When my kids were little, they loved watching the Disney Pixar film The Incredibles. During this film there is a scene where the villain, Syndrome, defeats Mr. Incredible with his terrible machine and then when he’s telling Mr. Incredible about his evil plans Incredible throws a log at him. Syndrome dodges it, traps Mr. Incredible in a “zero point energy” beam and then says “Oh, you caught me monologuing again.”
This is probably one of the worst cliches in fiction. The problem is that we need to reveal the villain’s evil plan at some point in the novel, but we don’t want to have it revealed in a long, action-dragging monologue.
How to avoid this:
- Evil plan is revealed by action – The events of the novel, namely the action and peril that the hero must face, reveals the dastardly plan of the villain. Hopefully it is thwarted by the hero, and without explanation it is played out in events clearly seen by the reader.
- Evil plan is revealed by proxy – The hero overhears a couple of lower level lackeys talking about the plan, or perhaps the hero finds a drawer full of documents that when put together with the other evidence the hero has found reveals what is about to happen.
- Evil plan is never revealed – This one is the most tricky. You don’t want to leave any unanswered questions or plot threads untied at the end of the novel. However, if the hero sees the end result of the villain’s plans then perhaps the hero can react to the plan and possibly reverse whatever is done even if the plan was executed already.
Here is an example of how I handled this problem in my current WIP:
The villain (or at least a mid-level villain) is revealed to the protagonist to be someone who is met in only one scene at the beginning of the novel, a person who the reader thinks is inconsequential, when really they are one of the major players in the evil that is happening in the novel. The villain captures our hero, and his sidekick is killed as well. He wakes up strapped to a table by way of a “strangler vine” that obeys the commands of the villain. She uses this opportunity to gloat about how she thought she had wiped out his species completely, and has been controlling his mechanical arm for some time via some nanites floating around in his system, using the arm to get him in trouble with the authorities while all along he thought his misfortune was because of accidents and misunderstandings. She is going to release him into a series of maze-like catacombs to hunt him for sport and then she is planning to eat him because she “wonders what Terran tastes like” and will “only get this one chance” since he is the last of his kind. He will be turned loose, hunted, but during the hunt his sidekick (who we thought was dead) turns up to help him out of this jam all the while explaining what she overheard the villains plotting: the assassination of the Queen and the eventual war being declared on the Ontoccan Hegemony, the ruling government of The Five Rim worlds.
If it sounds complicated, it should be. A carefully woven plot takes time and hard work. Allowing the villain to monologue their evil plan is weak writing, and should be avoided at all costs. Hopefully the tips I provided above and my example will help.
2 thoughts on “3 Ways to Keep Your Villain from Monologuing”
I LOVE that movie, and that scene is hilarious! You’re right. It is difficult to provide back story without falling into that cliche. Your solution seems like an interesting combination.
Thanks for sharing your excellent tips on how the villain’s evil plan can be revealed without resulting to the worst cliche in the world. I hate those endings where the bad guy captures the hero and is about to kill her … Spends several pages telling her that he is going to kill her and how he is going to do it. The villain then throws in the obligatory ,”Well, since you are about to die a painful and miserable death, I see know reason why I shouldn’t launch into an in depth monologue for ten more pages and fill the readers ( I mean you ) in on the story’s plot and how I Managed to pull off all my evil schemes without getting caught or leaving a trail of clues. You see , it all began when I witnessed my mom’s murder as a child … And blah … Blah … Blah. You almost caught me once , back in chapter 13. …” You get the point.
I believe that showing the villains plan through his actions works best but I now like the idea of the hero discovering some of the plan via overhearing some of the bad guys minions planning and plotting .