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!

villain: tarren kanichende: if the hero

A quick note on Danache linguistics–

The most common letter combinations are ‘ch’ (sh), ‘rr’ (split r), and ‘ii’, which is the same as the short ‘i’ but reserved for the end of words, such as the names Arielii and Remerdii. The letter ‘y’ is one of the most common vowel and changes from a hard to soft pronunciation depending on surrounding letters. ‘Rylan’ is hard (Rye-lan), ‘Wyrren’ is far softer (Were-ren).

Tarren II Kanichende
(tahr-ren kahn-E-shen-day)
“The elevated place.”

I’m thinking through the novel again and imagining how I’d write this book if, without changing any of the events, I tried to make Tarren the hero. If Blue Crystal had been told from his perspective, what would it turn into?

Different, certainly. Tarren has the unfortunate habit of stereotyping the people around him, with the exception of his children (but not his wife). Moreso than them, his closest companions are a pair of pet tigers, Time and Fate.

Things I’ve come up with so far…
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villain: tarren kanichende: introduction

King Tarren II Kanichende de Marla“The first and worst of all frauds is to cheat one’s self. All sin is easy after that.”

King Tarren II Kanichende de Marla

I’ve always had problems with King Kanichende– he makes threats that sometimes he doesn’t keep for some reason, and his drive wavers and falters. I’m not sure if this is a fault on his part, or if I’m trying to keep my protagonists from being killed immediately (short book). I’ll start with what I do know about him.

Tarren adored his little sister.

Arielii Kanichende, the golden princess of Vastii. Beautiful, graceful, popular Arielii, full of dry wit and wry humor. Arielii could make a fool out of anyone, build up or destroy reputations. Arielii had wings, and was so thin that she could glide across the chasm their city was built around and make a show out of it. Tarren had been against her marriage to Chyril Jadis to begin with; he wanted Arielii to stay in the royal city and her marble palaces, not travel over the god-forsaken surface to marry. Arielii left too eagerly, too happy for a chance to see new things, though Tarren would have done anything to bar her (and tried, unsuccessfully– he still thinks that someone had told Arielii of his plans to stop her).

Arielii went to Renideo to her new husband, who lived in a flatter, less glamorous manor amid a series of underground lakes. She wrote to Tarren on occasion, always promising to return to see him, and told him that while the buildings were less than impressive, she loved the swans, which lived across the cavern with the lakes between them and the humans. They were white, but where they lived the algae glowed, and it cast a blue light on their plumage. Blue swans beating their wings against the water, flying over the city, with plenty of room for her to join them. When Tarren became the king, he had his inside men within Renideo start to give him regular reports on his sister. She didn’t seem to be missing him. She had a daughter, a half-wit, which she let the servants raise in hopes of a better child. Several years later she was pregnant again, and that was the last that Tarren heard of her directly.

Tarren’s inside man detailed the facts of her death thus: Arielii had survived the labor and was doing well, while her son had been stillborn. Her husband and half-wit daughter went into the room and were left alone. When they left the room again, Arielii was dead, and the retarded girl stopped speaking entirely. She didn’t say anything again until she was almost ten. Chyril married again, and his next wife also did not live for long. By the time the territory directly south of Chyril’s holding turned hostile, Chyril was on his fourth wife and kept a private harem, but no other children. Wyrren Jadis, Arielii’s daughter, was nearly twenty. Despite the obvious mental ability retardation the girl was reputed to have written a long, detailed thesis on a highly dangerous form of magic, probably ghostwritten by one of her father’s practitioners for the sake of her reputation.

The rebellion of Aiche to the south was almost convenient. Tarren set his inside man to stage the presence of his assassins in Chyril’s castle and demanded his niece pay him a visit– she could have three maids, but no guards of her own, and would be returned after the rebellion, provided that Chyril did not join or come to the aid of Aiche. Chryil agreed, and sent his only child.

Wyrren Jadis de Renideo had her mother’s golden hair, but her face was stiff, immobile. Her eyes didn’t open more than halfway, her mouth hung slightly open, and she never moved her eyes– she turned her entire head when she wanted to look at something, a stiff, ugly mockery of his sister’s features. She came with three maids, one pretty, the other two as ugly as herself, one fat, the other scarred and sallow. She also came with a slave bound in gold, a serious looking red-haired man who wore a sword at each hip and moved like a bodyguard. Her father had set her up with a man as a ‘possession’, to claim him as property to give his daughter her own guard, Tarren was sure. Despite the breech in terms, Tarren was satisfied enough that the girl could be tricked into revealing the details of his sister’s murder.

weekly goal (back to earth)

Last week’s goal: 52,000
Last week’s wordcount: 52,167
This week’s goal: 56,000

Last week’s goal: To spend the week examining Kione Remerdii for villain month. (Done!)
This week’s goal: The most difficult villain. King Tarren II Kanichende, the uncle of my protagonist.

… After doing some further research on the writer’s conference in Seattle, I’ve decided that it’s just too expensive. Never mind the drive there and back, room and food– I don’t think I can spend the five-hundred-dollar entry free. I mean, I’d rather fly across the country and visit a friend of mine who lives in Indiana, to be honest. So… not yet. I’ll keep it in mind for when I’ve got my book written and polished.

