Tag Archives: villains

Is this brilliance or madness?

It’s April. Camp NaNoWriMo is in full swing – or rather, is nearly at an end. The wordcount goal I chose is 10,000 words. Easy, right? Ha! Once again, the obstacles of a busy schedule, random mishaps, and lack of ideas put me behind my goals by about 3,000+ words on a nearly consistent basis this month (which has almost been remedied by now). However, with a little encouragement from the NaNoForums (since I’m taking a break from FaceBook), I’ve pressed on anyway.

In looking at most of my writings, the plot tends to ramble, even when I do plan ahead (which I haven’t been doing). My current project is no exception. [Readers, please forgive the ramble ahead, but it must happen.] I am continuing the story I was working on the last time I posted here. The role of “villain” has already changed hands at least twice, if not more. The races of my made up world have come into view more clearly, and so has the tension between them. It’s much more than, “We’ve been fighting for so long that we’ve forgotten why” (which is often my excuse for longterm conflicts). There are deep-seated Reasons behind these things, and it causes Serious Problems for my protagonist – and this was totally not what I was going to write about…

See, at first, there was just the one villain. His reason for being a villain was that he was acting on instinct, because he was of a predatory race that hunted my protagonist’s kind. The main character’s love interest is of yet another race – more like humanity during European medieval times, and completely lacking in any “magical” (for lack of a better word) abilities. Oh, and did I mention that I still don’t have it figured out how they all met? Yeah… Go, Gwen! [Let the sarcastic cheering ensue!] Anyway…

Love interest was [magically] turned to the Dark Side, and joined the hunter. Protagonist ran off into the woods – her people love trees, and this is a major plot point – and discovered people of her kind who were ancient (really ancient!), and they taught her more about who she really is. Things came to a head, and she ran off to find help from some of the eldest of her kind. She was given a Quest, and during that Quest, push came to shove, and she wound up almost back where she’d started, trapped by her love interest and the villain. And then… a new villain presented himself from her supposed allies, and switched things around again. The original villain freed her love interest, giving up his own life (it’s complicated, I tell ya’!), the new villain was subdued, and protagonist and love interest limped along to where his people live (after much back and forth dialogue – “That’s a bad idea.” “No, it’s not.” “Yes, it is.” “I don’t care.” “Fine!” etc., etc.). Of course, events confirmed that it was a Drastically Bad Idea. Love interest’s people turn on them and considered protagonist something of a Bad Person – especially when yet another person of her race caused issues and made it look like our protagonists were guilty (I have to admit, at this point, that there’s actually two protagonists). They managed to escape, but where to?

Well, main character had previously said it would be a Really, Really Bad Idea to go to her people. I can’t, of course, hint at something like that without actually going there, so what will happen next? They’ll go there. Obviously. There will be the obligatory challenge against her love interest, and perhaps he’ll prove himself worthy of her hand. I don’t know for sure. However, I know there will certainly be Trouble (which reminds me of a song by Horslips). After that… Well… eventually, I’d like them to settle down somewhere and start a family… if that’s possible.

I will honestly say that this story has has a lot less bloodshed than previous stories I’ve written, which is bizarre. I have had one – count that – ONE set of Red Shirts so far, in the whole of nearly 17,000 words (including pre-Camp words – yes, I am a NaNoRebel!). The Travelling Shovel of Death has not made an appearance, and horses have not been present for most of the story (not that horses have anything to do with the bloodshed). One could easily ask whether my muse has a terrible sickness and has asked another muse to take over for now. Perhaps…

And, randomly, I dearly miss the land of Marda. This isn’t saying that I’ll write more of it, but… Well… You never know…



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A Ramble about Writing

I write my stories in third person almost omniscient by habit. It’s just how the words hit the page. I like knowing everything that’s going on, and I don’t like having to write extensive notes just to remember what actually happened in a scene (which, believe me, I have done). I also love writing from multiple perspectives within a story (but never in the same scene –– too confusing).

