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I Desperately Wanna Avoid A Mary Tzu:

 1 gingerninja 666, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:08:59 PM from Aboard The Damocles
SCH-NEIGH-ZEL
The villain in my story is supposed to be a master tactitian and strategist as a counter-point to the heroes' fighting skills, but I really wanna write him as doing more than simply predicting what the characters will do flwlessly. Any ideas how I can write this guy properly?
"Contests fought between two masters are decided instantly. An invisible battle is now raging between the two of them." Lulu vs Schneizel
 2 annebeeche, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:10:22 PM from by the long tidal river
watching down on us
Think about it logically, from his perspective. What does he know, and what does he not know? Even if he's extremely experienced and your characters are very predictable, there's still room for error.
Banned entirely for telling FE that he was being rude and not contributing to the discussion. I shall watch down from the goon heavens.
 3 gingerninja 666, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:18:49 PM from Aboard The Damocles
SCH-NEIGH-ZEL
I'm just paranoid, if nothing else I want him to look truly intelligent

edited 5th Jun '11 8:19:01 PM by gingerninja666

"Contests fought between two masters are decided instantly. An invisible battle is now raging between the two of them." Lulu vs Schneizel
 4 chihuahua 0, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:27:13 PM from Standoff, USA Relationship Status: I'm in love with my car
Writer's Welcome Wagon
Make sure your Mary Tzu messes up once and awhile by failing to see a variable hidden by her, like the fact that the enemy is exploiting one land formation.

 5 feotakahari, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:27:47 PM from Looking out at the city
Fuzzy Orange Doomsayer
How well does your villain know your heroes' thought processes? And to what degree is he in a position to prepare for and benefit from multiple courses of action the heroes might take?
That's Feo . . . He's a disgusting, mysoginistic, paedophilic asshat who moonlights as a shitty writer—Something Awful
 6 gingerninja 666, Sun, 5th Jun '11 8:32:47 PM from Aboard The Damocles
SCH-NEIGH-ZEL
Actuallu, I'm kinda having him use Xanatos Gambits to gain a better understanding of his enemy. He creates plans where regardless of if the heroes lose or defeat him, he'll learn something about them either way, and incorperate it into a future plan
"Contests fought between two masters are decided instantly. An invisible battle is now raging between the two of them." Lulu vs Schneizel
Her with the hat
One point is to have him/her occasionally lose battles (and thus, have to resort to Xanatos Speed Chess to prevent things going too badly).

Another point is allow their enemies to be competent. Don't turn them into stormtroopers, missing every shot, and completely missing chances to fight back. Let them have some victories, even if they are small. Have your villain make a mistake, let the enemy take advantage of that mistake, and then have them fix things and learn not to make that mistake again.

Also: Enemies are people too. Unless they are robots, it's entirely possible that they can be unpredictable when under pressure. They could be more noble than your villain expected, holding out after they were expected to surrender - or break much sooner than expected. (I see the Code Geass icon and would point out that this is a flaw of Lelouch's: For all his tactical skills, he often forgets the unpredictability of people when emotional.)

edited 6th Jun '11 12:26:29 AM by Drakyndra

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 8 Toaster Dust, Fri, 10th Jun '11 12:27:42 AM from Sacramento, California
You can make the job of the antagonist easier by making his subordinates more effective, if you establish that his soldiers are skilled, well equipped and possess a reasonable grasp of tactics and strategy then making him some sort of Super Genius isn't as hard, part of strategy is getting what you can reliably out of all available resources and I think that any sort of gambits or plans should rely more on the people he knows about and can depend on as much as possible rather than a rag-tag group of well intention variables. Also if you need ideas for military strategy just look up famous campaigns and adapt the actions of the participants for your settings. If your villain is a military genius then you can adapt the unorthodox strategies that led them to success while letting their opponents follow reasonable but conservative courses of action.
It's like they always say "Oh God no, please please please, you don't have to do this, please God no I have a..."
 9 Mr AHR, Fri, 10th Jun '11 2:41:23 AM from ಠ_ಠ Relationship Status: A cockroach, nothing can kill it.
Ahr river
Gingerninja: I would try and get people to look at the situations blind, and see if something works. It's very hard to do that as a writer, because you know everything. EVERYTHING. It means any foreshadowing you put will be incredibly obvious, no matter how subtle, etc. etc.
 10 Kersey 475, Fri, 16th Dec '11 7:51:34 PM from Everywhere and Nowhere
My Namesakes
So far, your villain sounds like a high-end Chessmaster bordering on Magnificent Bastard. The concept of using Xanatos Gambits to learn about his enemies definetly works.

