Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nanowrimo Plan

Well, I've been knocking my head against the brick wall that is editing The Butterfly Lady and reached a crisis point of: This book is so OMG boring I just can't stand reading it another second all I see is issues bwahhh! So I'm thinking I may have over-edited it. I may have over-read it. I may, in short, after six months, need to take a step back, have a sit down, draw a few deep breaths, and GO DO SOMETHING ELSE FOR A CHANGE.

So I've figured I'll throw my hat into the Nanowrimo ring. I'll do a bit more editing/writing to get the novel to the new ending that I think it needs and I'll take October to do that. Then in November I'm going to totally take a look around and start seeing other novels.

I'm currently tossing up between:

An Inquirer (think police detective meets KGB) in a fantasy-land city starts investigating a simple homicide and ends up caught between a war between two Noble Houses.


A Librarian whose role it is to gather, remember, and teach information in the largely illiterate lands of the Ihlander Salt Plains (think post-apocalyptic fantasy land) tries to keep peace between warring tribes of orcs, deal with raiders, and discover why a mysterious oasis has re-appeared and what happened to its original inhabitants.

So ... Fantasyland Conspiracy plot or Fantasyland Post-Apocalyptic Mystery.

Hmm... Any thoughts? And is anyone else doing Nanowrimo?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good Books, Pretty Books, Pretty Pretty Books

Yay! Went into the library and found Beyond the Shadows (Brent Weeks) and Dancing on the Head of a Pin (Thomas E. Sniegoski). I've read the first book in the Brent Weeks trilogy. The later just has a really awesome cover and blurb. Either way, I'm excited. Now all I need to do is get a hold of Dragon Haven by Robin Hobb (I'm halfway through it but had to return it because someone else had it booked) and I'll be in for a very happy week of bussing. Anyone else reading any very good books?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Law Enforcement

In my country, we have the law separated into the Legislative (law and policy makers), Executive (police officers, government officials, and other such people who enforce the law), and the Judiciary (those who judge breaches of the law and decide punishments). In the Realms, the government is split into the Legislative/Executive and the Executive/Judiciary. Basically, the ruling class (consisting of members of the five Noble Houses who have sorceress lineage) are both administrators and law-makers.

The Law Enforcement side of it combines the Executive and the Judiciary. It's split into two levels. You have the Watchmen who wander the streets, keep an eye and ear to the ground, and are basically city guard who promote law and order on the streets. Then, separate to these people, are the Inquirers and Auditors (derogatively referred to as 'Grey Coats'), who investigate crimes ranging from murder to sabotage to conspiracies to treason (depending on their rank / designation). The Inquirers and Auditors are two sides of the Department of Justice. Basically, Inquirers investigate most crimes and Auditors oversee their duties and fulfill the role of judge of crimes brought before them (as well as investigating certain high-profile fraud, treason, and other such cases).

Yeah, there's room for bias there, which the Audorian Queen has attempted to deal with by creating special schools for the Department of Justice. When likely candidates are identified from the school children they are transferred to that school and their parents paid a certain yearly amount called an honorarium. Since the year 23, schooling has been mandatory for children below the age of 14 in any area with a local school - hence why apprenticeships are illegal for anyone below the age of 14 - so there's an increasing pool of candidates. Nobles are barred from entry in the Department of Justice to keep them free of corruption. The schools are basically brainwashing academies that turn children into analytical officers of the Realms. Corrupt officials in the Department of Justice are all charged with treason, by the way, and their names become mud.

Sounds cool, huh? When I'm done editing The Butterfly Lady I'm going to write a novel from the point of view of one such Inquirer in the service of the Realms.

So, have you decided what your country's Law Enforcement Agencies look like?

Thank You To My ADHD

I know this is going to seem like a strange blog post but I feel moved to post it anyway. A few years ago, my mother told me that I was once diagnosed with ADHD. Now it caused me trouble as a kid (though I didn't know I had it) as I was a motor mouth with no sense of time (or direction, but that's another story) and I was so busy thinking a million-miles-an-hour that I found it hard to make friends as I spent too much time thinking about what I would say next. I once had to stick a post-it note in high school to my forehead to remember that mum had put a bottle of Coke in the freeze to quick-cool it and I had to get it out after an hour.

Very forgetful.

Fast forward and almost every one of my skills are due to learning to cope with what others might label a disorder. I'm sure I got off lightly. I don't believe my ADHD was very severe so I don't blame anyone who found only trouble from it and I'm certainly not saying that I'm awesome for being able to learn to cope with ADHD.

What I'm saying is that my ADHD was awesome for me. My thoughts fluttering a million miles an hour taught me how to let my thoughts soar. My low boredom threshold taught me to daydream constantly in any dull moment or analyse the surroundings or jot down notes for novels or think about all the things I had to remember to do and what order to do them in and how best to get them done. I learned to cope with my scatterbrained nature by doing up lists which show me what I've done and what I've yet to do and where my planning fell down and where it can be improved.

I've also learned to pay more attention to other people. Sometime I find it hard to stay 'in' the conversation but I do put a lot of thought in and around conversational times about what someone said and how they said it and how they reacted. I've become a lot more conscious of how I present myself and my words. My psychology degree mixed with my ADHD-fueled analytical time mixed with my novel-writing / role-playing / improvised theatre mind to help me figure out how other people interacted and why and how best to approach people. It also helped me to sit back during my daydream-times and take some perspective and think about personal philosophies like:

Never make a promise you can't keep.
Never offer something you aren't willing to give.
Never get caught up in an argument (as opposed to healthy debate) if you can help it. Antagonism benefits nobody.

