As winter drags on (and on), I’ve investigated a few other options for taking nature pictures, but so far, I haven’t had any luck. The butterfly house at MSU doesn’t have butterflies yet, and the bug house is open for tours only on Monday evenings (a hectic time in my household). I’ll keep looking.
Lately, I’ve been disappointed by literary bad guys (or girls) who excel at evil without realizing their potential as characters. Perhaps you recognize some of these:
The Megalomaniac The antagonist is a Machiavellian lunatic who stops at nothing to become the most powerful person on earth. This type of villain enjoys celebrated precedents in figures like Goldfinger, and Dr. No, but reproductions of these characters tend be flat and stereotyped. If world domination is your life’s ambition, you’re exactly like to every other megalomaniac on the planet.*
The Victim of a Childhood Trauma Some authors resort to simple psycho-pop explanations for misbehavior, but these characters lack authenticity unless the psychosis is developed in the novel.
Bad to the Bone These characters have mean personalities and engage in inappropriate behavior while planning evil in their spare time. Isn’t it more interesting to make the evil-doer a tiny bit likable, slightly vulnerable or even occasionally sympathetic?
Antagonists deserve as much attention as protagonists and have equal rights to be multifaceted characters. Consider Artemis Fowl, Severus Snape or Gollum. At times they’re easy to hate, and then they do something to generate empathy.
*There is a time and a place for megalomaniacs, but that’s a separate post.
Lately, I’m reading adventure novels, and they’ve got me thinking about character motivation. Of course, characters have to make poor choices, take chances and do things that set the ball rolling. Too often though, I find myself looking up from the page and wondering why a character acted the way s/he did. After a moment, I realize the action was intended to disguise a sagging middle. There are a million excuses for characters to do dumb stuff, or at least things their mothers wouldn’t approve of, but the story’s credibility depends on the setup and on previous character development.
I’m currently in the throes of rough draft ecstasy/despair for my own adventure novel, but when it’s time to revise, I’ll analyze each scene for believability starting with this list of questions.
Why did the character do that?
Is this reason plausible?
What does the character have to gain? To lose?
Is the behavior consistent with the personality I’ve established?
Has something happened to change the character’s behavior or personality?
Some people love them, others hate them. I like them when they cause me to think harder about my project and realize something I haven’t thought of before. Here’s a simple exercise we used last night at Write Night.
1. Write 50 facts about your protagonist. 2. Choose one statement. (Close your eyes and point, or pick a fave.) Write a scene to demonstrate/explore/expand on the statement. 3. Choose a statement that surprised you or two statements that seem to contradict each other and write a scene about it or them.
My list started with the obvious and progressed to things I hadn’t fully realized. I’d intended #2 to be a warm up, but I ended up with useful material. I thought #3 would be the clincher, but for my WIP, I’ve already made a good start on exploring this idea, so I simply enhanced it.
I participated in Write Your @ss Off Day today. Everyone was supposed to put in 8 hours on some writing-related activity. I launched a new project, and I wanted to jump in with both feet so WYAOD seemed like a plan.
I managed 6 hours.
I wrote 3,544 words.
I experienced a power outage that caused me to have to re-write one page. (I save frequently.)
I received a very disappointing rejection letter for TAoCBS.