Posts Tagged With: Sherlock Holmes

Somebody Order A Villain?:Part Two

~ Firstly, I apologize for the absence. I started my senior year, so between course work, college prep, working, trying to find a better job, and non-school-related life…I got a little distracted. ~

As I’ve already made abundantly clear, I’m quite fond of villains. In many cases, they’re more interesting than their hero counterparts(and usually better dressed). They’re unpredictable, appearing in all shapes, sizes, and emotional states. They’re troubled, by anything from guilt to greed to the continued existence of the human race. And everything that makes them fun to hate and a joy to read also makes them terrors to write properly.

 

 

1. Sauron – A good villain is driven.

 

 

Whatever it is that your villain wants, he has to want it with every fiber of his soul. Heroes can occasionally be apathetic about what they’re trying to accomplish since they’re often dragged into quests and adventures against their will, but the bad guys cannot.  If your villain is lackadaisical about getting what he/she wants, then the rest of your story is going to lag, as well.

 

 

The Eye of Sauron as portrayed in Peter Jackso...

The Eye of Sauron as portrayed in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movie trilogy as Sauron’s form in the Third Age. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In The Lord of the Rings, Sauron stopped at nothing to retrieve the One Ring. He sent all kinds of nasty beasties and recruited unsavory characters to help see that little piece of power returned. A fact that helped keep the action going through three books and as many movies.

 

 

2. A good villain believes in what he’s doing.

 

 

Considering the things that villains do? They better believe in it!  Without believing that his actions will bring him to his goal, a villain won’t be driven(see above) to do much of anything and you won’t have a story.

 

 

Granted, there may be doubts. Every human on the face of the planet has doubts from time to time, and letting your baddie have some from time to time can go a long way toward making her more human. However, unless your tale is a tale of redemption, make sure she pushes through them.

 

 

3. Professor Moriarty – A good villain is the kind of person your protagonist would have as a BFF.

 

 

If he wasn’t, you know, evil. In a lot of great fiction, the protagonist and the antagonist are two sides of the same coin. Good and evil versions of the same person, if you simplify things.

 

 

Take Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty, for example. They’re both brilliant. They both invented professions to suit their talents. They both possess a penchant for great schemes, and neither has ever found anyone to keep up with them until they crossed swords with each other.

English: Sidney Paget's drawing of Holmes and ...

English: Sidney Paget’s drawing of Holmes and Moriarty in Mortal Combat at the Edge of the Reichenbach Falls. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

4.Queen Levana – A good villain is not good.

 

 

 

 

First, allow me to qualify that statement: a good villain is not doing bad things for good reasons. If that’s the case, your character may be more of an anti-hero than an antagonist.

*spoiler alert*  In Cinder by Marissa Meyer, the antagonist, Queen Levana, embodies this concept pretty well. She tries to murder a three-year-old princess in order to steal the throne for herself, tries again when the princess is in her teens, routinely brainwashes her own subjects, and orders certain disabled infants to be murdered at birth. Not a nice woman.

 

 

A villain does what they do for reasons that they consider good, but that likely sound insane/diabolical/repulsive to the average person. Typically, their motivations revolve solely around themselves. Granted, there are exceptions to this, as with almost all aspects of writing.

 

 

5. The Weeping Angels – A good villain is frightening.

 

 

Human or monster, psychopath or sociopath, explosive or calculating, a good villain should be scary in some way, shape, or form. The worse your protagonist’s opponent is and the more your readers hate him/her, the more emotionally invested they become in seeing him/her vanquished.

The Weeping Angels are living statues from Doctor Who. In the series, they move faster than the human eye can blink and if they reach you will either send you back in time to feed off your potential energy or snap your neck, just because…well…they can. Either way, they can be terrifying. As such, when an episode features them, you’re totally invested in the plot and seeing them lose because you’d really like to be able to sleep that night. Not that you will.

And I’m not posting a picture. If you’re a Whovian, you will know why.

 

 

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Gumshoes

Saturday morning, my folks and I spent the morning at a bookfair sponsored by our local library association.  I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday, and all three of us came away with a tote-bag full of books each. Mine were half 1940s mystery novels. In addition, I’m working on making a t-shirt  design featuring literary detectives. Beyond that, the novel I’m working on is a mystery. Needless to say, I kind of have detectives on the brain, so I thought it would be fun to list some of the qualities of a great detective(coincidentally using most of the detectives that are going on the shirt).

 

1. The Hardy Boys~A great detective is likeable.

 

In my younger years, these guys were my favorite detectives. They were smart, capable teenagers who got to go off on adventures, crack amazing cases, and had an uncanny ability to recover from getting conked on the head at least twice every novel. They got to do essentially everything the average kid wants to do with his/her life.

 

Cover of the revised edition of The Tower Trea...

