The villain is evil; he does evil things to the world's people. The hero (a.k.a "the good guy who does good things and is against the villain") wants to stop this evil, and goes in a journey to face the villain and stop him. However, in order to achieve that, the hero ends up also doing things considered evil.

Now, maybe this could be used in the plot, something like "You came to stop my evil, but look at you, you've become just like me".

But I'm not sure. Wouldn't it be contradictory?

Edit: Oh, please, I know this is cliché, I'm just asking about the good-guy-becoming-evil stuff, everything else is just an example.

  • 3
    Use of that well-established trope alone would not qualify as "bad writing", but it's been used often enough that you do risk becoming cliche, if you're not careful.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented May 21, 2016 at 6:04
  • I'm not really clear on what you're asking here. Wouldn't it be contradictory? -- what are you worried is the contradiction here?
    – Standback
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:21
  • You've gotten some good responses, but I just want to point out: the kind of sequence you're describing could be written very well, or could be written very badly. If somebody writes a plot badly, is that "bad writing" or "just the plot"? Neither; it's the plot being written badly.
    – Standback
    Commented May 26, 2016 at 10:23

6 Answers 6


I find that when the protagonist shows a darker side it only allows you to create a more in-depth profile of said character. It allows the reader to have an inside look at what really goes on behind the mask of the character you have created, and gives the story a 'real life' feeling, and not something you have fabricated. It is a commonly used 'plot twist' though.

In the end, it all depends on someone's idea of what something evil is. Stealing is wrong, and in some eyes, considered evil. But if you have no money and you are stealing an apple to feed your child, who is unable to care for themselves, or find sustenance on their own, is that considered evil? What is worse: allowing the starvation of a helpless being, or taking an apple that you didn't purchase?

Sometimes, in order to do the right thing, you have to do the wrong thing.


Your first mistake is identifying protagonist with a good guy. Both your protagonist and your antagonist should have good and bad traits. The thing you need to keep in mind is that your audience needs to be able to identify with your protagonist. If he is going to do bad things he needs to do them for a good reason. Likewise if he is going to do very bad things he needs to do them for a very good reason.


This is not bad writing, but gives you more insight on said character. It depends on the plot of the story and how you manage to pull it off. It can either be a good twist in the story or people just say "oh wow so original".

Several movies (2 as of now) in this year have played on this topic, namely Batman v Superman and Captain America: Civil War.

Spoilers (for the movies):

In Batman v Superman, Batman fails to see how Superman could be the world's greatest hero and wows to brings him down; to strike before Superman can be corrupted and save the world from any possible threat from him. He even goes as far as to try and kill Superman.
In Captain America: Civil War, Iron Man does realize that Captain America was right about the Winter Soldier's innocence. But later on, when he finds out that it was the Winter Soldier who brutally murdered his parents on a mission and the fact that Captain America knew about it, he forgets all his moral values and tries to kill the Winter Soldier.

In the end this is not a bad practice, but it severely depends on how your story is and how you pull it off.


No, I think it's a very good plot.

One of Newton's laws is that "every action causes an equal and opposite reaction."

One reason evil is evil because it threatens to make the rest of us evil. In happy ending stories, the good guys stay good, and manage to defeat the evil.

But that is only one of four possible outcomes. Perhaps the second most likely outcome is, "the good guys stay good, and that's why they are not strong enough to fight evil." That, in fact, was the story of World War II (before the Americans got involved).

A third possible outcome is, yes, the bad and good guys "work on" each other, and sometimes the bad guys win. That is your story, it's a realistic one, entirely plausible, and should be told, because it happens more often than people would like to admit. Your downside is that the theme is unpopular.

The fourth possible outcome is also the least likely; the good guys not only defeat, but "convert" the bad guys (Christ and one of the two thieves during his Crucifixation).


IMHO, if your protagonist uses evil methods to save the world from the evil villain, and becomes popularly known as a great hero, evil things can result from that. Thus you should:

1) add a postcript telling that the hero's example has made every member of every side in every later conflict feel justified in using even the most evil methods to defeat their opponents. Thus ten thousand more people have been killed in conflicts per year for the past ten thousand years, or a hundred million people in total, more than would have been killed without that example.

2) Foreseeing such a possibility, the hero decides to keep secret the fact that he saved the world (and some of his methods were evil) secret, giving up all the glory for saving the world in shame at some of the evil things he did and fearing that others would use it as an excuse to do evil in the future.

3) Or perhaps the otherwise grateful people who the hero saves using evil methods arrest and try him for doing those evil things, out of fear they will become evil themselves if they don't, and fearing his evil example as in 1) above.

IMHO history is full enough of examples of people using evil methods to defeat evil villains, and other people later using those examples to justify their own evil deeds fighting against those they consider evil villains.


Your character can follow a negative character arc (e.g. Anakin Skywalker, Nick Carraway) which can mean that he rejects the truth in preference for a lie, even a darker lie than the one he started out with, and this in turn can make him do bad things. (In the case of Anakin Skywalker, he saw the truth, but rejected it in order to embrace the lie - I think we all know how that turned out in the end... Nick Carraway believed in a lie, but overcame it and found the new truth was tragic.)

Characters that follow negative arcs might have to pay a steep price for it.

Perhaps your hero saves the world, but the world isn't thankful for it and shuns him, so the story might become a battle between doing what must be done on one side and conforming to the social codes and risk the world on the other.

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