introducing a group, part ii

After my last post, about how to introduce several characters, and the distinctions between character and setting, I thought that I’d go visit Gav Thorp’s blog ‘Mechanical Hamster‘ and ask him if he would be willing to say a few words on the subject. I really love Gav’s advice– he writes some really excellent articles on writing tips and craft. Anyone interested in advanced creative writing should stop by and browse through the archives.

Much to my delight, Gav obliged me and wrote a long, detailed post on how to handle secondary characters that really addressed some of the problems I was having. You can find it here, and I think it’s well worth a read.

Thanks, Gav!

dacha, the literary funeral

As previously mentioned, I killed a character and abruptly had trouble writing again. I kill a lot of characters. The path my literary endeavors have taken me on has been littered with bodies of fictional friends and enemies. I don’t usually have this problem writing, and I’m not sure why it’s bothering me now.

So to commemorate Dacha, and perhaps to gain some ‘closure’ (I don’t really believe in the concept myself, but what’s the harm?), I thought I would write her a eulogy.

Dacha was a remarkable woman, impressive in girth and skill. She may not have had the qualifications to present a heroic figure, but she fared well as a secondary character. She made my hero uncomfortable for her own amusement, worked with my heroine to protect and help her, and littered my book with pieces of colorful, if course, dialog.

Such phrases included:

“… You know, that’s almost scarier than me naked.”

“Weapon? Oh, honey, I don’t need a weapon. All I have to do is sit on you and fart. You won’t be getting up again, I promise.”

“Aha! Dickless, spineless, and brainless! … He must think with his stomach.”

“Sure I’m a lady! I’ve got the teats to prove it and everything!”

Rest in peace, Dacha. You died victorious, and were avenged swiftly. And your loss made my test readers cry aloud: a dozen outraged, horrified gasps of, “No, not Dacha!” disturbed the air of the library reading room that night.

Until the third draft, my friend.

showcase of villainy, part iv

Villain Month

As promised, here is the last showcase of the month-long villain series.

This ended up being more difficult than I thought it would be. Just spending time thinking about the antagonists was useful, and it was fantastic seeing other people join in. Thanks to everyone participating!

I spent the week focusing on my last villain of the four I meant to go over, Sorche du Remerdii. I also wrote a closing message and introduced a bonus villain-type, the king’s secret police, nicknamed after the silver masks that they wear.


Saint Know-All finished a few more drawings, and bid farewell to the month.


Nilah wrote a short article about human predators, in regards to the villain month project.


Aldersgatecycle focused on her last villain, Sally Din.


Nymeria wrote about Orion Novak, Dahlia Laras, and posted a gallery of her villain portraits.


And, last, even though she wasn’t actually participating, Worderella was kind enough to write up a few posts on villains on her blog as a kind of villain-month-tribute.


Closing links:

A list of participants
Showcase of villainy, part i
Showcase of villainy, part ii
Showcase of villainy, part iii

Thoughts? Comments? Shall we do this again someday? 🙂

A ‘hero month’ idea has already been put out, and I wouldn’t mind spending some time dedicated to world building as a future project…

villain: sorche du remerdii: ten wants

Recently, I started speaking with the gracious Joelle Anthony. Joelle is a published author who was kind enough to help me re-work my query letter.

The first thing she had me do was to write down ten things that my heroine wanted. And I thought, ‘This should be easy. I’ve been writing this character for eight or nine years now– I know Wyrren like the back of my hand.’

It took me two days to come up with a list that satisfied me enough to send back. Two days, and it was actually quite challenging. So since that was such a headache, I’ve decided, ‘let’s do it some more!’.

Sorche du Remerdii
Ten things he wants.
(Took twenty hours to finish).

  1. Luxury. His idea of luxury, the mental image it conjures, involves crystal plates, wine, music, dim light, and a large bed with entangled limbs on each side: five beautiful girls to share it with him, all with glossy hair and soft lips.
  2. Respect. Sorche doesn’t care about power, not nearly so much as his brother Kione, but he hates to be left out or seen as second-rate.
  3. His own small domain. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what he’s put in charge of. He has to work (he would grow miserable without work, and knows it). One of Sorche’s hobbies is to polish tarnished silver. Likewise, he wants to have something of his own to administer and make shine.
  4. The title ‘bastard’ Mordache changed. Mordache with skin other than the standard icy-pale have human blood and are known as Mordache bastards, despite their legitimacy. This has always irritated him, as a gentleman’s adopted son (and as a bastard Mordache).
  5. To win a strategy game against Kione. He’s tried. It hasn’t happened (yet).
  6. His previous lover’s forgiveness. Some of the things she accused him of were true, some weren’t, but he still misses her.
  7. To learn carving. The Mordache’s main form of art is sculpture, and he’s always wanted to learn how to make it himself, even if it’s just another hobby.
  8. His brother’s well-being. Sorche is convinced that Kione has no idea how to relax and have fun.
  9. A moment of glory. Sorche would love to impress his father, to be able to have a very good reason to say, ‘aren’t you glad you took me in?’.
  10. An interesting life. Perhaps not always a good or a happy life, but he would very much like his to be an eventful one.

villainous links, and a fun text tool

Browsing the internet yesterday and today, I’ve found a few fun links that I thought to share.

