Villains! An-tag-on-ists! Boil ‘em, mash ‘em, stick ‘em in a stew. Lovely big enemies who thwart the hero at every turn.
Even literary fiction writers couldn’t say no to that.
Every story needs conflict, and conflict always comes from something or someone that directly opposes the protagonist. It doesn’t matter if the protagonist is Bob, who just wants his sandwich– there will always be an antagonist. They don’t have to be big and spiky and carry a war club; the antagonist could seem like a friend. You could even go for the “at war with himself” bit. The antagonist could be another person, the hero himself, the world, society, or anything you want– all it does is oppose the hero.
In fantasy, however, the antagonist is usually a person: big, spiky, carrying a war club, also known as evil incarnate. This person is so much more powerful than the protagonist that it seems crazy to hope for victory.
How do you get an entire series out of a single antagonist, then, if the antagonist can squash the protagonist with a maleficent thumb? (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on May 22, 2013
Your main character is walking down the street. “Hey,” he says to himself, “this walking business is tiring and inefficient. I really need to get to the villain’s secret headquarters, and this sign says it’s still three miles away. I wish I had a taxi.”
A taxi pulls up beside him and the driver leans out. ”You called, sir? Your phone must have pocket-dialed, and I heard you ask for a taxi. I was only a few feet behind you, so I figured I’d help out. There will be no charge, sir– my last passenger overpaid me, and I feel generous.”
What is this? It’s a coincidence, of course! How does one pocket-dial a taxi just when one is about to ask for a taxi? How does one even know a taxi driver’s number? How are taxi drivers polite?
And how does all that happen by accident? (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on May 17, 2013
I like reading about thieves. I enjoy all their faults: their conceit, their disregard for personal property, and their general dishonesty. Though there are other things that make me like such characters– perhaps they do have honor among thieves, or are willing to help those poorer than they, or their attitude toward life– I believe that their potential for change makes me love them more than anything else. I don’t see what they are, but what they could become.
Or not. It depends: are you in a philosophical mood?
But one thing that always is true for thieves is their plots. They never fail to embark on great journeys and quests that turn their characters around.
I’ve posted about character development before– how you must outweigh the bad with the good that comes later– but that had more to do with character development on a whim than character development through the plot. (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on May 14, 2013
Can you hear what I’m thinking?
I doubt it. Even if you could, your brain would be steaming right now, trying to process the double time paradox I was just concocting. (Even I don’t try to process those.) So if you could hear what I was thinking, you’re probably dead right now.
Now can anyone hear what I’m thinking?
You can hypothesize, you can deduce, or you can try for a telepathic connection, but chances are you can’t hear the thoughts of other people.
In a fictional narrative, authors frequently write in the viewpoint character’s thoughts. It’s a luxury prose writers have, to tell the audience exactly what’s running through the character’s head. Unfortunately, it can often be too much to know what the character is thinking, especially since it often runs afoul of the “show, don’t tell” advice everyone gives. I posted recently about a character’s imagination and the importance of writing that into a narrative, but not all thoughts are the greatest. (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on May 11, 2013
Some people have noses.
You can’t hold it against someone that their face was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or that they were born with a defect (or reborn, as the case may be). Several people without noses have scintillating personalities and are lovely friends to have along on a picnic.
But some choose to be morose about their noseless state. They neglect themselves, letting their skins turn colors or deteriorate altogether, taking different, more frightening forms as the whim takes them.
You would not want them along on a picnic. (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on April 29, 2013
There are lots of tips on editing novel manuscripts– stronger descriptions, better characters, cooler names– but they always tell you the same thing:
Come back to the story with new eyes.
Hello, is this the Association of Organ Donors? I would like a new pair of eyes.
Somehow, I don’t think that’s what they mean. Usually they explain a little more: leave the manuscript alone for a couple months, read something new, maybe even write something new– then you can consider yourself fresh enough for a reread.
It wasn’t quite enough for me. I took a very long time to get back to my latest story, but I finally began rewriting. I was immediately sucked into the same writing style, which was the one thing I needed to change more than anything else. How was I to do it? (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on April 26, 2013
Katniss. Kira. Karou. The Hunger Games, Partials, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone. What do they have in common?
For one thing, they’re some of the strongest heroines I’ve ever encountered in YA fantasy. Katniss spearheaded a rebellion as the girl on fire. Kira researched a virus that has killed off most of humanity and then set out to find the cure, almost on her own. Karou… eh, she just fell in love, but she did it with style.
Then look at the names. They all begin with K.
For some reason, names beginning with K give a sense of the same independence and strength that pervades the personality of each character I mentioned. Or perhaps the characters lend their strength and independence to the name, and it’s just a coincidence.
Whichever is true, it seems to be popular. Strong heroines have K names. Maybe because the letter is spiky. (more…)
Posted by Liam, Head Phil on April 21, 2013