s a different medium and it’s easier to hold the audience’s attention in the film than in a novel. Loki’s monologue is an epic long power trip, and the mistake that leads to his demise is he underestimates the people and only sees them as weak.
An Example from LOTR
Whereas in the third book in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, The Return of the King, we see the Witch-King monologuing in a battlefield in a similar over-confident way, giving Eowyn time to kill him. It’s a little more complicated than that, but you get my point. I don’t want to get into a battle with Tolkien fans over who killed the Witch-King because there are different thoughts behind this that are quite interesting and both have valid points. The reason I chose to share this as an example is I want to show you other Hero at the Mercy of the Villain scenes to help you get a better grasp of how this plot point works.
More than Just Gloating
The antagonist needs to be over-confident to the point where the reader believes the villain is going to win. But, the villain needs to do more than gloat. Forget the evil stereotypical bond-villain style of speech; instead, the antagonist’s point needs to make sense. The Villains speech masterfully articulates a valid point of view; in essence, it’s logical, because no-one does anything in a vacuum and is merely pure evil. Think of it as a ’best of intentions with a questionable methodology’ situation. The reader needs to see the villains point of view. While sympathetic, the reader needs to side with the protagonist. Vulture perfectly illustrates this point in Spiderman Homecoming, where he explains the reasoning behind his actions to Peter Parker in the climactic sequence of the film. This moment leads Peter to reconsider joining the Avengers and to stick around and protect the little guy.
Tip #3 – Chose a Satisfying Ending
I guess you’re wondering, how to end the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain scene?
There are two types of endings; the hero overcomes through persistence and a false death of the hero. I devoted an entire show to story endings in season one, click here to listen to that episode. Just in case you’re a little curious and want more information.
But, back to the two possible endings for the Hero at the Mercy of the Villain plot point. With resolve and tenacity, the hero escapes and overpowers the villain. In the process of overcoming the life and death stakes, sometimes the villain dies, even if it is by accident. The scene in the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy accidentally splashes water on the Wicked Witch in her attempts to put out the fire on the scarecrow is a perfect example. Dorothy has a moment where she realises “oh, you’re dissolvable,” then what was once done by accident is done on purpose.
The final battle scene can also include a “death of the hero” scene, where the hero sacrifices themselves and appears to die, but then is brought back to life. In between the moment where the hero dies and is brought back to life the villain has a mini moment of victory, just like in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Voldemort returns to the ruins of Hogwarts, with Hagrid following closely behind carrying a seemingly dead Harry Potter, and he prematurely announcing his victory. This sight pushed Neville to speak up and pull the sword of Gryffindor out of the sorting hat, moments before Harry comes back to life. It’s almost like a false ending.
Where Are You Listening?
Thank you for listening, reading, commenting and sharing with such enthusiasm.
I’m Amelia. When I’m not hosting the Authorpreneur Podcast™️ and the Book Nerd Podcasts, I write Mystery Novels under the pen name A. D. Hay. And, I’m the author of Suspicion, the Lawn, and the Candidate.
On this blog, I help new writers to finish their first draft, prepare their manuscripts for professional editing, and when they get stuck in the first draft phase or are confused about the revision process.
Right now, I’m editing and preparing my soon to be published mystery novels, Suspicion, Duplicity, 24 Hours, and Immunity for publication.
Enjoying the podcast, I’m listening on the Stitcher platform. Great overview of story structure, I like your take on it. For me, I separate the “hero at mercy of the villain” and “speech in praise of the villain” from the “all is lost” and “final confrontation” scenes. The last two are very important to the climax of, I think, any story. The first two though tend to be more genre specific (as you mentioned) and don’t have to come at the end. In Conan the Barbarian, they (the “secret of steel” speech and the Tree of Woe scene) actually set up the “dark night” moment. But in Star Wars, those scenes don’t happen until the very end, the one moment where Luke and Vader finally interact. Whatever serves the story, I guess.
I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast. I found it a little challenging to choose what to include in series one and what to leave out. In the end, I decided to go for a story structure 101 feel and tried to steer myself away from talking about structure in the context of the thriller genre. I love the examples you shared. I completely forgot about Conan the Barbarian. ?