Monday, February 16, 2015

5 Tips to Writing Villains

Almost any story you write needs a bad guy or woman, someone to be defeated or whose deeds have thwarted the hero and heroine.  Sometimes they can be a machine, an alien race from another planet, a deadly bunch of vampires or a whole slew of zombies.

But more often than not, your protagonists are taking on one dastardly dude or some underhanded woman. How can you make them come alive without meeting all the clich├ęs.

Try some of these ideas and you might find yourself coming up with new villains.

  1. Use your hero/heroine goals to build a villain – This is rather simple. What does your hero want? A new job? To learn who killed the boss because he is being suspected?  If you use those goals, the villain will be diametrically at the opposite end of the spectrum. This is the person who is keeping your hero or heroine from getting what you want. That is what happens in most stories, but take it one step further. Make it personal as well. Bring that villain to life with his/her own backstory which shows why they might be battling the hero and why they want to keep the hero from attaining his goal. Hannibal Lector was an overall bad guy as a cannibal, but he zeroed in on Clarice Starling and Will Graham. He made his battle personal with both of them.
  2. Try the 7 Deadly Sins to create their bad traits – This is a good way to create a villain. Give your villain the sin of greed, pride, wrath or even gluttony to make him want to come down on your poor hapless heroes and heroines.
  3. Make villains loveable, sympathetic or redeemable – this can be a fun way to write a villain. Not everyone needs to be killed off and vanquished. Sometimes it is more fun to simply put the villain in his place or put a mirror to him and show him for who and what he is. This can be a real lesson for him. Or defeat him and make him wish he hadn’t been so bad. As for the sympathetic villain, I always find the Phantom of the Opera as someone who is very sympathetic. He is hideous and that has made it impossible for anyone to love him. Doesn’t it make it more understandable that he might go to any lengths to get his true love, Christine?
  4. Make your villains memorable – We all want our heroes and heroines to be remembered by the reader, but what about the villain?  If we are going to make our heroes strong, then the villains should be too.  Anyone can overcome a normal bad guy.  If you want to make your heroes come off as invincible, given them a worthy opponent to defeat and that should be the starting point for your villain. Make them so strong the reader doubts whether your heroine will beat him or her.
  5.  Keep future stories in mind – do you want your villain to survive and come back to fight another day?  Find clever ways or reasons for why the villain might survive this time around.  But if you choose to do that, let the hero or heroine still solve some sort of issue in this story. You don’t want to leave the reader hanging. Something must be resolved.
    But mostly when writing a villain, have a good time with them. You can make them as mean and dastardly, or cowardly as you want. Remember you get to destroy them at the end so make it an exercise that stretches you as a writer.

Monday, February 9, 2015

5 Tips to Getting Back on Track

This is the time of year when you suddenly realize what happened to those goals you set just last month at the beginning of the year.  Are you keeping the goals you set?  And if you haven’t been meeting those goals, why not? How can you get back on track? Let’s look at some ways that might get you back in gear and in line to meet your writing targets. It all starts with looking back on what you have done for the past month:

1.      Review your writing goals. It’s always good to take stock of your goals and see if they are realistic. If you set the goal of a thousand words a day and you find you just can’t meet that target, maybe it will help if you lower it a little. Not everyone writes that quickly and not everyone can maintain that sort of target. Try 750 or keep a record for a week and see what works for you.  If you are writing 500 words a day on a regular basis, maybe set your goal a little higher, say 600 until you are comfortable with that. Then you can consider raising it.

2.      Applaud and celebrate what you have done right.  Look back on what you did accomplish. Did you write the four weekly blogs you intended to write? Did you go out of your way to promote your upcoming book in a way you had not originally planned to do? Celebrate those small steps. They make setting goals worthwhile. Take yourself out to lunch or take a friend. Give yourself a day to just read or visit the library and research

3.      Try a new writing project.  If you have been wanting to write a blog, then this might be the time to try it.  Writing non-fiction can be a good way to stimulate the creativity of writing fiction

4.      Try a new creative project. I attended a lesson last month on ways to stretch creativity and came away with a new appreciation for drawing, painting and just doodling on scrap paper. It gave me a whole new outlook on ways to expand my ways of thinking creatively and as I worked on just doodling I found myself coming up with a new way to approach a troublesome scene.

5.      Try stepping away from your book for a day or two. Give yourself permission to take a day or two off. Don’t let the time be too long, because you might not come back to your project, but sometimes a couple of days off can help you if you are overthinking a situation.

So take stock of what you’ve been doing and look forward to what you might do to get back on track to meet those goals you set last month. And if they are unrealistic then think about how to change them. (Editing never hurt anyone)

Monday, February 2, 2015

5 Tips on Research

.Research can be both a wonderful tool or a curse for writers.  We don’t get all the way through any book without at least a little bit of research. We don’t know everything off the tops of our heads. These days Google, Bing, Wikkipedia and the whole internet are right at our fingertips. They can bring us information on just about anything we want, but sometimes we rely on them too much and forget about the rest of the world out there that can help us with our research. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that I can look up New Mexico treasure stories right on my computer for my newest romantic suspense, but that can’t be the only place I get answers. I’ve also made trips to the area of northern New Mexico that I’m writing about so I can experience first hand the area I’ll be describing.

But there are places closer to home you can visit or research without taking trips or relying solely on the internet.

1.      Don’t forget your local library and librarian.  Yes they have books there that you can probably look up online, but they also might have old newspaper files so you can go back and actually read the newspaper stories from a certain time period. And yes, you can probably see the old stories online, but how long does it take you to find them? Sometimes the librarian can be just the ticket to easy research. They seem to know everything or where to find it.  Libraries can be great resource for genealogy too and looking at old family trees.

2.      Museums – This is another place that you probably think you don’t need because the internet can give you such quick access to information. But sometimes it is great to look at the actual objects from a certain time period. Any sort of historical writing can be helped with a visit to an actual location where you can see the real objects that were used in a certain time. Whether you’re looking at whale bones, dinosaur skeletons, Native American head gear or rocks from the moon, seeing things first hand can help with a description or just give a writer a better feel for an object or time period. Look at the material from the 1800’s. Imagine  wearing those clothes and how it felt to put them on. 
       Last month I had  great time visiting the Denver Art Museum to see the Cartier exhibit, Brilliant. What a fascinating show that is.  The diamond tiaras were so brilliant they couldn't even be photographed. I managed to get pictures of a few items, but most were so absolutely dazzling they were impossible to capture because of their brightness. Seeing the exquisite designs and pieces of jewelry gave me wonderful ideas for describing elegant jewelry at a ball in an upcoming story.

3.      Graveyards – This can be eerie and some friends have laughed because I admit I will sometimes visit graveyards in other cities. You can learn a lot about time periods, especially if you are writing historical pieces. Visiting a graveyard in Salem, MA really brought home the witch trials too me. And visiting Arlington National Cemetery was very sobering.

Visiting cemeteries can also give you an idea of the various names that were used in certain time periods, and you can see the difference in how people approached death in different generations.

4.      Local Police & courtrooms  – these are good for writing current stories because they can alert you to things like the booking process for criminals or crime issues. Many police departments have public liaisons who can help with crime research and don’t forget many offer police academies that might take you on a ride along.

5.      Local parks – these are more my getaways when I just want to get the feel for the weather. But walks in the park can also help me with plot problems.  I have some time to think through what my characters are doing and when I come home I am ready to buckle down and write that scene.

So get out of your office and do some fun research other than burying your nose in the internet all the time. You might even come up with some new story ideas.


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 ...