Villians. Hate them, love them, need them

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!Hans-Looking-Die-Hard-hans-gruber-18648743-1280-720 (1)

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.

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The writing pit bull …

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 managedstop-writing 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?

Romance and the winter bouquet

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.IMG_4804

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 IMG_4833that 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.

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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!

Poe (l) and Fitz (r)

 

 

How deep is your research bench?

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.

Nurture the seeds of your story

Ideas for stories come to me at the oddest times and from the oddest places, which is why I carry a digital tape recorder.  I hate the sound of my voice, but using the recorder helps me remember a line of dialogue, plot out a key point or work through a scene that makes me want to pull out my hair.

In the middle of the night, I often awake to the sounds of my character’s voices reminding me to take notice of them and their wants, needs or dire circumstances. Such rudeness require that I leave a notebook on my night stand to jot down their issues–even at 3 a.m!

IMG_4364One of the techniques I find helpful is story-boarding my books. (A nice tip I picked up at one of my NJRW conferences.) My office is filled with post it notes. Starting from the first chapter and each scene, I outline the events as they take place in chronological order. I’m a plotter, so this extra step in outlining helps a great deal.

I also love a change in scenery.  Leaving the confines of my office and going to Starbucks or Barnes and Noble gets the creative juices flowing.  But for heavy duty getaway writing, I’m headed for a place filled with nature, water and quiet.

Lake George

A few years ago, I took a 7-hour drive (which is a big deal because I hate driving!)  to the Adirondacks, near Lake George, NY. I rented a cabin for the weekend, complete with a fireplace and kitchenette. With all the essentials a writer needs (or I need): wine, chocolate and gummy bears, I dove into my WIP.

During the early morning, I took walks along the grounds, taking pictures of the sunrise and breathing in the December atmosphere that had—the night before—delivered a dusting of snow.

I felt alive and creative.

If you ever feel the need to break free of your day-to-day writing confines, plan a trip. A short getaway will often do the trick. Not only are you getting away, but you’re setting your muse free to explore things that might otherwise stay silent in your everyday writing space.

Affirmation 411

To end the week, I decided to go back to my roots, to the form of the written word that started me on my journey. Poetry.

Have a good weekend and be courageous.

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My actions during the day don’t affect those at night

I am a sound sleeper

Gossip, egos, holier-than-thou attitudes don’t get in my way or in my ear

I am a sound sleeper

The hurdles, obstacles and disappointments that may give the ordinary person pause; bolster my conviction, and strengthen my resolve

For I am a sound sleeper

My decision to act accordingly, pay it forward and let go of what I can’t control, all feel right to me

I am a sound sleeper

Your disapproval of me or the way I conduct business, treat my friends or live my life doesn’t bother me and I won’t let it.

I am a sound sleeper

© Nett Robbens, 2014.

Throwback Thursday: All-Star Converses

When I’m so inclined, I will catch a rerun or two of “That ’70s Show” to relive my youth and see how close they come to getting it right.

Yes, I grew up with hot pants, tie-dye shirts and platform shoes, which by the way I should have kept. Who knew they’d be back in this millennium?

I grew up watching the Knicks (when they were worth watching) and stars like Walt Frazier, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe, Bill Bradley (now Senator Bill) and Dave DeBusschere.

But when I really want to relive my ’70s days, all I need is a pair or two of All-Star Converses. Oh yes, I’m a Converse girl!

Back in the day, I wore them until the soles were hole ridden, the color faded or until my mother found them and threw them away! And, I am–along with countless others–dedicated to carrying on the genius and comfort of salesman and basketball player Chuck Taylor’s mega endorsement.

So, I’m starting to rebuild my collection with the four pair pictured above. And my eyes are focused on three more pairs: the pink, purple and brand-new all black leopard pattern.  There’s even the Wonder Woman pattern!

A while back my daughter and I saw the movie, “The Judge,” and afterwards wouldn’t you know–a showdown ensued–in the middle of the parking lot–between Converse or Vans!

Who won you might ask? I’ll let you decide. 🙂

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