Usually I limit myself to one writing-related post per month. But something has been irritating the living hell out of me for years, and the more time that passes, the angrier I get. So, lest I morph into some female version of The Incredible Hulk, I’ll expel that rage here, as a semi-productive rant. Because if …
There is something eerily appealing about the villain. They serve so many purposes. Yet, are always true to themselves. They’re the thorn in a happy ending. The catalyst for revenge. The scapegoat for things gone awry. The wrench in well-laid plans.
They’re the characters we hate, but ones we need. Without them the story would be just plain boring.
As with your heroine or hero, much care has to be taken in the villain’s development. After all, they’re not stupid people. In fact, most villains are educated and clever. I don’t want to hate a dumb villain! They wouldn’t give me the pleasure of hating them because they wouldn’t have the capacity to figure things out or be manipulative where they need to be.
One of the best reference books on writing villains is titled, “Bullies, Bastards & Bitches” by Jessica Page Morrell. The book breaks down the layers of an antagonist and demonstrates how to develop the best one for your story.
The antagonist or villain appears in all shapes and levels of wickedness. You may run across The Betrayer, the Gossip or the Liar or met The Power Hungry or Narcissist. And let us not forget the classic Cad or Femme Fatale.
The tactics of a villain are specific. As the book points out, “they don’t walk the walk, or talk the talk, they dare to perform the worst acts in order to make the most gains.” Some of their tactics include: taking extreme risks, controlling others by using guilt and loyalty or obsessing about details and a plan of attack.”
This describes a villain in one of my books to a tee. She’s a wicked, wicked woman–educated, business savvy, self-serving, manipulative, and vengeful. And get this, people love her! They marvel at how wicked she is, but look forward to everything she does throughout the book.
Villains are fun to write. And let’s face it, we all at one time or another enjoy reading about a dastardly deed and hoping that the villain gets their just deserts. For the most part, the antagonist gives readers a chance to walk on the dark side or get a glimpse of how evil truly lurks …lol
Just think of some of your favorite books or movies where you just couldn’t believe how evil they were. Yet, you couldn’t help but wonder what they’d do next. Here are a few of mine!
1. Hans Gruber, Die Hard
2. Hans Landa, Inglourious Basterds
3. Jack Torrence, The Shining
4. Annie Wilkes, Misery
5. Hannibal Lecter, The Silence of the Lambs
6. Norman Bates, Psycho
What I enjoy most about developing the villain is that you have license to decide their fate and whether or not they can be redeemed. Some are beyond redemption, yet others can see the errors of their ways. Who knows they may even earn their own book! Although that may be a challenging undertaking, it can be done.
If you’re struggling with the development of your antagonist, I highly recommend, “Bullies, Bastards & Bitches.” It will provide great insight and direction on how to create a well-rounded villain your readers will love to hate.
Many moons ago, during a work performance appraisal, a former manager of mine referred to me as a “pit bull with a bone.”
Of course, my first reaction was one of disbelief. And then I wanted to punch her. 🙂 Good thing she explained rather quickly why she made such a reference, because I probably would have been out of a job.
She described me as a person who never gave up. She went on to say that when I had a project to do, I’d take the assignment and run with it. And no matter what, I refused to let it go until it was completed.
I thought about her comment and although I was still relatively pissed, I took what she had to say as a compliment.
And then I took what she had to say as fact. And then the truth.
I don’t like leaving things undone, especially my writing.
It’s been a little over a year, since I’ve looked at my WIP. Except for my critiquing group, I did nothing remotely literary, including reading. And that pained me. But life became overwhelming and my writing took a back seat. Dare I mention my previous surroundings (home/office) weren’t conducive to writing or reading?
However, I’m happy to say that that sorry book is closed and for the first time in many months, I’m grabbing on to that bone and not letting go. I’ve been able to REALLY look at my WIP with interest. It’s fantastic to be able focus on a manuscript I started years ago.
I even managed to finish a book by one of my favorite authors, Maya Banks. It felt so good to read again!
I’ve said it before; no man (or writer) is not an island. As writers, we need feedback, encouragement and collaboration, which is why I’m so thankful for my critiquing group—three fabulous writers, Leigh Raffaele, Beth-Ann Gutsick Kerber and Kathleen Pacheco. They allowed me to vent when necessary and the time to get over a major hurdle.
I’m also thankful for my critiquing partner, writer Jaye Gavin Allan, for checking in on me every once and awhile to make sure I was still breathing!
Writing is my best friend and I couldn’t go another day without it. To do what we love doing, requires a place that is conducive to writing and one that nurtures to our creativity.
This pit bull is lucky to have found it again because I refuse to fail.
As an artist, how do you get back/stay on track?
Lately, I’ve had a hell of a time focusing.
Between a major project at work and selling my home, my writing seems to be getting the short end of the stick. My current WIP? Pfft. Seems like I’ve been on the same scene for the last 20 years and my characters have all aged (gracefully, I might add!). Nothing about the scene flowed. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to delete it and forget about it. But with each revision, each click of my keyboard, I knew that it was a valid, if not pivotal, scene to keep.
A bestseller author, one who I consider a mentor, told me whenever she was stuck she’d cook spaghetti. She said you have to get up and walk away from your work. I’ve also heard about people doing laundry to get through a rough patch. Taking your mind off the scene or chapter that is giving you trouble and focusing on something else, helps breakthrough any issues you’re having.
