Friday, February 27, 2009
Okay, bad guys.
Your villain is half the story. Even if the reader doesn’t know who it is until the end, as in a mystery, he needs to be a worthy opponent for your protagonist. He needs to be able to match wits, strength, and psyches. He needs to be as stealth at being a bad guy as your protagonist is at being the good guy. It’s like a well choreographed dance, if done right, will keep the reader guessing until the very end who will win. Like Batman vs. the Joker- Batman is quick, crafty, and smart. The Joker is clever, ruthless and cunning. It’s the most basic good against evil fight.
As others have said, he has to be human. Multi-dimensional. He needs to have traits just like any other character even if he’s a serial killer. Remember this, even Hitler loved dogs.
He needs his own reasoning, no matter how warped, for doing the things he does. Give him a backstory. Was he abused? By who? How did he cope? How does that drive his actions today? Give him his own fears, interests, goals. What motivates him? What does he want out of this story? How will he get it? Make it personal. Because a psycho, just because, is boring.
Remember the movie Psycho? That worked so well because Norman Bates had an over-bearing, controlling mother, that he all at once hated and loved, and that shaped him from childhood. Everything she drilled into his head hit home and stuck with him, creating the twisted man with the sweet face who no one would suspect was a murderer.
And a lot of psychology goes into creating a good bad guy. Try reading up on the subject. Jung, Adler, Freud. You might be surprised by the inspiration and ideas that spring from delving into the human mind. Then, get into his head on the page. Try writing from the killer’s POV, if not for the story, then at least to better understand him. Dig around a little. Remember Hannibal Lector? He was a great villain. Watch Silence of the Lambs to see an incredibly scary, yet well fleshed out antagonist.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
I was lucky enough to be able to attend the International Festival of Authors in Toronto this past year, the short drive across the Peace Bridge into Canada being yet another perk of living in Western New York. While there, I attended a roundtable discussion of the psychology of the villain in contemporary fiction. The formal title of the roundtable was “Psycho-babble – Inside the Character’s Twisted Mind.” The panel included such heavyweights in crime and thriller fiction as John Connolly, Jeffery Deaver, Elena Forbes, and newcomer Ross Raisin. As a mystery writer myself, it was a thrill to sit and listen to these writers discuss their writing, their work schedules, their inspirations, and their unique insights into character development. And as they went on, I noticed a common theme to all of their writing, and it was said best by Deaver: “I love my bad guys.”
Here’s a sampling of the items touched on by the panel:
1. Create villains that are real to engage the reader. If the hero prevails against a cardboard bad guy, then it is the hero who is diminished. But think about what you do to the villain, and be careful not to make him more captivating than the hero.
2. It is also important that along with being bad, your villain must be human. You should have the reader asking why he does what he does. The bad guy may not always see himself as bad, or he may see what he does is good based on his sense of right or wrong.
3. Be a compulsive researcher as much as possible. Develop an interest in people beyond themselves, and even develop affection for them. That way you can find the humanity in your villain and all your characters.
4. Most people, villains and bad guys included, act out of selfishness and/or fear. For one example, they discussed the concept of Mad vs. Bad in relation to the villain. The villains that are interesting to these writers are the ones who lack a social or moral compass. In other words, they may be perfectly aware they are committing a crime, and are perfectly fine with it.
5. There is always a conflict between truth and credibility. Believe it or not, the authors found that there are so many real life crimes that are too incredible in their very nature to make effective stories. Despite being true, they would not make credible stories. The “ick” factor of many true stories is an incredibly fine line to walk for most writers. This discussion gave rise to one of the funniest exchanges of the afternoon. John Connelly was saying that he does not read as much true crime as he used to, due to the gratuitous use of shock and violence. He also criticized another crime fiction writer for doing just that, and drew fire himself for the critique. He asked the panel. “Do we have to be nice and not criticize each other?
Jeffery Deaver responded, “John, we all know 50 ways to kill people.”
So how do you all handle creating your bad guys? and what do you love about them? I'm dying to hear...
I love a good bad guy. Theres something about a person that's so deliciously evil that you just can't help but like the bastard. Hannabal Lecter, Lucious Malfoy, Lestat; all wonderful. These are men (usually) that know right from wrong, but dammit, they just don't give a hoot. There's something just so COOL about them.
(Except for the zombie. They don't know right from wrong, they just know that there hungry. Pick up "World War Z" by Max Brooks. AWESOME)
A truly good bad guy is someone who takes the rules of society and decides "well that's all very well and good, but I don't think I want to live by those rules thank you very much." And 9 times out of 10 there damn sexy while doing it. That's a lot to live up t to as a writer. I have to make a bad guy who is not only a BAD GUY, but has enough redeeming qualities that he's a workable character, someone that you WANT to read about. Talk about pressure
I'm still in the beginning stages of my story. Still fleshing out my people, still trying to get a hold of who they are. And while I've given a lot of thought to who my bad guy is, i still haven't even out an internal face to the name. What I do know about him is that he's a supernatural, but I'm still not sure what kind he is. As soon as I've figured it out though, I'll let you all know.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
- 1 cup of nasty attitude
- 1 $5000 dollar suit and cuban cigars (can be substituted for black jeans, black shirt and accessories)
- A talent for stringing curse words together (in public or private)
- A wicked fast car, truck or fancy army outfitted vehicle (Add a fleet of various ones for added effect)
- Motive for Nepharious deeds (Lots of cash (illgotten of course) or No cash at all, Computer technology- Be creative)
- Evil soul (Can be substituted with mental defect or tortured past)
Bake in the pits of H**L until sufficiently motivated to cause mayhem and murder.
Finish by adding your weapon of choice (LOTS of them)!
Sounds silly doesn't it? Yet, a lot of book and movie bad guys fall into this recipe or formula for the modern day bad guy. It's not enough for the reader or watcher to know WHAT they are, but WHY they are. Unless a bad guy is a sociopath or just plain psychotic, something made him the way he is. What makes them do what they do best? Add in the Paranormal bad guys and well alot of backstory could be in their make up. So how do you break free of the cookie cutter CEO's gone sour and hitman out for revenge? Show their human side. A newborn has the potential to be the next president or just as likely the next serial killer. The same goes with characters. What path did life set for them? What choices did they make to bring them to this point? Therin lies your answer to the perfect bad guy.
Monday, February 23, 2009
My view of characters will probably surprise those who know me, but here goes. Very few characters — fictional or otherwise — are pure good or pure bad. Don't get me wrong! I think that when someone breaks the law, they should be punished — both in fiction and in life. But I also think that the reason someone breaks the law can be pretty dang fascinating.
In the show, "Leverage," the team breaks laws and performs cons to get justice for people who can't find justice any other way. The Showtime series "Dexter" features a serial killer who's mission is to rid the world of really bad guys. Heck, even Fox's Dr. Gregory House is a first-class jerk, but the best doctor around.
Aren't those all bad guys we love to hate? As a mystery writer, I have spent a lot of time working on my protagonist. Cerri will appear in multiple books and I tried very hard to make her "come alive" on the page. My antagonist, on the other hand, will only appear in one book. (Murderers don't usually get an encore!) Everything about that character needs to be just as "fleshed" as it is for Cerri if the story is to survive.
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Just wanted to forward this opportunity to our readers, courtesy of Nocturne author Barbara Hancock.
There's an editor pitch challenge coming up! This is a fantastic opportunity to catch an editor's eye and get your dark paranormal short story published.
Just go to www.eharlequin. com and join the forums. There you'll find all the details about how to enter.
Having my Bites published was a huge step in my career. I hope some of you will enter! (If you do, please let us know so all of us here at Embrace the Shadows can root for you:>)
Thanks and back to your regulary scheduled post.Luck,
Friday, February 20, 2009
Writing’s my life. It’s been this way for years. I’m most happy when I’m creating worlds, birthing characters, building problems for the heroes and throwing stumbling blocks at the heroines. It’s great to be a writer—but it’s even better when people enjoy my work.
As much as I like writing about drawing rooms in 1900-era America or light and breezy chick-lit pieces, my most recent love is hands down the paranormal genre. Walk through the romance isles at any bookstore in mainstream America and you’ll find that by far the biggest and most picked over genre has got something to do with the paranormal or supernatural.
And while the vampire in one of my novels is one of the strongest heroes I’ve created, I have to say I really like my werewolf hero more. It’s my dream that one day soon a publisher will fall in love with these gentleman as much I have. I don’t foresee the paranormal craze to end anytime soon.
Recently, though, while I’m waiting to be “discovered” in full length paranormal romance, I’ve hit a groove with short novellas—contemporary stories with a magical spin. I take a normal, everyday world and add a highly imaginative element—magic. Everyone has thought about having magical powers, I just give a random person in my books that ability. What they do with it is up to them. For good or for ill, the thing is, magic exists. We just need to believe. It’s all around us, waiting to be acknowledged.
Santa Claus, Cupid, ghosts, or what have you, I’ve created the “what if” in my writing. Give the reader just a taste, a quick glimpse of a world they want to believe in, make them think “it could be true or it could happen.” Always leave the readers wanting more. Make the reader smile, ponder a little bit, yearn for what I’ve created so that when the book ends, a feeling of disappointment mixes with the happiness because it’s over.
That’s the secret to good writing. And that’s why a good writer will sells multiple books.