At any rate, I will occasionally scribble down something in first person limited –– just a random scrap, nothing significant. Usually, it doesn’t go anywhere and remains an intriguing but stagnant slip of writing. In the past, I’ve managed to stretch one out to 10,000 words, but it was writing that started off strong and fizzled out by the end.

Not so with my current work, however. I’m baffled and delighted that I’ve kept it going. No, it doesn’t have a title yet. I haven’t learned enough about it to name it. Hopefully, I won’t have this same attitude towards naming my children in the future (if I have any). And what has kept me writing it? I’ll give you a few details…

1. The villain. I like writing a villain who is cruel to the nth degree, yet somehow appealing. Cold and calculating (the smarter the better), filled with malice, and rarely losing his/her temper (but burning with the very flames of hell when he/she does). Even better if he/she is strangely attractive to the protagonist. Whether or not we know much about the villain, he/she should put a chill in our very bones –– or at the least, into the bones of the protagonist. I like a well-written villain. In fact, in some cases, it could sometimes be argued that I favor the villain over the protagonist.

In this particular tale: The villain is a redheaded man with deep blue eyes, dressed in forest colors. The eyes are important, as my protagonist is obsessed with them. However, the villain terrifies her. Whenever she sees him, she freezes up and barely knows what to do with herself. This is a far cry from my usual main characters, who tend to be strong-willed and bolder than most, but I digress. Most of what makes him scary is what he might do, not necessarily what he has done.

2. The collision of worlds. Whether it be two entirely different cultures, worlds, universes, or time periods, this interaction fascinates me, no matter what my characters know or don’t know about the other culture/world/universe/time period. Perhaps I’ve watched too much Doctor Who…

In this particular tale: We start off in the modern world, where there are highways, cars, policemen, and speeding tickets. It shifts from here to woodlands in a medieval type of world. Most of my readers will tell you that I have more than a slight obsession with writing about the medieval. I may not be an expert, per say, but I do love the stuff… Given a choice, I may never have these characters shift back to the “real” world. After all, they might even be in the “real” world already. Interestingly enough, while my protagonist and her protector shift with the change in environment, the villain does not.

3. The idea of an established world that I’m still learning about (as an author). It’s kind of like when you have a dream, and you know more than you should, as if “it’s always been this way,” yet you’ve only been asleep for however long, so how could you possibly know? There is so much backstory that is not told, but an excellent writer will write as if the reader knows everything [within reason], only dropping hints here and there. To out and out explain it can spoil the effect. This is why prequels are not always a good idea.

In this particular tale: I know bits and pieces about this world. It’s still forming in my head, but there are a few established things –– two very distinctive cultures that interact but don’t necessarily mix well, a third party that’s still ambiguous, and a few landmarks scattered here and there. Some of it still doesn’t make sense, but it’s getting somewhere, and I have a feel for it.

4. I have limited this to one character’s perspective. I’ve tried this in the past, but I usually reach the point where I start to get bored with the character and open up the possibilities with other characters. However, this is in first person, so limiting it to one makes more sense. This presents a few simultaneously wonderful and terrible obstacles to overcome: I can’t “see” the protagonist unless she sees herself in a reflection. I can only “see” or “hear” what the protagonist sees or hears. The reader knows nothing that the protagonist does not know. I like giving the reader endless questions about what’s going on, but this takes it to a whole new level.

In fact, in the first part, I picture the protagonist driving in my car –– yes, my red Subaru station wagon, with the cup-holder that isn’t quite big enough for a travel mug, and the beaded necklace and feathers hanging from the rearview mirror. It’s very weird, because I almost feel like I’m writing about myself, yet I’m not. This is a different person, though she has some of the same reactions I would. Writing in first person, in this case, feels like driving the character around like a car. What would I do in this situation? What would I say? What would I think? If I were to take this approach with more characters in this story, it could become a mix of characters who are all too similar.

