Monthly Archives: April 2013

Someone Order A Villain?

Apparently, my readers are obsessed with evil.

Given the choice between book reviews, romance, and villains, the votes always came up in the bad guys’ favor, and I can’t say I blame you. Villains are fascinating. Their motivations, their schemes, their fashion sense(*cough* Megamind *cough* Loki*cough*)…It’s all endlessly interesting to those of us not inclined to try enslaving the human race.

Not only are they interesting, the villains are a vital part of any story.  Sometimes more so than the protagonist. But they’re infinitely easier to ignore when it comes to characterization, backstory, and well…everything outside of describing their lair.

In doing the prep for this post, I put together a list of my favorite villains and the things learned from them. The first on that list?

1. Loki (and also Gollum!)-A good villain has a goal.

And making your hero/heroine’s life miserable doesn’t count (unless it’s revenge or some such).  Neither Thor or The Avengers would have been half as interesting if Loki’s only motivation had been evil for evil’s sake.

Character poster for the film Thor featuring T...

Tom Hiddleston!

In a lot of the books, movies, and graphic novels I’ve come across, the antagonist has indeed had goals. But they were cliched, weak, and pretty much just an excuse to get in the protagonist’s way and provide a convenient obstacle.

Ideally, the villain’s story should be just as deep as the protagonist’s, just on the opposite side of the coin. The same rules apply. Even if it’s not necessarily shown, your baddie should still have the same type of character journey–from inciting incident to coming away a changed person–as your protagonist, including having a serious want. It doesn’t even have to be a valid (to a sane person) goal, as long as the villain believes in it and wants it with all his/her black little soul.

Take Gollum, for example. His devotion to the One Ring consumed him and drove him to do anything to find it again when it was stolen from him. Try to find something equally addictive for your antagonist.  Power, money, fame, revenge, or the last potato chip–it really doesn’t matter as long as they want something.

CG depiction of Gollum created by Weta Digital...

Everyone must have a PRECIOUS!

2. Mr. Gold – A good villain loves something.

While watching ABC’s Once Upon a Time, I’ve found that I like the villains a lot better than I do most of the heroes–though some of that may be more due to the choice of acting talent rather than characterization (Hello, Captain Hook!).

David Blue and Robert Carlyle

In the case of Mr. Gold, almost his entire journey from ordinary man to the Dark One is revealed through flashbacks, and one of the recurring points in his development is love. It tends to get him in trouble a lot, but it’s also what makes him such a strong character. The betrayal of his wife–his love–helped drive him to magic and the darkness that came with it. His later love of Belle is…well…it’s trying to change him, but that’s…well…that could be going better, but I digress.

Everyone–evil incarnate or not–loves something, whether it be human, animal, place, thing, or idea. It’s what makes them human, more relatable, and can help give them goals(see above). Unrequited love, in particular, has made quite a few excellent villains.

It gives the reader the slight hope that perhaps the baddie in question could change, that maybe they still have a spark of humanity left–and it makes it all the more tragic(and fun for the writer) when they don’t.

3. Megamind (And Luke Castellan)- A good villain has a reason for being who they are.

I love Megamind. He’s just so freakishly awesome and bumbling and brilliant and he does what I would probably do were I a supervillain (e.g. fail spectacularly). And he has good reason for being as jaded as he is. Being mocked, misunderstood, and generally hated for being different will do that. Add in the fact that he was raised in a prison and groomed for villainy, and you’ve got a pretty good reason for his turning out the way he did.

Megamind

Megamind!

Judging by my research, you don’t just wake up one day to find that you’ve become a full-fledged villain with rayguns and henchmen. There are always reasons. Revenge, love(as aforementioned), hate, or greed. An old hurt or a new desire.

And in general(excluding Megamind), even with reasons, the change from hero to villain is still gradual. As in the case of Luke Castellan from The Lightning Thief. He may have started and ended a hero, but that middle bit was pretty sketchy. With the mental scars of abandonment, enough time and toil to get bitter, and the perfect opportunity, poor Luke snapped. It can happen to the best of heroes, shockingly enough. And that’s what makes for a good twist.

