Tag Archives: A to Z

Creating a Credible Villain

Today’s post is all about that character we love to hate: the antagonist, also known as the villain.

VV is for Villain

an•tag•o•nist noun \an-ˈta-gə-nist\: a person who opposes another person. Synonyms: adversary, enemy, foe, archenemy, nemesis, bane, competitor, rival, villain.

The antagonist can also be a group of characters (e.g., an institution) or a force (e.g., the weather), but for purposes of this discussion it will focus on the individual as the villain. Before we begin concocting our villain, we must understand the role the antagonist plays in the story.

What is the role of the antagonist?

The antagonist should serve as:
• An opposing force
• An obstacle for the hero’s goal
• A worthy opponent

The villain is one of the two most important characters in the story. Some believe it is more important than the hero. Without the villain, there is no opposing force to create conflict and tension, and no obstacle for the hero to overcome. It’s important to note that the villain should be more powerful than the hero. This is necessary for the hero to grow (character arc) in order to win and be truly heroic.

“The hero and the bad guy are a matched set and should be of equal skill and strength, with the bad guy being just slightly more powerful than the hero because he is willing to go to any lengths to win.” ~ Blake Snyder

What are the ingredients for a credible villain? Continue reading Creating a Credible Villain

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The Opening Line: How Do You Make It Memorable?

OO is for Opening Line

The Opening Line—probably the most important sentence you will write. Unlike the writers of the past, the modern writer in this fast-paced world needs to grab the reader’s attention as quickly as possible or risk losing the reader altogether.

What makes a good opening line?

Hmm…

In all the books I’ve read on the craft of writing, I don’t recall reading about the formula to writing a memorable opening line. If you know it, please do tell.

After analyzing some of my favorite opening lines, there doesn’t seem to be a  common thread that runs through each of them. They are all different. Some are long (A Tale of Two Cities) and some are surprisingly short (A Christmas Carol). What is it about these opening lines that make them so memorable?

My favorite opening lines contained at least one of the following:

• Imagery
• Contrast
• Intrigue
• Unique voice
• Compelling Mental Picture
• Sarcasm
• Shock
• Fear
• Dialogue

Imagery

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Contrast

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Intrigue

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost.” The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

Unique Voice

“You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Compelling Mental Picture

“On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.” The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

Shock

“Marley was dead, to begin with.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

“My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie. I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.” The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Sarcasm

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Fear

“Once upon a midnight dreary, as I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of someone gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.” The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe

Dialogue

And this one comes from our very own Sarah M. Cradit:

“‘All I’m saying is, Deliverance was based on a true story.’” The Storm and the Darkness by Sarah M. Cradit

 

What do you think makes a good opening line? What is your favorite opening line?

Here is a link to more famous opening lines from Wikiquote.

To see what other A to Z participants are blogging about this month, please click here to link to their blogs.

 

What’s in a name? Choosing a Name for Your Fictional Character

NN is for Name

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” ~ William Shakespeare

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose would be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

What do you think? Does the name matter that much?

J.K. Rowling was a genius at naming fictional characters. Let’s look at a few:

• Albus Dumbledore
• Sirius Black
• Hermione Granger
• Bellatrix Lestrange
• Draco Malfoy
• Lucius Malfoy

The names are unique, so they make a lasting impression, but it’s also interesting to note that the meaning of the names fit the role of the characters.

These characters often acted as a guiding light or helper to Harry during his quest:

Albus: white, bright.
Sirius: brightest star.
Hermione: messenger.

These characters were part of the antagonistic force trying to prevent Harry from achieving his goal:

Bellatrix: warlike.
Draco: dragon.
Lucius: light.

Although the meaning of Lucius is similar to Sirius and Albus, it reminds most of us of that fallen angel, Lucifer.

Name meanings aside, don’t the following names fit the character perfectly?

• Neville Longbottom
• Ronald Weasley
• Rubeus Hagrid

Rowling also uses alliteration to make an impression with characters like Severus Snape, Luna Lovegood, and several others that I mentioned in the post All About Alliteration: Does It Almost Always Annoy.

Does the name need to be unique to be memorable? It’s interesting that most of the characters in J.K. Rowling’s novels have distinct names, but for the main character, Harry Potter, she chose a rather common name. But it’s not so common anymore, is it?

Let’s take a look at the names of other popular fictional characters.
J.R.R Tolkien also used alliteration with the character, Bilbo Baggins, but most of his characters are recognizable by one name. Consider the following:

• Frodo
• Gandalf
• Galadriel
• Aragorn
• Gollum
• Arwen
• Eowyn

I suppose this has more to do with the genre, though. If Frodo and Gandalf were named Frank and George, they would seem a little out-of-place in Middle Earth, wouldn’t they?

Here are a few other memorable fictional character names that come to mind:

• Arthur (Boo) Radley, To Kill a Mockingbird
• Jeremy Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
• Hannibal Lector, The Silence of the Lambs
• Jean Valjean, Les Miserables
• Ebeneezer Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
• Lucie Manette, A Tale of Two Cities

Including some from recent novels:

• Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
• Beatrice (Tris) Prior, Divergent
• Liesel Meminger– The Book Thief

How do you choose names for the fictional characters in your story? Do you consider the meaning of the name? What is your favorite fictional character name?

To see what other A to Z participants are blogging about this month, please click here to see a list of participants with links to their blogs.