So, write the story of your soul, give it a unique spin all your own, and you will succeed.
Four of her short novellas will be released in the coming year through Lyrical Press, Inc. and The Wild Rose Press. The first, Foodie’s Guide to Kitchen Magic will be released on June 1st. Two of her full length novels have finaled in contests in the last year, and she hopes to enter more contests this year with the goal of winning a few. She’s also actively submitting her work to agents, editors, and publishing houses.
Sandra is a member of Rom-Critters, an online critique group, as well as a member of the Indy Writers Group. She’s also a RWA-PRO member.
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
I love stories that deal in magick too. I love thinking up different spells that a character may perform, different rituals, etc. But I think the most powerful use of magick in books is the unconsious use of magick. Think Ophelia's first magick spells in the Abby and Ophelia books, or Harry Potter when you first meet him.
I love that
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Then there is the technical magic of the computer world. You can travel via the internet to places you've never been and most likely won't go in your lifetime. Can you imagine how someone from the fifteenth century would react to all the comforts we are afforded in this time? To them, we would be a planet full of wizards!
A little voice pops into your head and says, "Don't buy the car, Beth. Mistake!" or a warning to your particular situation. (I should have listened, because now I'm stuck with a three thousand dollar lawn ornament that I only got to drive once.) Anyway, magic is everywhere in one form or another. Stop. Pay attention. You'll see.
p.s. The lovely fairy pics are free graphics courtesy of this talented artist's site. Jessica Galbreth
Beth (Still, pondering the randomness of my post through a cold induced DayQuil haze. Wondering how the heck a perfect running car, suddenly starts knocking and throws a rod three hours later. )
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
By Marie-Claude Bourque
Today, Friday the 13th and quite fitting for a blog on paranormal, I’ll focus on what I write, paranormal romance, or at least I think that’s what I write.
Unless we call it urban fantasy?
It took me a while to finally wrap my mind over the concept of paranormal romance vs. urban fantasy.
Author Terry Spear told me that urban fantasy was to bring paranormal elements to our world. My stories are set in our world and they have paranormal elements to it (one is about magic, another is about demons). So I thought I might be writing urban fantasy.
But then I asked author Jeanne C. Stein and she said that the paranormal elements really have to take over the whole story to call it urban fantasy.
At that point, I still didn’t know what to call my stories until I finally heard a definition that worked for me, from author Yasmine Galenorn. She said, “If they are fighting to save the world, it is urban fantasy; if they are fighting to save the relationship, it is paranormal romance.”
Okay, my story Ancient Whispers is a paranormal romance then. They have to fight an evil mage, but really the story is about the relation between a Pagan priestess and a tortured alchemist. Yes there are spells and ritual magic, enchanted swords and alchemy. But in the end, it is all about two people finding true love through hardship.
It used to be that in romance, the hardship was caused by the heroes’ faults or some small external conflict. But now we’ve added a whole new dimension that can bring conflict in the relationship: paranormal elements. In Ancient Whispers, my heroine denies her psychic powers and wants nothing to do with magic. But when she finds out that the man she loves is not only immortal but a powerful sorcerer, she is forced to accept the paranormal part of her and embrace it. But it doesn’t come easy, hence the source of conflict inherent in all romance novel.
How much paranormal should you add in a paranormal romance? We basically got the answer to that this week, as much or as little as you want.
Ghosts, psychics, Faes, vampires and shifters, witches? Anything goes really these days. One can even make a romance with a dragon shifter hero. I am consistently amazed at the imagination of paranormal romance writers to make the otherworldly seem normal, and even sexy. How did Stephanie Meyer convinced so many teens (and their moms) that a vampire sinking their teeth in a woman’s throat could actually be hot? It is true that Anne Rice had done a good job at that before with her Vampire Lestat, but she never wrote romance.
I love paranormal romance, because, let’s face it, if we are to dream about a hunky alpha hero, isn’t it so much more fun if he possesses some paranormal abilities as well. Now we are really drawn into the fantasy.
But in the end, in paranormal romance, we need the important romantic element to be fully there, the “boy meet girl, boy lose girl, boy get girl” story. We need the happily ever after (I personally love the marriage proposal at the end).
Otherwise, we’ll have to call it an urban fantasy!
My favorite paranormal romances are the Dark-Hunter series by Sherrilyn Kenyon and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series by J,R, Ward. What are yours?
Marie-Claude Bourque is an American Title V finalist with her entry ANCIENT WHISPERS, a dark paranormal romance filled with tortured sorcerers, dark sensuality and gothic rituals. You can find her at http://www.mcbourque.com/ and www.myspace.com/marieclaudebourque
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Laurall Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, and Kim Harrison all do this well. In each of these examples, the authors have built worlds with multiple supernatural elements and multiple supernatural characters. As long as the world is developed skillfully, the characters three-demensional, readers will buy what is presented to them. It's your job to make it believable within the walls of the world you've designed.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Heck; even ghosts, something that is usually pretty accepted, isn't rational. But everybody has a good ghost story that happened to them (or someone they knew, or someone that someone knows). Vampires and Wares, I have no problem with in a story. Every legend is based somewhere on a speck of fact. Fairies, why not? Even Brownies and Gnomes. I'm even game for the Unicorn. That's not to say that I believe in every 'fantasy' creature ever. Lets just say that I don't DISbelieve just because I can't see it or touch it.
So give me a story that has nothing but the weird and I'm a happy camper.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
If you find yourself flipping back to see just who has what kind of power, if they're they good or bad, how are you supposed to focus on the story? You can't. I don't mind a little time travel mixed in with vampires or even witches. In fact, I tend to expect some of that with those types of stories. Werewolves are complicated enough without trying to figure out the whens and wheres of half a dozen characters. All with some kind of ability I might add. Sheesh. A hero and heroine with powers in one magical world is plenty. It's their story I'm interested in!
Beth (Y'all have a lovely Valentine's Day!)
Monday, February 9, 2009
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Friday, February 6, 2009
It's natural. An author puts a great deal of effort into any writing. Manuscripts are a labor of love complete with characters that feel like friends, places that feel like home, and plot that, after edit after edit, feels like memory. Sending that labor out for judgement can seem like a very personal risk.
No matter how much we read or hear about accepting rejection, paying our dues, etc. that rejection slip still looms on the horizon like a black flag. It is scary, I know. I've been collecting flags for some time now.
Personally, I've developed a simple technique to master that fear of the slip. I borrowed a little trick from my co-dependent beginnings: the black box. Very unhealthy folks use the black box to stuff away unwanted emotions, repressed feelings, things they'd rather not examine. I chose to recycle the box, dust it off, and put it to good use. Now, it has three major functions:
I lock my editor in it when I'm writing. (A trick I learned from nanowrimo)
I use it to contain my ego when editing and receiving critique, and
I put my fears away when submitting.
When used correctly the little box is a pretty useful tool after all.
But seriously, a lot of healthy folks out there don't possess the emotion box, (I assume) and truly, locking up fear isn't as easy as it sounds. What to do?
Well, I've collected a few great tips that can help any author accept, and maybe even embrace, those pesky rejections. I hope they work for all of you as well.
1. Cultivate a stubborn streak-- being downright, unabashedly, obnoxiously stubborn can do wonders for the author who might otherwise falter and stop submitting. Some of us are naturally obnoxious, but for the nice folks out there, use us as a model. Grit your teeth and refuse to give up. Practice in front of a mirror if necessary.
2. Enlist cheerleaders--round up family and friends and convince them to encourage you, bribe them, whine, pay strangers if necessary. The point is, get support. It's always a good idea to find and network with other authors who may be more sympathetic to your plight as well.
3. Set challenges--if you have a shred of a competitive streak, make a game of it. For example, when submitting my very first piece, I vowed every time I received a rejection to send the manuscript out to two additional markets.
4--Don't stop believin'--Really, this is the big one. You want to be a published author? Believe you already are---work like one, act like one, think like one. No giving up, no crying. (Okay, go ahead and cry) Just keep writing!! Don't wait around for that nibble, published authors have no time to sit idle. They have deadlines. (fear clutching again) Write and write and write some more. At the very least, you'll up your odds for success.
Best of luck, and I'll see you in the trenches.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
I know that this is a some what simplistic view, but it's the only one I have. You see, I was blessed with a father that instilled the "the only wasted day is a day you don't learn something" mentality; a mother who truly believed her children were exceptional and anyone who didn't think so too were stupid; and a sister fought her way tooth and nail to be the best at whatever she choose to do. Talk about good examples for a child.
That's not to say that all rejection to me is water off a duck's back. It's just that I understand that I am the one who gets to choose how I cope with it. I can either curl myself up in the fetal position and bawl whilst stuffing twinkies in my face, or I can wo-man up and move on. Besides, just because one person didn't like what I wrote/created, dosen't mean that no one will. That just wasn't the right person to go to.
I think it helps too that I do SO MANY things. You know what they say "jack of all trades, master of none"; that's me. I always have something different to go to to take my mind off of the rejection, to move on to. Children's story rejected by the publisher? Paint something. A gallery didn't like my painting? Sew a quilt. Quilt wasn't let into the quilt show? Make epoxy-resin jewelry. Visious circle, but it works for me. By doing something "new" I can remove myself from the sting of the rejection and when I'm ready to go back to it, I've moved on, it doesn't bother me anymore.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Monday, February 2, 2009