What Do You Look For in a Rivalry?

The above might not be the most famous rivalry, but it’s what came to made when I wanted a video about the topic.  Probably because Nyx and Trinity have the same power-level of fights.  At some point, I need to put them in an abandoned city where they can go all out on each other.

The rivalry between Nyx and Trinity has become a big part of the series and some of my favorite scenes to write.  The trick is to not overdo it.  Have a book or two between fights and only make them essential to the plot.  Otherwise, the rivalry gets diluted.  Nobody likes a boring, over-used rivalry.  I always ask how many times can you watch Spider-Man fight Doctor Octopus since both have been around for decades.  It gets tedious because eventually, you need a winner.  That’s something I look for in a rivalry.  An eventual ending because that brings closure and stops the rivalry from becoming stale.

The biggest thing that I look for in a rivalry is realism or as close as one can get.  I want the opponents to be equal in some way, so I don’t know who is going to win.  Even Superman has enemies that can match him or beat him in intelligence.  Superman versus Lex Luthor is brains versus brawn.  You still get a sense of ‘he can win’ from Luthor.  That’s what a rivalry really needs.  The idea that the villain can possibly win brings the threat to the hero and makes their fights much more interesting.

Another important part to a rivalry for me is that there has to be a reason.  Luke and the Hellfire Elf are at odds because the Hellfire Elf was ordered to kill him.  Nyx and Trinity are on opposite sides of a struggle and have found a worthy opponent.  These are simple sparks for a rivalry, but I think simple can work.  Not everyone rivalry has to be about the bad guy killing the good guy’s father after a misunderstanding that led the villain to go into jail where he made a deal with a demon for the power to crush the one he blamed for his life going to hell.  Sometimes two characters simply hate each other.  As long as a reason is given and it makes some sense, I’m good.  One spark that I can never get behind is the ‘I love you so I’m going to kill you’ thing that I’ve seen from time to time.  That comes off as the author wanting to write an angry sex scene.

So, what do you look for in a rivalry?

Legends of Windemere: Prodigy of Rainbow Tower Coming July 31st!!!!

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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53 Responses to What Do You Look For in a Rivalry?

  1. I also like knowing that the victor could be either one, it becomes far to diluted if it is predictable, and I agree it has to be spread out. I love watching rivalries that banter together occasionally while they are constantly growing in their loathing of one another through undertones in a story leading up to the final showdown which must be written to bring your reader to the edge of their seats.

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  2. Nice question, Charles – this one made me think on a half-caffeine fueled brain!

    I like a well-thought-out rivalry – whether it is a circumstantial rivalry (on opposite sides because that’s where they find themselves in life) which can make the eventual end of the rivalry more poignant, or a hate or ambition-fueled rivalry. I do tend to gravitate towards “brainy” rivalries, simply because I don’t have brawn, and I like to think I’d be able to outmaneuver someone in a similar situation.

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    • Brain versus brain is a fun rivalry. I’m a bigger fan of the brain versus brawn because of the flexibility, but there are flaws in that. Basically, the brawn wins as soon as he or she gets their hands on the brain. Probably best to have combinations of those traits.

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  3. Oloriel says:

    ” Sometimes two characters simply hate each other.” – most people often overlook how refreshing and interesting just this can be.

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    • I got a criticism about my book that a minor rivalry was lacking because there was no deep reason. It was the headmistress and the reckless hero at her school, so it was order versus chaos. The critic showed me that some people want complication with their rivalries. Sometimes to the point where they’ll miss a simple reason.

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      • Oloriel says:

        You will never be able to pelase trully everybody, what saddens me is that the nowadays critics are directed towards fashioning your writing towards a certain stream, rather then encouraging the writers to give their own originality, as well as readers to delve a bit deeper into the words, not just read the book,but live the book. It is fantasy genre, without a need for emotions and imagination, it is nothing inside a reader and when a book is like that, you do not really care what goes on inside of it anyways.
        And ye, I know, one could say that if you manage to entice someone not into this genre to still give a read and like it, you have accomplished a great goal, but I would ask myself how tailored did the story I had to share needed to be for I as a reader would much like to read and live YOUR story, not MY story writen by you how I distated.

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      • Good points. I think the term critic is being stretched these days because everyone can fall into that category. It’s no longer a closed club with Amazon and Goodreads having customer reviews. It does get frustrating when a critic’s entire point is that a book isn’t identical to another book that they love.