 

I know that an anti-hero works just as well or better than the classic heroic crime-solver in many cases, but even the worst reprobate of a detective needs to have some quality that your audience can love.

 

2. Nero Wolfe~A great detective is unusual.

 

Rex Stout’s mysteries are one of our family’s primary sources of road trip entertainment(audiobooks–relax, no one was reading while driving). Nero Wolfe has always been a favorite, mostly because there’s no one else even remotely like him. He’s a brilliant private detective who never leaves his brownstone, collects all evidence and clues through his hired help, has an immense collection of orchids which is matched only by his impressive poundage, and is easily the most snarky, disagreeable, and cranky character I’ve ever read. And yet, for some reason, he’s still likeable.

 

Publicity photograph of Maury Chaykin as Nero ...

Publicity photograph of Maury Chaykin as Nero Wolfe in the A&E TV series A Nero Wolfe Mystery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the points I keep coming across for writing good mysteries is that you must always have a hook, and I can actually agree with the general wisdom for once. Without some sort of unusual quality, most detective protagonists fall flat and lose readers within pages of their introduction. The quality itself doesn’t matter; the more creative and off-the-wall, the better, as long as you can make the reader believe in it–and your character.

 

3. The Saint~A great detective is himself a mystery.

 

I confess that I have not actually read any of the actual books featuring Simon Templar. They tend to be rather hard to find, unfortunately. All I’ve been exposed to is the 60’s TV show, but I did love that. Simon had a definite air of mystery in whatever he did, and I found that intriguing. It helped keep me hooked on the show.

 

Many Saint novels were reprinted in new editio...

Many Saint novels were reprinted in new editions in the 1960s to capitalize on the popular television series, starring Roger Moore. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Obviously, this isn’t a hard and fast rule (since when is anything in writing?), but almost all of the best written detectives I’ve come across have something about them that the audience doesn’t know, but is dying to find out. A secretive past, a shady past-time, a great tragedy from long ago–the possibilities are endless and they can add a tantalizing depth to your characters.

4. Sherlock Holmes ~ A great detective is versatile.

Do I even need to explain Sherlock? He’s fantastic, he was one of the original fictional detectives, he’s one of my fictional crushes, HE IS THE ULTIMATE DETECTIVE!

And he’s also an expert swordsman, boxer, master of disguise, chemist, and he writes about various types of ash in his spare time. See what I mean about versatility?

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. W...

Having your detective specialize is great. It helps pinpoint your target audience, determine facets of the protagonist’s character, and just generally helps with the details of writing a decent character. But don’t let him/her get pigeonholed into one specialty and never leave it. A forensic scientist at the top of her field is great, but make sure she has skills outside of categorizing stab wounds and classifying the stages of rigor mortis.

  5. Hercule Poirot ~ A great detective is brilliant.

Hercule is one of my favorite characters of all time. He was sophisticated, endearingly arrogant, unintentionally funny, and, above all, brilliant. Kinda reminds me of a cat I had once. He was both intellectually superior and common-sense smart. He knew both facts and human nature. That’s what made him dangerous as a detective and awesome to read.

Hercule Poirot

Hercule Poirot (Photo credit: elena-lu)

Every character, detective or not, should be brilliant in his or her own way. There are far more varieties of brilliance than garden-variety smarts. Some are people-brilliant, some are book-brilliant, others are nature-brilliant, others still tech-brilliant. Whatever their area, make sure your detective shines.

Hey, guys! I’ve been fiddling with the blog again (now you’ll know why, if it suddenly decides to go haywire). Please note the new suggestion page and feel free to add one!

 

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Writing Prompt Monday (Actually on Monday this time!)

I’m hoping to actually be productive today. I figured I’d start by getting this out on time for the first time in six months–Yay, me!

The problem is that I’m running out of ideas for prompts. Phooey. I’ll come up with something eventually.

AHA!

Q. Are your characters religious? If so, what do they believe? Is it obvious in their characterization?

A. Most of mine are, since…well…*cough* pastor’s kid, and all that jazz, but not all of them. The villains obviously aren’t, and there are a couple of side characters/semi-protagonists who, to quote dear Sherlock “may fight on the side of the angels, but don’t think for a second that they are angels.” It wasn’t exactly planned that way; said characters just popped up fully formed and that’s just the way they are for now.  *shrugs*

However, a significant amount of my characters are religious. My main character is because she’s an tenuous extension of me. Judging by the religions of the time period in her area, she probably would’ve been some sort of Anglican, though I tend to project my own beliefs onto her.

As far as the characterization, I have trouble with that aspect of character. Faith is such a personal experience that it’s difficult to put into words, particularly when you’re trying to use someone else’s words. But I’m working on it.

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Valentine’s Day Post: Favorite Fictional Couples

      One of my favorite blogs, Through Two Blue Eyes, did a lovely post on Favorite Movie Couples today and was kind enough to let me snitch the idea. Which lets me out of doing the serious post I’ve been struggling with and doing some fun fluff. Yay!