5. The protagonist’s potential love interest is already in danger of being completely lost. This may not sound like a typical writer’s source of inspiration, but when the odds are stacked against my protagonists, I write better. It forces me to think of creative ways out of whatever situation they’re in. It also shows me what my characters are really made of. When held captive by the villain, do they submit meekly and panic, or do they exhibit snarkiness and refuse to comply past a certain point? How do they interact with one another? When presented with a challenge, do they complain loudly, forge ahead, or sit and sulk? What is their pain threshold? What is their sanity threshold?

One might say I have reached this test of character too soon. How am I to “up the ante” later on in the story if this is how bad it is after merely 5,000 words? Folks, never forget the laws of Fictional Bad Circumstances. If things are really bad, they can always get worse. I plan to play on my protagonist’s fears, for sure, but also to surprise her with more than she expects.

And so, this is me processing the birth of a new story –– something that has never been written before (at least, not by me). It is probably the most exciting thing I experience as an author, aside from finding the voices of my characters and watching them blossom into their individual personalities. I may read back in later years and say, “Well, that was a load of crap,” but for the moment, I don’t care about that. I care about getting this written.

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Finish him! – Or, A Writer’s Ethical Challenge

There are moments in writing when I picture a scene from that game, Mortal Kombat, which was so popular in the…. Was it really back in the 90’s? Wow. Anyway, the fighters have been fighting, the player mashing and smashing buttons haphazardly, and one of the combatants is struggling to stay standing. The words, “FINISH HIM!” are emblazoned across the screen in gory red letters, and the player is compelled to throw one final blow…

I am currently at one of those moments. Thing is, I’ve had this scene in mind for weeks –– even months –– but even now, I cannot decide whether I will have someone finish off this foe, or if he will be taken away in chains. The pacifist in me says, “Oh, he’s just misled. Let him repent!” but the fighter in me says, “No! FINISH HIM!”

In reality, my protagonist has a history –– a messy history –– but he and his friends justify it by saying, “That had to be done.” How on earth does this relate?

Well, when I first started writing this note,* my protagonist had a choice to make. Kill off his rival, or let him off the hook? When I couldn’t decide, another character stepped in and decided for both of us, finishing off the villain (Thanks, unnamed deciding character…). I’m always conflicted about this.

See, on the one hand, I want to kill off the villain. Seriously. Get him out of the way! Let the good guy take his vengeance and live happily ever after! On the other hand… I am a bit of a softie, and perhaps a bit sentimental. I find myself thinking, “Oh, he can always change his ways.. It won’t be easy, but it can happen…” Or can it? I usually have to bring my villain to his wit’s end before he even considers regretting his evil tendencies, nudging him by reconnecting him with such things as people he misses or taking the blinders off to the awful things he’s gotten into. Not to mention, there is such a thing as an unrepentant villain…

But this whole scenario begs the question: Am I to be held accountable for the way I portray these situations? What does it say about me as a person? On the one hand, yes, this is fiction. On the other hand, how does this effect the way I look at people in real life –– or how my readers look at life? I ask these questions, not to give myself or anyone else a guilt trip, but because they are very real questions. When I write, I am getting into the heads of my characters, and I not only consider what the character would do, but what I would do. Would I be willing to value a person’s life –– and chance at redemption –– less than I value “justice”? How does one even discern whether the person in question is sincerely willing to make the effort to change?

This is where the shady characters step in and save me from my own debate –– the ones who are on the right side, but whose values that aren’t quite the same as those that I hold. I feel absolutely guilt free when they make these decisions, because I don’t feel like I need to agree with them 100% of the time… So that is my solution.

But is that enough?

*Footnote: This goes to prove that one of my many, many ways of procrastinating from writing is not mere business, Facebook, forums, or general procrastination, but writing about the struggles I’m going through with my writing. It’s both helpful and unhelpful, really. Helpful, in that it helps me process. Unhelpful, in that it takes me away from the actual story I’m writing. I started this note when I was in the middle of writing that scene, and finished it after writing several following scenes (and a few to fill in beforehand). It spans a few days…

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