Villains – Gotta Love ‘Em

televisionI think it began with Saturday morning cartoons – specifically re-runs of Scooby-Doo and Johnny Quest.  I absolutely loved watching them – until it was bedtime and my imagination kicked in.  I was certain some evil creature was lurking in my closet or hiding under my bed.

My fascination with shows/movies that scared me continued with Star Wars. I loved the commercials until Darth Vader appeared.  The combination of his mask and the sound of his breathing was enough to send me running down the hall. And yet, there was something about him that intrigued me.

As I grew older, Vader became my favorite character.  Not Anakin, mind you. I mean – What was there to like?  Nothing. Not until the very end – as he struggled to live.

Considering my fascination with villains, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I realized that I loved bringing my “bad guys” to life.

I’m a nice person.  For real.  I may be one of the nicest people I know. 😉 Seriously. I like being nice.  I love sappy commercials and have been known to cry during touchy-feely ones.  BUT – there is something about being inside my villain’s head that is particularly satisfying.  There’s this rush when the scene starts coming together and my bad guy shares his secrets.  At times, I can’t help but shake my head at his devious plans while my fingers put his thoughts onto paper.

That’s the thing with villains. They help propel the story.  They give purpose to the hero’s struggles. They are compelling.

For some great advice and insights on developing your villain, check out the links below:

Kristen Lamb’s blog

Writing Forward

Script Mag

If you have a favorite site/link/book dealing with developing a villain, share it in the comments.

Thanks for stopping by!  Happy writing!

Body Language and Writing

Updated 08/16/15

Years ago, my family owned a small business. As any small business person will tell you, customer service is important. Not only did I try to meet our customers needs, I made sure to smile and say thank you. I engaged in small talk and stayed involved with community events.

Our customers were as varied as the products we sold. Most were likable but there were those couple of people who just didn’t make me feel all warm and toasty. I thought I’d managed to hide those feelings only to come to the realization I hadn’t been successful.

After paying for his purchase, the customer lingered, wanting to talk. At some point in the conversation he asked whether he smelled bad. I assured him that he didn’t. He then went on to ask why I kept backing away from him. The truth was that while he didn’t smell bad and there was a counter between us, I felt like my space was being invaded. While my words and facial expression (smile) said one thing, my body language (unconsciously moving away) told the truth of how I felt.

she sat he stoodI have been reading  She Sat He Stood: What Do Your Characters Do While They Talk? by Ginger Hanson.  She points out the importance of studying body language and how our subconscious actions can reveal our true feelings. We can apply this to knowledge when writing dialogue.  She also covers the use of settings and props. Having purchased several writers handbooks and being unable to finish reading them, I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed this one.  Hanson offers a variety of helpful suggestions without putting the reader to sleep.

If you think you could use a little help with dialogue/body language, click the cover image. At only 99 cents, you can’t beat it!

If reading another writing advice book doesn’t appeal to you:

You might try watching old movies.   I find that black and white movies work quite well because there are less visual distractions.  Black & White Movie Nightwatch and learnMake sure to grab a pen and paper to take notes, otherwise, it becomes too easy to get lost in the film. Study the interaction between the actors.  She (feeling vulnerable) might turn away and hug herself.  He (feeling agitated) might lean on a balcony railing while taking a deep drag on his cigarette. The important thing is to recognize the actions the actors use to convey their characters’ feelings. This is ultimately what we as writers are trying to do – show not tell.

Have you stumbled across a tip or technique that has improved your writing?  If so, please share.

 

 

The Importance of Descriptions

Descriptions are important – they help set the stage for pivotal events by connecting the reader to specific places and times.  It is easy to fall back on generic representations. Example:  The night was dark.  The night was quiet.  But living in a rural area, nothing is further from the truth.  A summer night in the south is teaming with activity.

Sitting on my deck, I was amazed at how noisy silence can be.  I was surrounding by a veritable symphony of sound:  crickets chirping,  frogs croaking, mosquitoes buzzing and dogs barking.  Lightening bugs were darting near the wood line, flashing their bottoms, hoping to attract a mate.  Bats were swooping overhead, their bodies looking like dark shadows against the waning light as they searched for dinner among a buffet of flying insects. Kit-Kat had sidled up beside me, stretched her body then rubbed against my leg before disappearing into the darkness.  See what I mean?  There’s a lot going on out there in the dark…

Let’s think about the air.  Is it heavy with humidity?  Or does it offer cooling relief from a hectic day?  Is the wind a gentle breeze? Or do you hear it howling in the treetops? Maybe the wind isn’t blowing at all…

How about the smell?  Is the scent of honeysuckle hanging in the air?  No? Maybe it’s the smell of the steaks the neighbor is cooking, making your character dread the leftover pizza in the refrigerator or reminding him/her of how alone they feel…

By taking the time to immerse ourselves into our characters’ experiences, our scenes will feel more authentic which will allow our readers to connect with our stories.

Avoiding Continuity Problems

Writing a novel takes time-it’s not accomplished overnight.  For many of us, it may take several months and this can lead to problems in the storyline. To put it simply – we forget the little stuff. The lack of continuity can ruin a good story simply because the inconsistent details become a distraction too big to ignore.  

Ex: The heroine was walking to her car – however, when she arrives – it has become a truck.  It’s a little thing but it takes the reader out of the moment.

While each of us has a different writing process, there are things we can do to minimize the lack of continuity in our stories.
1.  Besides outlining or storyboarding, consider a timeline.  Timelines are a great way to “see” the story as it unfolds.  Although, there are timeline creators available for download, I prefer to make my own. I tend to get pretty detailed – time/dates, character introductions & events (major and minor).  For quick reference, I add things like daily schedules on the side.
2.  Know the setting.  Whether your setting is fictional or not, you must familiarize yourself with the layout of the town, spaceship, etc.  Take the time to draw a map – labeling streets, buildings, corridors, etc.
3.  Know the characters.  Create a character biography sheet detailing everything:  physical description, birthday, likes/dislikes, hobbies, family/friends, quirks, and important events that have impacted the character’s life.
 4.  Know your objects.  If your character has an iPhone at the beginning of the story, he needs to be an iPhone in chapter 5.
5.  Keep track of time:  Make sure that the weather matches the time of year. 
6.  Read & Revise.  A story is fluid – taking shape as it progresses.  There will be times when ideas & characters appear and BAM! the story takes an unforeseen turn.  Don’t just insert the idea/character and move on.  Look at your timeline, outline, storyboard, lists, etc. –  then fix the problem. 
By taking the time to create reference lists, we can minimize the occurrence of story inconsistencies.