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 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 Characterization

Villains (Part III)

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You’re running in a race. You’re ahead. But, in order to keep your lead you must keep going strong. If you let up even once, you risk losing or falling behind. Think of your villain as running in a type of race. It’s the kind of race where he/she is coming at your main character (MC) and not letting up (remember, this is their job). So much so, that your MC gets kicked back down before they get even half way back up. Your villain is on a roll. They can’t stop because, if they do, they run the risk of losing and the MC overtaking them.

Think of many different ways for your villain to trip up your MC. Think outside the box. I am currently reading a set of books by Jeff Carson. They’re David Wolf mysteries. OH MY GOSH!!! Talk about heart pounding suspense. The villain(s) never let up. Often times, while in the middle of one of these books, I couldn’t stand the suspense any longer, so I went to Amazon and read the summary of the next book. Doing this reassured me things would turn out ok in the current book I was reading. Then I would start the next book right after the one I finished and go through the cycle all over again.

What caused this mind blowing suspense? The villain(s). AND, in most cases there were more than one. All from multiple subplots and all out to get the MC. If you want a great example of a true villain(s), read those books. You can find them on Amazon. See the link below for book 1:

Foreign Deceit by Jeff Carson

Posted in Characterization

Villains (Part II)

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Have you ever played chess? If you have, you know that it’s imperative to stay one or more moves ahead of your opponent in order for you to have a chance at winning the game. The same goes for the villain in your story. They must always be thinking ahead of the main character. They have to do this so they are doing their job within the story. Otherwise they won’t be believable. Villains are devious. They plot and scheme, making your main character’s life miserable. They love it when the main character is down because that’s when they have a better opportunity to take advantage of them.

To best get a hold of your villain and understand him/her, do a character analysis of them just like you would your main character. They are three dimensional characters too and come with their own set of “baggage”. What in their life infected them so? To the point they are so nasty and evil?

In this character bio also include (and most importantly) a list of ways they can stay ahead of the MC. You might not use all of your ideas. That’s ok. Work what you can into your story. If you are the kind of person that doesn’t like to think in terms of evil, don’t worry about that. It’s only fiction.

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

The Triunix of Time

Chapter 1
(Please enjoy the first chapter of my novel)

Tora drove straight through from Norfolk, Virginia where she lived. This trip was temporary. Quick in quick out. She would go through everything in her parents’ house, pitch and toss, fix what needed to be fixed and sell the place. Then, it would be back to Virginia. Michigan was still a welcome sight though, to a certain extent. But there were still ghosts to deal with as well. She wanted to be back home but dreaded it at the same time. Without her parents, it wouldn’t be the same. Thoughts of her mother came flooding back. Nothing Tora achieved was ever good enough. There was always something more she wanted from her daughter. Her dad was different. Always loving, always interested in what Tora did. This difference in affection for Tora between her mother and father plagued her. Now she’ll never know. Damn, why did her parents have to die? Why then, why at that time? It’s as if her mother planned it that way. Oh, but that was ridiculous.

She pulled into the driveway of her parents’ house. The two and a half story stood untouched. This house Tora once shared with her parents stood in silence in the afternoon sun. Facing east the house cast its shadows forward, lurking, as the sun pushed itself from the backyard. Tora parked her car near the front, stepped out and took in the fresh air. No breeze. Usually she enjoyed the late afternoon glow of the sun passing through the trees. Today was different. But why? she couldn’t shaker her unease.

Shrubs flanked either side of the front of the door and along the whole front of the house. The bird house Tora made when she was eight still hung from the large oak tree on the far end of the yard. The grass bragged a lush green today as usual. She strolled up the curved sidewalk taking in the fresh scent of June air and tried to smile. The house itself stood back from the road and was surrounded by woods. This and the peaceful landscape made for a relaxed atmosphere. She saw the gardens had been tended to. She would make to thank Mr. Lyons later. Now she needed to get settled.

Inside appeared to look the same, but the feel was all wrong. Whether it was the lack of her parents’ presence of something else entirely different she couldn’t tell. The arched entryway closed in around her. Suspicious, Tora walked through the large entry hall. This grand room that glowed any other time was dull now. The smoky rose carpet now dull. The silver trimmed staircase so grand before, so small now. She strolled into the living room and caressed the plush sofa cushion. The cuckoo clock whistled from the kitchen, startling her thoughts to that fateful day when she last saw her parents a year ago.




