Guest Post

Guest Post: Katie Masters on Creating Well Rounded Antagonists

book review

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.

Advertisements
Writing and Me

Update 03/10/17

book-review8

Last month, I was relieved to be able to get back to editing after an unproductive summer. This month, I’ve been lazy. I am literally a writing sloth at the moment. In fact, I’m just a sloth in every aspect of life. You know what? I’m not even ashamed.

EVO Ghost

I’m about 60% through the structural edit. I wanted to be finished with this edit, well into the line edits, and much closer to finalising a release date. If I release this year, I’ll be surprised… extremely surprised.

However, here’s what I have been listening to when I have sat my bum down to edit. This song could have been written as the EVO Nation theme song!

Zombie Playlist Paperback

The end of September goal would have been realistic if I did any formatting. In truth, I haven’t even opened the file this month. There’s always October.

On a different note, Zombie Playlist is on a price promotion from the 5th until the 12th. Get your ecopy for 99p.

Social Media

You know those months where you can’t be assed with the internet? I had that month. Instagram in particular was annoying me. I gave up on my September reading challenges because it felt like it was becoming a chore. I have over ten tags to catch up on, and other than blog related posts, I haven’t been actively posting like I normally do. I’m sure a break from daily posting will help. I’m quite happy to sit back and peruse everyone else’s posts.

Blog Guest Posts

The guest posts are the highlight of my September. Did you catch the posts by Dana Fraedrich and Faith Rivens? If you need advice on world building or beating procrastination, then follow these links:

Dana Fraedrich on World Building.

Faith Rivens on Beating Procrastination.

Katie Masters is stopping by on Friday to offer some tips on creating well rounded antagonists, and Sarina Langer is joining me on Friday 22nd to educate us in all things bullet journals. Keep your eyes peeled.

What’s Next?

Next, I do everything I didn’t do last month… or at least attempt to. There’s a lot going on at the moment, and juggling everything is hard. Even finding reading time is proving difficult. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have a sudden surge of motivation.

I hope you all have a productive month whatever your goals may be.


Content belongs to K.J.Chapman

Guest Post

Guest Post: Faith Rivens on Beating Procrastination

book review(1)

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.

Save

Book Reviews, Books and Me

Review: Timewalker by Justin Stanchfield

book-review

Timewalker by Justin Stanchfield 3/5

6tag_140917-114552.jpgSean thinks he’s going crazy when a girl from his nightmares appears to him on a lonely road. But the deadly enemies that are chasing her across time and space are no dream-and they will stop at nothing to destroy the future of the human race.

Sean agrees to help the girl, but there’s something she is still hiding from him… The truth is, Sean is the only one who can save mankind. He just doesn’t know it yet.

Review:

I picked up this book from the sci-fi section in my library, but it would be more at home in the young adult section. Young teens would appreciate this book and relate to the young characters. The beginning is a little slow, but there is a definite Stranger Things vibe: teen brothers harbouring a strange girl with powers who appeared from nowhere.

Many questions arise throughout the narrative, and are all answered as you move forward. Some are predictable, some not so. I enjoyed learning more about Hamilton and his intentions, or rather the intentions of his ‘bosses’.

Some relationships felt a little forced to me. Sean admits to ‘falling’ after knowing Kyr for a few days. Seeing her in his nightmares isn’t quite the makings of love. However, the switch up in Kyr’s affections, and the relationship between the boys and their father, was well developed and believable. It held weight where everything else was spiralling into the unknown.

I’d recommend this to teen readers who enjoy all things science fiction.


The opinions expressed here are those of K.J.Chapman and no other parties

All books reviewed on this blog have been read by K.J.Chapman

K.J.Chapman has not been paid for this review

EVO Ghost, Thrown to The Blue, Writing and Me, Zombie Playlist

Update 09/09/17

book-review8

New Release

A lot has happened in the month since I last posted an update. Zombie Playlist was released into the wild, and ARC reviews received. It was a successful release day, and I want to thank everyone who downloaded a copy, joined my ARC squad, and posted links via social media. You all helped make Dagger’s first day a special one.

Back to School

I have had a lovely summer spending time with the family. It’s not a good summer if I don’t feel exhausted at the end of it and have an uneven tan, so this year must have been brilliant. The one downside to the school holidays is my lack of writing/ editing time. I had planned to start my edit of EVO Ghost in August, but soon realised that it needed my full attention, and my full attention was elsewhere. I let the manuscript rest for another month. You know what? I didn’t mind it too much. However, by September, I was ready to get back to it.

EVO Ghost

Editing is back in full swing. This first edit is a read through and plot checker. I am only focussing on the plot and character development in this one, ensuring everything progresses how it should, makes sense, and has a solid timeline. I reckon this one may take a little longer yet. My editing notes from when I was writing the first draft are extensive. That’s the pantser life for you. Oh, and I’ve discovered about two (possibly three) unwritten chapters. I’ve left myself a handy note that says ‘something is missing here’. I’ll let you know when I figure out what that something actually is.

Zombie Playlist Paperback

I sorted most of the formatting in August by doing small sections when I had a spare thirty minutes. It wasn’t too painful seeing as the word count is only 25k. The next big step is a full cover. It is in pieces at the moment, but once it has been given the photoshop magic, it shall be raring to go to review. There isn’t a deadline for this project, but the end of September seems realistic.

Blog Guest Posts

Lately, I have only been posting reviews, picture prompts, and monthly updates to my blog. Yes, I have taken a step away to focus on my novel writing and editing, but I felt the blog was getting stale. Adding regular guest posts is the way forward. I have been organising a plethora of talented authors who are ready and willing to offer advice and tips on various writing topics. These posts will be bi-monthly. The first was only yesterday: Dana Fraedrich on World Building. The next is on Sept 22nd with the lovely Faith Rivens who shall be discussing beating procrastination.

Here’s the line up for the next few months:

  • 22nd Sept: Faith Rivens on Beating Procrastination
  • 6th Oct: Katie Masters on Writing Well Rounded Antagonists
  • 20th Oct: Sarina Langer on Bullet Journals
  • 10th Nov: Brianna West on The Importance of a Book Cover

There are plenty more planned into 2018, so watch this space. If you would like to be considered for a guest post in the future, please give me a shout.

Book Award

Thrown to The Blue has been nominated for best fantasy book in Metamorph Publishing’s Summer Indie Book Awards. It is an honour to be nominated, and there is still a short amount of time to vote. If you enjoyed Thrown to The Blue, a vote is much appreciated: Vote Here!


Content Belongs to K.J. Chapman

Guest Post

Guest Post: Dana Fraedrich on World Building

book review

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:

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Amazon


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

Picture Prompts

Picture Prompt 01/09/17

book-review12

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