K is for…

K is for….uh. What in the hell am I going to write about for K?

I’ve got it.

KK is for Kindle

I own the basic Kindle and while it does have limitations, it has served its purpose. I spend a lot of time carting my kids to and from school, practices, and sporting events, which equates to a lot of down time in the carpool line, at the practice field, and between games. What better way to spend that time than reading on my Kindle.

Here are a few things I like/dislike about my Kindle:

Likes:
• It’s portable. It’s small and lightweight. It fits in my purse.
• Long battery life. It stays charged for 30 days.
• No-glare display. I can read it in the sunlight.
• Wi-Fi connection. I can buy books directly from my Kindle.
• Adequate storage. I have over 200 books on my Kindle. It’s a little library in the palm of my hand, literally.
• I never lose my place. When I read print books on a night when I’m particularly tired, which is most nights, I may drift off to sleep, drop the book and lose my place. I hate when that happens.

Dislikes:
• No backlight. The Kindle I own doesn’t have a light (although later models do).
• No touchscreen. The keyboard is cumbersome to navigate because you must click through the alphabet and highlight the letters one by one.

The absence of a backlight doesn’t affect me much, though. I simply open the Kindle app on my iPad and read from that at night. If I don’t have my Kindle or iPad with me for some reason, I can pull up the Kindle app on my iPhone and read from it too. Each device keeps track of where I left off, so I just sync to the furthest page read from any device.

Even though I like my Kindle, I still enjoy print books.

• I love the way they look. They add interest to any room. There’s nothing like a library full of books is there?
• I love the way the paper feels as my fingertips brush the pages.
• I love the sound the pages make as I shuffle through them wanting to re-read that one sentence that really touched me.
• I love the way they smell…especially an old book. It’s like a fine wine that’s been aged to perfection.
• I love the way they taste…okay, not really, but I felt like I should cover all the senses.

That being said, I’ve come to prefer reading on my Kindle versus reading a print book, unless it’s not formatted with page numbers or at least a table of contents. Oh sure, it will tell you that you’re on location 1696 of 6028, but what the hell does that mean? Yes, the display also shows you are 27% complete, but 27% of how many pages?

Call me old school, but I like to know the total number of pages in a book and the page number I am on. I appreciate it when I download a new book that has chapters and pages! I could kiss the person who formatted the book.

What do you prefer? Are you old school? Techie? A bit of both? Do you own an e-book reader? If so, what kind? Do you like it? Why or why not?

Here is a comparison of the Kindle products available.

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Just a Position on Juxtaposition

JJ is for Juxtaposition

What is juxtaposition?

jux•ta•po•si•tion [juhk-stuh-puh-zish-uhn] noun 1. an act or instance of placing close together or side by side, especially for comparison or contrast.

Juxtaposition is a literary device used to create a vivid mental image by placing two dissimilar things side by side. Imagine trying to understand the concept of darkness without comparing it to light. It is much easier to grasp a concept when contrasting it with its opposite or something vastly different.

One of the most well-known uses of juxtaposition occurs in the Old Testament of the Bible:

Ecclesiastes 3
1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

How is juxtaposition used in literature?

Here are a few examples:

In book titles

Juxtaposition in book titles sparks interest in the story. Consider the following examples:

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler

In Settings

• To set the tone of the story

One of the most memorable opening lines in classic literature is from A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way…”

• To contrast the opening image with the final image

One way to show how much has changed over the course of the story is to contrast the final image with the opening image. The best example that comes to mind occurs in the novel Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

The first scene shows Lennie taking long gulps of water from a deep green pool. George walks up behind him and scolds him for drinking from a questionable water source. George is obviously concerned about Lennie’s well-being.

The last scene shows George and Lennie at the same pool with Lennie drinking water from it once again. They sit and George instructs him to look out over the pool and imagine their future together. From behind him, George retrieves a gun from his pocket and shakily places the gun to Lennie’s head.

In Characters

• To create contrast between characters

This is often done between the hero and the villain. We all know of the typical villain dressed in black and the hero of course is wearing white. Consider Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. One is evil and draws power from the dark side. The other is good and reflects the light.

• To create contrast within a character

The contrast within a character creates interest. It makes them more memorable. A villain that is just plain evil is boring, but what about a serial killer who affectionately cares for his invalid mother?

Can you think of other ways to use juxtaposition in writing? Can you think of other examples of juxtaposition in book titles? In settings? In characters?

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Blogging from A to Z

A2Z-BADGE-0002014 2I’m taking on another challenge: Blogging from A to Z during the month of April. Last year I was new to blogging and didn’t know about the A to Z challenge until it was well underway. I was disappointed that I missed out on it because I’m always up for a challenge and the participants seemed to be having so much fun.

The Blogging A to Z Challenge is the brainchild of Arlee Bird, at Tossing it Out. The challenge is to publish a post inspired by a letter of the alphabet (in alphabetical order) every day in April except Sundays. Excluding Sundays leaves 26 days in the month and there are 26 letters in the alphabet. Get it? On Tuesday, April 1st, you will post about something that begins with the letter “A” and continue the daily post through the remainder of the alphabet.

You can blog about any topic. My blog is about writing so my theme will be related to writing. I’ve already decided on the topics for each day and have planned a few posts so far.

Why don’t you join us? It will be fun!