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.

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!

weekly goal and a note

Current Wordcount: 47,669 words
Last Week’s Goal: 45,000 words
Next Week’s Goal: 52,000 words

If I can write an average of 750 words a day, according to my handy little desktop calculator, I should finish this book by the end of July. Next week’s goal puts me at a bit over six hundred words a day. But last week I overshot myself by almost three thousand words. Yeah!

*pauses to dance a happy dance*

This is the last day before Villain Month starts. It’s also two days before my twenty-fourth birthday (June 2nd, for the curious). I’m happy to add people who want to join in partway through the month– just leave a comment. Later tonight I’ll add an announcement post with a list and links of everyone participating.

an invitation to villain month

While I was drawing up some ideas for what I could do for my four weeks of villainy, I thought that perhaps I could invite some of my blogging comrades to join in.

I’ll be spending one week on each character, starting June 1st. Activities will include sample dialog, sketches, scanned collages, and bits of story that don’t go anywhere, as well as the usual ‘character info’ pages that asks for full names and favorite snacks.

Anyone interested? Comment below; I’d love to see other people’s villain-projects.

weekly goal

Current Wordcount: 41,048 words
Last Week’s Goal: 41,000 words
Next Week’s Goal: 45,000 words

I made my word count! Even if I had to stay up till midnight last night to do it. Since my writing buddy is going to be gone, I increased my target goal slightly, and I should be able to beat it.

Villain Week begins the Sunday after tomorrow.

know your enemy (antagonists)

There comes a time when a writer has to stop their story, turn and look at their villain, and admit that they’re phoning it in on the antagonists’ performances. I simply have not given any of my (multiple) villains the treatment that I’ve given my two main heroes. I don’t know what they’re doing while I’m focusing on my heroes. I don’t know their subplots. I don’t know what problems they’ve been going through behind the scenes.

So far I have four villains to counter my two heroes: A king, a lord, a winged bully, and a high-ranking slave. I’ve managed so far, but I just invented the last on the list (Sorche du Remerdii, the man who gave that cheeky line I mentioned here), and in a high-tension scene he feels flat.

Lesson learned: know your villains. I’ve decided that June is going to be ‘Villain Month’. Each week will be dedicated to developing and writing side-stories about one of my villains. That way I’ll be ready for my second rewrite, and I’ll be posting up character exercises, collages, and notes on development. I’ll also be exploring the extent of their power, what they can and can not do to the heroes, and why.

No flat enemies allowed.

weekly goal, and a short hiatus

I both did and did not make my word count goal last week. I wrote enough to satisfy the 3,000 words. I also had to erase most of them. So my word count didn’t change much by last Friday.

I’m going to call it good and keep my word-count goal the same. 41k, by this Friday. It’s not as far as I thought I’d be at, but since my role-play internet-writing friend is going to be gone for two weeks after this week I expect I’ll be getting a lot more done. (Incidentally, I’ve also planted lots of strawberries and am studying Spanish every day again. I lose one distraction, I gain five more. Alas…)

I’m also going to be busy with my real-life job all week; a bunch of project-stuff all came up at once. I’ll still be able to respond to comments, email, but I’m not going to be posting much or browsing the sites on my blog list so faithfully.

Cheers, and see you guys next week!

outline? what outline?

Today’s writing is a fine example of why my nice little chapter-synopses have little or no bearing on reality.

I spent days working out how the rest of the book was going to go. A few chapters ago, I started deviating. It felt right. I don’t argue with my characters, as a rule. At the end of Chapter Seven we were almost on track. Now? Not only did the kidnappers not be the mercenaries I’d expected, I also introduced a new important character. And he’s a cocky little bastard that won’t hear of leaving my plot.

I did, however, write a line that I’m very fond of. I thought I’d share.

“Rylan du Jadis, it is an honor. My lord wishes to commend you for your bravery, congratulate you for your performance, and condemn you for your idiocy.”

Didn’t I say that this guy is going to be trouble? Hmm?

writing goal update

I promised a word count update on Friday. I’m a day late, but the numbers remain:

Goal: 36,000 words
Reached: 37,778 words

Not too shabby. The two-thousand I wrote last Saturday didn’t hurt either, though I found I had to take about five hundred of those out because I didn’t write the end of the chapter. I think my characters should be forced, not escorted, to the mercenaries’ lair. It fits so much better.

Next Friday: 41,000 words. It’s just a bit higher than last week’s goal. Wish me luck!

three writing rules i loathe

Also known as: a brief list of the trends in prose that I refuse to take as my bible come hell or high water.

I should probably warn my readers that I despise hard-and-fast rules when it comes to creativity. These confines of art that are meant to guide beginners are a hindrance and put a false barrier between what is considered ‘good’ writing and writing that’s effective. The moment someone starts saying, ‘you should never do this’ I’m out the door and running. Or possibly beating them up, one of the two. Violence might not solve anything, but it sure makes me feel better. 😉

1. Show, Don’t Tell.
I don’t think you can get my hackles up faster than to quote this mantra at me. It is the speediest way to earn my undying hatred.

Showing involves imagery, in covering the things that are important by action and setting, in focusing the camera on some things and not others. Telling is information usually given in narration. Sometimes showing is better. And sometimes showing makes the most tedious, convoluted half-assed scenes that it’s been by displeasure to try to wade through. Please, just tell me, and get to the interesting parts. And who decided that narration was bad, anyway? Who said that showing and telling is inherently divorced from each other, that there is no showing in telling, or vice versa?

Try this instead. Put in the details that you need. Let the audience work a bit when you think that there’s enough in the scene to draw extra conclusions. Make your work interesting. Get test readers, and see if they have the right reactions to the right events.

2. Don’t use any narrative verbs but ‘said’.
This depends entirely on the style that you’re using and the tone of your story. There are times replied, answered, asked, repeated, and explained are perfectly valid, and more precise than ‘said’. Some people find these words obnoxious. It must be tough to be them.

3. Write for your genre, and don’t break the established conventions. It’ll make your book harder to sell.
Sometimes this is true, I suppose. I write fantasy, where the point of the genre is innovation. What’s the point of writing if you’re not going to write something new? I see this one as a cousin of the phrase ‘there are no new stories’. To those who are convinced that this is a good point, go read ‘House of Leaves’, by Mark Z. Danielewski. Go read ‘Bridge of Birds’, by Barry Hughart. Try ‘Grey’, by Jon Armstrong. I won’t read books that aren’t innovative in some way.


I think what I’m trying to get at is that these conventions are artificial. Think of writing as a craft that needs to be trained and honed, figure out what techniques work for what story. Write effectively, ignore what’s supposedly ‘good’.

Any other obnoxious ‘tips’ that I’ve missed?