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      • Oloriel says:

        Yes, that is precisley what I mean. And even sadder is that the differences between a real critic and just me giving you my own pointers towards what I think is right, is getting thiner and thiner by the day, which is a bad thing, for we are allready having way too much of “target audience” books.
        I would love to read your books, because from the poems, character descriptions, trivias and everything else that you shared, seems to me it’s well worth a read. Don’t let the critics discourage you!

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      • Thanks. I hope you get a chance to read my stories. I’m hearing mostly good things about them. 🙂

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      • Oloriel says:

        I hate to read e-format and it costs a huge tax to order any papperbacks to my country (sometimes the tax fee goes up to 50 euros,that is if you are lucky and the book you ordered does not get stolen by the post office clerks). I will be moving soon and it is when I will go on a book-ordering spree, so I will defenatly read your books. Right now, I am enjoying the parts and intros and rest of the snippets you are giving here 🙂

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      • What about a Word or PDF document?

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      • Oloriel says:

        Yes, those are fine, but to be honest I dont even know if those are purchasable and offered when one is selling a book online. The only thing I ever check were papper copies.

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      • Understandable . . . taken care of. 🙂

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  4. tjtherien says:

    I’ve already set up one rivalry in my story… unlike the good vs evil… it is an instinctually based conflict to date I have only introduced the rival very briefly (3-4 paragraphs) and have mentioned him very little, but I am close to writing another installment featuring him… I haven’t said it in the story but I have implied there must be a conflict if my two main characters are going to move forward… but I’ve also used the natural world as an adversary… I’ve got some more pondering after reading this….

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  5. Johnny Ojanpera says:

    I think a great example of a rivalry is in the anime “Naruto”. He and Sasuke have a conflict early on, and it boils for years. Like you said, they rarely clash, and it will surely be the final battle of the series. Cloud and Sephiroth are a close second though.

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    • Anime has some amazing rivalries. Spike and Vicious. Vash and Knives. I think they’re perfect for rivalries. My only issue with the Naruto-style animes is that they never end. They get drawn out to the point where only a handful of fans are left. Inuyasha really suffered for this one.

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      • Johnny Ojanpera says:

        That’s true. Naruto has so many filler episodes that I lose track of the story sometimes. I have been waiting for he and Sasuke to fight for years now. I have only watched a few episodes of Inuyasha, so I’ll take that as a hint.

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      • I caught up with a friend who was obsessed with Naruto. She’s turned away because it went on for too long. Bleach is the one that really turned me off to the long series. Everyone trains, but it’s always Ichigo that saves the day. It’s the Dragonball Z formula, which DBZ gets away with for being the original. Not by much though.

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      • Johnny Ojanpera says:

        I watched over 300 episodes of Bleach. The story arcs were way to long and predictable; especially the Bounts and the Aizen thing. However, the premise was good enough to watch that many episodes. I just love anime.

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      • I think I made it that far. I’m more into the shorter animes like Evangelion, Samurai Champloo, Bebop, Trigun, etc. I like closure.

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      • Johnny Ojanpera says:

        Bebop is my all time fave. X is also amazing. The list is so long. Darker Than Black is pretty good too.

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      • Fullmetal Alchemist. Though I have yet to see the newer series.

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      • Johnny Ojanpera says:

        I haven’t either. My friend says it’s better. I haven’t been able to watch much lately. Too much work; research… I need help with a character. I’m going to blog my questions. Some insight would be nice. Mind if I pingback?

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      • I heard it’s closer to the manga, which I loved.

        Go ahead with the pingback. I’ll be glad to help if I can.

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  6. I like it when the potential winner seems weaker that his/her opponent. Basically, I like the underdog to win.

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  7. L. Marie says:

    Great video. One of my favorites comes in the last two episodes of Avatar. SPOILERS: They totally delivered on the fight between Aang and Fire Lord Ozai. I also loved the fights between Zuko and Azula and between Katara and Azula. END SPOILERS. Unlike the final battle in The Man of Steel, I never felt like the Avatar fights went on too long. There was a delicious sense of thoroughness. I was on the edge of my seat. But watching The Man of Steel I kept wondering how much time had passed. I felt bored watching two invincible people battling.

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    • I haven’t seen Man of Steel yet, so I couldn’t say. I remember getting a little bored with the fights in the Transformers movies. Probably because I couldn’t tell one Decepticon from another.

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  8. sknicholls says:

    Maybe because I had an awful rivalry with my older sister (you see, because I was supposed to have been a boy [even though I was a tomboy] and since I was born her life was ruined, I have always been attracted to stories of sibling rivalries. I am especially fascinated by those stories of heirs to a throne in history.

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