Vice & Virtue — A-to-Z Blog Challenge, Literary Terms

VDown to the final 5. Am I the only one to notice that the 5th to last letter of the alphabet is also the Roman Numerical for the number 5? I have a soft spot for V, as it is part of my last name. It is though an uncommon letter, like U, but more of a bitch to deal with.

Today is Vice & Virtue. Two important words for character development.

As much as I want this to be over, I’m going to miss the excitement each day seeing the new responses.


Help Keep This Site Running

This site is a great achievement for me, but due to being unable to work, I may not be able to keep this site running. With your help, I might be able to.

I need $125 by October 30th, 2017. Anything you can give will help.


Vice is a behavior that is considered immoral, sinful, depraved, or degrading in a given society. It can also be a habit of a practice. This tends to be an extreme definition of vice, where as a more common definition can be a fault, negative character trait, or an unhealthy habit. Vice is often seen as a fault, sin, depravity, iniquity, wickedness, and corruption.

Vice comes from the Latin word vitium, meaning “failing or defect”. Should not be confused for vice, as in Vice President or Viceroy, as that is a Latin prefix meaning “in the place of”.

Vice is also deeply rooted in religion, each of them talking about great sins. I won’t be discussing them in this article.

For the most part, Vice is generally the worst of the worst when it comes to traits and quirks. Most characters have a vice, generally it is an issue to degree. Doesn’t matter if they are good and bad. Vices tend to add flavor to a character, generally regarded as negative traits to a character to make them more realistic or more sympathetic.

Often times, with vices, characters have a Fatal Flaw, something that prevents them from succeeding in the story and something they generally must overcome. A contrast to this is an informed flaw, that a character has a flaw that should seem fatal, but doesn’t have an effect on the narrative. Some villains have vices as a demonstration of how bad they are.

Some common vices:




Virtue comes from Latin virtus meaning “excellence of any kind”. A virtue is described as a positive trait or quality deemed to be morally good and is valued as a foundation of principle.

Like Vice, many cultures, especially religious ones, had their own sets of Virtues. For the most part, a virtue is a characteristic of a person of moral excellence and well being.

Those considered high in Virtue are seen as really good people. Many stories are centered around virtues of characters as a central theme to the narration. Generally, a single virtue is assigned to a character in a story with other characters representing other virtues that compliment each other.

Virtues is not a consideration just for Protagonists, as they can be elements of the Antagonist, or in simpler terms, both Hero and Villain can have Virtues.

Some common virtues:

Ambition – In Narrative, Villains tend to try to become more than what they are in the story. Heroes can also exhibit this, but tends to be more for feminine (I do not mean girl stories) journeys than masculine. Masculine tends to lack ambition as the plot forces the protagonist to make a change, often from a disaster.

Determination – Getting back on the horse when  get knocked off. We actually see this with episodic villains, as they are always trying to take over the world.

Honest – Regarded as the Golden Virtue, but sometimes a little lie is necessary. However, the villain may actually tell the truth.

In the Matrix films, none of the Machines/Programs in the Matrix ever lied, they all told the truth. They might drew different conclusions about reality, but they were never trying to deceive the humans.

neo and smith

Honor – There are some lines that the hero and villain won’t cross.

Humility – A hero never becomes too arrogant and tend to be very modest. A villain can also exhibit this trait as well, that they can take criticisms and not shoot the messenger/lacky when receiving bad news. Neither are ruled by their ego, and know that they alone can’t get the job done and rely on others.

Love – They say it conquers all. For a hero maybe, but a villain, probably not. While they may have loved ones, they don’t stop what they are doing for them.

Brennan from Burn Notice is a good example. He’s a rogue spy who will strap bombs to children to get what he wants, but is scared when Michael threatens to hurt his girl (it was a bluff, Michael wouldn’t do that).


Loyalty – Loyalty is not an indication of Good or Evil, as you can easily have Donkey (Shrek) and Starscream (Transformers).


