Guest Post: Katie Masters on Creating Well Rounded Antagonists

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I am joined today by the talented author, Katie Masters. Katie is here to offer some tips on creating well rounded antagonists, because us writers and readers know there is nothing worse than a flat, two-dimensional antagonist to see a story fall on its face.

So, give yourself a five minute break and settle down with a mug of something hot. Over to you, Katie.


Creating the Perfect Bad Guy

(who doesn’t wear leather or own a death-ray)

Hello fellow writers! When K.J. asked if I wanted to write about creating a well-rounded antagonist (that’s a fancy-shmancy snoody writer term for a Bad Guy/Villain if you didn’t know. PROtagonist is the main character), I obviously said yes. Because if there’s one thing I love more than ignoring the sensible advice I get, it’s giving it! So strap yourselves in, set your phasers to snark and grab a drink, because today you’re all learning how to make GOOD bad guys!

When a writer—but let’s just say ‘you’, because we all know this’s about you—decides to create a story we’re given 3 options for an antagonist, that horrible thing that is stopping your hero/heroine from achieving glory, love, or an awesome dinner.

Inner demons (aka you’re your own worst enemy)
External forces (aka that damn mountain’s keep you from getting to your beloved cheeseburger)
Actual Person (aka your leather wearing, death ray carrying, changed his named to Butch or Xeno bad guy. Consequently, could also be that bitch Veronica in the office who just took the last donut)

Today we’re going to focus on an Actual Person, because honestly, trying to tell you about the challenge and intricacies of an evil mountain’s thought processes would take eons. And we don’t have the attention span for that right now.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but our readers have become more savvy. They want meat, they want blood, the want *gasp* depth. Gone is the mad scientist with a death ray who wants to take over the world for no reason other than ‘because’ who monologues about his master plan for ten minutes. Readers want to know the how and why of the bad guy. They want to understand. Which means you the writer have to know the reasons.

I know. That means more effort and the using of brain cells. I’m sorry. Keep drinking.

Creating a well-rounded antagonist requires, first and foremost, a background story. None of the backstory may come out in the book. Perhaps only a fraction of it will. But if your book becomes a best seller and you go to a Con to face your adoring fans who then want to know what your bad guy’s home life was like—you better know!

Your bad guy (whether a mild one or a truly evil one) needs motive, and for a motive, they need a past. His/Her family life, friendships, social status, and even hometown, all drastically shape the perceptions they have about the world, and themselves. And you need to know all of it.

What I consider a ‘well-rounded human antagonist’ is one in which we can understand why they came to be what they are, but still perceive them as ‘the bad guy.’ Said ‘bad guy’ doesn’t have to want to take over the world or murder someone or take a love interest away. An antagonist is ANYONE who stands in the way of, or thwarts, your main character’s goal.

FOR EXAMPLE: Meet Cindy.

(This is Cindy. Say hi!)

Cindy is in accounting with our protagonist, Betty-Lou (that’s right, I named her Betty-Lou. Deal with it). Betty-Lou and Cindy get along just fine. Until one day an announcement goes up that a new manager position has come up and both Betty-Lou and Cindy are both qualified to apply.

Cindy, who was once just a fellow co-worker is now doing underhanded things to get that job. Mean, antagonist things. Spreading horrible rumors, putting salt in Betty-Lou’s coffee cup, misplacing documents Betty-Lou has to turn in, taking unflattering pictures of Betty-Lou at the company party so Trisha doesn’t ask her on a date…you get the picture.

‘What a bitch!’ you think. Betty-Lou thinks so too. Except what you both don’t know is that Cindy needs the promotion so that she can pay for a medical treatment for her son. She will do ANYTHING to get that promotion and money. So is she really a bad guy? Sure. She’s going about this the wrong way and ruining your wonderful protagonist’s life and love chances! But you sympathize. You don’t like what she’s doing, but you at least understand why.

I think in this day and age of writing, understanding the bad guy is ultimately human (or Klingon, or whatever), and that there are infinite shades of gray in the definition of ‘bad guy’, is important. You don’t have to make them likable, but you have to make them and their reasons understandable. So here’s some tips on how to do that. And no, I didn’t put them in order of importance because I’m fair like that!

