Welcome back, my inklings. I hope you’re all doing well. It’s Good Friday already and the contest deadlines we discussed last week are fast approaching. There’s quite a lot of strategies you can employ to get a better chance of winning a writing contest, many of which are only applicable to certain types of competitions.
I was considering this while I narrowed down for you the five best strategies that have helped me win in the past. I wanted to provide you with tips that should work for absolutely any writing competition you come across, strategies that without which you’re almost guaranteed to lose. I can’t promise you victory, but I can certainly put you on the path that leads to it. Continue reading →
Welcome back, my inklings, to Writamins! An article series designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get you writing with my very own brand of condensed writing nutrition.
Now we all want to write stories that pop off the page and there’s a lot that goes into it but at the very center of it all is the characters. If you want people to come along for the ride and love every minute you need characters that will provoke an emotional response. If your readers love and hate the people on the page then they’re really into it. Drawing out emotional investment from your readers is necessary to giving them the best and most exciting experience possible.
So today we’re gonna talk about characters your readers will love to hate. So start thinking villainous thoughts, everybody, cause we’re gonna take some Vitamin V!
Vitamin V: Villainous Villains: Exercise: Take your favorite character (could be your own or from a book or show you like). Come up with their antithesis, whether they have an enemy already or not. Invent the person that represents everything your favorite character stands against and write a flash fiction piece just for that villain. (Your favorite character doesn’t need to be in the story for this evil exercise.)
Now for the active ingredients of Vitamin V!
8 Quick Tips For Villainous Villains
1. Know your villain’s overall goal, what are they obsessing over when they’re off page? Their actions should push their agenda whether in secret or out in the open. People, objects and places that no longer play into the villain’s plans can be discarded callously or kept close for later usefulness depending on the villain.
2. Find the lynchpin between the hero and the villain. There must be an inescapable reason for your villain and your hero to collide. Merely having opposed ideals does not necessitate conflict. Teammates can have opposed ideals, it doesn’t make them destined foes.
Conflicting goals concerning the same person, place or thing, however, do necessitate a decisive battle. Whether it be a social conflict about how the new kid in school is being treated or a full out mounted dragon war with spears of flame to decide the fate of the Castle Whitehollow, that’s up to you!
3. Great villains strike heroes close to home. For example, when a villain comes after a hero’s school, friends or family readers respond emotionally as if they are the ones threatened.
4. A truly fantastic villain is one that would have made a wonderful hero if circumstances were different. Your villain cares about something. Find out what it is. A great villain would see himself as the hero.
5. Villains must be credible threats. If a villain constantly has their plans foiled and never makes any progress toward their goal there will be no excitement in the final climax of the story. Their loss will be a foregone conclusion.
6. Villains don’t need to kill for the threat to be real. Once a character has died they can’t change, they can’t grow, they can’t move the plot. Basically death for a fictional character is the last thing they can ever do for the story. Use death sparingly or lose its potency. Life and death should be the ultimate stakes, not just the tool to show whether or not a character is dangerous or evil.
7. Villains who capture, wound, and terrify can be more powerful at rocking the emotions than villains who merely kill.
8. Great villains are never evil just for the sake of it. Their desire for their goal must be stronger than their fear of the consequences of violating laws and social norms. If a villain feels they have nothing more to lose they can act freely. Villains with real lives, jobs and families are also fascinating because they have to go about their villainy more carefully.
A villain represents humanity unchained. Like it or not, evil and selfishness are a part of what we are. Your villain was once an ordinary person that was swallowed up by the desire for their goal.
Welcome back, my inklings, to Writamins! Your regular dose of condensed writing nutrition designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get your project in gear!
This weekend is Independence Day here in America and many of my readers will likely be spending time with friends and relatives trying not to explode while the kids survive the annual pyrotechnic ritual we affectionately call “The 4th of July”. Now how, you might ask, is an inkling supposed to get work done on their magnum opus on a holiday weekend? Take some Writamin D, of course!
