Monthly Archives: September 2013

Thank You to Shared Whispers Authors

CLICK TO BUYThank you for visiting Worlds of the Imagination to all of the Champagne authors who contributed to  SHARED WHISPERS, an anthology of fifteen  short stories about romance, mystery, adventure, and the paranormal.

CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Beyond Forever by M. W. Davis – Two ill-fated lovers from the past show a modern day couple the real meaning of love.
Special Delivery by Linda Rettstatt – During a blizzard, a road sign promised sanctuary from the storm until a woman running from her past learns the doctor is a veterinarian.
The Setup by Victoria Roder – Blowing off a blind date might mean avoiding an unpleasant evening with a stranger—or being saved by one.
Life at Full Speed by Ute Carbone – Sparks fly when a prosecutor and a man she almost sent to prison meet under unusual circumstances—a speed dating event.
Frozen Section by Jane Toombs – An acknowledgement of a past loss does more than thaw a woman’s heart. It opens the path to an unplanned future—and a family she never expected to have.
After the Tears by Angelica Hart and Zi – Grief darkened the future, until love took a hand.

HISTORICAL ROMANCE/WESTERN
Colours by Chris Fenge – One woman seeks to escape the grey coloring her world and return to the bright colors of yesteryear and her true love.
Wailing Down the Wall by Julie Eberhart Painter – A Chinese legend comes to life amidst the creation of one of the world’s greatest architectural marvels.
Journey Home by Linda LaRoque – Life is hard and dangerous on the Texas plain for a couple separated by time, distance, and duty. Love brings them together—forever.

FANTASY/SCIENCE FICTION WITH A ROMANTIC CORE
Solitude by Ronald Hore – All Keith Sommerville wanted was a little time alone aboard his sailboat. What he found was a future beyond belief.
Cymru Am Byth (Wales Forever) by Jude Johnson – The freedom of Wales came at a price—love. Centuries later, fate intervened
Heart of a Rebel by Dani Collins – Plans can be undermined when love and destiny take charge.
Heaven by Elizabeth Fountain – Angels are not always found in heaven.
Nimue’s Daughter by Rita Bay – The past and the future collide when the Merlin of King Arthur’s court seeks his true love in a world on the precipice.
Gods and Zombies by January Bain – Do humans dance at the whim of the gods or do we write our own destiny.

Click HERE or the Cover to BUY.

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Welcome Shared Whispers Contributor, Jane Toombs

Jane Toombs, author of approximately 100 novels, and novellas, writes in most genres. Her first book was published in 1973. Her contribution to Shared Whispers, “Frozen Section,” not only describes the main character, but also the procedure she will undergo in the morning.

SharedWhispers-Ebook-180x280“FROZEN SECTION” EXCERPT

She worried about that possibility until what would happen tomorrow resurfaced until the sleeping pill dulled the acute edges of panic. After that, she considered the surgery with more detachment. She could live with the results even if the worst happened.  All it meant was she couldn’t bear a child.  For some reason the idea she’d be past having a baby jerked her fully awake again. 

Why?  She was getting near forty, rather late to have the child she’d never wanted anyway.  Why hadn’t she wanted one? Was it fear?  She nodded, realizing this was true.   But what lay behind that fear? Fear of death?  Death, the final pill-less sleep?  

She struggled to stay awake, wanting to understand, but the drug sabotaged thought and she drifted, spiraling off into nothingness.

Read more about Jane and her books:  WEBPAGE / CHAMPAGNE / AMAZON AUTHOR PAGE

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Welcome Shared Whispers Author R.J. Hore

SharedWhispers-Ebook-180x280Please welcome WOTI’s guest today, WOTI member R.J. Hore, another Shared Whispers contributor.

I’m not what I would call a romance writer, although most of what I write has a strong female protagonist, or at the least, a strong female character. In many of my tales there is a relationship of sorts. In The Dark Lady, a medieval fantasy which came out in February 2012, the protagonist is a young girl on the verge of womanhood, with all that entails. Housetrap, a December 2012 release, and the first of a series of novellas (four so far) under The Housetrap Chronicles, is a fantasy detective tale with a male lead, but he usually finds himself surrounded by females of various hue, both supporting and villainous. In March 2013 and Knight’s Bridge, I return to a medieval fantasy setting, and yes, the leads are a man and a woman, with all the confusion that often creates. The next novel, released in April 2013, was The Queen’s Pawn. This is another medieval fantasy, about a young man and his adventures with a variety of women of different ages, mainly the mysterious Queen of the land, and her annoying daughter. Perhaps I am more of a romantic than I thought! For a more in-depth biography, please refer to my website, www.ronaldhore.com

The idea behind “SOLITUDE” came to me this summer while sailing up Lake Winnipeg during a thunderstorm. I thought, surely there is a story buried in this madness somewhere. Alone in the cockpit, while my crew, who consisted of one of my granddaughters, remained down below and nice and dry, I figured the scene could work in almost any setting:  science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance. “SOLITUDE” was born from that meager beginning.

EXCERPT

She examined Keith critically. “Just a minute.” Diving down below, she came up with a dry towel. “You are soaked. Take off that bulky coat and let me get rid of some of that surplus water.”

“I’m okay,” came out as a squeak. Still, the coat came off.

“Nonsense, you just keep driving, I will do the drying.”

He found it difficult to concentrate, and although the rain had stopped, a residue of waves meant both hands on the wheel. She dried arms, neck and face.

“Did you have an accident?” he managed to get out. “Should we be calling the Coast Guard?” How do you have an accident in a metal egg that drops from the clouds?

“No that will not be necessary.”

The sun broke through the last of the clouds. She folded her towel, placed it on one of the cockpit cushions and flopped down with a sigh, glanced up and frowned. “Why are you staring at me like that? Is something wrong?”

“Ah…” He managed a weak smile. “Your hair, just looking at your hair.”

“What is wrong with my hair?”

Check out R. J.’s books at:  CHAMPAGNE-BURST BOOKS / RON’S WEBPAGE

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Storybuilder Inc. — Step 8: Drafting Begins!

In the last step I talked about the frame-by-frame outline. If you’ve been carefully adding to and creating character, setting, and world-building profiles as you go, you should have a good glimpse of the story you’re about to write. Now it’s time for step 8:

Drafting begins!

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

The real writing

If you are an organic writer, then perhaps you’ve been reading this workshop just to get some ideas. Perhaps you’ve discovered that there’s something to outlining after all, or, better yet, maybe you’ve realized that outlining doesn’t take away the organic side of writing at all, but actually makes it better.

If you’re an outliner and you’ve enjoyed the fact that every step so far has been easy to measure and predict, then you might be in for some disappointment here. (This is the part where organic writers might tell outliners, “I told you so.”)

Outlining is not a substitute for organic writing. When you’re ready to go, you still have to stare at a blank screen and find the words that belong to your story. The good thing, though, is that you have your frames and profiles, structure with which you can surround yourself as you go and help get you into your storytelling Zen. On the other hand, if you’re an organic writer, then you have extra tools as you go into your storyscape and let intuition take control.

Two kinds of drafting

Just as there are two kinds of writers (organic and outliner), there are also two ways writers like to write their drafts. Some (perhaps most) like to write a quick first draft with little thought about whether it works out, then go back and write draft 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and so on until it does. Those writers usually learn a few things as they go and reduce the number of drafts as they get novels 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and so on under their belts. Call these writers the drafters.

The other approach is to spend a long time writing one and only one draft, then, with a modest amount of polish, bring it to perfection. Writers who do this take advantage of the power of a word processor, going back and layering, reading previous passages to help roll it out into the later draft, jumping into various parts of their manuscript as the story evolves. Writing that one-and-only, continuously-changing draft might take years, or maybe a bit less than a year depending on how long the manuscript is. Call these writers the potters.

You’ll have to discover for yourself what method works best for you, and you may find you experiment with both before deciding one way or another. I was a drafter before I started outlining, at which point I became a potter. Whatever way you chose to draft, having your outline handy is an important step. While I have come to prefer being a potter, there is nothing wrong with moving fast and embracing multiple drafts. Since this workshop is based on my writing method, many references will be better suited for potters; if you are a drafter, though, it should not be hard to find how to apply some of the principles to your own method.

Tips for staying on track

1) Ground yourself.

You might write a little every day, or you might write for hours on end on Saturday, or maybe every second day for two hours at bedtime. However you write, it’s good practice to begin by looking over your notes to reacquaint you with higher-level story details before you dive in to furnish your story with more prose. You might remember key things about characters’ motives or plans for a frame that would otherwise be lost to the spontaneous direction your current frame is taking on.

It’s a good idea to keep your outline and profile notes accessible while you write as well. Maybe you’re writing about the market square for Rena’s village and, 6 months ago, when you first outlined it (let’s say this scene is in the midpoint of your story), you wrote something about the squabbling merchants, Hek and Hakkle. A little detail like that can be a beautiful touch on an otherwise bare cursory description of the market.

2) Embrace non-typing.

There’s nothing wrong with staring at the screen for a minute or two while you think and weigh what you are about to write. Get friendly with the backspace key; it might become your most numerously used character, and though it will not show up in your word count, your story will thank you for using it. Remember, just as you have the power to create prose, you also have the power to take away writing that doesn’t quite fit and replace it with better. Don’t worry about word count goals with this regard. 200 words that bring your story that much more to life are ten times the value of 2000 words that need lots of later revision.

(As stated above, this is my opinion and something based on my writing method, and while many a potter may agree, for a drafter this might not be so important until later drafts.)

3) Read backwards.

It’s also a good idea to go back and read old writing, even if it’s just a few paragraphs back from where you left off. I like to work this into the process of reviewing outline notes whenever I begin a writing session. Sometimes I read a paragraph, look at my outlines, read the paragraph before it, and so on. Sometimes, the content of one paragraph will remind me of an earlier story element and I will use the “find” feature of my word processor to comb through my manuscript and re-read what I’ve said about it so as to better use it in my scene. In fact, I have found this more often than not is what breaks me free of a session that begins with writer’s block.

4) Update, update, update!

Your story is going to evolve and change, even to the point that you have to rewrite your premise, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, if it didn’t change at all then maybe you should go back and introduce a few surprises because your reader might be able to see every twist and turn coming from page one. As the changes come up, scribble them on your frames, make notes on your 9-part outline, modify your character, setting, and world profiles. Rewrite things if they get messy. And, inevitably, add character, world, and setting profiles as needed, but discipline yourself to write only as much as you need to, lest your writing session turn into a tangent.

(There are exceptions, of course. As an example, I pulled an all-nighter for one writing session when I realized I had to formally plan my magic system for my current novel, and this involved making several profiles for the various Dread Lord and Unborn societies. If I hadn’t done that, the ending of the story wouldn’t have worked out—one of the many surprises that story threw at me the outline didn’t warn about.)

Into that strange country

And so it begins! It is exciting to start a new story, especially after spending time fleshing it out. Think of all the work we’ve done up until now like a courtship. Now it’s time for married life to begin. It’s going to be exciting, fun, and full of cozy memories, but there will also be times you’ll be sleeping on the couch or will have to duck away from a flying pot. During those times you’ll be happy for the outlining time, hopefully enough to stop you from divorcing your story.

On you go. Time to start writing!

Next week I will discuss ways to use your outline and profiles to deepen your draft as your write.

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Graeme Brown is an epic fantasy author. His first published story, The Pact, is now available for KoboKindle, and other ebook formats through Burst Books.

You can follow Graeme on Twitter (@GraemeBrownWpg) or on his blog, Fantasy Writing Journey.

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New Release – Finding Eve

FindingEve-EBOOK 180x280Celebrating the release of Finding Eve (Lyons’ Tales #2), a shapeshifter paranormal from Champagne books. It’s a stand-alone sequel to Into the Lyons’ Den. When Eve observes Marie Maxwell—Atlanta’s most sought-after event planner—through the bars of her cage at an exotic animal sale, she has flashes of a different life – a life in which she was something other than feline.

 Can a feral cat ever return home? Nicholas Lyons, chief physician to the Lyons clan of shapeshifters, has mourned the death of his promised lifemate until a rogue shapeshifter reports having seen her at an exotic animal sale. Accompanied by Marie Lyons who is no stranger to the dark side, her new lifemate Anthony, and the imperious Lady Bat, he embarks on a frantic search for Eve through the dangerous world of exotic animal trafficking.

Eve, whose first memories are of recovering from an injury at an isolated animal refuge, has lived through a succession of owners in a world filled with cages and cruelty. When Eve meets Marie at the exotic animal sale, she begins to have flashes of a different life – a life in which she was something other than feline. Her last sale, however, has landed her as prey to exotic animal hunters and the clock is ticking.

Click cover or links to buy Finding Eve ($1.95) at Champagne Books or Amazon. Check out my books at my WEBPAGE

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Welcome Shared Whispers Author Chris Fenge

COLOURS C.FengeWelcome Champagne Author Chris Fenge who contributed the contemporary short story “Colours” to the Shared Whispers Anthology.

The Author and the Story

A friend laughed when I said my romantic heroine, Abigail, was eighty-six years old. But there are reasons I wanted her to be this age when the story begins. I’m in the distressing position of watching relatives struggle with ageing, and I know they have ‘back stories’—sometimes very colorful ones—behind their outward appearances. In COLOURS, I’ve tried to retrieve part of one woman’s tale. She may be a frail, forgetful, often frustrated ‘grey’ old lady, but she was something else in her twenties. In this story the intense romance of her youthful days lives again.

As well as being a romance COLOURS is also a tragedy as it deals with the problems of growing old. But mostly, I hope, it’s a ‘rattling good yarn’ which I really enjoyed writing. Part of the enjoyment came from using the livelier portions of my own family history. When, for instance, Abigail turns her dead husband’s room into a dusty shrine, she’s not acting like a latter-day Miss Havisham. What she does is actually based on the eccentricities of my Great Aunt Eva who took matters further than Abigail (or even Miss Havisham). After being jilted at age nineteen, Great Aunt Eva ‘took to her bed’ and never got out of it again until she was carried out dead sixty years later.

But that’s another story, albeit a true one! This one’s not true, and it’s Abigail’s.

Blurb

A random act of kindness from a stranger forces 86 year old Abigail to reassess her life. She vows to be old and lonely no longer. Instead she will join her lover, her soul mate, and they will embark on the greatest adventure of their lives…

But even the best plans may be thwarted by another random act of kindness.

Excerpt

He came nearer and she leaned on him with one hand and removed her shoes with the other, dangling them by their straps. The jacket fell open again, but she ignored it, too absorbed in the delicious sensation of bare toes meeting damp earth. No stockings–not with rationing–but bare toes felt good and so did Jean-Paul’s eyes which were locked on her again. And this time he did not look away.

Her arm dropped from his shoulder and she straightened up, standing naked and proud before him, and no longer vulnerable. When his eyes eventually met hers, she held them there–relaxed, happy and, for the first time that night, in control.

“Abigail.” He released the word reverentially, as though they were in church. “It is fate, Abigail.” Bending down, he kissed her neck so tenderly the touch was a mere breath, a whisper. She shivered, though not with the cold. Then he looked at her face as if searching for something. His fingers lightly traced the swelling on her cheek and his lips caressed her wound. “You are hurt. I should get you home.” He pulled the jacket together over her nakedness and did up the buttons.

Buy Shared Whispers at Champagne Book Group HERE. And find out more about the author, Chris Fenge, and her stories at www.thesalamanderstone.com

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Welcome Shared Whispers Author Elizabeth Fountain

Thank you for visiting WOTI, Liz. “Heaven,” a fantasy short story, is Elizabeth Fountain’s contribution to Shared Whispers. Elizabeth  left a demanding job as a university administrator in Seattle to move to the small town of Ellensburg, Washington, and pursue her dream of writing novels. Her first book, An Alien’s Guide to World Domination, was released by BURST Books in 2013; and You, Jane, her second novel, will be published in 2014. On her breaks from writing, Liz teaches university courses, spends time with family and friends, and takes long walks in the diabolical Kittitas Valley wind. Her quirky and humorous view of humanity is well suited to tales of aliens and angels, love and death, friendship and dogs.  Check out the blurb and excerpt of “Heaven:”

GraveNot all angels are found in Heaven.  Jane is recently divorced, riddled with guilt and fear, but something in her is still stubbornly alive. Her angel, Michael, is ready and willing to bring it out in her. Michael was a Watcher, one of God’s sentinels. But God refused to listen to any of his warnings, so he left his post to take the action he believed the world of humans needs. Michael hides on Earth, falling in love with Jane, and proving that fallen angels make terrific lovers.
But God finds them, and wants Michael back. Now Jane and Michael must stand up for their love and their own choices, even when the alternative is between Heaven and Hell, and the Lord of Lords Himself forces their hand.

EXCERPT OF HEAVEN:
“I’m a Watcher,” Michael began, “or that’s what the old legends called us. We worked for God as sentinels; we looked out. We waited. We waited to raise alarms if we saw anything worth alarming Her Holy of Holies about.

“Well, I did. I saw a lot, a very great deal that alarmed me, as I Watched the world of human beings, and all they were doing to tear one another apart. And Her Holy of Holies ignored all my warnings.”

He sighed and gathered Jane closer. “Then I saw Woman. Woman, who had no idea how beautiful, how strong, how magnificent she really was. Why? Because miss Holy of Holies wanted this truth kept from Woman. Oh, she wasn’t gender biased. She didn’t really want Man to know his own power, either. She is, as they say in the Old Testament, a jealous god. They forget she is also envious. And a little petty, if you ask me. Woman deserved better.”

“What did you do?”

“I tried to tell Her Holy of Holies, you need to wake Woman, to help her really see, feel, be herself. If you do, she’ll be your best ally. Your greatest friend, as you try to spread love and eradicate evil. Her Holy of Holies said sure, I’ll get right on that. And it went into the giant round file in the sky, along with all my other Memos of Warning.

“So I said, essentially, not out loud, of course, to Her Holy of Holies, but in my head and heart, I said F*** This. And I left Heaven to go wake up Woman.”

“You mean you’re a fallen angel.” Jane couldn’t help but smile.

Buy SHARED WHISPERS at CHAMPAGNE HERE

Elizabeth Fountain’s links:  CHAMPAGNE BOOKSAMAZON / WEBPAGE 

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Biggest Fear of Creative People

By January Bain

A fellow teacher and I were talking in the staff room and the subject of creativity came up. His wife had just recently had a new baby and he was very happy about the event, but not unexpectedly, found himself very busy. Between school and being a new dad, he was exhausted most the time and wondered when he would finally get back to having time for “projects”. And more importantly, would his creativity still be there when his life resumed something close to normal? And that struck to the heart of the matter. Sure, we creative types can use a wee break from being creative, but what if it goes on too long. Does it go away entirely? That was his worry, that like a muscle that atrophies when you don’t use it, would his creative mojo be lost if he took too much time off.

I quickly reassured him; of course, that it would be there for him when time permitted, but in the back of my mind I was remembering the times this very worry has kept me up at nights. I can remember two very distinctive times in my life when I worried that my deep well of creativity was gone. The first was when I lost two dear brothers to cancer. At the time my creativity was expressing itself in wildlife painting. I remember the day so clearly when my first brother died: I packed up my paints and canvases, sensing that time was over. I went out into the world and got a job teaching English to high school students and it worked by giving me a new focus. The change was healthy and soon I was feeling creative again. Then the writing bug hit hard for I had wanted to write all my life and had dabbled in it before. But this time was different as I made up my mind to take it as serious as any calling I had ever had.

The second time I was hit hard was this past fall with the horrendous tragedy at Sandy Hock. I just quit being creative and lived in shock and despair that such a thing could happen. I despaired of every feeling I would write again. That all my mojo had gone away and this time for good. And then one day this past February I found myself again. And the creative juices were as alive as ever when a new idea for a series took hold. A sweeter moment did not exist except when I found my husband and true mate Don, but that is another tale.

So, my school pal, I think you will definitely come back to the light when time permits. I told him I think that are two types of people in the world: Those that create and those that destroy. Keep up the creating fellow writers, painters, sculptors, bloggers, architects, and readers for you make our world a far, far better place.

Best,
January Bain
STORYTELLER

Forever Man
Forever Woman
Forever Clan
Forever Angel coming October 7. 2013 from Champagne Books

http://www.ChampagneBooks.com
jbain@xplornet.com
http://www.JanuaryBain.ca

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World Building, by guest author Michael L. Brachman

A little known secret about the world of Rome’s Revolution is just how the whole 35th century, mind-connected Vuduri element came about. The answer is lengthy but at its core, the truth is, I just wanted to have a dramatic scene where my 21st century hero Rei (pronounced Ray, not rye) was all alone on the surface of a moon, in a spacesuit with no radio. But who the hell would build a spacesuit without a radio? Why, people who were mind-connected, of course. They wouldn’t need radios. With that simple realization, I was off to the races.

I had to postulate a 24th chromosome which imbued my people of the future, the Vuduri, with such an ability. I further realized that if everybody could read everybody else’s mind, there was no privacy, not even of thought. This would cause people to suppress their natural creativity to point of being deadly dull. When Rei first meets my heroine, Rome, she has almost no personality. It wasn’t until she is isolated from the Overmind, the group consciousness that was a byproduct of the Vuduri mind connections, that her soul was revealed. Even though they were born centuries apart, they could not help but fall in love.

With regard to the rest of the Vuduri culture and technology, I wanted to “reboot” mankind so I introduced The Great Dying in the year 2081 AD. Over nine billion people died causing mankind to become nearly extinct. Who was behind this terrible tragedy is at the core of the sequel to Rome’s Revolution entitled The Ark Lords. The remaining handful of humans were knocked back to the Dark Ages so by the time Rei is thawed in the 35th century, the Vuduri have finally created a world which was just past our level of technology but having taken a complete left turn.

Much of the Vuduri creed was to not do things the way people did them in the past so as to avoid the catastrophe that hit the Earth just after Rei left on his Ark. Their power sources are infinite and sustainable. They have an FTL star-drive based on principles known today. They have a healthy fear of sentient computers. And crucial to the central conflict in the novel, they hold us, the people of the 21st century, responsible for the devastation of The Great Dying. They regard us with such disdain that Rome is ejected from the mass-mind (a process called Cesdiud in Vuduri), just for consorting with Rei.

After the initial shock wears off, it takes Rome a little while to learn to think for herself. Eventually she realizes how crucial this is to the survival of mankind and ends up transforming her society into something which is a hybrid of the two cultures. And that is why the trilogy is entitled Rome’s Revolution.

For more details on what it takes to build an entire universe, see my blog entitled Tales of the Vuduri. It is 250 articles to date and I’m just getting started! If you like hard science fiction, there is lots of juicy stuff waiting for you.

RR_Paperback_CoverYou can find out more about Michael on the websites for his books:

Rome’s Revolution:

http://www.RomesRevolution.com

The Ark Lords:

http://www.TheArkLords.com

Rome’s Evolution:

http://www.RomesEvolution.com

(View a book trailer for Rome’s Revolution here)

You might also enjoy my wiki, entitled “The Science Behind the Science Fiction” – http://romesrevolution.wikidot.com

Twitter: @mlbphd1

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A Taste of Evil

 

I’m going to do something a bit different until I get my charting Syntax under control. In the meantime, I’m in the middle of a book Tour – check out this page for the stops so far. Also, I just participated in an Autumn Blog Hop – Check it out.

 

Villains: A Taste of Evil

Often a foil to our heroes, villains can serve a story in multiple ways. Whether we have a tragic character seeking vengeance against an individual or society at large, a villain-protagonist being chased by a heroic-antagonist, or some common bully who represents our inner fears, the word villain casts a large idea in our collective mindset.

For the sake of this article, I will be using the term villain as one who behaves reprehensively in the intended audience’s mindset – obviously, this can’t work in every context, especially in science fiction and fantasy, and I’ll be avoiding those examples. An example of complication would be Jean Valjean from Les Miserables, who stole bread and skipped parole. Despite that he is the central character and protagonist, he would be considered a villain from Javert’s eyes, as well as the society he came from. Javert, however uncompromising and we as readers may generally not like him, by this definition would be a hero-antagonist. He does right by the law, and opposes the central character, even though many would argue that Jean Valjean displays much more heroism throughout the narrative. We need to have this clarification, the lines become blurred when you start to tell the story from the perspective of say, the Big Bad Wolf rather than the three little pigs. Some times both sides are equally at fault, and some times, the pigs didn’t initiate the wolf/pig struggle.

Characters as Devices

Early advice on writing: Write dynamic characters. Don’t have flawless heroes and flat, boring villains. This is good advice – afterall, a hero isn’t relatable if he’s perfect (for the most part) and it’s hard to take moustache-twirling cackler seriously.  Sometimes, however, the ostensible cruel character is something that is wholly accurate – if you are writing about a fictional account of an event that occurred, there is no need to invent a tragic backstory. Anyone who has worked in customer service can likely attest that they have encountered numerous people that were unbelievable, which cannot possibly work in your fiction. Another aspect to consider is the villain whose motives are never wholly clear, but hinted at – the fear of the unknown is a device used often in fiction – in the classic movie Psycho, the audience is at the end of their seats in fear of the villain, until the killer is seen. Once the killer is visible, the fear of the villain is almost completely nixed on the audience’s part – it’s more ridiculous to most of us. Since the interpretational villain is very complicated, I will not be discussing him further below.

Realistic Brutes

In fiction, for the most part, we want to understand why the villain is doing what they are doing. Generally speaking, the overgrown bully who made your life miserable in the gradeschool isn’t as near as interesting as the tragic child who suffers from a broken-home or there being some explanation for his actions. Realistically, you wouldn’t assume that the kid needs to have a motivation other than, “I’m bigger than you, therefore I’ll do what I want.”

Depending on the type of fiction you want to write, a flat yet physically imposing villain might be acceptable because they represent something bigger than themselves. In some fiction, the struggle between a child and a bully isn’t really about the child defeating a bully so much as them overcoming their own fear and inhibitions. Your protagonist might only have your base antagonist (the bully) as a physical threat, but there’s more to your protagonist’s struggle than a real bully. An example of this would be in The Neverending Story by Michael Ende. Sebastion’s issues aren’t just the kids at school who are picking at him, he has a strained relationship with his father and self-esteem issues, so bullies who pose a physical threat to him are just one aspect of his troubles.

Naturally, what we don’t find as interesting in fiction poses a very serious threat in the real world – an army that threatens to crush a people is interesting only if you build up either the army, or the people/culture they are going to conquer or destroy.

Simple Needs, Physically Lacking

Although it is usual for stories to have power in the villain’s favor, power doesn’t have to be physical. For example, a villain might be physically weak compared to the hero, but the battle is fought with wits, or the villain uses their influence to manipulate to turn the social order against the protagonist. Consider a physically weak classic femme fetale – while she might have an ace or two up her sleeve or in her garter, this character is more brains than brawn, and her motive is often very relatable – she desires something that has been denied her to her – what she lacks in strength, she’ll use her charm or wits to gain. A classic example of a male character who has simple motivations but limited physical power would be from Shakespeare’s Othello – the villain Iago cannot take Othello down in a fight, nor can he besmudge Othello by rumor. He needs to get into Othello’s head to plot his downfall, which only works when Othello believes the lies spouted by Iago. While Othello in this case is his own worst enemy, Iago remains a dangerous villain in his own right.

Believing they Are in The Right

For me, one of the scariest types of villains are ones that believe that they are doing good. Whether we take an extremist or they assume that they are above the law, such as Judge Claude Frodo from Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, these characters can worm their way into the reader’s minds if done well, or look ridiculous and bigoted if not done well. Take an issue you believe strongly in – now, imagine someone championing that same issue –  and they are causing more harm than good to your cause, making your cause look like an extreme case or offering a viewpoint you don’t agree with.

The bully discussed above is often a dark lord who wants to rule the world. This villain thinks he’s going to save the world – and Iago, although he’s slimy, both he and the audience knows he’s supposed to be abhorrent. Even if they don’t like the protagonist Othello, they know that Iago is going about it in a wrong manner. Where this villain gets tricky is if he has merit to what he is saying.

The slipperly slope of the ends justifying the means makes this type of villain dangerous and goes beyond physical manipulation. The bully might hurt you, the physically lacking schemer might destroy your reputation or kill you. This villain might kill you if he can’t get you to convert and serve – but he’d much rather make you give up what you believe in to follow a new order – his.

Rejecting Social Order Altogether

I’m sure I’ll get some flack for discussing The Joker, because I’m only so-so familiar with the Joker in his various interpretations. However, as Nolan’s Batman film trilogy is meant to stand on its own, I think we I can discuss the movies as they are completed.

All three movies are about villains trying to destroy social order. And to a limited degree, most of us who watch the films understand the hatred towards the elite and upper-class. However, doing away with all social order leads to complete anarchy – something in which The Joker thrives.

The second movie in my opinion was the strongest in regards to this mindset, because it dealt almost exclusively with the Joker – to the point where I often forget that he movie had two villains, Harvey Dent/Two-Face. The Joker’s game isn’t power – he’s not out to save the world, he’s out to destroy it for the sake of destroying it, and it’s not about using a nuke and destroying it quickly – he’ll get in your head and make you turn on your neighbor – fill you with fear.  Much like the extremist noted above, this fellow will make you convert – and he’ll let you destroy yourself, or the cause you used to care about.

This, at least in my opinion, is the hardest type of villain to pull off successfully. They are your tricksters, the ones that make you question why you believe what you do. A danger with this villain is not making their motives clear – and while this might be part and parcel of true anarchy, in many ways this villain mirrors the extremist above, but goes about his goals in a different manner.

Mysterious, Above Mortal Concerns

The last sort of villain is something that we would find almost exclusively in the realm of speculative fiction – this would be your villain who might have no qualm with the protagonist, but they represent a concern. Not to be confused with a natural element (IE., Take a plot of man vs. – and unless nature is represented by a spirit or has consciousness and is actively going after your character, usually it is just a neutral, natural force, ergo, an antagonist but not a villain).

This could be an alien who doesn’t actively want to hurt your protagonist, they just want all the water on the planet, and then they’ll be on their merry way. Consider the Sea Witch from the original The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson – she is portrayed as a villainous, ugly creature in the original story, but she means the mermaid character no harm, the mermaid sought her out. She makes a trade, and isn’t interested in the mermaid’s survival or death, just provides opportunity.

I find these characters very difficult to pull off – while ambivalence is a common mentality seen in many people this day, it is also a slippery slope of casting this character as a villain. If their motives are not human, they might be interesting, but not particularly empathetic.

Combinations

Once we have established the rationale for the villain, we still need to make life interesting for the heroes. I like to do a combination of numerous villain types in novels. For example, we can have a Knight Templar character who believes he is in the right, and the world needs to be purged – and he’s a physical force to be reckoned with in his own right. In my novel, Tower of Obsidian, this is Skolvane’s character – though he claims to be above mortal concerns, he is incredibly flawed and unrelenting – he has power, but desires to control further than what was given to him – and he views that lack of control something owed, destroying his honor. Although he never admits it, he knows what he and Aurore are doing is wrong, but he tells himself that it is necessary.

In conclusion

There are many types of motivation that accompanies villains – they might be very complicated, sympathetic, and at times, very relatable – even if we don’t understand where they’re coming from, we can see still aspects of our own psyche or desire in the mindset of a villain. However, we shouldn’t ignore a simpler villain and dismiss them altogether – many great villains had relatively simple, relatable goals and desires, and that made them interesting characters. So whether you wish to make an extremist, base a villain off an ideology or a horrible customer you ran into earlier today, consider their motives, and what they want to accomplish, and how that not only is an obstacle for your heroes, but how they serve the story, and what sort of message it presents in relation to your story’s theme. You might make things more interesting for your readers.

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