In many action stories, the motivator of the hero/heroine is revenge for wrongs made to him/her or loved ones. One of my favorite quotes is the one borrowed by Tarantino for “Kill Bill:” “Revenge is a dish better served cold…ancient Klingon Proverb.”
Revenge is easy for most of us to understand. When people tick us off, it’s natural to want to “get even.” Anybody ever cut you off from a lane on the interstate? Ever had rude service at a bank or restaurant? Worse yet, ever been bullied? Ever had a “friendly” acquaintance suddenly walk off in mid-conversation at a party when he/she sees someone more wealthy or politically important?
Fantasy gives us a great place to play out the revenge that is legal only in our dreams. Our extreme-mean villains fall to our characters’ unique abilities. Most of the time, stories show that revenge doesn’t heal the wounds made by the enemy, but gives some vindication for the hero/heroine. I’m currently reading “The Count of Monte Cristo,” a classic story about revenge.
When “Act of Redemption” came out, many thought Shevata’s motivation was revenge for what was done to her. That’s not entirely true. She fought in a war, and never lost sight of the enemy who had killed so many children sent to fight a war at the front, while she remained inside the city of Gastar to be an assassin, carrying out death orders by command. With the Abbian priests, she killed them as an act of war. The second novella, “Children of Discord,” the treacherous boy Goldeon motivated Shevata by raw revenge in the purest sense of the word. They have no dialogue together; she didn’t find him to talk.
I think revenge is used so often in stories is that it brings good characters down to the level of the antagonist; it’s a realization for both the character and the reader of what one is capable of when pushed to their physical/intellectual limits. While it brings closure, vengeance rarely brings joy, and when used well adds depth to the story.
I’m not saying every action/adventure story requires revenge against the antagonist. Along with love, hate, admiration, and jealousy, whatever feelings we have in reality can be applied and amplified in fantasy, thus giving the reader a truly breakaway-from-reality story.