Friday, August 16, 2013

Bad Guys and Gals -- How We love to hate them!

by Sue Viders and Becky Martinez

Villains... those bad guys and gals that you hate, but remember. In fact the really great villains are sometimes remembered more than the other characters in the story. How does a character get to be such so revered, so infused with the love/hate emotions we have?It’s because they have one or more of the following motivations:

Revenge - the powerful need to “get back” at someone for those wrongs, whether only perceived or real

Power - wanting control over almost anything, another person, another company, or another nation or country

Greed - the overpowering lust for money or “things”

Perhaps they have a religious or political agenda... sigh, don’t get me started on the politics in Washington or anywhere else in the world, and in some cases the overriding actions of the villain  is caused by a simple case of insanity.

Then we have the comic book characters and the supernatural creatures, such as the vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts and all those aliens from other planets and universes. I do so love some of them. Take the Joker and many of the “thugs” Marvel Comics have brought to the big screen.

However we do want the “good” guys to win, but without the “bad” guys there really is no story, no conflict, no reason to read the book.
As a writer we absolutely need the evil guys and gals for the following reason:

Without a villain there simply is no suspense in a story, no conflict, no need to keep turning the pages to see how the hero overcomes and defeats the villain.

If you do your character carefully, the reader will remember the villain even more than the hero. Let’s consider the follow characters:

Count Dracula... do you have any idea who the hero was in these stories? I don’t.

Audry II from the Little Shop of Horrors. Great plant. Can you even remember the little guy who tried to kill her?

Crulla De Vil was more of a main character in 101 Dalmations. Again, do you remember the other characters as well?

Then there are those villains, secondary to the main protagonist, who also stay in our minds:

The Wicked Witch of the West from The Wonderful World of OZ. who we want to really get caught so Dorothy can go home.

Dr. Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes books, who gave Sherlock a rough time

What about loved Hans Gruber in the Die Hard film or  Katharine Parker in Working Girl? We really wanted them to get theirs...

Then there are the “turn-coats”... who at first we think are the bad guys but turn out to be a good guy. For example take Sam Gerard, from The Fugitive. He  was a good guy who seemed like a bad guy but then really turned out to be good, but through most of the movie he really, really wanted to capture Dr. Richard Kimball. 

And think about those villains who can turn into a franchise all on their own?

Dr. Hannibal Lector was a bit player in Thomas Harris’ book Red Dragon, though he was pretty spooky as he guided serial killer Francis Dollarhyde, but then he played a larger role in Silence of the Lambs when he assisted FBI trainee Clarice Starling, but he was still a vicious killer who would do anything to escape. And then he hit "star" villain status when Anthony Hopkins brought him to life on the screen. Suddenly readers and movie goers wanted more of this crazed character, and the rest, as they say is history. More books followed as well as a TV series.
Bottom line - Every story needs a villain, from Lady Macbeth to Voldemort. And you, as their creator, need to know how to write them.

We’re going to be presenting a special class on villains next week. Please join us as we talk about how you can come up with villains who can chill and thrill your readers, and perhaps – like Hannibal Lector – clamoring for more.  For more information on our work shop, go to and click on Events.
What about you? Who are your favorite villains?

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Self Publishing Journey

It takes a village...
Hillary Clinton, when she was the First Lady, wrote a book entitled... “It Takes A Village...” referring to the concept that it takes many individuals and groups outside of the immediate family to raise a child.

So it is with writing. For after you have written that book, what are you going to do with it?
There are two ways to look at publishing a tome and the bottom line is they both revolve around money. Well, what doesn’t these days?

   Traditional publishing - usually in print form has both the pros and the cons... doesn’t everything.
   Pros - they do it all for you, the proofing, editing, design a cover, print it and to some degree marketing
   Cons - you don’t make much money

   Self-publishing - an ebook
   Pros - you make more money and you are in charge of all the details along the way
   Cons - you have to spend a lot of money before you can make any as putting together your team requires a lot of energy (you have to kiss a lot of frogs in the way of editors, etc. who don’t really know what they are doing), a lot of time and a bit of money

And any writer who thinks they can simply write a few words, have a few friends edit and proof it, put together a do-it-yourself cover and then click it up onto the web as an e-book, is sadly mistaken.
It doesn’t work that way. 
Well, it does work that way (anyone can put up an e-book) but it doesn’t work well. Especially if you are in for the long run, in terms of fame and continuing sales.
It takes a team to polish the book and make it truly presentable and ultimately readable and worthwhile. You need to “wow” the reader so they will come back and buy the next book.

It takes a team if you are going the self-publishing route, which is what I am doing.
Okay what does this team consist of? Well, I don’t know about other writers, but it took the following to get my guides up and running.

   while it’s great to have some Beta readers who will find some of the problems, (usually these are just your friends) it is wise to find someone who works in the genre of the piece, that knows what they are doing and can catch those little spelling errors and stray typos that we, the author, always miss,

   again, not your sister-in-law. A professional editor is needed, someone who can see the “big picture” and realize that “this sentence, paragraph, chapter, section” actually belongs somewhere else in the project whether a nonfiction how-to book or a steamy romance or mystery.

   An artist or illustrator (very, very important)
   someone who has a track record in your genre... most books are bought because of the cover... believe it...

   Someone to format the words
   once again, a formatter who works in your genre. If you are only doing fiction, this is rather easy, but if you are doing let’s say a children’s book or an instruction book with illustrations or charts, you need a formatter who has done this before and really knows how to lay it all out.

   A webmaster
   because you will also need, if you haven’t done this before, a Facebook account, Twitter, and all those other social happenings, with new ones popping up daily, a blog of some kind, a way to collect e-mails, and perhaps a Q and A column plus a daily inspirational section and if you are really savvy, a place to sell your specialized items... and the list goes on and on...

   And finally it’s also nice to have or at least occasionally talk to a business manager who could give you some financial advise and perhaps oversee the whole project. About once a month I have breakfast with mine and he gives me ideas and suggestions I would never have thought of on my own.

Bottom line, it does take a “village”... a team, working together, to produce a great book - a book that really reads great, looks great and in the long run will make you a great deal of money.

Sue Viders -- who has done both - been with a big NY traditional publishing company and who is now striking out on her own with a new series of writing guides

Getting off to a Fresh Start

At the beginning of every new year don’t we always look at different ways to start off fresh? We want to make our resolutions or set goals ...