I have, however, gotten what I think is the best CD I’ve ever heard (The Silent Force, by Within Temptation), wherein all of the CD tracks remind me of my book. I’ve yet to discover if this is a help or hindrance, but either way it’s made me very happy. Cheers!

showcase of villainy, part i

Villain Month

A week has passed since we started Villain Month! I’m really impressed by what people have come up with so far, so this is the first of four weekly showcases. Participants are listed in the order they signed up, then entries from oldest to newest.

I spent the week working on Lord Kione Remerdii, from my novel ‘Blue Crystal’.


Saint Know-All spent the last week developing Archduke Richard Khiro.


LeLoOr has been working on Leonard Geier.


Karma Girl spent the week developing Veruca Marinme’.


Nilah spent the week contemplating her villain Redtooth, and came up with an idea for his motivation: envy.


Aldersgatecycle made a very in-depth post on Queen Maelys I, covering a bit of plot, a bit of quotes, personality, and basic facts.


Dory made a post titled ‘The Sorrowful Mind of a Villain‘ on Deviantart.com– unnamed to make the thoughts easier to relate to.


Nymeria examined Arturiel Valyr on her journal.


Amber (Terrorcookie) decided to develop her villain by haiku— she has two of them now, and a journal post serving as her central page.


And finally, Oliva wrote a long, very detailed character sheet for her villain Charles de Paul.


… Wow. Great job, you guys! I’m really impressed by what everyone has come up with so far!

A full list of participants can be found here, with links to their various websites. I’ll be posting another full showcase next Saturday, so stay turned!

Looking forward to next week’s projects!

the role of a villain

A post partially inspired by listening to Tarja (formally of the band ‘Nightwish’– I adore gothic/classical crossovers in music) on the drive home from work yesterday. This month so far has done exactly what I intended it to do, completely re-examining my plot from the antagonist’s perspective. Sometime between the tracks ‘Poison’ and ‘Damned and Divine’ it occurred to me that everything would be better if the ‘romance’ between the villain and the heroine was genuine, not a set up at all, on both sides.

First off, if I do this it would mean that I’m missing a good part of the story focusing on the heroine. I would have to display their relationship as aside while dealing with a bigger problem. I’d have to come up with another plot to thread in with the two I’ve already got going. But it makes the story stronger, it makes the ending even more powerful, and it gives me the chance to really focus on some of the important characters that I’ve neglected.

Villains, I’ve discovered, subscribe to the principal that hate is not the opposite of love; that’s indifference. Give the audience good reason to love your villain, and it’s easier to twist. His betrayal of the protagonists is also his betrayal of the audience.

..

Also, I’ll be starting my first weekly ‘Villain Month’ showcase on Saturday, linking to everyone’s projects!

villian: kione remerdii: scene

“Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness. And there must be something good first before it can be spoiled. We called sadism a sexual perversion; but you must first have the idea of a normal sexuality before you can talk of its being perverted; and you can see which is the perversion, because you can explain the perverted from the normal, and cannot explain the normal from the perverted.” -C.S. Lewis, ‘Mere Christianity’

((A sample of Kione’s POV, to practice the details of my villain. We’ll call it free-writing, and I make no promises as to the quality of the prose.))

Kione had sat with his usual glass of firewine through breakfast, swirling the liquid and picking at his food though his stomach protested with every bite that he forced down his throat. He had imagined himself presenting a front of high spirits on this anticipated day, and though he had thought that he had better control over himself than this, had relied several times on his nerves, he found them failing him. The sensation worsened when young Prince Davyer Kanichende looked at him and asked, “You’re not sad, are you?”

“Sad, my prince?” Kione smiled and shook his head. “I can rarely eat before an event of importance. The coronation certainly counts, if nothing else in the world would. You must be very excited.”

“Don’t forget, we’re taking off the traitor’s head today.”
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villain: kione remerdii: entj

ENTJ: Extraverted Intuitive Thinking Judging (from the Jung Typology Test)

* slightly expressed extravert
* distinctively expressed intuitive personality
* distinctively expressed thinking personality
* moderately expressed judging personality

So I took this test with Kione Remerdii in mind, using what I already knew about him. It emphasized that he’s completely ruthless, hates ’emotional’ or personal problems (he especially grows impatient with phobias), and is naturally tidy. And then I found that the professional personality assessment article fit him to a T. It’s… rather scary, actually.

I’ve also decided that Kione really doesn’t see himself as evil. And on several counts, what he does can be perfectly justified. Sure, he had hundreds of unexpecting noblemen slaughtered by proxy. But on the other hand, the way things were going, it was faster and less damaging than a naturally occurring revolt, which seemed to be building up. Yes, he was double-dealing (quatrupal dealing?), but this was politics. What else could be expected? And those commoners down in the depths of the city that he set up to die… it was his only chance for change. One can not walk into a city in hopes of conquering it. One must rock the boat a little, send people scattering so that the man in question can more easily find his place.

He also has no need to explain any of this to anyone.

(Keep going for the personality test results, if they so interest you.)
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