Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Writing Villains-Embracing your Inner Dark Side

It's said that there is always a little bit of you in all your characters, but that can't be true for those really evil baddies too, can it? Think again. Though you may not have the psychopathic tendencies of your villain, the knowledge to write him or her well has to come from somewhere!

To write a convincing villain, you're going to have to do something a little scary... make a visit to your dark side. However you accomplish this is up to you. Do something a little diabolical; kick over a trash can at the office and laugh evilly--then clean it up of course, you're not really evil. Okay, so that is a pretty lame thing to do, and it might get some weird looks from your co-workers. Something a little more fun and less weird is to write a diary for your villain. Get into his head and let him tell about normal every day things he does. All his little evil plots to destroy the world and plans for revenge against his hero. This is a fun exercise and it will help you connect with your villain. Connecting with villains is just as important as connecting with your heroes, though a lot of people overlook that. I know I have written several villains that I really hate--but then some I kind of like as well, and then there are always going to be those that give you chills... you might not want to go too far into their heads. Trust me.

There is nothing that breaks a good story like a poorly crafted villain. First-time authors, I think, make the mistake a lot of times by distancing themselves from their baddies because they think they are just supposed to be bad and unlikable. This will just get you a one-demential villain that does way too much evil laughing and plot telling. I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to quote something from the 2011 Three Musketeers movie that made me laugh:

Richelieu: "I suppose this is the part where I'm supposed to laugh maniacally and regale (you) with plans for some diabolical plot?"

That describes one-demential villains. Don't feel bad if this is the kind of villain you have. One of these days, I'm going to post excerpts of some of my very old stories and let you see how bad they were!

Diabolical laughing does work for some people though. Chauvelin from The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy did a lot of it, and he was just as chilling as ever!

The kinds of villains that are easier to relate to are the ones who you can't help but like--even if they are complete scoundrels. Like the way Buckingham was portrayed in the 2011 Three Musketeers film. You hated him, but yet you couldn't help but like him. Be diabolical and have fun with it! These types of villains are really fun to write diaries for. Seriously, my inner dark side is more like this... or not.

The scary villains with psychopathic tendencies are going to be harder to deal with...I hope anyway. You might have to put on a mask to help you write these types, but, in the end, they end up being the more complex villains and I always love complex villains. Mystery writers are going to need to know this. You can't get away with a cartoon villain in a mystery, I'm afraid. Check out the villains post to see some more examples of different types of villains.

So if your friends look at you weird because you're grinning evilly while steepling your fingers and looking like you're thinking of a diabolical plot, just ignore them until they go away. Someday they'll be jealous that you're a published author with good villains and they aren't!

Sliante, Hazel

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Renegade Characters

Ever have a villain who refuses to be evil or a supporting character who wants to play a bigger role? You're not alone. Many authors experience renegade character problems. If you are having problems with a story, then it's most likely due to the fact that your characters are not who they are supposed to be. The novice writer might think that authors come up with characters, but that's not true at all. Characters become who they want to be whether you like it or not! A writer cannot always help what a character might become, and you'll often find it happening right under your nose--even though you never meant for your villain to suddenly be rescuing your hero from going over a cliff.

You need to let your characters breathe. All characters talk to their authors--usually late at night when all you want is sleep--and you should learn to listen to them. Take down what they say as they tell it to you--yes, even all the naughty things. You don't have to put it in the actual story, but even listening to your two guy characters crack rude jokes in the middle of the night and writing them down in a private place will help their characters develop for the time when you actually write the book. And if your supporting hero shows up for the sequel with an earring, well, if he's happy, you're happy, right?

Unfortunately, dear writers, there is no way to avoid this. You're just going to have to let your characters be who they want to be and deal with it. If you make them into something they aren't then they are going to rebel and the result will be a mediocre story that you will end up hating in a few years. Trust me. I have them, and so will every beginning writer out there. I've realized long ago, it is not the plot line or the writing style that makes a book, but the characters. I have picked up many a book that sounded amazing only to stop reading it because I couldn't stand the protagonist or the supporting cast. Yet, I have read books or watched movies as well, that may not have had a winner of a story line, but the characters are so memorable that you can't help but love it anyway. You can also usually spot a book that the author has not allowed the characters to be themselves in. Thankfully, in published books, this is few and far between, but I have read a couple *cough cough a certain paranormal novel cough* that I probably would have liked if the author had let the characters be who I thought they were struggling to be and let them do what they needed to. Ah, that is the reason I love classic literature. Few can craft characters like masters such as Dumas and Alcott!

So, in short, some of my best advice to any beginning writer, and also to people who have been writing for a long time (because it still happens!) is just to sit back, relax, and write with your eyes closed, without thinking of your characters in the way you portrayed them, but in the way they create themselves. You'll find your book will flow much better. And do listen to the voices in the night, yes, even the rude jokes, because it can only make all your stories better in the long run!

Slainte, Hazel

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Here's wishing you all a Happy St. Patrick's Day! Make sure you wear green! You can go to Bonnets and Broadswords if you would like to read a little on the history of the holiday. Ta la brea!


Slainte, Hazel