Creating Villains: Part 2

Monday, March 29

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What makes the villain such a threat? Do they have an army at their command, magic powers, control of the entire city, or just their skills and wits?

Why does the villain take action against the protagonist? For glory, money, fame?
One of the biggest mistakes people make in creating villains is through their motive. Villains don't sit around thinking, "How could I do more evil today?"
Realistically, villains usually don't recognize what they're doing as evil. They will rationalize, tell themselves that they deserve power, or feel that what they're doing is for a greater good.

Differentiating Villains
I tend to have more than one villain per book. Not only is there the main antagonist, but other secondary characters who make life hard for the hero.
With three different personalities to choose from, why don't all the villains end up the same?
I separate their personalities three ways. (Three times is a charm.)

One way is by determining the villains build.
A lightweight, quick villain will have different methods of fighting/striking fear than a large, powerfully-built one.
The small one will probably use subterfuge rather than brawn.
It's also good to take into note the gender of your villain. A female antagonist tends to use looks and lies to her advantage, whereas most male antagonists are classified by violence.

Quirks also help to differentiate characters. It could be anything from a fondness for chess, being clumsy, or superstitious.
The smallest difference helps.

The way a character speak says a lot about them.
Long words mark their intelligence and upbringing.
Slang signifies that they're less likely to be from a posh family.
Anything from stuttering, whining, lilting, guttural, to deceptively sweet  tells us important character traits.


Writing Prologues and Prefaces

Friday, March 26

A prologue (or preface) is a small chapter in the beginning of the book.
Yet there is a lot of confusion about how these things actually work.

To start, prologues depict events that have happened before the action in Chapter One. Usually they depict the character's childhood or an important event that happened years ago (such as the beginning of a war.)

I've noticed a lot of books where the prologue isn't used like this. Some writers think that a prologue is just an awesome scene used to pull the reader in.
Sure, it can be awesome, but if it would work as Chapter One, make it chapter one.

The prologue isn't the place where you introduce the main character or the main problem.

For example; if the prologue contains a scene where a character gets captured, then Chapter One shouldn't detail him waking up in his prison. The capture scene is Chapter One and should be labeled as such.


How to Cure Writer's Block

Monday, March 22

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the long awaited antidote for writer's block, envied and sought after by writers worldwide...
Write about writer's block.

After writing Friday's post on writer's block, I felt inspired again. Ideas flew back into my mind and now I'm writing comfortably.

It makes sense, doesn't it? When you're going through a block, that's all you can think about. This leaves next to no room for productive thoughts about your writing.

So do what we writers do best; write.
Rant and complain about your block on paper. Get all that stress out of your head to make space for your story.
Go on. What have you got to lose?

Results vary. Side effects include strokes of genius, cheerfulness, relief, and a brilliant writing ability. Consult your muse to see if WRITERSENSE is right for you.


Writer's Block

Friday, March 19

There comes a time when you hit a wall. As much as you'd love to write, you can't. You have no where else to go in the story.
You will become frustrated and try to force the write words onto the page. You will despair because what you've written doesn't hold it's usual brilliance. You will then toss it, sulk, and annoy your family members.
I mention this because I'm going through a block.

But I've had to content myself with, 'A writer's block doesn't last forever, and when it ends, brilliance will burst forth and everything will go smoothly again.'
I know this. it's happened every time I've gotten stuck. So why all this moping?


Creating Villains Part 1

Monday, March 15

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Next to the protagonist, the antagonist is the most important force in your story. They are the one who prevents the hero from achieving his/her goal and causes problems.

Of course, while the main character's problems can be caused by anything from a natural disaster to their own internal battle, I'd like to focus on the human antagonist. (By 'human' I mean all intelligent creatures, mythical or otherwise.)

There are hundreds of different personalities you can pin on a villain. But I think there are three main ones that influence their dialogue and actions.

Eerily calm
This is the bad guy that's 'calm and calculating.'
They refrain from taking rash action and spend most of their time plotting and quietly forwarding their interests.
When faced with the protagonist, they tend to smile coldly and say lines like, "No last words? How disappointing." (Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary by Brandon Mull)
Outwardly they feign indifference and confidence. Whether they feel the same on the inside is less certain.

This is the opposite of eerily calm. They jump into action and take pleasure in fighting their own fights. They're bold and rash with enemies and allies alike.
They anger easily and are prone to violence.

