The Wednesday Villain – The Power-Hungry Subordinate

Praise Odin it’s Wednesday and the worst of the week is probably over with. Probably. Shit, I certainly hope it’s over with at this point. Also, I realize that all of the types of villains I’ve featured so far are power-hungry. That shouldn’t be particularly surprising. This post feels even more ridiculous since the writing process involved in it has now spanned the entire day and I’m still only on the introduction. Bonus points because I at least managed to start organizing my living room, and I trimmed my beard for the first time without completely shitting it up. Please don’t judge me too harshly for that last bit, as this is my first real attempt at not being perpetually baby-faced. Right. So, moving on.

Today’s all about the Power-Hungry Subordinate. These are the bad guys waiting for the right time to make their move, stepping out of someone else’s shadow in hopes of casting a far greater one of their own. That’s not to say all villains classified as this type are working for other ne’er-do-wells, however. Some of the best-known Power-Hungry Subordinates find themselves trapped answering to a horribly cheerful, aggressively positive force of good. Such a dreadful fate. I wanted to try arguing these sneaky minions find themselves on a mission to overthrow a Tyrant, but I fear I might be venturing dangerously far into the realm of wishful thinking.

As with other types of villains, they can be pitiable. The Power-Hungry Subordinate seems to have a greater capacity for being sympathetic figures as they are typically in situations that have driven them to extremes, even if they do have broken moral compasses to begin with. I’ll get to that a bit more in one of the examples, though. Continue reading

Tuesday Villain – The All-Powerful Sorcerer/Sorceress

The word sorcerer apparently really trips my brain up for some reason, which is a bit embarrassing really since my genre of choice is fantasy. I’m also far more tired than is conducive to writing a blog post, so I better get my ass moving or this will conclude abruptly with a bunch of garbled nonsense from my face slamming against the keyboard. This post is technically late, and I wish I had an excuse. Instead, I was watching videos of Markiplier getting scared out of his mind while playing Five Nights At Freddy’s. Whoops?

All-powerful magic users are a prevalent part of popular culture. They’ve been a big deal for a long time, and they can be sagely advisers just as easily as they can be agents of profound evil. As a former practitioner of the dark arts, via my Warlock in World of Warcraft, I feel it’s my responsibility to weigh in on the dark and light sides of sorcerers and sorceresses, both of the good and bad variety. Tonight’s, of course, is all about the villainous ones. Continue reading

Celebration of Characters – The Tyrant

On the first day of villainy, FictionalPenguin gave to thee…the Tyrant of boundless power and greed!

I’m so sorry. That was really the worst, just like the first kind of villain I’m focusing on: the Tyrant! Tyrannical leaders come in all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, and so on. They can start off as a democratically elected official with the best of intentions and the worst ways of handling said intentions, or they could always be a bad-to-the-bone, power-mad thug.

The Tyrant is almost always a control-freak. Every aspect of their dastardly plots, whether those plots are just to keep a kingdom under complete control or world domination, must be something they have total command over. Being able to manipulate every detail of their surroundings is key, to these characters, in maintaining their death-grip on power. Without that, they seem to have nothing and so such characters fall apart. Continue reading

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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Capturing the magic of magic systems

The concept of magic (or magick, in some cases) is absolutely fascinating to me. It’s neither inherently good nor evil, and it has a virtually unlimited number of practical uses. Each fantasy world has its own approach to magic use and magic systems, too, further adding to a story’s complexity. Better still, magic can range in importance from being a key plot device to just being background noise.

Alternatively, there are plenty of arguments against magic in fantasy (written, on-screen, etc). It feels like a cheap solution that characters can use to further the plot and bypass otherwise-insurmountable obstacles. It’s lazy. There are too many different approaches to the same thing. And so on. While I appreciate these views, I don’t necessarily agree with them. I think a large part of how well or poorly magic and a magic system works in a story comes down to how it impacts the way characters interact. I’m not just talking about how characters interact with each other, but also with situations and environments.

A quick and easy example to go off of: a character is entering some temple hall. It’s vast and ancient, and above all else it’s most certainly very dark. Yes, the character should be carrying a torch. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t. There’s always a chance some giant spider-demon had to be dispatched by the torches flames earlier. That’s not the point. The chamber is, as all ancient temple halls are, loaded with dastardly traps just waiting for some careless rube to trigger them. There are also convenient, relatively well-used torches lining the walls. They’re extinguished, however. It’s not like someone gets paid to stick around these places and reignite torches for a living; the folks who did wised up years before and unionized, making it near-impossible to keep such rooms as this well lit.

Now the character could very well build suspense by crossing this room by torchlight. There’s no doubt in my mind that readers would be on the edge of their seats, fearful for our nameless hero. Or the hero could ignite the torches with a well-used, well-timed spell. With the right elements–a mysterious shadow shifting about, or perhaps something foul awakened by the newly reignited torches–and the right pacing, this use of magic works to help the plot along while still helping build tension. This example doesn’t even begin to delve into the realm of possibility in which backfiring spells and misspoken curses, among other things, exist.

There’s also a lot of fun in basing entire civilizations around a centralized magic system. It allows for a lot of fun what-ifs. What if that society’s magic system collapsed suddenly (whether that was by means of the magic suddenly no longer being accessible or turning against the magic users)? What if the ability to properly harness magic was only afforded to society’s super-rich? Or perhaps its outcasts, instead?

Obviously, all things in proper moderation and so on and so forth.

What’s the best approach to magic? To really own it and make it part of a story? To let it be a small part of a bigger world? Or, perhaps, is it best to just avoid it entirely and work on other methods of storytelling?

The revenge of the return of me self-destructing through writing

It’s almost a month into the new year. I’m seven chapters and a couple of dreadful, pained paragraphs into chapter eight (because killing a major character is proving more difficult than I’d expected, so that’s regrettable). I’ve also watched three seasons of The Legend of Korra and a whole lot of Parks and Recreation, which is just great for not being productive.

Brianne and I had a delightful conversation about my writing, by which I mean she reminded me to stop focusing on what I haven’t accomplished. There was a specific mention of One Hundred Days of Blogging, the details of which are a bit blurry because I vaguely recall words intermingled with me screaming internally, and then an idea happened. It started as only a couple words, which was enough to lead to it finding a spot in my Miscellaneous Shit Notebook That Deserves a Better Name.

Let me make it perfectly clear that I hate myself so much for the words I’m about to type.  Continue reading