But Seriously, Villainy, taken from Steve Malley’s blog. A pictoral list of villains, most in the style of despair.com, and a hilarious read.

Developing Villainous Characters, part 1, on Belinda’s blog (Worderella Writes). Only half of my villains fit in with the beginning stereotype on the links listed, but still link-worthy.

And then, I found wordle.net. Enter in a bunch of text, and it makes a pretty spiffy looking word cloud based on the most common words (excepting and, the, was, and the like). So far, I know for a fact that it can take at least 65 thousand words.

Here’s the word cloud for ‘Blue Crystal’:

🙂 Highly fun to play with.

a study in writing bullies

From Psychology Today:

Studies reliably show that [bullies] have a distinctive cognitive make-up—a hostile attributional bias, a kind of paranoia. They perpetually attribute hostile intentions to others. The trouble is, they perceive provocation where it does not exist. That comes to justify their aggressive behavior. Say someone bumps them and they drop a book. Bullies don’t see it as an accident; they see it as a call to arms. These children act aggressively because they process social information inaccurately. They endorse revenge. [link]

I was bullied constantly from the first grade until I managed to escape high school early. I always considered school to be a form of hell, a juvenile detention program invented by a sadist that really ought to only be served to those children who had already committed some crime. I have been to twelve different schools before making it into community college. Some are worse than others, but wherever I went I had a talent for attracting bullies.

The more I think about writing my bully character for the ‘Villain Month’ event, the more I just really want to go kill someone. Which really was my reaction back in school, too. Funny (or not) how that doesn’t seem to go away.

The good side? Well, I’ve had experiences with this type of person. I know what a really, really nasty bully sounds like, the tactics they use. And my heroine has the same reaction to bullies that I did (aggravate them further and make them really want to kill you). The bad side? I don’t think I could ever empathize with them, or get into their head without feeling ill, oily. I once tried to write about such a depraved character once that I felt ill for a week afterward. So I’m researching them academically instead.

Psychology Today’s article is quite good. I’m feeling sick already.

The lengths I go for this novel…

villain: redaechyl: rank and status

So I’ve been considering this week’s villain, and I’ve decided to bind Redaechyl in silver to the king. It gives him a more definite place in the courts, instead of just sitting around as a vague ‘king’s favorite’, and it explains why Kanichende allows him to remain despite his unpleasant personality. The wings remind the king of his romanticized dead sister, and (I’d imagine) he has enslaved all the city’s angelics (the proper nickname for the Mordache born with wings– it’s a rare trait).


A quick explanation on the Mordache’s slavery system:

The slave in iron. The common slave.
Men and women bound in iron are convicted criminals, usually murderers, thieves, rebels– anything serious that doesn’t warrant an immediate execution. They have no rights, and are usually worked to death.

The slave in bronze. The debtor.
Those wearing bronze bracers have sold themselves for something– money, services– or have fallen into a debt that they cannot repay. Often times the master of these slaves will set them to a profession to make them more useful. The maximum time a bronze slave may be imprisoned is twenty years, and they are the only slave with a time limit to their servitude. A bulk of the noblemen’s servants are actually bronze slaves. Anyone with wealth enough can take on a slave in bronze.

The slave in silver. The gentleman’s gentleman.
A slave in silver is considered to be more of a trusted servant, and is a high rank among slaves. Instead of selling themselves for money or physical possessions, swearing oneself to a master and taking on a silver bracer is a self-imposed vow of loyalty, akin to dedicating oneself for a great cause. A slave in silver commonly manages his master’s affairs (his master being a landed gentleman or of a higher rank), enforces his word and wishes, but ultimately is still a slave.

The slave in gold. The equal.
Only eldest-noblemen may have a slave in gold, and even the king can not have more than one. The slave in gold has given his life to his master, and it shows as the only rank that includes a name-change– the slave’s first name is followed by ‘du’, then the surname of the master (Rylan du Jadis, Sorche du Remerdii). A golden slave is seen as the ultimate disciple, the second-in-command and representative of his master in all things. They are brothers, lovers, devoted friends. The vows a golden slave take on are very near a vow of marriage, and they have been the source of some of the greatest love stories and betrayals that the Mordache have ever known.