This antagonist is a mixture of the two. While they can hide their feelings and tend to plan (eerily calm), they also believe in the power of fear, and will use violence to achieve their ends (rough).
They don't usually mask their displeasure (unlike the eerily calm), but will show it in other ways than immediately striking out.


Writing Jokes

Friday, March 12

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Many people want to write a funny, satirical novel. We want laughs, even in the darkest of hours.
I've learned the hard way that you can't force clever punch lines.

For example, one of my first stories had a character who I'd established as the laugh it off, never serious, comic relief character.
During dull moments in the story I forced corny and lame jokes into her mouth.  I modified funny things that people said in real life and dropped it into the story, even when it broke the pace of the scene. I figured, if its funny in real life, why shouldn't it be funny here?

It doesn't work that way.
All the jokes I inserted fell flat, and caused even the most supportive relative to raise an eyebrow while editing.

Humor, I've found, is usually stumbled upon accidentally. The funniest jokes are the ones that come out of thin air.But the same holds true for real life.
Don't try too hard. Like a lot of aspects of writing, you've got to wait for inspiration to strike.


Showing Not Telling: Setting

Monday, March 8

The setting of your story is important. It's the time and the place, the stage for your characters.

But it's important to give a sense of setting without bogging the reader down with details.

When I'm reading, I tend to skim through the descriptions about the "dew-kissed glades, the pale coin of a sun rising like a burning emblem against the azure sky, tinged with the pink of a new day..." yada yada yada.

One way to incorporate the setting into the story is through dialogue.
Quoting from my September post;

Dialogue can also tell the reader about the scenery. For example;

"...five steps, six steps. Six steps long."
"What is?"
"This cell."
"Quit splashing around in the water and sit down."
"Sit down where? Everywhere is wet."
"Well standing by that barred window won't help your health much either."

We can already see that a) they're in a cell, b)it's wet, c) it's small, and d) it has a barred window.
A little more interesting than

The room was wet and cold. It had a barred window. It was small.

But the main thing a writer wants it to set up the scene with as few words as possible, without it sounding like a travel guide. This is usually accomplished by having the characters thoughts and actions reflect his surroundings.

Travel guide version;

The area is prone to sunshine, though for the last hundred years or so, the people of Pent have experienced cold and snowy weather.
To the west of the small village is a vast wood. This wood is the primary source of food for the villagers, but they must be cautious of the wolves that live there.
The area is flat, with few hills. This provides a wide view across the Pent Plains.

Now let's try incorporating it into the story;

Jace pulled his hood around his ears. Folks said that a hundred years ago snow had never chilled these expansive plains. It was hard to believe with the cold biting at him so fiercely.
He trudged away from the village of Pent toward the woods, the only place to find food these days.
A howl erupted from the trees. Jace gripped his knife. The wolves wouldn't get him unarmed. Not this time.

Which one do you prefer?


Showing Not Telling

Friday, March 5

One of the 'rules' of writing is to show not tell.
What's the difference between showing and telling?

Telling is when you, the writer, come out and say it.

She was shy.
She was afraid of snakes.
Her hair was brown.

Showing is when through the character's actions, thoughts, and words the reader learns these things.

She blushed and tucked a strand of brown hair behind one ear.
"I'm...scared of snakes," she whispered quietly, nervously scraping her foot against the floor.

Some more examples;


Marie hated Daniel.
Marie cried when she got upset.
Marie had blue eyes.


Marie ripped herself from Daniel's grasp.
"Don't touch me," she hissed, her blue eyes brimming with angry tears.

Showing is usually more vivid and appealing than Telling.

But Telling has its place too, something people tend to ignore.

You can say "Five months had passed," rather than showing in detail what happened every day during those months.

Telling is also useful when writing a action scene. Some writers shy away from writing fight scenes, because they bog themselves down by worrying about showing.
Most action is done quickly. Simply saying, "Jared slammed his fist into Ben's face," will suffice.
For fast paced scenes, don't worry about showing us the fight. Just get on with it already.

But that's another post.



Monday, March 1

Deadlines seemed to be feared by everyone. They're a "threat".

I prefer to think of them differently.
Writers need goals, something to motivate them.

Paul F. Tompkins said, "I need fear to make me creative...I like to say, it takes pressure to make a diamond."

If you have no finish line, what's the point of even starting?

Set a deadline for yourself, an achievable goal like finishing a your rough draft before summer break.
And then celebrate it. You are that much closer to being published.

"Success is a finished book, a stack of pages, each filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world."
~Tom Clancy

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