1. Write a summary of the Antagonist’s past. Where did they live? Do they have siblings? One parent or two? A suburb or the city? Vegetarian or om-nom-nomnivore?

2. Write their likes and dislikes. It doesn’t have to be an extensive list. But try and get in their head. Do they like movies or concerts? Do they watch YouTube? Do they like the color pink and wear the color on their person every day?

3. Write a scene in your antagonist’s point of view. It doesn’t have to make it into the book. It’s not as hard as you think. The thing that makes writers so unique is our ability to generally be sympathetic because we naturally (in general) tend to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and see their point of view. Do the same for your antagonist.

4. Use pictures and make them a profile. Now, this advice comes back from my time as a former artist, but I find I do this when I’m creating characters too. Find a picture on the internet that looks like how you imagine your antagonist then write below (or next to) it, their likes/dislikes, their height and weight, and then their ‘bio’. That’s where you put the summary I told you to writer up there in tip one. See how helpful I am!? Less work to do down here!

Well you’ve made it! Congratulations! I’m sure you’ve refilled your cups half a dozen times at this point, and you’re a real trooper for making it this far! At the end of the day, your antagonist is as important as your main character—sometimes more so, because they have a very important role: to make your character change. So make sure that your antagonist gets the same amount of treatment at your main characters.


KatieMastersKatie Masters’ books include Brenna Morgan and the Iron Key, and The Bone Dancer.

I’ve been making up stories since I could talk, writing them since I learned how to properly put words together, and when I’m not doing that, I’m reading obscene  amounts of books, manga, and comics. Sorta in that order. 

Where to find Katie and her books:

Brenna Morgan and the Iron Key: Book One

The Bone Dancer: Novella

Blog

Instagram

Twitter

Youtube


Permission to use the content featured in this post must be sought from the author, Katie Masters.

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Guest Post: Faith Rivens on Beating Procrastination

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Good day to you all. I have the pleasure of hosting another wonderful author on Writerly Bookish Stuff today. Faith Rivens is here to discuss that annoying thing all us writers face from time to time: procrastination. Fancy some tips on getting out of the slump and beating procrastination? Get your notepad ready and stay tuned. Over to you, Faith.


Hi, everyone.

I’m excited to be able to share some thoughts with you on a problem that I’ve struggled with a lot in the past. I’m focusing on it from a writer’s perspective even though this challenge is a universal one.

Procrastination. That inclination to postpone the inevitable tasks that cause us undue stress. Is there anyone on this planet who hasn’t delayed action of some kind for any reason?

There was a time when I did pride myself on quick response and action. In the early years of my student days, I was glad to get my work done as quickly as possible. It was a work ethic that didn’t last. But it never affected my own writing life. My stories were what I used to procrastinate my school work.

And then came what I call the ‘Dark Period’ in my life, a time in my early twenties when I was struggling with what I wanted to make of myself, who I wanted to be, even my weight. It was a time when I wanted to devote myself to writing entirely and I would argue that I could make a living doing it. But when I was alone in my room, I didn’t work on stories. I just binge watched shows and read a lot and watched the time fly by.

Looking back now, I can honestly say that I wasted a good year and a half of my life going through the motions. And yes, that experience was extreme, toeing the line between procrastination and depression, but I learned quite a few lessons from that dark period about how to deal with the urge to delay, and I’ll share them with you now.

Breaking down the problem is always helpful. And I believe there are, at least, three major (pardon the scientific term) variables to take into consideration:

  1. One’s reason for procrastination;
  2. One’s preferred form of procrastination;
  3. & One’s exterior circumstances.

Let’s break those down!

ONE:

Identifying the reason behind the urge to procrastinate is essential. When I get the antsy feeling to prolong the plunge, it’s my second step after admitting to myself that I am procrastinating.

During my dark period, I hit a roadblock with my writing because I felt the pressure of wanting to prove that it could be a full time job for me. It removed the joy I felt when writing and made me more inclined to look for other things to do so I wouldn’t have to deal with that stress.

On a smaller scale, the reason for procrastination can be much simpler. Maybe the storyline isn’t clicking with you, you’re bored of the scene you’re writing, or you’re tired of staring at your screen.

