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Villains Act, Heroes React
aka: The Villain Makes The Plot

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"That's the problem with heroes, really. Their only purpose in life is to thwart others. They make no plans, develop no strategies. They react instead of act. Without villains, heroes would stagnate. Without heroes, villains would be running the world. Heroes have morals. Villains have work ethic."
Narration from The Last Avengers Story

An odd fact about the nature of initiative in fiction: If somebody has a plan at the start of the story, that character is probably a villain.


There are several reasons why this trend exists:

  1. A villain, in order to be threatening, must want something, and have some chance of getting it.
  2. Most heroes are protectors of some kind (cops, doctors [in medical dramas], or the parents of children who are being threatened by some [possibly supernatural] evil) and the villain's plans are a threat to the hero's Protectorate, thus making it impossible for them to be unusually proactive before the story starts.
  3. If the villain doesn't do anything, the audience is entirely within its rights to think that this is a case of Orcus on His Throne, which is frequently felt to be a bad thing.
  4. It's easier to write another story (and given that much fiction nowadays is in some form serialized) if the hero is not the one responsible for everything happening. Less important in one offs.
  5. The Heavy is in full play here, as well; and one of the few ways to make a smart villain appear effective is to have him be a successful schemer.
  6. If the hero is proactive about his situation, then the Status Quo will, in most situations, eventually change, which is frequently banned under Status Quo Is God.
  7. If the hero actively opposes the villain before the latter has done anything evil, all the audience sees is a Designated Hero harassing a Designated Villain for no reason. Less of a problem for running series where the villain earned his reputation in previous stories, though that can be seen as a belated heroic reaction to the villain's past actions.
  8. Stories tend to seek to be epic. It is easy to invent the story with epic threat and hero trying to stop it but it is very problematic to invent hero who would try to bring some epic good and villain trying to spoil it. Hero can be active in small stories, where hero try to do something small for comunity and faces greedy villain, but it is hard to imagine story where hero makes epic plan for absolute everlasting good as good relay in things of daily life and it would be hard to come up with idea for something universally good, although one may think about some type of invention for example. If there is some hero like this in fiction, he often ends up as fanatical villain or it is the story of propaganda.

Aversion of this, Heroes Act, Villains Hinder, comes from stories centering on the actions or emotions of the hero:

This trope is much too broad for examples. Try the subtropes instead.

Alternative Title(s): Proactiveness Is A Villain Trait


Example of: