I'm considering doing a feature for this blog called Epic of the Month, where I give an award of some kind to the best-written epic started in that month. To be fair, the winner would be posted on the first day of the next month (so if I do this starting this month, February 1st will be the day the winner is announced).
Um, aside from that, I don't really have much to say. I'm starting to write a new story, that I may someday publish, and I have no idea how it's going to turn out. But the character is turning out to be the most interesting of one of my characters in a long time, and holds more promise than any other non-Bionicle character. She just popped into my head one day and I wouldn't let her go until she could give me a nice story, which she's doing for me now.
Onto the two days late:
Writing Tip of the Week
Last week the tip was on creating a believable hero. Today we'll see how to create a believable villain. Generally I would suggest making your hero character first, but sometimes characters will just kind of be there in your head (contrary to what I said last entry, this is normal--I've learned a lot about writing in the past week, lol). If you get the idea for a perfect villain, don't worry about having a hero first.
You want to make your villain a foil character to your hero. Whatever your hero is, your villain isn't. In fact, your villain is the opposite. (Don't take this the wrong way--your hero is alive, but that doesn't mean your villain should be dead. ) Say your hero loves dogs. Well, then your villain kicks every dog he sees. Exaggerated example, but you get the idea.
Just like your hero, your villain needs to have a goal. His goal should be directly or indirectly contradictory to the hero's. That means that either his goal actually is that the hero doesn't succeed, or his goal would mean that the hero doesn't succeed. The motivation for this goal, whatever it is, must not be (and I cannot possibly stress this enough) "cuz that's just how I roll".
Even beyond the ridiculous goofiness of that statement, this is simply not a good reason for doing evil. No human in their right mind goes around saying "Well I think I'm going to go kidnap and kill today because it's fun". There sure are people who are that horrible, but no one wants to read about them. I once read that a writer's job is "harder than God's", because when you're writing a story that really happened, people will not question even the most unbelievable events and characters. When you're writing a fictional story, people will constantly, if subconsciously, try to poke holes in your story and say "Well that's not realistic", even if you can point to a real person who was just as bad as your villain. This goes hand-in-hand with what I just said: even if there is such a horrible person, no one wants to read about him, no one wants to be reminded of how cruel people can be. So don't write about these people.
Expanding on this, your villain gains a whole new level of depth when you give him a noble cause. Some bank robbers are just trying to get their families financially safe, I'm sure. You can, in a way, sympathize with such a person. No, it's not right, but at least he wasn't robbing the bank because it was his idea of a good time. Even if he was just robbing it because he was greedy, he has more depth than the one-dimensional puppy-kicker who no one wants to read about.
The same book that said that a writer's job is harder than God's told me that a villain should "at least be nice to his mother", to further expand on this idea. However, you have to do this right. You can't have an entire scene from the villain's point of view just to go on and on about what a horrible person he is--and then, seemingly having become uncomfortably aware of how unrealistic this is, you quickly invent a soft spot for him. What you need to do is build the character around his soft spot--what is he doing all these evil things for? Or who?
One last thing about this kind of villain: despite all of what I just said, you can write a villain like this and pull it off. The only way this will work, however, is if the villain has a very good reason that he has become this horrible. Maybe you can explain through flashbacks or scenes from the villain's point of view. (Or a long-winded speech to the hero as the villain is about to kill him, but we all know how cliche those are. XD) This can even create sympathy in the reader for the villain, which is always interesting, but this is dangerous because people could criticize you for condoning the villain's behavior. Moving on from this subject now...
In the end, the villain must be defeated. You can have him win temporarily, but at the end of the book, the villain must be defeated. If he isn't, you have to write a sequel or at least end the book hopefully. (Think the 2005 ending in the Bionicle story--yes, the Toa Hordika have freed Makuta unintentionally, allowing his plan to continue, but at least they won their battle, completed their destiny, and the future is looking hopeful.)
Generally, I don't like seeing a villain who realizes his mistakes and becomes a hero. This does not include:
-A villain temporarily joining up with the hero when they have a mutual enemy or goal. (For example, Teridax and Vakama, briefly, in Time Trap)
-A villain who used to be a hero turning back to being a hero again. (Brutaka in Into the Darkness, Vakama in Web of Shadows)
-A villain that pretends to realize his mistakes to get the hero to trust him, only to turn on him again. (Hahli basically did the reverse of this in Prisoners of the Pit)
Those could actually be good ideas, if you do it right (isn't that always the catch, lol).
Again, it's late in this time zone; I'm tired and I've said a good deal, so I'll just let you guys digest that. To conclude this tip series about characters, next week will be about my newest method to develop a character, which I just developed literally within the last five days.