A Celebration of Characters: Villains Week

It’s week one of that idea I mentioned yesterday! Surprise, it’s all about villains. Fret not, lovers of do-gooders and champions of justice, as the Heroes Week will follow with just as much attention and love as this one. I’m aware that’s shocking stuff, so don’t let that cause too much stress.

However, enough about heroes. This week is all about villains, and I’ve picked specific villainous types for each day from Monday through Saturday. I could explain it, but I took a picture of my notes earlier as a teaser and, really, that’s the easiest way to handle this. If we’ve not yet established my capacity for being supremely lazy, this is a great time to do so.

It's official because I wrote in a notebook.

It’s official because I wrote in a notebook.

The plan for each day is to define each type of villain mentioned above, giving specific examples in popular culture, and then discussing the pros and cons of their use. I’ll also be focusing on how they can, in their own way, be the heroes of their own narratives (even when they are causing chaos and destruction all around them). There are some exceptions to that last bit, as Friday and Saturday’s options don’t really leave a whole lot of room for arguing that they’re just misguided and trying to do what’s best. Old Gods and Liches are usually just forces of pure, ancient evil, after all, and so they’re typically convinced the best possible plan of action is laying waste to everything.

I’m especially excited for the Lich entry, but I’ve saved the best for last.

Brace yourselves, folks. This week’s about to get awfully evil.

Heroes: Plot Devices with Moral Compasses

A great villain is the source of tremendous conflict. They bring about havoc, sewing the seeds of destruction and chaos everywhere they go. Naturally, there exist such people who only desire to thwart such nefarious folks in their plotting and scheming. Such scoundrels range from the ignoble bound for redemption to nobles who must first fall from grace before finding their true purpose.

I’m talking about heroes in their many forms, and how they tend to ruin everything.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and though they may be little more than plot devices bolstered by a strong need to do good and right…I have to admit they are an essential part of storytelling. Without them, who would give help give villains better reasons to make use of their laser death rays? My disdain for the heroic aside, I must say that a good hero makes for a good story. That was painful to type, so I’ll just jump into some of the most beloved varieties of daring do-gooders before I start to really regret this post.

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Preferred Varieties of Villainy

This has nothing to do with tonight’s post, but Fall Out Boy’s “Immortals” has been my jam since I watched Big Hero 6 a couple nights ago. I may not know what the Hell half of the lyrics are, but it’s fun listening. Also: it probably has a bit of a boost in how much I like it because I associate it with Big Hero 6, which is an absolutely phenomenal piece of cinema. Relating to movies, music, and so on, I’d like to take a moment from tonight’s post to say goodbye to Screen Robot. I found out it’s shutting down today. Screen Robot was one of the first homes to my writing that I didn’t create. I’m sad it’s gone, but as their Twitter pointed out I should be happy it existed and so I am.

Here’s a transition sentence because I’m feeling all sorts of lazy right now. Don’t you judge me, damn it.

It’s safe to say by this point I’ve established I prefer villains over heroes. One could even go so far as to say I’ve belabored that point, but that’s wrong because there is just so much to love about the wonderful world of villainy. Seriously, people: who do you think has more fun? The unlucky bastard who has to travel all the way to some far-off evil lair, getting battered and bruised along the way, or the evil genius with the frickin’ doomsday device? The answer’s obvious.

Villains are simply more fun to write. There’s no denying that, and with so many varieties of villainy it’s easy to get lost in having fun while writing them. I’m going to keep this relatively simple because I don’t want to write a thousand pages on this topic. There will be plenty of other blog posts down the road on the same damn topic anyway. Without compelling, well-written villains, even the best heroes aren’t any fun to watch. Their victories become hollow and bland. Here are just a few of the many entries one might encounter in a proper gallery of rogues. Continue reading

On Scott Pilgrim and character flaws

Once upon a time, back when I was still attending college at Edinboro, a movie titled Scott Pilgrim vs the World came out. At this point I had never heard of, let alone read, Scott Pilgrim. In my defense, which is difficult to say I suppose given how much other nerd culture I readily gravitated towards, I hadn’t really started branching out with what comics I consumed. Read that last bit as “I only read the Joker-related Batman graphic novels and Johnny the Homicidal Maniac at this point” and it’ll make more sense. Everyone I knew at the time happened to be rabidly frothing at their mouths about how the movie adaptation of these beloved graphic novels was the best thing ever. There was much outrage regarding the fact I’d not seen it. How dare I?