TWO:

Knowing how you like to procrastinate seems especially paramount, considering that we live in a digital age. From streaming videos, to stalking twitter, to retail therapy, to browsing GoodReads to add one more book to your already mountainous TBR, to looking for the perfect pins for your novel aesthetic. I’m sure most of us rely on our computers or devices to distract us from the task at hand. And we should never underestimate the lure of a good book, either.

When I was going through my dark period, I was watching shows on the side and reading FanFiction.

THREE:

I feel the need to bring up external factors that influence us because I think too many times we neglect how the people and circumstances around us can affect our mindset. I have mentioned in the recent months that I’m struggling with a family issue at home and the challenge of that makes it difficult to focus on the work I have to do and inclines me to procrastinate my writing because my mental energy is drained.

So…

Once you understand why and how you procrastinate, finding a way to stay inspired becomes easier. Like most vices in our life, there’s no foolproof cure, but there are definitely steps that can be taken to make the challenge less daunting.

If you’re avoiding writing the next chapter or scene because you’re afraid of tackling the material, why not try drafting or outlining it first if you’re not ready to take the plunge, or write another scene to inspire you. If you’re tired of looking at your screen, try writing by hand, or schedule yourself day by day according to a manageable timetable that will make sure you don’t run into boredom.

If you know that you’re someone who procrastinates most online, find a way to switch off the internet so it can’t distract you from your task, or go somewhere different and write by hand. Or set yourself a reward system. If you write a certain amount of words give yourself a certain amount of time to connect online and then jump back into the writing.

When you’re struggling with life outside, it can be a bit more tricky to find the impulse to work and, in fact, you might find yourself slipping into a writing rut more than a cycle of delay. In those instances, when finding the will to write might be more difficult, look back and remember why writing brings you joy and look for times in the day when you might be more productive. Or set smaller goals for yourself every day. Don’t stop writing, just stop putting too much pressure on yourself to accomplish word counts that exceed your ability.

At the end of the day, friends, writing should be something you do because you love it. If it doesn’t excite you, find ways to rejuvenate and refresh, put the writing aside until you find that joy again. When you do, it’ll be easier to resist the urge to procrastinate.

May inspiration flow like ink upon your quill, dear friends!


Author PhotoFaith Rivens is the author of the novella, Eléonore. Her second novel is due to release later this year.
A reader since the age of three, publishing a novel has been a life long dream. When she’s not busy creating fantastic worlds for readers to delve into, she spends her time reading more fantastical worlds, playing the guitar, and geeking out on all things Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Sherlock!
Life is never boring with a bit of imagination!
Find Faith and her debut book here:

Permission for use of the content featured in this post must be sought from the author, Faith Rivens.

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Guest Post: Dana Fraedrich on World Building

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I am thrilled to welcome author Dana Fraedrich to Writerly Bookish Stuff to discuss a topic that is a crucial part of any writing process: world building. Grab yourself a coffee or tea and stick around for some handy advice and tips on creating an imaginative and believable world. Over to you, Dana.


Five Rules of World Building

World building, in my opinion, is one of the most fascinating things about fiction writing, but it’s also one of the trickiest.  Coming up with a basic concept is easy—a world where cybernetic enhancements are the newest fashion trend…until a major fashion designer ends up dead by her own creations.  Boom!  Done.  When you get into the nitty-gritty details, however, things can get…squiffy.

In my experience, a lot of world building falls down because the authors haven’t worked through some of the foundational details.  “But, Dana, I’m not trying to write a Tolkien-level world history here!  I just want to write a story!”  Yeah, I know, and that’s fine.  You don’t have to get that deep, but you do need a few basic elements hammered out before you introduce your world to ours.

Nail Down the Fundamentals

Whether it takes place in a fictional universe or an alternate version of ours, to create a convincing world, you have to understand the basic functions of your characters’ society:

  • How do people get food? Do they work their farms with basic tools, in cooperation with machines, or do mechanical drones do all the work?
  • What’s the currency like and how is it exchanged? Do people need to carry physical funds on them?  Or maybe there’s some kind of credit system, either electronic or paper.  Maybe money doesn’t exist and the characters barter instead.
  • How do people communicate over long distances? Wireless communication, whether via magic stones or smart phones, completely changes the game.  If your characters rely on a postal or courier system, you’ll need to take that extra delivery time into account.