“What do you mean I was acting out?” asked Tora. “Acting out against what?”

“You know, back then you were only sixteen and didn’t really know how to show your feelings,” said Tora’s mother. “Your father and I were having some problems, and you decided to show us how you felt by acting out.”

Tora was dumbfounded and unable to believe what she was hearing. She felt like a teenager all over again even now at the age of thirty. Her mother wasn’t even listening to a word she said. But she had to make her understand, now that she fully understood that whole situation herself for the first time since it happened.

“Mom, you and dad were having problems?”

“Oh, now don’t act like you didn’t know.”

“No, I didn’t know. Look, that incident didn’t happen as a result of my acting out against you and dad. It happened because I was too young and immature to know how to handle the situation.”

“Tora, you were sitting at the picnic table with a glass of wine. You should have known not to drink it. You knew better, or at least I thought you did.”

“Yes, I did know, but I…”

“You see? You did it out of spite.”

“I didn’t say that. If you’ll listen to what I have to say.”

“Alright, go ahead. I’m listening.”

At that moment her father, Thomas Jasper, stuck his head inside the back door. “Hey, Kath. Come on. We have some figuring to do.”

“Wait a minute. I’m coming,” said Tora’s mother, a hint of irritation in her voice.

“He got that bottle of wine for me. At the time I knew I wasn’t supposed to drink, but I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t, plus I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I was sixteen and faced with a situation I didn’t know how to handle. Then, when you drove up to the campsite, I was hoping you would tell me to get in the car. At least then I wouldn’t have had to deal with the situation.”

“Oh please, Tora. You would have pitched a fit if I had told you to get in the car.”

“Didn’t you hear anything I said? Damn it, mom, it has been almost fourteen years and you still blame me for something I had no control over and didn’t know how to handle.”

There was so much her mother misunderstood about that whole thing. All Tora wanted was for her to really pay attention. She still felt her mother blamed her for what happened that day. What mother daughter closeness they did have, which wasn’t much, declined since then. Her trust in Tora was gone.

“You did have control over it, but you chose not to. Look, your father and I have to go. We’ll be late.”

“Mom, all I want is for you to listen, really listen, to what I have to say because you never really do. Instead, you take what you want to hear and twist it around to suit your purposes, and you’re using this incident in the campground as an excuse to further push me away. Our relationship has always been strained like this. Do you hate me? Dad doesn’t treat me this way. He listens to what I have to say. He knows me much better than you do.”

A fleeting hint of a flinch in her eyes told Tora that she had struck a nerve this time.

Tora pressed on. “Why is that mother? Why is it that dad shows more affection than you do? Did you not want me when I was born?”

Her mother’s haunted eyes gazed out the kitchen window, so Tora know she’d struck a nerve. But it didn’t last long.

Her mother gathered her composure, took in a deep breath and blew it out slow. Finally, looking back at Tora she said, “Of course I… You have no idea what… We’ll finish this later, Tora. You father and I have to go.”

“But I’m not finished…”

“Oh, yes you are, young lady. Drop it. I said we’d talk later.”

“But…” But she left out the door before Tora could get another word in.

“Tora?” Her father entered the kitchen from the back door. He stepped in front of her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “After your mother and I finish dinner, there is something I must do for you.” A smile played across his face and a twinkle sparkled in his eyes.

“What is it ? Does it have to do with the figuring you told mom about?”

“You’ll find out soon enough. Don’t be so impatient.”

“Dad, you don’t have to do anything for me.”

“Yes, I do.” With that, he gave her a kiss on the forehead then said, “See you beyond today.” Then he hurried out the door.

Tora rushed after him asking what he meant by that, but all he did was wave to her over his shoulder.




That was a year ago today, the day of their 30th wedding anniversary. That last statement made by her father puzzled her. To any other person it would mean ‘see you tomorrow.’ But her dad had a habit of being cryptic at times, so she knew better than to take what he said at face value.

After that she never saw her mother or her father alive again; all she saw were their dead corpses. Her mother always did have to have the last say in everything. But fate had other plans for them. The thought of reconciliation with her mother fell through her fingers like sand. There for a second and then trickling away only to be taken by the wind. The only chance to mend things with her was gone.