No man in the Mordache cities may be legally enslaved unless he himself initiates the process, whether by an oath, a debt, or a crime. Most Mordache noblemen would never consider taking a golden slave, and will only give silver bracers. The king is of this mind.

A silver bracer marked with the king’s serpentine dragon allows Redaechyl the run of the palace, from the highest noblemen’s corridors to the pit, the whole of the university and the private rooms in the Arena. While some might halt a silver slave from certain activities, the king’s mark and Redaechyl’s wings give him the ability to literally get away with murder.

good villains don’t pull punches

Easy to say. Much, much harder to pull off in writing. Why? Because realistically, there’s only so much that can be done to a character before they break. The more realistic the story, the more the reader identifies with the protagonist. The more the reader identifies with the protagonist, the more the events in the story don’t just happen to the characters– they happen to the reader, too.

I’ve toted my love of George Martin’s ‘Song of Ice and Fire’ series before. Why? Because a very well developed character, a beast of a fighter that had been developed painstakingly for three (long) books can win a fight, take an injury in the process, and die of tetanus. There are so many characters in his books that he can realistically kill a huge portion of his cast like that. It heightens your sense of danger for the favorite characters, it takes away the safety net, and the knowledge that some of these characters are not going to survive the next few hundred pages makes the material gripping. Good villains don’t pull punches.

The problem with imitating this style, however, is that stories that aren’t a series of 200k novels have a much smaller cast. You can hurt them, you can kill them, but know that whatever pain and torment they go through… it’s not just going to magically go away. These characters are going to have to last you till the end of the story. And a good villain, a good danger, is going to hurt what it comes across.

I’m about sixty percent of the way through my book. My heroine has already broken her arm twice, and during plotting for future chapters I’ve very nearly decided that I’m going to shatter her knee and kill a side-character that I’m rather fond of. There is no healing magic. She’ll never run again, or walk without her staff. Why? Because there’s a villain with the advantage who is clever enough to find her. Take away his advantage, let her win the struggle immediately, and he’s not much of a villain. On the other hand, give my antagonist what he seeks (answers for her possession of a dead friend’s mask) and he will kill her. Good villains don’t pull punches. There is no ‘before I kill you’ monologue. No last requests. No ‘by the power of sheer will’ victories. No drastic change in skill when it’s convenient for him to lose a fight.

Why do people love a good villain? Because that struggle between the characters, the wavering balance of power, the trade of victories and defeats is what makes the adventure. Without tension, conflict, that sense of danger and concern for losing something precious… there is no story.

villain: redaechyl: introduction

Redaechyl“The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”

Redaechyl

My least developed villain, the bully-antagonist that picks a fight and almost gets my hero executed for attacking a king’s favorite. He doesn’t even have a surname… not that I know of, anyway. I couldn’t even remember his first name without looking it up.

Here’s what I do know about him. This is the type of man that I can’t stand– I would probably kill him myself if you put me in a room with this guy for over five minutes. He’s the type that would kick over your sandcastle at the beach when you’re not looking, the schoolyard bully who will run to the teacher to tattle on a fight if it didn’t go his way, who would never miss a chance to jeer and point out your faults. Pretty, blond, tattooed Redaechyl, who wears specially made shirts and jackets to allow his large gray feathered wings the freedom to stretch and glide.

Wish me luck on this one. Just thinking about him makes my hackles rise.

showcase of villainy, part ii

This wraps up week two (this post is two days late– small children terrorized our house this weekend) of Villain Month. 🙂

I had hoped to do more for my villain Tarren Kanichende, but didn’t quite manage it.


Saint Know-All finished her study on Richard Khiro, and has just started on her second villain, Darren Hare.


Karma Girl posted a profile for her next villain, Dinah Renoir.


Seanchaí posted some thoughts about the Underutilization of Villains.


Aldersgatecycle spent the week working on her second villain, Sir Gregory Ander.


Nymeria wrote about her villain, Sirius Nymeron, and discussed what she liked to see in an antagonist.


Rachel Russell posted a character sheet for her villain Keledreth.


Ashley Mill writes a bit about what she’s going to be doing for her villain, B.M. Lamora.


Olivia posted a character sheet for her villain Roseanne Baker.


Asustadizo drew a picture of his villain’s hands.


And that wraps up this week! I’ll do the third update next weekend!