Why do we care about this?  Two reasons.  First, every decision you make as god of this realm influences the possibilities within it.  Secondly, if you don’t know these things, it’ll show.  At best, the reader will feel a little lost.  At worst, you’ll write a huge inconsistency into your story.  Now, in most cases you won’t have to do more than mention these things in passing, if that.  However, if you do end up having to explain why a character refuses scan the barcode on her wrist whilst on the run from baddies, you’ll be prepared.

Crime and Punishment

What do readers want?  Stakes.  The higher the better.  And conflict comes from characters breaking the rules.  So what will happen if your main character gets caught during the big heist or meeting with that shady so-and-so?  That’s what you need to make crystal clear to your readers.  Otherwise, they won’t fret over the fate of your characters.  Maybe a school headmaster with a grudge has the power to expel students.  Maybe it’s a good high court with bad evidence before a public execution.  No matter the situation, you need to know who’s in power, how they wield it, and what your character stands to lose.

Use the Land

You can’t paint a picture without envisioning the world first.  However, some authors bog down their readers with florid depictions of rolling hills and planetary panoramas.  Descriptions of setting should create atmosphere and further the plot.  Grand vistas and poetic descriptions create calm.  Getting over a literal mountain creates a big challenge for your traveling band of actors.  Does your severely agoraphobic character have to navigate ten NYC blocks?  Okay, use pieces of that environment to show how it affects him.  The towering buildings on either side loom, the people waiting to cross the street press, the reek of garbage bags in the summer heat suffocates.  If the setting doesn’t serve one of these purposes, you can go pretty light with the details.  Do keep your readers informed, though.  At the very least, they need to know where the action is taking place.

Magic Requires Rules

Magic is like physics.  You can’t see it, but the world operates within its laws.  If you create a world with magic in it, you must know magic’s limits, its rules, and its impact on casters.  And you must be consistent!  I cannot stress this enough: magic is not a deus ex machina that comes in and fixes everything…magically.  This steals your hero’s accomplishment.  If you want to break an established rule, write in a precedent for it.

*Super advanced technology falls under this category too because, at a certain point, technology begins to resemble magic.

Don’t Take It Too Far

Like anything in life, moderation is key.  There’s a fine line between immersion and tedium.  As a busy author, you can’t spend all your time figuring out your world’s every minute detail.  If a process or element in your fictional universe matches reality, you probably don’t need to explain it (save for the really esoteric stuff).  For anything that doesn’t match, you’ll need to make a judgment call.  Your editor and beta readers can tell you what needs more or less explanation, but the choice is yours in the end.  Too many details can catch you out in an inconsistency later, so I tend to err on the side of fewer details.  After all, your audience has imaginations of their own.  And remember, seeing something work is always more interesting than being told.

A final note: don’t sweat the small stuff.  Every great story has holes in it.  Take the Harry Potter series.  It’s one of the most beloved universes of all time, but where were cell phones, guns, and the Internet?  Muggleborns must have known about those things.  Granted, magical elements were part of what made those books so enchanting, but it’s true.  And those issues didn’t stop J.K. Rowling from selling a bazillion copies.  Happy writing!


dana auhtor pic for blogAuthor Bio: Dana Fraedrich is an independent author, dog lover, and self-professed geek. Even from a young age, she enjoyed writing down the stories that she imagined in her mind. Born and raised in Virginia, she earned her BFA from Roanoke College and is now carving out her own happily ever after in Nashville, TN with her husband and two dogs. Dana is always writing; more books are on the way!

Find Dana on:

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Permission for use of the content featured in this post must be sought from the author, Dana Fraedrich.

Picture Prompt 01/09/17

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Here is another of my Instagram picture prompts for you to get creative with. I invite you to have a go at writing a sentence/paragraph/short story to accompany the picture. Remember to link your post back to me, so I can read your creations and spotlight them in the next picture prompt post.

You can find me on Instagram by following this link.