1. Flynn Carsen and Simone Renoir

Movie: The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice

      Flynn is from my favorite movie franchise of all time, and that’s probably a substantial part of why I love his relationship with Simone. It was just so…sweet. After seeing him grow and change throughout the first two movies, and seeing every girl he was ever interested in leave him, I couldn’t help rooting for him when he met Simone. She was essentially the only woman who could ever understand his job or how he felt about it. And then the ending(major spoilers, so I shan’t say)…I admit I cried.

2. Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler

Movie: Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

   …Do I even need to explain this one? They were so well-matched in the film, with the constant banter, incessant one-upping, and the little sweet moments. I love both of the actors behind them and they portrayed the characters so well. As for the ending they gave Irene in GoS….I would like to get five minutes alone with the person who made that decision.

3. Kit Walker and Diana Palmer

Movie: The Phantom

   Yes, I know, the movie was incredibly corny, but I liked the way the romance was handled. It was pretty much the only film with a romance that didn’t end with the couple either together, going their separate ways after rejection, or…dead. They both had better things to do at the time, but you knew they intended to come back to each other. It reminds me of that quote about true love letting go. Also, I just loved the character of Diana Palmer. She’s one of the best action movie heroines I’ve seen thus far.

 4. Natasha Romanov and Clint Barton

Movie: The Avengers

Technically, they aren’t a couple, but I count them as one, in my head, at least. The shared history and the obvious depth of the relationship–romantic or not–between them was cool to me. And really, isn’t a friendship better, anyways?

5. Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe

Movie: Anne of Green Gables

    This movie and its sequel were a bit out of my usual viewing range. In general, I’m more of an action movie and sci-fi girl, but I actually enjoyed these. Partially because I feel unreasonably similar to Anne(can I help it if I continually get into trouble???), partially because of the humor, and mostly because of Gilbert. Their relationship is so ridiculously sweet! It’s one of the few films in which you get to see the natural progression and growth of a friendship into a romance. It was adorable. I love it.

  

 

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If Not for Physics, Finances, and Reality…

There seem to be a lot of things that, no matter how much we want them, are impossible or at the very least highly unlikely. But dreams (and about a billion daydreams that I play over and over in my head) are perfectly admissible. As are lists of said things. I came across this idea on a post on Through Two Blue Eyes which I have wanted to copy since I saw it, but haven’t been able to since I was planning on doing just a writing blog. But since I’m having difficulty generating ideas, I’m loosening the blog definition a bit.

Things I Would Do If I Could

1. Travel with the Doctor

Sorry in advance to my friends and family and all, but I’d take off to see the universe in a heartbeat. Besides, I’d come back eventually. As long as I didn’t die. Which, considering that I’m a really slow runner, would be a distinct possibility. Still, I’d go.

2. Go to ALL the cities

This one is technically possible, but highly unlikely with my limited funds. Traveling the world is one of my bigger (real) dreams, and unfortunately, not an easy one to manage in the current economy. But I shall do it. Eventually. And even if I can’t get to the rest, I. Am. Going. To. London.

3. Be a superhero for a day

Honestly, I wouldn’t want it for more than a day. Being super, while endlessly entertaining to read about in the comics, would be utterly terrible in real life. You’d have friends always dying and coming back to life, people trying to kill you for no reason, powers that could go haywire, aliens attacking every five minutes–yeah, it’s a mess. But it would be awesome for a day.

4. Serve on a Federation starship for one adventure.

Because, again, it would be a terrible long term lifestyle. If you aren’t a main character, your chance of survival is practically nil what with spatial distortions, temporal rifts, hostile species, and…Q. But I think one adventure would be a lot of fun. As long as I wasn’t wearing a red shirt.

5. Become an amazing archer

Again, this one is…possible(though I doubt I’ll be jumping off buildings), though I’m still in the process of saving up for equipment. It’s always looked so awesome in movies when the hero/heroine takes a shot and it comes out perfect. And it felt wonderful even taking terrible shots at the archery program I went to. So, Hawkeye is what I’m aiming for (pun not intended, but kept).

6. Be a fly on the wall for a Sherlock Holmes case

Because I’m not smart enough to keep up with him and I’m too sensitive to take hanging out with someone who routinely insults people less intelligent than himself. Still, I’d love for him to be real and to be able to see him work.

7. Star in a real-life Disney film

Hey, what could be better than having an epic adventure with a happy ending and your perfect hero at the end? It would be lovely if real life could turn out the same way. And speaking of happy endings…

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Watson, Lois Lane, and Redshirts: Minor Characters In Writing

One of my favorite things about writing is the characters, hence why my stories are typically character driven rather than plot driven (I’m terrible at plotting;it gets made up as it goes along.). Secondary and minor characters in particular are fun, but they can also turn out to be major problems. There may be too many, too few, too eccentric, too flat, too little story arc, too much story arc–in general, they can be real pains in the neck when they’re not behaving. It all depends on what type of character they are and how they’re handled. There are the best friends, the significant others, the thugs, and about a million other varieties that appear in novels. And they all have issues. But they’re worth it. Here are my observations on the subject.