4. A good villain does not do harm without reason.

I could not think of a villain to fit this one, sadly. I feel like a failure as a geek. But, moving on…You really shouldn’t let your baddies run amok when it comes to dishing out mayhem and destruction. As tempting as it is to let them push the limits and EVIL ALL THE THINGS, it can begin to border on the ridiculous if all your villain does is inflict torment for no apparent reason other than making your hero a martyr.

You guys have any to add? List your favorite villains in the comments!

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Comment

While I was away, something…monumental happened. My blog was flamed for the first time. In a way, I guess it’s a good thing that this was the first negative comment to come through in the almost-year I’ve been writing here, but it stung all the same. However, in frantically reviewing the post in question(Things to Do in a Library) to see what the problem was, I realized that there were some things that could be misconstrued. The commenter had a point.

As such, I deleted the post, did some thinking, and am now sitting here, writing this. The post itself was only meant as humor, and I apologize to anyone I’ve offended. I value your readership, and intend to be significantly more careful in future. I would also like to reiterate that I am in fact still in high school. I have no expertise, no training, and no real business giving advice. But I’m doing it anyway–mostly to myself, as a way of organizing my thoughts and motivating myself to stay focused on my own writing–so don’t take anything I say too seriously.

In writing, there’s nothing more important than tone. Its importance  is exactly the same on the page (or the screen) as it is in conversation. Perhaps more so. And unfortunately, it’s significantly easier to mess up when writing rather than talking.   A phrase intended as sarcasm or humor can be taken seriously twice as easily through written words as when spoken, and it’s three times as hard to smooth things over.  It doesn’t do either the writer or the reader any favors and generally results in an unpleasant experience for everyone. So, without further ado, here are the things I plan on doing to avoid further problems.

1. READ!

All those writing technique manuals have an excellent point. Every author has a unique tone, and the more varied range of tones you’ve experienced, the better equipped you are to skillfully form your own. By studying successful authors, you can see how to capture an emotion or a idea effectively. Without coming off as condescending when you meant to be welcoming, ingratiating when you try to commiserate, or purely stupid when you try to be funny. Better yet, don’t try to be anything. Except yourself, of course.

2. REREAD!

…your own work. Simple proof-reading. As important as we all know it is, it’s easy to forget about tone when you’re hunting for typos, working on deadline(AHHH! IT’S 1:00 AM AND I’VE GOT TO WORK IN THE MORNING! Now, where’s the publish button…?), or simply in a hurry.

Secondly, reading phrases that you have doubts about out loud is good. Try them out, put emphasis on different sections and see if any of the versions are…not so good.

3. Don’t Take It Too Seriously

It’s impossible to be perfect, especially in an area as subjective as writing. There will always be people who love your style and people who loathe it with every atom. Misunderstandings will still occur. Problems will still arise. Take the criticism and learn from it, but don’t sweat it. It’s not worth the time and tears(those are far better spent on those problem chapters of your novel), and there are far more productive things to do with your time.

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

I’m Baaaack!

Well, folks, the Madrigal dinners are both over, and while they were fun, I’m glad to be done with them. Dad has had several tests to determine the cause of his recent illness, and while we’re still waiting on the results, he does feel significantly better. However, school is still a pressing matter, especially as the school year comes to a close. The most I can promise is one post a week.

Also, a big thank you to all you who’ve kept reading even with my erratic posting schedule.  I can’t thank you enough for sticking with me. In light of your patience, I’m letting you choose the next post. Not exactly the best reward, I know, but still…

I have a vague outline of things I plan to do in the future, so just post your preference in the comments and I will get right on that.

-A review of the Hunger Games series (Fair warning, it ain’t gonna be favorable.)

-A post on villains, their role in fiction, and how to write them effectively (because I really need to work on that)

-A day-in-the-life–or otherwise personal–post(apparently, readers like that sort of thing, and I haven’t done much of it unless necessary)

-Review of The Runaway King

-A post concerning romance (…I have no words…which is a pretty good indicator that I need to work on that)

-A fun post (which I have an idea for, but which will remain a surprise)

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

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