Kill the Bad Guy! Kill Him!
It depends on the genre. In fantasy such as “A Song of Ice and Fire” series the bad guys not only live but they thrive doing evil crap all the time. And you know what? The books sell very well. So the argument that bending the rules of mainstream and letting the bad guy live is bad business for the author is false. All the reader cares about is whether the story is good.
But still, how many books can you name where the bad guy is the center of the story? Not many, I know. Okay, and how many stories can you name where the bad bad, should I add one more bad, man is the center of the story and lives in the end of it? I have all day, take your time.
I think I will contribute to the story pile of “Bad Guys that Thrive Being Themselves.” You should try it too if you haven’t already. I have to say that even writing a story about an anti-hero is fun so writing one about an anti-villain or just a plain villain is exciting.
I personally don’t think it is enough to have a villain as a support character. I see this all the time in movies and books. The antagonist (usually evil) is only there to give the protagonist (usually good) purpose. How about making an antagonist with a purpose that is just as important as the protagonist’s? Don’t just make it that they want to take over the damn world. Give them a really good reason why.
I am not saying you have to make the reader fall in love with your Hitler type character, but if you can make their purpose or reasons of being who they are understood that can make a powerful story. Not to be a corny geek here, but I have to say there is a reason why Magneto from X-Men is such an awesome character. While he is not a villain, but an anti-villain, he has a really good reason for doing all the bad things that he does. Because he is such a complex character he helps to make the overall story complex as well. Intriguing…
I have written about a vampire, a demon, not a pretty little thing that sparkles in the sunlight, who burns when she touches anything holy, but wants more than anything to be closer to God to give purpose to her immortality. She finds being evil chaotic and meaningless, but is still selfish enough to do anything to find purpose, including sending her psychopathic servant to recruit a former priest against his will.
I am currently writing about a doctor who lives in a world where science has found a way to determine sexual orientation and where couples are using this technology to abort homosexual fetuses. This doctor believes in this technology, as well as the money, and feels he is doing the right thing since the world has become an even darker place than before for those who are labeled as being “different.” He is a realistic character. One the reader can see surviving in this scary place where an advanced technology has catapulted societal beliefs into the Stone Age. After all, those who do not conform in this world are met with violence not words and those who are the hostiles wear rubber gloves so they won't "catch it."
I don’t have antagonists here that are simplistic and because of that my stories are not one dimensional. I think putting the success of a story on just the protagonist or the good guy or the everyman is a waste of time if you ask me and trying to go against the flow can be a great and rewarding experience. Give it a shot.