There were two things her mother always said to her. Both were equally puzzling. The first one was so random when her mother said it. She would pass by Tora and say, “Tick tock, Tora. Tick tock.” She asked her at one time why she kept saying it, but all her mother did was smile. Not a warm smile, but an, I got a secret, type of smile. Or was Tora reading too much into it?

The other thing her mother used to say was, “Get it right, Tora. Get it right.” This above all else, annoyed Tora. When she was in sixth grade and taking ballet classes, there was one step Tora couldn’t get. Then, finally she got it right and the dance instructor praised her telling her she did it with perfect precision. But her mother, who had been seated in the studio at the time said, “You forgot to smile, Tora. Get it right, Tora. Get it right.” It was like that with most of what Tora did. She loved her mother, but at the same time there remained an emptiness. Her mother was right about one thing; she never got anything right.

Whether it was her mother’s lack of affection toward her or something else entirely, Tora didn’t know. Sometimes she felt like an old pair of shoes one keeps around because they’re your husband’s favorite. At least she had had her father. He was there for her; teaching her to see the good in all things, to stand up for oneself, to do self-defense, and to hunt and fish. But she will never forget the bedtime stories. The stories were all part of a larger story. They all connected. Then one day they all stopped. Funny, when asked if he would continue, he said he didn’t know the ending; that they were passed down from his father who never finished them either. She also had asked him if he could make up his own ending, because it needed one. The answer was still no. When she asked why, all he said was “Someday you will.” At the time she didn’t think anything of that statement. Now, looking back on it, it was strange. It was a story. Tora smiled and felt blessed that he shared them with her. One day she would pass them on to her own child and come up with an ending.

She had to give her mother some credit though. Everything she learned about being a lady, she learned from her mother. How to sit up straight, dress right and present oneself with poise and elegance. Those were the fun times she did have with her. The luncheon invites and trips to Toronto to see Phantom of the Opera and things to that nature, were all part of it. At least, through all the nitpickiness, she cared enough to take the time to teach her something. At least she was able to get that right.

Tora, now standing in the kitchen, started to turn to head back to the living room but stopped short. Her father’s sunglasses sat on a shelf built into the wall above a side desk; an extension of the kitchen countertop. She smiled. He loved those sunglasses and never went anywhere without them. Not only that, he never let anyone else wear them. She giggled at how people get so serious about such simple things.

The ringing of her cellphone broke her thoughts.

“Hello?”

“Hey there. When you due back into town?” asked Maggie.

Tora was glad to hear her best friend’s voice.

“Hi, Maggie. I arrived home and am taking everything in,” said Tora.

“Something wrong?” asked Maggie. “You sound different.”

“I’m fine, tired is all. Hey, why don’t you stop by? I’ll fix us something to eat and we can catch up,” said Tora.

“Sure. Be right there.”

Tora’s phone rang again, but the number was unfamiliar. She answered anyway, but no one was there. Dead air lingered on the other end. She clicked the phone off, and it rang again. Still, dead air. The good thing about cellphones was that they could always be turned off; as in this case.

She opened a few windows and flopped down on the couch. A lite breeze whisked her hair back; the scent of pine floated in. She swept her hands through her black hair and sighed. Her tan eyes grew heavy with lack of sleep from driving straight through from Virginia.

Her schedule would be busy during the coming weeks. the house needed to be gotten in order and her parents’ things needed to be gone through. But it could all wait until tomorrow. Tonight all she wanted to do was relax and catch up with her friend.

As if on cue, Maggie walked in letting the door slam behind her.

“Hey, Tora. It’s been way too long. How was your trip?”

“Long.”

“Have you thought of what you’re going to do?”

Tora notice a conspiratorial look on Maggie’s face. “Ok, Maggie, I’ll bite. What’s up your sleeve?”

“Well, I know you said your stay was only temporary, but there is a teaching opportunity at the high school I think you’d be suited for. I already talked to the principal Mr…”

“I appreciate the gesture but no thanks. Teaching is not the right career for me right now. There’s so much to think about. I need to go through this house and get rid of some things. It’s been a year since my parents’ death, and all that I was able to take care of were their finances. No, It’s best I come and do what I came to do and go.”