Prompt:

K.J. CHAPMAN(8)

I wasn’t foolish enough to expect Titan Mount to be deserted. The Hivers are scared of water. Something in their web of minds registers fear of the wet stuff. If the survivors were to stand any chance, it was to hole up on islands. That’s exactly why the mount was heavily populated by the time I arrived.

The problem I didn’t foresee was low tide. The sea recedes, leaving the mount exposed for hours a day. The security procedures are long and extensive. For six hours, twice a day, we have to defend and protect our little, safe slice of the world from the creatures hellbent on eating us. The bodies litter the wet sand, and then the sea returns and washes them away. We sleep, eat, and repeat.

Twelve hours a day – every day – for the rest of my life. No thanks. I’ve been gathering a group of us to head further out to sea. There is an island – Seafarer’s Bay –  about one hundred miles southwest of here. The last anyone heard, they were over-run when the last aid plane landed. If we can keep hundreds of the creatures at bay day in, day out, we can exterminate an island of seven hundred people… Hivers.


Content belongs to K.J.Chapman

400 Followers Milestone

400 FOLLOWERS

Wow, I hit the 400 followers milestone on Writerly Bookish Stuff. Thank you to all my followers, old and new. I’m delighted to receive so much support.

This calls for a giveaway. Who would like to be in with a chance of winning all four of my ebooks, EVO Nation and EVO Shift from the EVO Nation series, Thrown to The Blue from the Indigo Flame series, and an ARC of my novella, Zombie Playlist?

All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter to be in with a chance of winning these books for either yourself or a friend.

ENTER HERE

Good luck to all who enter, and thank you for your continuing support of Writerly Bookish Stuff.


Content belongs to K.J. Chapman

 

Update 02/08/17

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This is a short and sweet update just to let you know where I am at with things.

Zombie Playlist

The ARCs of Zombie Playlist are now in the hands of the readers. I shall sit here and bite my nails, awaiting feedback. It’s crazy to think that Dagger’s story is released in a month. September 4th is the big day! Mark it in your calendars. You can preorder today by clicking this link.

If you’d like to feature the release of Zombie Playlist on your blog etc, get in touch.

Blog Stuff

I had the pleasure of writing a small piece about self-doubt for Sarina Langer’s post over on her blog, Cookie Break. 14 authors offer sound advice for tackling self-doubt. Head on over and take a look.

What’s Next?

Apart from getting ready for the release, I am prepping for the EVO Ghost edit. This is going to be a mammoth task. Possibly, the biggest editing task I have had to date. I have no idea on timescale, deadlines, or the such.

The Red Archer has grown by a few thousand words since the last update, but this is on the back burner whilst the EVO Ghost edit is in full swing. I know that I will dip in here and there as I can’t solely edit without losing my sanity.


Content belongs to K.J.Chapman

Picture Prompt

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Here is another of my Instagram picture prompts for you to get creative with. I invite you to have a go at writing a sentence/paragraph/short story to accompany the picture. Remember to link your post back to me, so I can read your creations.

You can find me on Instagram by following this link.

Picture Prompt:

k-j-chapman2

As the gates open, the colour green fills every inch of my vision. I hadn’t realised how much I have missed colour. Dirty browns and dusty yellows have been our lives for so long now, even the rusty red of blood seems to blend into the landscape because it has become such an ordinary sight to us. To see a fully developed eco system such as this in comparison to the hell outside, is probably the closest many of us will ever get to a heaven.

The head honcho, Fraser, gives us a minute to take it in. “Welcome to your new home. This is where you get to start again- humanity gets to start again. You will have two days to settle in, and then you will be assigned your new jobs. Everyone plays a part in this new world. I am sure you will find everyone very welcoming.”

There is a scream from behind, and instinctively, the whole group draw their weapons. Fraser waves his hands to calm us, and approaches little CeeCee at the back of the huddle.

“What is it?” she cries, as an animal curiously walks around her. I haven’t seen such an animal in about fifteen years. The sight of such vivid pinks and the majesty of its posture holds me transfixed. “Get it away. Mama, what is it?”

“Away, Gerald,” Fraser says, shooing the animal. He bends closer to CeeCee and her mother. “I bet you’ve never seen an animal, eh?” CeeCee shakes her head, tears spilling from her eyes. “Gerald is a flamingo, Sweetheart. He won’t hurt you.” Then, he turns to address us all. “We have over three hundred species of animal within our perimeters. This is about more than saving ourselves. It is about saving our world.”