So, I got up, grabbed my new toy and walked away.
This festive winter bouquet started it all.
I believe inspiration comes at the most unexpected times, the most unexpected places. And it was definitely this bouquet that jump started my breakthrough. I loved the way the colors popped and the red of course, screamed romance.
Who would have thunk it? 🙂
Soon my thoughts were running rampant and I started to pick apart was wasn’t working, feeling confident about the direction of my scene.
Sometimes it takes the smallest thing to get us back on track. My muses, Poe and Fitz tell me that all the time. I should listen to them more!
Awhile back I blogged before that no man (or writer) is an island and how important it is to support and promote the work of our fellow authors. There’s no time to worry about there being enough readers to go around or that the genre in which you write is saturated with thick competition. Get over that! Not only are you doing yourself a disservice, but you’re forgetting one key point–readers CAN have several “favorite” authors. ( I know I do!)
Since I’m all about spreading the word, it’s with great pleasure that I tell you about author Sharon Black’s debut novel, ” Going Against Type,” a romantic comedy released as an e-book by Tirgearr Publishing.
Ms. Black shares that “Going Against Type,” “is set against the backdrop of Dublin newspapers. It’s the story of two rival columnists, –one a sports journalist, the other a fashion writer who write anonymous columns for their newspapers – and fall in love without realizing they are bitter enemies in print.”
I was very surprised to see that her hero was the fashion writer. It puts a different, yet nice spin on things! Lending to the book’s authenticity, is Ms. Black’s background in journalism and her work with The Evening Herald and The Irish Examiner.
Another thing that caught my eye about the novel is that it’s set in Dublin. Yes! There’s something about a sweet Irish romance that just pulls me in. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite movies is Leap Year , a romantic comedy with Amy Adams, which is also set in Dublin. I loved the countryside scenery, the people and of course the romance. “Going Against Type” gives me that same vibe and I so look forward to diving in!
Or show some love by tweeting Sharon #GoingAgainstType@authorsharonb
Woohoo! I’m ecstatic. I purchased a new camera–a Canon Rebel with a retractable lens. I had a digital Canon point and shoot, which is great but left little in the way of creativity. Since, I’m a die hard fan of Canon, I stuck with what I like. It’s never failed me with great pictures and video.
My old manual 35 mm, which requires film, (film what’s that?!) still takes the most beautiful pictures. But I’m buried deep in the digital age, so I love the quickness and spontaneity that comes with being able to create in seconds.
With my new toy, I headed to the beautiful Watchung Reservation, one of 36 parks and the largest in the county where I live. Known for its hiking trails and scenic routes, this is a popular place among Jerseyans, particularly in the central part of the state. I’m shooting with a 18-55 mm lens. I can’t wait to get my new 75-300 mm zoom (It’s arriving any day now!). There are far more powerful telephoto zoom lenses out there. But for my shooting purposes, it suits me.
This place always inspires me. Along with my storyboards, I keep my pictures handy for reference. In one of my WIPs, my heroine, after being kidnapped, has to survive in the woods with her son. Visiting the reservation and then posting the pictures helps put me in my heroine’s shoes.
If you’re ever in New Jersey, The Watchung Reservation view is one of the best in the state, especially in the summer.
I’m in the process of selling my house.
After one open house, my realtor was in the process of shutting off all the lights and locking up when she entered my office library. A couple of days later, she asked my daughter, “Why does your mom have all those books about poisons, forensics and the criminal stuff on her shelf?”
I knew my daughter did everything she could not to laugh out loud. She calmly told her, “She’s a writer.”
My realtor was probably relieved to know that I wasn’t plotting to kill anyone–not in the non-fiction world anyway. It also might explain why she never accepted my offer to make her a cup of coffee.
The point of my story is twofold.
A novelist or author is like a journalist and like any investigative reporter worth their salt, their main objective is to answer the questions “who, what, when, where and how,” with concrete, factual answers. As authors, we have a little more flexibility when it comes to telling the story, but we still need to do our homework and research.
1) Although we’re encouraged “to write what you know,” I flip it around a bit and I make sure “that I know about what I’m writing.”
I believe in having a book that covers every subject. Though most of my books are packed away, a few still remain within arms reach. One of my books is about a pediatric nurse, hence the “Code Blue” book. I didn’t have the faintest idea of what went on in the emergency room from a nurse’s perspective. So, I bought a book for research and reference.
2) make sure your research bench is deep, on and off the shelf.
With my nurse story, I took it a step further and made an appointment to visit a couple of nurses at a nearby hospital in my town. There, I was able to get firsthand, what it was like in the emergency room during a crisis, what triage really meant and how they juggled their personal lives and saving the lives of others.
One of my heroes is a real estate mogul. Thank goodness my daughter is a real estate and mortgage subject matter expert! I was able to pick her brain on eminent domain and house flipping laws. With my real estate 101 course, I believe my story could withstand scrutiny from the most knowledgeable real estate professional (someone like my realtor, maybe?). 🙂
Ensuring that your research bench is deep both on the shelf and in the real world, will make your stories that more believable. And don’t be afraid to talk to people. Ask those burning questions! All they can do is think you’re crazy for asking. But once you explain it’s research for your book, it’s amazing how quickly they offer information.
And maybe they’ll even accept your offer for a cup of coffee.