“You’ll have all summer to prepare your classroom and get ready for next year. That will leave you with plenty of time to go through the house. Besides, I’ll be here to help when I’m able to. You know that.” There was a pause as Tora considered this. “Give it a try. How do you know you won’t like it? The students are great, and the staff is very friendly.”

Tora let out a huge sigh. “Maggie, did you not hear what I said? I am not staying. There is nothing for me but…” She let her words die away.

“You can’t let what happened destroy you like this. At some point you must stop.”

“It’s not destroying me. You’re being dramatic. I don’t like being here. I mean, I do, and I don’t. There are too many bad memories, especially the bad ones.”

“So, you ran away instead.”

“No, I happen to live somewhere else.’

“Then live here instead. It really is very simple, Tora.”

Tora leaned back on the sofa, rested her elbow on the backrest, and started bighting her nails. How could she even entertain the idea of living here again. Her mother having still been angry with her, even after years had passed and never giving her a chance to make amends. Most importantly, her father getting killed while doing something for her. It was her fault they died, and if her mother was there right now, she would tell her that too. No, she couldn’t stay here. The memories remained way too heavy.

She then thought about he idea of having her own classroom again. She remembered her first year at Tawas High School seven years ago. She graduated from there, went to college and obtained her teaching degree in English, taught for one year at the same school, joined the army, and now she was being asked to go back. Life felt as if it had come full circle. A never-ending circle, always coming back here. Is this what her life amounted to? Maybe her mother was right. Maybe she didn’t have the motivation or the knowledge to really make something of herself.

“You look a million miles away,” said Maggie.

“I’m ok, I promise,” said Tora.

The phone rang. Tora jumped at the intrusion. She forgot about he house phone. The number on the caller ID was the same strange number on her cellphone from earlier. It rang again, her hand went for the receiver, then stopped. She froze not sure what to do. Her instincts said not to answer, but curiosity got the better of her. It rang a third time. Again, her hand went for the receiver, clasped around it and gingerly picked it up.

“Hello,” said Tora.

Nothing.

“Look, if you’re not going to say anything, then stop calling. I don’t…”

“Hello, Nadira. It’s your mother. It’s time.”

“You have the wrong number. There’s no Nadira here.”

“No, you are Nadira. This is your mother, and it is time.”

Posted in Fiction, Writing

Emotions (Cont…)

You’re creating a scenes within your novel. You want your audience to not only know what is going on but to feel what is going on as well. Is it enough to just describe the action, setting, and characters? No. Emotion must play a large role if your readers are going to keep reading. You want your readers to feel your character’s vulnerability, excitement, or sadness (and more). So, how do you do this?

When you’re watching a TV show or movie, you are able to SEE the characters’ emotions, but in a book readers aren’t readily able to SEE that, so they need to be SHOWN. Words aren’t enough, so we will need to insert some body language.

My previous post talked about emotions as it related to atmosphere/setting. Let’s go a little further with this; specifically, the scene itself. A scene occurs within a setting, so your descriptions of the actions and body language in conjunction with the surroundings will bring forth that emotion. The result? When done well, these emotions will ‘touch’ the reader and further draw them into your story.

Below are some short examples of visuals depicting emotion.

Sadness = downcast, a tear escaping down one’s cheek, sagging shoulders, shuffling feet with hands in pockets….
Excitement = smiling eyes, hurrying and bustling around trying to get ready to meet a particular someone they’d been wanting to meet for a long time, jumping up and down, a victory dance…
Relaxed = warm breeze, deep breath, a soft sound such as waves strolling onto shore, the rustling of leaves as the breeze whispers through them…
Anger = a blank stare, pursed lips, contorted face with squinted eyes, talking through one’s teeth, redness in the face…
Embarrassment = blushing cheeks, shy smile, glancing around the room as everyone stares at them, running out of the room…
Danger/Foreboding = a twisting in one’s gut, something is too neat, an unexplained noise, the lighting, shadows…

There is so much more that can be added to these examples, but you get the idea. It isn’t easy to incorporate emotions into a scene. You might have to experiment and play around with words before you FEEL that you have the right wording that will effectively convey just the right emotions to your readers.