In storytelling you have the hero’s journey, how he, she, or they are led into their adventure and ultimately victory over the villain. However, the villain has an arc as well. Some villains are just naturally evil and I do defend those kinds of villains. Some people just enjoy being horrible. However, some villains, and even antagonists who aren’t necessarily evil so much as making terrible decisions that ends poorly for everyone including themselves, do have a journey that may not necessarily redeem them but shows how they fell.
I have two videos below from author and YouTube teacher Abbie Emmons. In the first she goes over what the negative arc is and how it can be used in the story. That’s more on the creative side than an examination for most of you reading this but I’m posting it not only because it’s interesting but it leads into the second video. In that one Emmons goes over two widely different fictional characters, the MCU version of Loki as seen in the first Thor movie and the character Elizabeth Warleggan from the TV adaptation of Poldark. Loki’s arc is from one movie while Elizabeth’s happens over the course of the series but both are a good example of how the fall of the villain or the villain’s patsy lead to a great character, the one you love to hate.
Now that we understand what a negative character arc is let’s see two examples. Loki in Thor, the Marvel Cinematic Universe origin of Thor and the trickster god that is Thor’s enemy in the comics but ally in the mythology, follows his negative arc in one film while Elizabeth from the series Poldark, following a man returning home after the British were kicked out of the future United States Of America during the Revolutionary War, follows a series of mistakes that may not lead her to the path of evil but leads to her destruction just the same. And unlike Loki she doesn’t get to come back again and make new mistakes. For the record I haven’t seen either of these but that doesn’t mean I didn’t get anything out of the examination, so you might too.
I have a good example of my own: Anakin Skywalker. The short version is that Anakin falls for Palpatine’s lies, misreads what the Force is telling him (in my opinion it was actually warning him that the path he was taking would lead to Padme’s fall, which it ultimately did along with himself), and causes a happy child to become history’s greatest monster until his redemption years later. If anyone wants I’ll examine that in greater detail some time in the future but I think it works.