I did something I was very good at doing at that time; I deliberately avoided all and any possibility of seeing Scott Pilgrim vs The World for as long as I could. This plan served me well, or at least it did until I found myself in a particularly unpleasant mood. One trip to Walmart and a sudden treat-myself-purchase later, and I had the Blu-ray copy. There was probably some motivation there outside of just having an up-and-down experience at Edinboro, but that has since gotten lost with time. What I do remember is that I invited people over to my apartment, which had gotten to a point where it felt large and empty and very lonely at most times, and I watched this movie. Continue reading

On elves, orcs, and other standard, fantasy fixtures

Fantasy creatures are all pretty well universally recognizable to most fantasy and non-fantasy readers alike. Orcs are usually the big, burly ones with green skin and a need to break bones, invade places, and generally wreck things in the name of honor, family, and glory. Elves are beautiful, often androgynous, woodland-dwelling masters of archery. There are certainly plenty of variations on these themes, but they are tried and true enough to keep readers (and viewers and gamers) coming back. Is it because these types of characters are familiar, bordering on near-family? Or are they more like set pieces to the overall story?

One of the driving forces behind A Princess, A Lich, and Some Murders is that I wanted to play around with these races of characters. High elves are always the most revered, esteemed characters, but why can’t they be laughable, lowly gutter-scum? Why not make orcs sophisticated, reformed from their more bloodthirsty ways? Does deviating from the tried and true versions of orcs and elves and so on reduce them to something less than they are meant to be or help them grow into something more?

Are writers better off sticking to the usual of what works or should we focus on mixing things up more often?

I’m asking these questions as I write, of course, but my focus is elsewhere. I’ve been slacking, and this novel has been sitting. There’s writing to be done if I ever expect this to be the novel that gets me noticed by HarperCollins (wish me loads of luck, please).

What’s in a title: villain versus antagonist

Today I learned the lawn at my new apartment is a real behemoth. Everything is actually quite sore. Fortunately for everyone, however, I will not be talking about that in this post. I also make no apologies for any typos that sneak through as my hands really hurt. God damn it.

There’s something about having a degree in English/Writing, being a writer, and a tremendous fondness of language that makes for me being picky about words. I focus on that before diving into this topic for a reason. I’ve heard two perspectives on this topic. One says that villains and antagonists are not the same thing, while others say those are two words for the same thing. Perhaps it’s a matter of perspective and how the writer, artist, director, or other creative-type is choosing to use the titles and their respective roles in the story? You could argue that, yes, and I’m sure it could be argued pretty well. This part, by the way, is a bit painful to admit.

They aren’t, at their core, the same thing. Both may spend portions of a story appearing to twirl their mustaches (lady villains and lady-antagonists don’t waste time with such frivolous appearance-based activities), but there are crucial differences that prevent the words from being interchangeable.  Continue reading

Ding! Character’s done.

I’d like to say, dear readers, I wish you were all here so I could share some of this delicious hot apple cider I’ve mixed with Maker’s Mark, but I’m also a terribly selfish person and I don’t think Jason would approve of me having a ton of strangers in his house for no reason other than sharing my booze. I’m making today’s post right at the start of today, as it’s a most auspicious occasion. I get to meet Jason’s new girlfriend, which means it’s my duty as Jason’s best friend (or at least as one of the people who holds such status) to pass righteous, evil judgment on her!

My nefarious ways aren’t the focus of today’s post, however. Continue reading