One thing you can do to make him avoid looking like a Mary Tzu is to show him studying psychology and/or science in his spare time and pairing him up with The Watson in order to give the villain an excuse to explain the reasoning behind his predictions.

In other words, try checking out The Thrawn Trilogy or Gargoyles for research on how NOT to make your villain look like a Mary Tzu.
"Think like a man of action, act like a man of thinking, and don't be a dumbass."
 11 USAF713, Fri, 16th Dec '11 11:05:05 PM from the United States
I changed accounts.
  • Step 1: Read The Art of War.
  • Step 2: Research realistic tactics, especially concerning technology of a broadly similar level to what you have. If you're dealing with silly/fantastic things like magic or mythical creatures, logically try to place them in something similar to a real-life combat role (for example, a dragon as a heavy-attack aircraft similar to the A-10 Thunderbolt).
  • Step 3: Find someone who was actually in a command position in the military and/or is a military historian/tactician to help you work on such things. All else fails, come to the Military Thread in OTC; some guidance is better than no guidance, and people like Breakerchase and Sabre's Edge will almost certainly be glad to help in any way they can.
  • Step 4: Rule of Cool and Rule of Drama are dumb. If you cannot logically justify something after having a basic understanding of tactics and thus knowing what would and would not work, it's probably silly and will make anybody who thinks about it for longer than ten minutes frown in annoyance.
  • Step 5: Revise. A lot.
  • Step 6: ???
  • Step 7: Profit!
I am now known as Flyboy.
 12 Major Tom, Sat, 17th Dec '11 5:55:07 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
Rule Of Cool and Rule of Drama are dumb.

If and only if those are your only reasons for using a specific tactic or strategy. If you can't think of a logical/military reason to use it (e.g. battlefield scenario forced your hand into it, new technology being tried out, etc.) don't.

Note: This does not apply to technologies. Most good tactics concerning technologies of any kind only emerge after contact with the enemy has proven either its usefulness (like tanks) or uselessness (big AA guns in the days of missiles). Especially if the technology's introduction can rapidly change the roles of warfare niche or broad scale. (For example don't say you can't use Rule of Cool to justify mecha. You just can't use it as your sole reason. After all, there will be a lot of naysaying if somebody actually built and fielded mobile suits for instance but if they started proving themselves as actually doing something it would completely revise the way we do war one way or another.)
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
We're Having All The Fun
[up] Fiction does not need to be realistic. Few people want to spend ten pages reading about the "realistic" battle procedures and the military jargon, what people are interested in is an engaging story told well with interesting characters. You could have the most detailed descriptions of how a Colt Python works or whatever and no one would think it was a good story because you focused on masturbating to guns rather than telling a story.
All I do, is sit down at the computer, and start hittin' the keys. Getting them in the right order, that's the trick.
 14 Major Tom, Sat, 17th Dec '11 6:45:17 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
^ At the same time, fiction is too loaded with such bad drivel of unrealistic, unbelievable, and just plain inaccurate, wrong or bad in those regards.

The best works in fiction that touch upon war most frequently avert Hollywood Tactics and such drivel. (Lord of the Rings did. So did Chronicles of Narnia books. Star Wars invented its own tactical scenarios and used them well every time. Stuff like Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea invented tactics and technologies as well, some of which later became reality.)

edited 17th Dec '11 6:45:29 AM by MajorTom

Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
We're Having All The Fun
[up] Yeah, but none of those works were good because of that, they are good because they have good characters and an interesting plot.
All I do, is sit down at the computer, and start hittin' the keys. Getting them in the right order, that's the trick.
 16 Major Tom, Sat, 17th Dec '11 6:50:28 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
But that attention to detail made them better. That's the point in this thread.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
We're Having All The Fun
[up] It is a nice touch, but it does not really add anything to the work. I would always say that you should make a battle in fiction interesting rather than realistic. Who cares if the Galactic Empire should destroy the rebel base rather than posturing and threatening a third party? If it hinders the telling of an engaging story, then spergy attention to detail about unimportant guff should be removed. If it doesn't hinder, it is fine, but you should never build a work around spergy attention to detail about unimportant guff, because you'll be making a less interesting work.
All I do, is sit down at the computer, and start hittin' the keys. Getting them in the right order, that's the trick.
 18 Major Tom, Sat, 17th Dec '11 6:57:42 AM Relationship Status: Barbecuing
Eye'm the cutest!
And I'm not disagreeing.
Endless Conflict: Every war ends in time, even supposedly this one.
 19 lord Gacek, Sat, 17th Dec '11 7:27:20 AM from Kansas of Europe
KVLFON
The thing everyone remembers about Thrawn is that he could predict his opponents' movements, but what is perhaps more worthy of mention is his inventiveness. Everyone knew the cloak generators are Awesome, but Impractical in combat - so he used them for area denial. Toaster Dust put it well in the post #8.