Content belongs to K.J. Chapman

Indie Book Advent #24

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Day 24 of my Indie Book Advent, and the last in this feature, is a special one for me. I would like to share my books with you: EVO Nation, EVO Shift, and Thrown to The Blue.

EVO Nation (EVO Nation Series book one) Blurb:

The government tortures her, her own kind use her, and she is learning the true meaning of ulterior motives. Teddie Leason has been dragged into the festering underbelly of the secretive world of EVO; a world about to be blown wide apart.

Now, the reclusive teenager who couldn’t get upset without her unruly ability causing destruction has to somehow embrace her gift to save her new friends and her new love.

Will the actions of one man fuel a suppressed, supremacist society’s thirst for war and vengeance, or will Teddie be strong enough to stop him?

EVO Shift (EVO Nation Series book two) blurb:

She killed him, but did it make a difference?

Her kind has been exposed, abused, and segregated, and now Teddie Leason is top of Britain’s most wanted list at just nineteen. Teddie has to decide whose side she is on, what she fights for, and whether it’s worth her life.

How can she protect the man she adores, the Uncle who has taken her under his wing, and her unfaltering friends, when she can barely take care of herself? Dealing with new power and a history that has long since been forgotten, has rendered the world’s most powerful EVO vulnerable and at risk.

When will she be dealt a winning hand? Could a clandestine, renegade group of EVO change not only her fate, but that of everyone affected by this unprecedented war? And how does Teddie fit in a world bracing for a shift of unfathomable magnitude?

Thrown to The Blue (Indigo Flames Series book one) Blurb:

Foretellings have no place for goodness, only greatness. Princess Ezrahli is far from good, but she is a great woman in a conventional Kingdom, followed by whispers and scorn. However, across the waters is un-convention, magic, and fable. Her existence has been foretold in the battle against dark magic, and destiny shall weave itself into her life because darkness cannot be fought with goodness, only greatness.

Smuggling and sorcery leads to adventure, and adventure leads to destiny. Reed is a prince of the streets, but what he lacks in title, he makes up for in skill; a skill that sets him on a path already written in fate. Can he be more than what is expected? Can he enable greatness in another and survive the process?

Vengeance is a motivator, but it can never be your friend. In the end, it will ask for sacrifice, and only the great will pay the fare.

Where to find me and my books:

Goodreads

Twitter

Amazon

2001

Indie Book Advent #21

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Day 21 of my Indie Book Advent features Daughter of Llathe by Ben Cassidy.

#.jpgWhen Wayfinder Nali is dispatched to the isolated village of Veel’na in the rainforest lowlands of the planet Llathe, she soon discovers that her task is larger than she thought. A dark terror is killing the people of Veel’na one-by-one during the Long Night, and there is no help coming until daybreak several weeks away.

As Nali races to find out exactly what is responsible for these deaths and stop it, she faces rising tension from the captain of the town’s mercenary guard and the frightened villagers themselves.

Will Nali overcome her own doubts and fears, or will the ancient evil that rots out in the heart of the Llathese jungle ultimately consume her?

Where to find Cassidy and his book:

Goodreads

Amazon

2001

Indie Book Advent #19

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Day 19 of my Indie Book Advent features Pastels and Jingle Bells by Christine. S. Feldman.

000Trish Ackerly never expected to cross paths with Ian Rafferty again, but when she spots the former bully of her childhood years through her bakery window, she thinks she may just have been given the best Christmas gift ever: the opportunity to finally give Ian the comeuppance he deserves.

But clearly she does not have a knack for this whole revenge thing, because before she can make good on her plans, Trish gets inadvertently drawn into Ian’s life in an unexpected way that lets her see just how different the man is from the boy he used to be. In fact, much to her astonishment, she actually starts to like the guy. A lot.

Trouble is, Ian doesn’t know who she really is, and explaining it to him is going to be a little difficult now—which is bad news, because Trish is starting to realize that all she really wants for Christmas this year… is Ian.

Where to find Feldman and her book:

Goodreads

Amazon

Twitter

2001