“Mirror, mirror, on the wall. Who is the fairest of them all?” – Queen Ravenna (Snow White and the Huntsman)
Who doesn’t love villains? Sometimes they are humorous. Sometimes they are downright evil. Whether it be for money or personal revenge, the antagonist always has some kind of agenda.
Evil is almost always a factor that every hero must endure if the story is a hero’s journey. Other stories deal with troublesome characters who are simply annoying or untrustworthy.
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word ‘scheme’ has multiple meanings. One such definition includes: a clever and often dishonest plan to do or get something.
The word ‘plot’ can also have several definitions. When it comes story, it can signify: a series of events that form the story in a novel, movie, etc.
There is a difference between the pair.
An evil plot is a series of obstacles that the antagonist of the story throws at the protagonist. This often occurs over the course of the story. This differs to the evil scheme where the antagonist has a goal to get something that they desire.
When it comes to writing for one of these, it is essential to know which one you are using before you start writing a word.
One example of an evil scheme would be Beauty and the Beast’s main villain, Gaston. His scheme was to woo Maurice’s daughter, Belle (the titular beauty) to be his wife. He has his unlucky lackey, LeFou help him. This scheme fails because Gaston gets killed during his showdown with the Beast. Belle also constantly rejects his advances.
An evil plot example would be the Evil Queen’s plot to kill Snow White in Snow White the Seven Dwarfs. The queen was overly jealous of the magic mirror calling Snow White the fairest in the land. She then plots to have her killed by poisoning her.
In the original Snow White story, the queen tries different ideas to kill the princess. The Evil Queen’s plan becomes foiled when the dwarfs save Snow White each time. These objects were used before the queen thought of the poisoned apple. These objects included:
• Bodice lace
• The Huntsman (who cannot kill the girl)
There are also villains that play a major role in the story. Later it becomes known that they were protecting rather than plotting. That’s the type of character that Snape is, for example.
Let’s examine Harry Potter’s Severus Snape for a moment. For four books, we were lead to believe Snape was a follower of Lord Voldemort. While it becomes revealed he was once a follower, note the key word being ‘once’. He wanted to do right by Lily (his crush and Harry’s late mother) and protect her son. Therefore, he died a hero and Harry would later name his youngest son after him: Albus Severus.
‘Antagonists’ similar to Snape are considered to be antiheroes. This to due to them turning their backs to the dark side but they are not on the side of heroism either.
The discovery of the antihero has often been a massive plot twist which can also be used for villains.
One example of the late reveal of a villain includes Prince Hans in Disney’s smash hit, Frozen. The character is first seen as being kind and thoughtful and willing to help others. This is, until the moment before the climax where his true motivations were revealed.
It was long believed the Duke of Weselton was the villain. This belief was spawned due to his animosity towards Arendelle. Moreover, it was revealed that the kind Prince Hans was in fact the power hungry tyrant. Hans was someone who wanted to be king of another kingdom after realising he was never going to be king of his own. The duke served a minor antagonist that pushed suspicion away from Hans’ true nature. The duke, in a way, served as the role of the ‘villainous sidekick’, despite the film not having one. After all, he did ‘want’ to exploit Arendelle for its riches.
This was a smart move by the writers as it makes way for the ultimate plot twist.
Let’s dissect Hans’ true intentions.
When we meet Hans for the first time, he bumps into Anna (accidentally) and throws her into a rowboat. He then proposes to her after their ‘Love is an Open Door’ musical number. Suspicious, right? Hmm…
Hans is present when Elsa’s powers become unveiled. He is surprised that the queen has supernatural powers. He seems to recover quicker than the other onlookers that are present.
When Anna goes out looking for her sister, she places Hans in charge. At this point, she has only known him for not even a full day. Who does this when they don’t know a person that well?
It was when Kristoff returned Anna to Arendelle did Hans’ true colours show. He reveals to her that he is the thirteenth son and he would never be king of his own kingdom. He tells her [Anna] that if he married a princess from another kingdom then he would surely become king. Hans is therefore spiteful enough to want Anna to die.
So what does this say about Hans as a villain?
Hans is observant and uses the information he gathers against his victim. He is also cunning and uses the situation to his advantage. He used the fact that Anna was naive to agree to marry him just seconds after meeting him. In turn, it gave him the leverage he needed to take out Elsa and Anna and to attempt to take Arendelle as his own. He used Anna’s trusting nature to his advantage. He did this by getting the people to trust him due to his ‘engaged’ status to Anna.
Logically speaking, Hans was a schemer, as was Gaston while the Evil Queen was a plotter.
Before we wrap this little exposé up, here’s a tip for you to try out for yourself.
Think about this when creating villains, antiheroes or other antagonists for your story. Consider whether they have an ulterior motive or whether there is more to their plan. Whether you choose to reveal the motive in the story is entirely up for debate.
In conclusion, the difference between an evil scheme and an evil plot is rather broad. Is important to know the difference of how each one will affect your character(s) and where they might wind up.