As to depiction of his thought processes, instead of using The Watson, one might show his thoughts through the omniscient third-person narration. I'm rambling but you know what I mean, I guess.

edited 17th Dec '11 7:27:52 AM by lordGacek

"Atheism is the religion whose followers are easiest to troll"
read
What I do:

When dealing with characters smarter than me, I give myself weeks (and sometimes months) to think about possible strategies they could use. Then I have them coming to the same conclusion in a more compressed time.
oddly
 21 USAF713, Sat, 17th Dec '11 11:31:57 AM from the United States
I changed accounts.
Fiction does not need to be realistic. Few people want to spend ten pages reading about the "realistic" battle procedures and the military jargon, what people are interested in is an engaging story told well with interesting characters. You could have the most detailed descriptions of how a Colt Python works or whatever and no one would think it was a good story because you focused on masturbating to guns rather than telling a story.

I contend that this complaint has two different components to it, and I also contend that one is incorrect.

Fiction, when it comes to things like this, should be realistic.

That doesn't mean, however, that we need to explain exactly why it's realistic.

Edit: Alright, let me rephrase.

It doesn't necessarily need to be realistic. It does need to be logical, however.

For example, I will use Code Geass versus the new Sherlock Holmes films.

Neither one, when it comes to fighting, is particularly realistic, but Sherlock Holmes comes across as far more plausible and reasonable because they establish good boundaries for what can and cannot happen, don't try to wank over all the details, and they ultimately make you believe that it could happen.

And then there's Code Geass with its absurd major final battle, where they were playing aerial chess with mechas. No. That's idiotic.

Now, don't get me wrong, Code Geass was entertaining, but it was also ludicrous. The Sherlock Holmes films are also entertaining, but they're better (at least, I think so), because they're more believable, even if both works are essentially impossible in real life.

edited 17th Dec '11 11:35:35 AM by USAF713

I am now known as Flyboy.
 22 Night, Sat, 17th Dec '11 11:37:12 AM from PSNS Intrepid Relationship Status: Drift compatible
Who you are does not matter.
With USAF on this one.
"Let us look less to the sky to see what might fall; rather, let us look to each other...and rise."
 23 Kersey 475, Sat, 17th Dec '11 11:56:19 AM from Everywhere and Nowhere
My Namesakes
The most obvious way to prevent a Mary Sue-type character is to have them fail, but in order to avoid a Mary Tzu and make a truly great tactical villain is to not only have him miscalculate and fail, but have the villain ADMIT that he failed, learn from teh defeat, and move on (instead of having a Villainous Breakdown, blindly ignore the mistakes, or even claim that he planned for it when there is NO possible/plausible way he could've seen that mistake coming).

It would also help if this villain personally gets involved in the field and utilizes Xanatos Speed Chess (Another Hint: AVOID Xanatos Roulettes at all costs) to keep his plans more or less on track. Remember, plausibility is your friend.
"Think like a man of action, act like a man of thinking, and don't be a dumbass."
oh no the snack table
Keep careful notes on what everyone knows at any given time, and revise, revise, revise. Your notebook and your editors are your best hope to navigate, otherwise the shoals of continuity will wreck the keel of your villain's genius every time if your course isn't plotted carefully.

Also, consider what the villain does not or cannot know that will be his undoing. This can be some clue in the world (typical of a mystery), or some aspect of a character's personality (typical to a heroic arc), or simply his own myopia (typical to a morality play).

It helps to avoid thinking in tropes, if you aren't already. For example, all of the Xanatos foobar tropes are useless gibberish.
It's beautiful and so full of deep imagery that it doesn't surprise me to find that it has gone WAY over your head
 25 Kersey 475, Sun, 18th Dec '11 6:10:16 AM from Everywhere and Nowhere
My Namesakes
^ What's a foobar?

If you mean that the Xanatos Planned This Index tropes are useless then I disagree. Remember, Tropes Are Not Bad.

edited 18th Dec '11 6:11:30 AM by Kersey475

"Think like a man of action, act like a man of thinking, and don't be a dumbass."
Total posts: 62
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