Posted in Characterization

The Villain Makes the Story

Have you ever wondered what a story/movie would be like if there were no clashing forces going against the main character? It would be boring to the point there would be no story. Not really anyway. Believe it or not villains create that extra zing of emotion for the reader/viewer to the point we sometimes feel as though we’re in the story/movie.

I finished reading a book a few days ago that had me talking back to the characters, and I mean saying things like, “Really? Don’t you see it has nothing to do with terrorism?” At one point I said, “Oh my gosh, this author.” My husband asked, “What?” To which I responded with, “The author drug this out way to much.” Actually, the author did his job, and he did it well. The villains were smug, very smug, and they thought they had everything going the way they wanted it to. Well, they did. The reader (this reader) wanted them to get what was coming to them (and they did eventually). That folks is story, suspense, emotion building writing.

So remember….when you are creating your villains, make sure to give them lots of tender loving care. You want them to connect with the reader too.

The book I spoke of above is linked below just in case you might want to read it. It’s book 5 in the Alton Blackwell Files series by Steven F. Freeman.

Posted in Writing

The Love of Writing

Do you love writing? What kind of writing to you enjoy most? I enjoy writing fiction. I wouldn’t mind writing non-fiction, but then I can’t delve into the creative aspects that is so much a part of fiction.

If you love to write, what do you love about it? For me it’s relaxing. Not only that, but I like the writing high when I’ve written something that brings the story home. When I read a book, any book, I am reminded of the love for the writing craft that other authors have. I can see this in their writing. The attention to detail, the well developed characters, the setting(s), interwoven story lines, and much much more. Of course, none of these details runs off the top of authors’ heads. Much thought is given to every aspect of writing a story.

When I visit Twitter, I feel the joy in every author I follow as they talk about their books. Their love of writing comes through their words.

Love your characters. Breathe your story. Embrace your writing. If you love to write? Write. You don’t necessarily have to write a book. You might enjoy writing short stories, or non-fiction.

Posted in scenes

Reaction

You’re writing a scene with an event that should strike your main character as surprising or distressing. BUT instead your character reacts in a way that makes no sense at all. Maybe you had your character have to shoot an intruder and it was the first time they had to shoot anyone. How would a person normally react in a situation like that, if it was their first time having to shoot someone?

Make sure your character who is going through that for the first time reacts the right way. If, for example, they walked away from the above situation behaving as though it was no big deal, then there better be a logical reason for them doing so. I say this because I know I would freak out if I had to shoot someone. Or I’d panic. Maybe others would become despondent or go into shock.

If your characters reactions don’t match the situation, the readers will know, and they’ll get distracted from the story. You don’t want that. It could even cause them to put it down, and you definitely don’t want that.

Posted in Dialogue

Dialogue: The Don’ts

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In the real world we talk everyday, and what we say and talk about at the time could be part of a directed conversation about a topic or you may move from topic to topic. But, generally, what your are saying has nothing to do with moving a story forward, as in a book. Therefore, the dialogue/conversations in a the story you are writing should move the story forward. However, it needs to be done in such a way that it sounds real and everyday. So, how do you do this? Yes, this is a lot to think about, but remember you can go back later and fix it. I’ve said this before, get the words on the page first. Here are some things to keep in mind when writing dialogue.

  • Remember your dialogue tags. You don’t need a dialogue tag after every line of dialogue. Every now and then put one in to remind the reader of who is speaking.
  • Small talk is a killer. In real life we make small talk all the time for different reasons. Maybe we’re nervous and don’t know what to talk about, so we end up saying little tidbits of information to try and break the ice. In real life though, we aren’t trying to advance a story/plot. So, leave the small talk out of your dialogue, unless of course it advances your story/plot.
  • Keep it natural. Make sure your dialogue sounds natural. One good way to tell if it sounds natural or not is to read it out loud.
  • No same sounding characters. This closely relates to voice. I touched on this in a previous blog post (Voice from September 21, 2021) Make sure your characters sound different when they are speaking. Word choice, dialect, and how they say something all plays a part in this. Maybe one of your characters has a signature word they like to say. Use that.
  • Using names in dialogue. Normally, one wouldn’t use someone else’s name when speaking to someone else unless one is trying to get the attention of the other or make a point. However, if it DOES work, then use it. But be careful.
  • Using exposition can bore. When a character explains the story in dialogue it ends up being a form of telling. What happens when you ‘tell’ a story vs. ‘show’? You risk losing the reader. Obviously, you don’t want this. So, stay away from this.
  • Don’t use ‘said’ all the time. Please refer to my blog post Words to Write By on October 18, 2021.
  • Be accurate and consistent with punctuation. Some writers like to use double quotation marks (“), and some writers like to use single quotation marks (‘). Pick one and stick with it. Just don’t forget to use them. I knew a writer who, when I asked her what she felt her weakness was as it relates to story writing, said it was remembering to put the quotation marks in.
  • Conversation that is unimportant doesn’t belong. If a conversation between your characters doesn’t cause some kind of friction, tension, or if it doesn’t advance the story/plot at all, leave it out.
  • Silence is a good thing. Too much conversation can be detrimental to the story so be careful. Silence can add a lot to a conversation sometimes.

I know this is much to think about, but don’t sweat it too much. If you need someone to check your dialogue, have a writing buddy read it and give you feedback. Also there are some good books out there about dialogue. Here are some suggestions below (You can find any of them on Amazon):

How to Write Dazzling Dialogue: The Fastest Way to Improve Any Manuscript by James Scott Bell
The Writers Guide to Realistic Dialogue by S. A. Soule
Writing Vivid Dialogue: Professional Techniques for Fiction Authors by Rayne Hall

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 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 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 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

Emotions

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.

Posted in Characterization

Character Flaw

According to Wikipedia, a character flaw (sometimes called a fatal flaw) is as follows:


Character flaw – Wikipediaen.wikipedia.org › wiki › Character flaw

In the creation and criticism of fictional works, a character flaw or heroic flaw is a bias, limitation, imperfection, problem, personality disorders, vices, phobia, prejudice, or deficiency present in a character who may be otherwise very functional.

How do you choose a character flaw for your main character? That is up to you. I centered it around the story. Once you choose a flaw, how do you use it within the story? Is it just there throughout and that’s all and the character goes about their business within the story and never learns anything from circumstances or their actions, etc? If that’s the case, do we even have a story? No. Not really.

The protagonist in your story is supposed to learn along the way. Their character flaw inhibits this at first, but gradually he/she comes to realize they need to change in order for their mission/goal/quest to succeed. By the end of the book they will have overcome this flaw.

Example:

Let’s say you have a main character named Molly, who’s in high school. Her flaw is that she’s timid/shy. She doesn’t like confrontation or violence and prefers to avoid it at all costs. She doesn’t like to hurt the feelings of others, so she avoids situations where she might have to speak up and maybe make people angry. Therefore, she doesn’t speak up for herself either. So, how does she learn to overcome this and become stronger inside? How does she get others to stop picking on her? How does she speak up for the truth and defend her friend Johnny?

In the above example, you have to get Molly from point A to point B to point C to point D; point D being the end of the story where she finally speaks up and gets over her shyness. Getting from one point to the next will involve a series of events called trials and errors that will serve as learning opportunities for her grow, but she can’t do this without these trials and errors.