1. Too many!

This is a major issue for me, hence why it’s #1 on the list. Thus far I’ve cut about five minor characters from my novel, and I’m not even done with the revisions yet. It’s just way too much fun to create characters. Giving them their various quirks and backstories and behavioral patterns is half the fun of writing for me. But once you get past a certain number of characters per novel, they start blurring together. Whereas you may be able to keep the names, appearances, and motives of two hundred characters straight in your head, it’s safe to say that your readers aren’t quite as emotionally invested as you are. Give them a break, and start cutting some of the more useless characters. If a minor character only appears in one scene to drop one piece of information, you can probably edit him/her out, and replace him with someone else. But keep a record of all those brilliantly unique people you’ve created–there are always sequels.

2. Elementary, my dear Watson…

One of the primary uses of minor characters is for them to act as foils for your main character. After all, they need someone to talk to while working out th

e brilliant solution to the whodunnit or someone to ask questions so your readers will understand the science of defusing a bomb. But when that becomes their only function and they have no life outside of following your MC around to fawn over them…you have a problem. For example, take the famous duo of Holmes and Watson. Their friendship is one of the strangest–and therefore the best–in literary history. But it hasn’t always been handled well. In the BBC adaption, the relationship is vastly unbalanced. It’s clear that they both need each other, and for different reasons, but Watson is always three steps behind his apparent best friend.

I think the Guy Ritchie movies showed a much better method of writing a best friend team. Both can function separately–and well–but they’re both much happier when they’re working together. They’re both intelligent, simply in different areas. They’re complete and utter opposites, but the characters were written with the right balance of clashing and complementing.

Thus far in my literary misadventures, the best way I know of to keep your  secondary main characters in line is to try putting them in a story by themselves and casting your original main character as the foil. See if the character is complex and interesting enough to carry a story by themselves. If so, carry on! if not, a little development is in order.

3. Redshirts

One of the most fun things about being an author is having the freedom to suddenly decide you don’t like someone and then zap them off the face of your storyworld. Poof! And with some characters, their only purpose in life is to appear once, then get whacked in whatever devious fashion you’ve concocted to advance the story. The problem occurs when this is  obviously their only function. If they kick the nearest dog, steal the baby’s rattle, and admit to loathing Doctor Who on the first page they appear on, it’s a sure sign to your readers that that person is a goner. Or if, should you choose to be dramatic, the character is composed entirely of sweetness and rainbows and appears to be the only light in a world of thunderclouds. Either way, it’s cliche and not particularly fun to write, either. Go for originality in your Redshirts (that’s a Star Trek term, for those of you who don’t know)! Make them seem so integral to the plot that every reader knows they can’t die. Then kill them. And figure out how to slide out of the corner you painted yourself into.

4. The Lois Lanes

Or Prince Charmings, as the case may be. I’ve mentioned love interests before, but considering that they’re some of the most popular secondary characters around, I couldn’t avoid sticking them in here, too. Honestly, significant others have one of the worst raps in writing of anything else involved in the process of writing a novel. Everyone always assumes that they’re only there because you thought that you had to have one to make the story complete. And in some cases (*cough*), that’s true. But it isn’t always a bad thing. Even if the character wasn’t well-formed to begin with, you can still make them a complicated, worthwhile character. Write up their pasts, too, when you’re delving into your main character’s. Maybe do one of those character development sheets on them. Give them their own lives outside of their dearly beloved’s, as well as their own reasons for being involved in your plot. In fact, make them integral to your plot if they’re going to appear at all. Perhaps they’ll be the one to uncover the crucial clue or the person who helps put together the pieces once all the clues are in. Whatever you do with them, see to it that they’re not just a rugged face. If you simply namedrop them here and there or have them pop by to make-out just to confirm that your protagonist has a lovelife…write them out. Quickly.

5. Token Characters

This is another issue I tend to be guilty of. *sigh* I’m terrible. It’s an incredibly easy mistake to make. “Oh, look, there are more guy investigators on the team than girls…Better add another one.” Whether it’s the token Christian, the token tomboy, the token mother hen, or the token African American, none of them are acceptable. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading, and a character feels completely unnatural to the story and he/she happens to belong to a stereotype or minority, it counts as an immediate strike against the author. It’s one thing if the character has a reason for being there, and whatever it is that hints at their being a token character is a major part of their being. That’s fine. Just make them unique and real and interesting. Not just 2-dimensional. The world will thank you when they read your bestseller.

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