Passion – Strong emotional ties into the work that we do. For Villains, this may fuel evil itself whereas heroes might get blinded by it.

Patience – Often heroes and villains are written as impatient, but they can also be patient people waiting for the right time to act, or waiting for something to come together.

Palpatine in the Prequels…enough said.


Resourcefulness – Not much to say here, I refer to this as MacGuyver vs Carmen Sandiego


Selflessness – What they do is not for themselves, but for others. Villains can exhibit this as well as heroes.

Operative from Serenity was doing what he did to make the world a better place.


There are many many more virtues to use, but the ultimate point is that just because your Antagonist is evil, doesn’t mean they don’t still have virtues.


Vice & Virtue

Honestly, this is about how others view you, or your characters. One might feel justified in their own actions, and yet others will judge them as having a Vice or a Virtue. Culture does play a role in this. Once upon a time in the US, it was socially acceptable to smoke in public and the thought on Second Hand smoke was, “then go somewhere else if you don’t want it”. Smoking was a cultural symbol that was something most everyone did. Now it is slowly turning into something people shouldn’t do. While it wasn’t necessarily a virtue, it is now becoming a vice.

When designing your world, take stock on what is considered highly moral behavior and immoral behavior and if any of your characters partake in either one.


We are doing something a little different for V. Given that Vice and Virtue are so linked together, that a complex character generally exhibits both types; we cannot look at characters that are representative of a vice without considering their virtues at the same time. So, we’ll be looking at some interesting characters we can make for Vice and Virtue.

Mr. Vice Guy

Obvious play on with Mr. Nice Guy, the Mr. Vice Guy is a good guy with an obvious vice. Often times it is an addiction or world view, but as bad as it is, it doesn’t outweigh the qualities that make him a hero. Sometimes they justify doing bad because they’ve done a little good to balance it out.

A good way to write said character is they have to overcome a vice or are robbed of their vice for whatever reason, then it is “No More Mr. Vice Guy”.

If the vice is central to who the character is, they can often become an Anti-Hero

Barney Stintson from How I Met Your Mother, is a good Mr. Vice Guy. He’s Greedy, a womanizer, childish, self-involved, and borderline sex addict. However, he has been show to have a heart of gold, flying all the way to California to convince Lily to come back to NY to be with Marshal. Also that he kept trying to take women away from Marshal. This was a guy was a guy who didn’t believe in marriage (at the time).

Embodiment of Virtue/Vice

As mentioned before, this is when an author chooses to imbue a character with a particular virtue or vice. Though it can also be organization and inanimate objects, depending on the story being told.

This tends to deal with moral assignments, so things like habitual vices or literal vices are not the embodiment of a character, simply moral vices. Not to say a moral vice cannot be a habitual one.

Generally a vice is assign to a character to illustrate a deterrence to the plot, either the character must overcome or a villain is doing to stop the heroes. A virtue is used on multiple characters to balance each other out to solve the problems of the plot.

A good example of the embodiment of virtue would be My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (yes I’ve seen the show and no I’m not a brony, but OK that others are), where the Mane Six are the elements of Harmony.

Fluttershy == Kindness
Rainbow Dash == Loyalty
Rarity == Generosity
Applejack == Honesty
Pinkie Pie == Laughter
Twilight Sparkle == Friendship

In fact, they represent 6 of the Seven Heavenly Virtues, though some have argued that Princess Celestia represent Humility.


Se7en dealt with a Serial Killer who committed murders based on the Seven Deadly Sins. The victims, and antagonist became the embodiment of vice.


  1. Shawn Yankey says:

    I get what you mean. This challenge is a lot of work but it is really cool meeting all the different bloggers and interacting. I will be sad when it’s over. Great post!
    Shawn from Laughing at Life 2

  2. Tom says:

    An interesting post on two good topics. Impressed by the listings for Vice. Once again I’m a bit lost on any reference to movies or characters.

%d bloggers like this: