Posted in Characterization

Villains (Part VII)

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When you’re in a competition, you give it your all, everything you’ve got. You may be nervous at first before you start because you want to win. You don’t want to lose. Then your mom, dad, or friend says, “Just do your best. That’s all you can do. That’s all anyone can do.” In your mind, losing is losing, not winning. But…..in your villains mind, losing is winning.

What do I mean by this? Remember in the previous post (Villains Part VI) I said villains take pleasure in the protagonist’s pain. Well, yes. If burning everything down so your main character will lose everything but gives your villain pleasure in that main character’s loss, then the destruction of all is worth it to them. Go for the gusto with your villain’s actions. Have your villain throw ‘fuel on the fire’ (so to speak) as many times as it takes to cause destruction.

Ultimately, what is the reason behind the importance of making a great evil villain? Readers who continue turning the pages of your story all the way through to the end.

Posted in Characterization

Villains (Part VI)

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Watching someone open a gift, listening to your favorite music, a day at the beach, or even a walk in the woods; might give you pleasure. Now, normally, activities like the this would. But for villains in your stories, what gives them pleasure is none of the above. Oh No. They get pleasure from the pain of others. To your villain, other peoples’ pain is climactic, exhilarating, and releases the feel good chemicals inside their brain. They thrive on seeing others’ hurt and to the point where they have to continue in their hurtful behavior so they can continue to feel that pleasure.

Types of pain they inflict can be:

  • Psychological
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Spiritual
  • Worse yet (and most preferable) a combination of all of these

When it comes to dreaming up ways your villain could possibly hurt your main character, think outside the box. Be creative about what you want them to do. What makes your villain’s actions different than others you have read about in other books. Mold them. Make their pain causing actions unique.

Posted in point of view

Strong Point of View

First Person POV: The story is told from the story teller’s point of view and uses the pronoun ‘I’, ‘us’, ‘our’, or ‘ourselves’. It can also be narrated by the protagonist/main character, witness, or side character.

Third Person POV: The story is told from outside the story and the narrator refers to the characters by name or as ‘he/she/they’ and also ‘him/her/them’. Types of third person include:

  • Third Person Omniscient: the narration of the story is told with a voice as if from the author. They take on an all knowing perspective on the story being told.
    1. Example: As Rob and Janet slunk in their seats to watch the movie at the drive-in theater, he hoped he’d get lucky in the backseat of his car, and Janet secretly wished it was Dave snuggling next to her instead.
  • Third Person Limited: only the narrator knows only the thoughts and feelings of a single character. Other characters are presented externally.
    1. Example: He reached over to hold Jill’s hand but stopped halfway. Did she want him to, or would she slap him?
  • Third Person Objective: think of this POV as a peeping tom. The narrator is neutral and not privy to the thoughts or feelings of the characters’.
    1. Example: She twisted her hands, as she paced the floor of her bedroom.


For a stronger point of view that pulls the reader into the story, use verbs that create action directly (note the bold faced words in the examples above). When you do this, emotions are created at the same time, which is felt by the reader and pulls them in even further. Now your reader is hooked. They want to know how the story is going to play out and change for the better/or worse. Have you ever read a book you can’t put down? Strong point of view is all part of that.

Posted in Characterization

Villains (Part V)

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How many times over the course of your life have you played a game with that one person who can’t help cheating to win the game? They are out there. In stories, they most definitely are there. They are called the antagonist, your villain. And they don’t play by the rules. In their minds the law doesn’t apply to them. If they can get what they want by breaking the law, so be it.

Their drive comes from interest in themselves. Their behavior is immoral/amoral. They lie, cheat, steal, deceive, and manipulate. If it puts money in their own pockets, they will take a bribe, blackmail, or do whatever it takes. Whatever the case, they always have ulterior motives.

When creating your villain, think outside the box. What are some creative ways your villain can break the rules to achieve their goal(s)?

Posted in Characterization

Villains (Part IV)

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Years ago, I had this “friend” who, when I first met her, appeared to be very nice. I’ll call her Gina for purposes of this story (It’s not her real name). She invited me to her house. We talked and shared information like pre-teen girls usually do. We had a lot of fun…..at first. Then the blowback came. One day she started telling all the other girls in our class all the information I shared with her. I’m not the only one she did this too. She would apologize and gain my trust again then turn around and manipulate the situation to her advantage. From that point forward, she began pitting all of us against one another. She was so good at trickery and conniving that she was never suspected of anything. This story could go on and on but for purposes of this blog, I’ll just leave this story here, LOL. This went on for two years (7th and 8th grade). During my 8th grade year I stopped hanging around her and that group of girls all together. She didn’t make it easy on my though.

I can honestly say that Gina is the perfect example of a story villain. They can not be trusted with anything whatsoever. This doesn’t mean they won’t try to gain one’s trust. They will because they are masters at knowing how to do that. Keep in mind, villains have very high social IQ’s and so they know how to manipulate people and situations. Ultimately, gaining the advantage and keeping it in any situation that serves themselves is what their goal is.

People are naturally trusting, so use this to your advantage when plotting your story. Here again, the villain will exploit the trust of others to obtain the advantage. And, YES, they are ALWAYS looking for ways to back stab anyone, this means adversaries and allies alike.

Posted in plot/story

Connections

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Bridges, websites, people, situations, events. What do all of these things have in common? They all have an opportunity to link. Whether the link is two shores connected to by a bridge, a website that connects us to information, two people having a lot in common, or two or more situations or events having some kind of link/connection between them; they all allow for a connection in some way.

So too are the events, situations, and people within your story. How are they connected? How will you connect them? The answers to these questions only you can answer because it’s your story(s). A good way to check and make sure that the parts of your story connection is to ask yourself why something is happening. If they connect and have something to do with your story, that’s great. That’s what you want. But if they don’t, and they sound disjointed, ask yourself what is it that you can do to bring them together. Otherwise, it sounds like random information that has no place in your story. The result is a confused reader.

On the other hand, some random events shed some light on something else. For example, Let’s say you have Mary who is with her boyfriend Charles. They are in the middle of a heated discussion as they are walking down the street. Charles is speaking to Mary, but a beautiful sunset caught her attention as they are walking by an open area that displays a beach in the distance. Charles could care less about the sunset. He is more focused on the discussion (even though she points out the sunset).

In the above example, the sunset plays no part in the story itself. It’s random. BUT, what it DOES do is give the reader insight into the character of Mary. Thus, making a connection between the character of Mary and the reader. That’s good. You want that. It creates empathy. But that’s a whole other blog post.

Posted in Characterization

What Makes a Good Villain (Part 1)

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Never underestimate your villain. They are more clever than you think they are. Creating them goes beyond having them do bad nasty things to your main character. Oh no. They go much deeper than that. They must know your MC well in order to know how to act against them. Part of the villain getting to know your MC means they must get to their weaknesses, AND they are well gifted at getting to know this information, AND they will know exactly how to use it against them.

Your villain is the architect of the inciting incident and the stories plot twists that follow. Their job is to create tension. Think of them as the mudslingers. They throw everything they can think of to thwart your MC.

Posted in Characterization

Voice

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When I am reading a work of fiction, I hear the voices of the character in my mind. No, I don’t hear voices literally. I imagine I hear them. That’s quite different. But, when I hear each of them as I’m reading, they all sound different. I hear them that way because the author did such a good job with creating a voice for each individual character that they all sound different.

So how do we make our fictional characters sound different? It comes down to choice of words and how those words are said. I think body language/facial expression also plays a part in that it helps with how the words are intended when spoken on the page in your dialogue. Think of their character too. Is how they speak out of character for them. If so, why?

Look at the different ways to say something.

Example:
“You heard that? Really? I didn’t think I was that loud,” said Bill.

“Hey ya. Serious now, ya’ll hear that? How? Not like I was ‘at loud or nothin,” said Bill.

Play around with your words. See your character in your mind. Imagine them talking. How are they saying what their saying?

Posted in Fiction

Writing That Stings

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What is it about a piece of writing that keeps you glued to the pages? Is it just one particular writing element that does the job, or is it more than one? I’m currently reading a mystery thriller series by Jeff Carson. It’s the David Wolf series. If you haven’t checked out these books, I highly recommend them. In less than a week I’ve finished the first five books and am on book six right now. What is it that keeps me reading them?

  1. Characters–The characters are unique and lifelike. Each of them have their own set of problems, likes/dislikes, habits and quirks, etc. You don’t end up liking or disliking them because you’re supposed to. You do that because these characters are very three dimensional. They jump off the page. They are real. You want to be ‘around’ them.
  2. Description–The setting is richly described and also jumps off the page. The reader is able to see the environment and be a part of the story. The author does this though without being too descriptive. It doesn’t take away from the story. If you read these books, you’ll find that the descriptions add to the story and provides clues.
  3. The Story–YES, the story itself is extremely compelling. You’re eyes/brain will be glued to the pages. The cause and effect of the plot structure is expertly done. Everything happens for a reason, whether you the reader thinks so or not.

So, you see, drawing a reader into your story is done with various tools, not just one. But, essentially, how you do that is up to you. After all, it’s your story.

Posted in Fiction, Writing

Atmospheric Emotion Continued

On (April 8, 2021) I posted a photo of a lightning storm and titled the post Atmospheric Emotion. In your writing you will need to convey emotions to your atmosphere/setting. This then creates a connection to your readers because they start to feel these emotions too. Typically, darkness or a dark room conveys foreboding or unease. A warm setting with trees, green grass, a cozy cabin with a small pond depicts serenity. But what if you want that calm serene scene to depict foreboding without the darkness? What can you insert into that scene to create that foreboding? Perhaps it’s too calm. Maybe the friend of yours who lives there is no where to be found. Her belongings and car are there, but she is not. Her cellphone is sitting on the patio table, so calling her won’t do any good. Or, perhaps he/she was there a minute ago and now he/she is not. He/she vanished in the midst of this calm setting.

When it comes to emotions and projecting them onto a setting, you must go beyond narration. Just telling your reader the back yard was creepy or gave your main character a creepy feeling or a sense of foreboding, is not enough. They must FEEL that sense. These emotional projections from a story to its reader(s) is part of what makes for a great book/story.

Example 1:

Bad
I hadn’t been in my friend, Elliot’s, basement before. Elliot had always been so upbeat all the time; full of jokes. But the black walls and purple lights were the opposite of my friend’s personality, so it was creepy.

Good
I hadn’t been in my friend, Elliot’s, basement before. I never understood why until now. In the past Elliot’s upbeat demeanor magnetized others. People drew to him. So, my breath caught in my chest, when I reached the bottom of his basement steps and flicked on the light. A deep purple glow radiated throughout the room in front of me. The color of the walls appeared to be black, but the purple light made it impossible to tell. A kind of mist seeped through a few cracks in the walls. It hit my nostrils and a dank stench reached my stomach, giving me the dry heaves. Peering to the left, a cot stood in the far corner. Was it my imagination, or was there an indentation of a body on the one and a half inch mattress? I inched that way to take a closer look. I came within five feet, and the indentation moved. No body was visible…..

Example 2:

Bad
I took my tea, opened the sliding glass door and stepped onto the back deck. The grass had been freshly mowed the day before and the flower gardens weeded. A well kept yard makes for a relaxing mood. I spotted the lounge chair to my right, walked over to it, and sat down.

Good
I lifted my tea to my nose and inhaled the ginger fragrance, causing me to smile at the sweet scent. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud and shown through the sliding glass door. I opened it and stepped out onto the back deck. A warm breeze whispered by and pushed my shoulder length hair back as I took in the freshly cut lawn and sweet scented flowers. Standing there taking in all of the beauty reminded of a mental massage of sorts. I stepped over to the cushioned lounge chair and sunk in, closing my eyes and relishing the clapping of the leaves on the trees as the breeze moved them.

In Example 1 the bad sample tells us that the character feels creepy, but do you the reader feel it? In don’t. We get that the main character feels creepy, but WE don’t feel as creeped out as he/she does. We don’t even believe he/she feels creeped out because the seriousness of the situation doesn’t come across.

In the good sample of Example 1 we feel the main character’s emotions of fear and apprehension, and we feel his disbelief of a friend who is normally upbeat but has a basement that’s dark and dreary. We are as creeped out as he/she is.

In Example 2 the bad sample is rather mundane and stale. We understand the environment is relaxed in nature but it doesn’t come across in the writing. The environment doesn’t evoke emotion at all.

However, the good sample of Example 2 conveys the imagery needed to evoke the relaxed and warm atmosphere to the reader. We can actually identify with this because most of us have experienced this type of relaxation. But, it wasn’t told to us as in the bad sample. It was SHOWN to us. Did you feel relaxed? I did.

Overall, emotions play a huge role in any story, especially when it comes to atmosphere/setting. They draw your readers into the text and keep them there. That’s where you want them, and you want them there to stay.