Writamin D: Dialogue:
Dialogue is crucial to building believable and compelling characters Continue reading →
Welcome, my inklings, to Writamins! Writing Vitamins or “Writamins” is my new article series designed to get you pumped, get you thinking about your craft and get you writing with my very own brand of condensed writing nutrition.
If you’re like me you have a million ideas for books with new ones popping up almost daily, but how do you narrow them down? It’s going to take a lot of time and effort to write an entire book, so how can you know that your concept and characters are going to excite people and really connect with your readers? Take some Vitamin S, of course! Continue reading →
I’ll be absolutely honest. I’ve been having a difficult time with my time travel piece. It’s in part because I haven’t made the time to sit down with it, and also because the rest of my life has been running me down like I’m a tunnel digging prison escapee.
At the moment I’m hiding in a metaphorical ditch while life shines its spotlights across the marsh from only a few feet away. The slightest breath and I might have to go be an adult and do life things. So let’s make the most of this time together before life finds me and throws me back in the clink. Continue reading →
When I told my wife I was going to do a writing prompt for the blog about time travel her response was less than enthusiastic. She’s not a fan of time travel stories, and neither am I and for a lot of the same reasons. She explained to me that she didn’t think she could be much help in reviewing whatever story I came up with from the prompt because of her feelings about time travel stories in general. The word hate came up. Several times. Continue reading →
Good Friday to you, my Inklings, thank you for stopping by. Now, you may have guessed from the tentacles on my banner and the fact that I call myself “The Octopus” that I take a great deal of inspiration from nature. In particular, I view the octopus as a marvelous mascot for wordsmiths everywhere and not just because they can squirt ink (but that’s totally part of it).
Octopuses (that’s right, the preferred plural is octopuses! Not octopi, octopodes, or even octopeople) like to collect things. They’ve been seen piling stones into protective fences before they go to sleep and amassing all sorts of crustacean shells and coral bits and anything they find interesting or useful. Some researchers have called this collecting and arranging behavior “fortress building”. Others, due to the eclectic nature of the collections, call these mysterious museums “octopus gardens”.
Now, as writers, we really shouldn’t surround our workspace with the discarded remnants of our food (white cheddar cheetos bags go in the trash!) so a literal application of this habit may be less than helpful. However, I have noticed that I have more than a few near-requirements and writing rituals that serve as my own octopus’ garden. Continue reading →
In which the Octopus provides tips 6 through 8 and a concluding statement.
Our final installment will feature the last three ways of grabbing your reader from the first sentence. Of course there are probably many more in the world worth using but I sincerely hope that these articles have given you some new tools to try when starting a new project. Without further ado, my inklings, I give you the last of our list. 6. Blunt Force Introduction:
“The Landon sisters looked as stately as ever in their matching coffins.”
Welcome back, my inklings. On March 26th, we started a discussion about how to grab your reader from the first sentence of your story. Today we’ll continue with a few more methods designed to intrigue and excite your reader.
Note: If not otherwise attributed, any example “first sentence” is my own creation provided only to prove concept. I may eventually revisit these sample first sentences and turn them into full stories.
3. The Contradiction:
“It was only after my grandfather died that he really began to talk to me.”
Often a contradictory statement, the reader is propositioned with an intriguing juxtaposition of concepts that they can only make sense of if they keep reading. Continue reading →
In which the Octopus provides an Introduction and Tips 1 and 2
The mythical first sentence; for your book, it is the phrase that launches one hundred thousand words. For your reader, it’s almost like your book’s pick up line. You’re trying to inspire the reader into getting into a serious relationship with your story. This is about more than just making a good first impression.
The first sentence is sometimes your only chance to snatch up a potential reader’s interest and propel them headlong into your story. Write a great one and your reader will dive in and not look back. Write a bad one and, well…take a look at this: Continue reading →