Category: Characters

Villains Add Depth To Your Story

Villains Add Depth To Your Story

All good stories have conflict. Something to keep you interested. What provides conflict? A well written villain. Someone who makes you root for the hero.

As you write your novel, if you simply concentrate on your hero/heroine, you are leaving out what makes your story great. Conflict. Something or someone for the good guy to defeat. A well written villainous plot will give your hero depth and keep your reader interested. Without a good villainess what would the heroine have to do?

Before you start writing consider what the villain will be doing. He must have a reason for his actions. He cannot be bad because you want him to be bad. Give him a reason. Something the reader can identify with. Make him easy to hate. Better yet, make him someone the reader sympathizes with. Someone the reader will pull for. Inherently, villains are not all bad. Each of them believes in what they are doing and has a reason for doing it And they each have some redeemable quality. A well written villain will give meaning and focus to the hero providing direction for him to grow as a person.

As a writer, how can you know what your hero is doing if you don’t know what your villain is doing. You cannot have one without the other. Make your villain multi-dimensional. Create some logical reason why he does what he does, then give him some redeeming quality that your reader can relate to or identify with. Characters are more believable if they appear to be real. Even good people have some bad in them. Villains and heroes both have strengths and weaknesses. If you create a perfect character with no flaws your story will be flat, unbelievable, and one dimensional.

Your villain will have backstory just like your hero. What made your villain what he is today? Now, weave that backstory into your novel and show where your villain has crossed that imaginary line. The point where he no long thinks about what he will do, but acts on it. This is the point where the stakes are at their highest. Create that tension the reader craves and keep the villain’s agenda clear.

A villain doesn’t necessarily need to be evil. Perhaps a series of events puts him in a position he doesn’t want to be in and now is forced to do something he doesn’t want. Heroes and villains have strong convictions that are in opposition to each other.

Great stories have memorable villains/villainesses.
Without Voldermort what purpose would Harry Potter have?
And one of my favorites—The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz.

Are you a fan of the hero or do you root for the villain? Do you have a favorite villain/villainess? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

Jenga—The Muse

Jenga—The Muse

Pamela Foster wears many hats, and whether she wants to claim “writer” as one of them, she not only wears it, she wears it with panache. Through personal experience, humor, and tough love, Pamela will discuss ways to move past the things that hold writers back in these series of posts titled, “Jenga—Knocking Over Writers’ Blocks.”

Shower Scene

showerTaking a shower frees my muse. Something about hot water unknotting muscles, limited visibility, and the sensual feel of soap on bare skin – creativity seeps in with the steam. This morning while lathering my hair with shampoo, I became a new character.

Yes, you read that correctly. I did not think of a new character. I became a new character.

Here’s how:

I have arrived lately at the realization that I have no way of understanding most of what goes on today. In particular, I am lost in the world that young people must navigate. I have young friends who struggle daily, hourly, with making enough money to feed and shelter themselves. What can I tell them to provide hope? I know half a dozen kids who have watched parents or lovers or brothers and sisters destroy themselves with drugs. What can I offer to heal wounds that go that deeply? I have a Facebook friend whose lover, her best friend in the world, was murdered by cops while walking home from his job late at night. Mistaken identity. What possible words can I offer this young woman when she cries out for help late in the night?

I am a writer, and yet I feel inadequate, too old, too out-of-touch to offer a single original thought on life. What possible thoughts can a sixty-five year-old woman offer that will make any difference at all?

Return with me to the shower scene.

Luxuriating in hot water, thankful to be standing relatively pain-free, I reached for the shampoo. A new bottle. Not my usual supermarket grab, but a bottle chosen at leisure on a day of respite, a day of walking on the beach followed by a stop at a boutique beauty store. In the steam and with my eyes partly closed, it took me a few seconds to figure out how to open the fancy new bottle. Turned out to be one of those twist and click deals. I squeezed a dollop into the palm of my hand. It looked, felt, smelled pretty much exactly like my usual bargain brand.

fancy blue bottleSo, I probably paid four times the amount of money for the same product I usually buy at the supermarket. Except this shampoo is in a fancy blue bottle made from recycled beer bottles and undoubtedly tested on soft little bunny rabbits and cute waddling duckies.

Right there, at that precise moment, I straightened up, allowed myself to follow the character who had just materialized in my shower. An older woman, clueless in the maze of today’s world, yet a woman who maintains her humor and love and desire to make a difference, a woman who yearns to leave the world a better place than she found it.

So, right now, some of you are saying, “But that’s you! That’s just you, not a new character.”

Well, of course, you’re right.

But you’re also wrong.

Certainly this character springs from my own frustration and desires, but while I am busy to the point of exhaustion most days with the demands and challenges of my own small life, this woman who came to me in the shower is ready and willing to take the time to explore new scenarios, new settings, she wants to explore a new story.

I’m going to follow her.


When writers’ block rears its ugly head, try a relaxing shower or bath. Immerse yourself in scented lather and let the water wash the stresses and the uncertainty away. Become someone else, become a new character, and when you’re relaxed—and dry—write that new story.

Creating the Perfect Protagonist

Creating the Perfect Protagonist

Stephen King on CharactersHe’s tall, dark, handsome, rich, smart, sophisticated, kind, philanthropic, loves his family and kids and animals, owns a rescue dog, is former military and yet still cares for the environment.

Are you sick to your stomach yet? Because I’m more than a little nauseated. If this guy really exists, only a small part of me wants my daughter to marry him. Mostly I just want to find dirt on him, because really, no one is that perfect. He’s hiding something. Or he’s going to make me feel bad about myself until the day I die.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret for writing fiction.

Be prepared for a four-letter word here. It’s one you hear so often in fiction, but I have to use it.

Think about your hook.

You’ve heard it a million times. The opening of your novel is so important. You only have a small window to get to that quintessential moment where you’ve hooked the reader.

  • Begin in the middle of the action (in media res) and you could confuse the reader. What’s happening? Who are these people? Why should I care?
  • Begin with too much setup, too much backstory, and you risk boring the reader with too much history, losing them before they’ve become engrossed.
  • But if you begin just before the hook, you have just enough time for us to see who the protagonist is in his regular life before a big change happens. That way, we can like him or feel sympathy for him or fear for him when the inciting incident occurs.

So it all comes down to establishing a character in his regular life just before the thing that changes everything. We need a reason to like this person. And the reason can’t be because he’s perfect. If he’s Mr. Tall-Dark-Handsome-Etc. that I described in the opening, it’s time to sit down and revise this character… unless that’s just a facade he projects to the world. If he has some hidden emotional scars and secret flaws that we’re going to learn about, then great. But if he’s really that vanilla, then, sorry. No. Prince Charming was already written centuries ago. Don’t plagiarize. Create someone new.

Stephen King says: I try to create sympathy for my characters, then turn the monsters loose.

The great writers create characters we can relate to, characters we sympathize with, characters we like and root for. Only once we’ve bonded with them will the writer turn their worlds upside down. But we’ll be hooked from that first word, because that character isn’t perfect.

He’s just perfectly suited for the world the writer has created.