Let’s take a break from characters and backtrack a small bit. As a writer, you might be plagued by an idea so insistent that you’re forced to stop everything you’re doing and focus on this new little bunny that just made it to your CPPC (central plot processing center). As you pause from your current manuscript, you turn to look at the new arrival only to stare in abject horror as you recognize the rotting flesh of an old discarded idea come back to life!
You run from the room and grab the nearest source of fire at your fingertips. In my case, that would be a propane tank and a lighter. Grabbing the zombiefied creature, that hardly resembles the once vibrant hopeful little bunny it once was, you tape it to that propane tank and light it off!
Fleeing the flames, you take shelter back inside your writing cave with peace of mind that the horrible creature is dead. Never to bother you again. Until you hear a rapping at your door and the scampering of furry feat across the floor.
You back up against the wall, reaching for the nearest blunt object. Your fingers close around the handle of a baseball bat, I have no clue why you have one in your writing cave but you do, and you slowly creep towards the door. You reach out, and quickly, throw the door open and swing at the bunny standing before you. You swing and swing and swing some more until all that’s left is a pile of rotted goo.
Slumping against the door frame you wipe the sweat and blood from your face and think finally it’s dead. No way it can come back from that! But even as you think it, the goo starts to move and take form. The bunny rises from the pool of decay and rot.
Having no other options at this point, you move swiftly! You get the vacuum and you suck that little bastard up. You deposit his half liquid, half solid remains in a metal box, and you jet out to the ocean. Because we all have private boats on standby. You sail at full speed out to the deepest part of the ocean and you drop that horrid creature right off the side of your boat. You watch. Counting the seconds and minutes as that box slowly descends to the dark crushing depths. Imaging the entire time, the box getting smaller and smaller, the bunny being destroyed from the inside out as it implodes.
You release a sigh of sweet relief and steer your boat back toward shore. You go home, you sit at your desk, and your fingers are now once again poised above your keyboard. You’re ready to get back to that book!
No you’re not!
He’s back, standing by your chair and smiling up at you. You look upon his lifeless gaze knowing this will be your last moments of sanity. Nothing will work. You can never escape the undead insanity of the plot bunny before you.
So, you cave in. You pull up a new document and you write a story you know has no originality to it but you try to make something good out of it. Maybe the characters can salvage this train wreck of an idea. Or, you can try a new angle… if there even is one!
As a writer you might find yourself locked into an idea that has been done time and time again. As the saying goes, there is nothing original anymore. Everything has been done. Just like that undead plot bunny that continually rises from the grave to be rewritten over and over again.
It is up to you to come up with something new, even for a tired old story idea. Maybe you want to write something similar to a Beauty and the Beast style story. It is your job as the writer, as the interpreter of the undead plot bunny, to weave a tale with a different spice to it. A new approach. Maybe the beast is half man, half machine. An outcast in society because of his mechanical parts. He’s neither human nor robot. Maybe your beauty is an employee of this beast, and already knows of his gentle heart. Your beauty is desperate to show the beast that it’s okay for society to not accept him, as long as they have each other. There is no curse to be broken, just the jaded and lonely heart of one man to overcome! (this is my idea, stay away from it)
So, even as this Halloween comes around and you are faced with the idea of the insanity of the many undead plot bunnies abounding, remember it could be a blessing in disguise. Wait, I say before chopping off that rotting creature’s head! Listen to the tale he wishes for you to spin. Lend the insanity an ear, and just maybe a bit of it will find its way into your writing.
I’ve mentioned it a few times on my Facebook page, but I LOVE a good villain. Nothing is more disappointing for me as a consumer of literature/film/comics or as a writer as when a story has a weak, dull, or stereotypical villain. With that in mind, let’s talk about how you can make a good villain for your story and how I go about fleshing out mine.
Firstly! Like with your MC, your big bad needs a backstory. How did he come to the point he’s at now? Why did she turn to a life of crime? What does the villain have against the MC? Where did their paths cross? Is their struggle something intimate or is it more grand and large scale?
Examples of MC to villain interaction is something like cops and robbers, hero and villain, arch enemies, rivals, parent and child, school bullies, century old grudge, the hero spilled coffee on the villain at just the wrong time and now they want him/her dead! Okay, that last one was a bit over the top, but if you set your villain up as someone who is on the verge of breaking it could work.
For me, I mostly use a business or family approach to my villains. In Galaxia Pirates my primary villains are the mercenary group the Red Falcon crew, and the Allied Navy. Seeing as the “heroes” of the story are pirates it would make sense their primary foe would be a form of law enforcement. The Red Falcon and crew get involved because they are often taking a job that puts them in direct opposition with the Galaxia Pirates.
In Itáyu Lake, the first antagonist is Jason Strand’s own family. Fueled by a centuries old grudge and misguided hate the family is bitter and prejudice. Jason’s life was hard because of his father’s views, views his siblings later reflected and pushed onto him.
Your antagonist should be just as complex, if not more so, than your protagonist. I’m not saying you need to give your reader the complete life story. They don’t need to know how their first pet goldfish died and their parents just left him in the bowl to be found later… unless that plays into their spiraling path of seeing the world as a fleeting nothingness. See! Any little thing can lead to a good starting point of villainy.
Personally, I love the intimate connection with the hero. As I said, in Galaxia Pirates one of the primary antagonists are often put into the Galaxia crew’s path because of the jobs they take, but the captain of the Red Falcon has a past with the Galaxia’s captain and first mate. This personal connection drives him to greater leaps in logic when handling them. He wants his revenge!
Revenge is a perfectly acceptable drive for your villain. Revenge also works well for a hero. Maybe they both see the other as having wronged them and they want mutual revenge against each other? The part you focus on and show in the more positive light would show which is your hero vs villain.
Remember, a lot about your villain is perspective. Another example from my own writing, in the first Itayu Lake book, A Dragon’s Dream, Jason’s brother Jared is shown to be an antagonist. He’s against Jason’s mating to Mikhail. He even seems to share his father’s prejudice opinions. He’s completely unlikeable!
Until he gets his own story and the reader gets to see things from his perspective in the second book of Itáyu Lake, A Cougar’s Cry. Then he goes from being a villain to a sympathetic victim that you want to cheer for.
So, quick recap. You villains needs a backstory that justifies their actions. Some kind of connection with the hero needs to be made, even if it is only in passing. Use the correct perspective to frame your villain.
Now, for a final bit of advice, that’s a bit contradictory to what I just said. You story doesn’t need to have a villain. The conflict between the two characters, say in a love story, can push your plot along just fine. Villains are more for an external conflict. If you’re going for more of an internal thing, then you can bypass the villain entirely and just focus on what your character is going through, and the conflict he’s fighting within himself. Of course all good stories have both an external and an internal conflict.
Whether you chose to use a villain or not though, the tone should fit and be something that flows with the entirety of your narrative. It doesn’t make sense to suddenly have a villain thrown in the middle of your book if you haven’t lead up to it. So it’s always a good idea to think about the story as a whole and whether or not a villain is needed to propel the plot forward.
Mondays: Free post days where I post about anything I feel like talking about.