Continuing my little “villain themed” line of posts (this should be the last one, honest!) I’ve thought of another major advantage to not having “villains” but having “opposing characters”- Pathos. I mean, think about it- your job as a writer is to play with your audience’s emotions and tell them a good entertaining story. If instead of having “bad guys” you simply have a large group of characters who don’t agree with each other all the time then you’ve suddenly got many times the opportunities to make the audience feel something. Watching a character they admire fall into the villain role can be much more entertaining sometimes than watching a hero rise.
Now, of course this isn’t always necessary or desirable- it all depends on the effect you’re trying to create within your audience. Stock villains may in fact be the best choice for short pieces- like 1-shot stories and audio dramas for example, where you simply don’t have the time to really characterize the antagonists and it’s not really worth the effort. Also, if you plan to kill off your antagonists before the end of the story you have to think through how you want your audience to react to that death, and what they’re supposed to get out of it.
For example, a standard writer’s trick is to give characters who will die some strong negative traits that distance them from the audience as “others”, then when the character dies the audience members will think “good, they deserved it” rather than spending time pitying them or be saddened by their deaths. A quick example- yesterday I was listening to an episode of the OTR show Suspense! called Bloodbath, and in that show a group of men find a Uranium mine deep in the jungle. When they find it, they’re discussing how rich they’ll get selling it, and one character chips in with something like- “and we’ll make the USA the most powerful country on Earth!”, to which another character replies “the USA? Who says we’ll only sell to them!” Wanna guess who will die horribly before the end of the story? And when he does, the audience (or at least the American audience) will cheer, because he lost his right to live when he proposed working against the good ole USA in their minds. He does other bad things too (it’s a fun listen, go ahead!) but the point is that those are the first words that come out of his mouth, and they make it so the audience both dislikes him and considers him less than human.
But, back to my point- I guess what I’m trying to say is simply that if you have twice the heroes, you have twice the drama as well. ^__^ Watching a hero beat a villain is nowhere near as fun as watching two heroes go at it, knowing each of them may in fact be right, and wanting both to win!