Since I can't turn my mind off, I can't simply pretend that social gaffes didn't happen. I sit there and I think about it and I figure out how to do it better. I think about who I've seen that did it successfully. I think about what I could do or should do. And when I'm not thinking, daydreaming, or analysing, I'm reading and that opens my mind to further viewpoints and perspectives, both in non-fiction and fiction.

My ADHD has also given me the need to swap between tasks to keep my mind refreshed and on-task and while I'm not a great multi-tasker (I'm not great at doing multiple things at once), I am pretty good at task-swapping successfully and this often cuts down on procrastination and the slow-down that often comes from keeping with the same task for too long.

So yes, thank you to my ADHD. You have provided me with the energy to think, the drive to spend my time doing / thinking, and the need to find ways to regulate my time to keep myself on track - skills that have led me to becoming the imaginative, analytical, efficient, and inventive person I am today.

I am who I am and I am happy with that.

My Measures of Time

Well, I've been asked to elaborate on my date system so I thought I might as well do it here in case anyone else is interested. Basically, Year 0 is the Year of the Magocratic Revolution when the sorcerors who had been banished 22 years before hand from Audor Towers (the only place sorcerers were allowed - and even then it was a small, dinky island) drew together the merchant class, naval class, monster hunters, and even an aristocratic turn-coat family to overthrow the old ruling class.

On an aside, there were many reasons behind the revolution: the merchants and bankers were often richer than the nobility but there was little upward mobility and debts on the nobility were sometimes forgiven by the King; vital technology like the printing press was repressed despite its use in surrounding countries due to fears of the peasant-folk getting uppity and that made them a backwater nation with increasing fears of invasion; the nobility were keen to spend freely on themselves but public works were neglected; the serf system was horribly out-dated compared to more progressive surrounding societies; charismatic sorcerers can do a lot with a few enchantments; and an idealistic vision whereby those blessed by the Gods to wield magic could protect the common man (what better divine mandate can you get!).

The country considered itself reborn at the Year of the Revolution. To denote time, years since the revolution are dated with a simple number, i.e. 92, while years prior to the revelation are depicted with a '-' sign, i.e. -92 would be 92 years before the revolution. I just wanted something a little different from using initials to denote passage of time or the other habit of simply having time go forward from some unknown start point (though that might be interesting in a fantasy society living in 9203 because that's how long the civilization has existed). So yes, woo! My dating system.

As for other areas of time, my world has clocks in it so that makes judging time by minutes and seconds easier though I need to reduce the usage of that in nautical and very rustic areas (that probably judge time by bells). The clockwork mechanisms are getting highly refined due to technology imported from Chiang Khang and thus you can get grandfather clocks. Still haven't decided on whether they have pocket watches. I'll need to research that one's timeline and then consider whether I want that to be invented during the course of my various books set in that world.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Adverbs could be signalling much more. They could be little red flags that here's a chance for you to develop your characters / scenes more so instead of just pressing the delete key, look at them as a reminder to deepen the scene. TheOtherSideOfTheStory explains!

A quote from a fun blog: Sometimes you just got to tell the reader something to get it across. But when you are forced to, do it with humor :"Rev. Smug was never a man to let his religion get in the way of his love life." So true. Go to
Writing In the Crosshairs to find out more.

Methods of developing unpredictable storylines, surprising your reader, and a bunch of questions to help you do so can be found at
TheOtherSideOfTheStory while another article at that same place will tell you about how to find the action and up the stakes in your novel.

Flights of Fantasy have a post on Swords in Fantasy. Many different types of swords are described, from sentient ones, to ones with different powers, and how the post author just loves all these different uses for swords in fantasy. It's an interesting and fun read.

TalkToYoUniverse have a post on details in fiction. This blog post contains one of those lines that really sums up what I've been trying to say with my posts on descriptions: ''confound the easy expectations and your world will start to pop." It's not only good because contrasts and contradictions catch the eye (try saying that one three times fast) but also because it makes the viewpoint character feel more real. I would notice the CEO's nose ring or chunky gemstone bracelet before I notice his Armani suit, after all. In a public library, I would notice the Warhammer 40k terrain set up in the Youth section (complete with a number of Warhammer 40k books in center stage) before I would notice the other book shelves. Therefore it makes more sense when the character does, too.

A few more useful links from TheOtherSideOfTheStory (a blog which I heart more and more and which is increasingly convincing me to hunt down the Shifters trilogy that she has written) involve
how to strengthen POV through description (an area critters always bug me about), describing movement through sound alone (very cool way of looking at it), describing emotion within the POV (to help the readers feel inside the character's head - another issue of mine), and a post on describing what the reader's don't assume.

Message From My Ideal Reader

As my targeted audience is, well, really it's me. Yep, I'm egotistical to write a novel based on me as the most marvellous audience of all! So I figured that I, as a reader, should write a message to me, as a writer, so that I can figure out just what I want in a novel. I'd suggest you all do the same (and if you do, link me to your blog post through the Comments section).

"What do I want? I want the world. Your world. I want to explore its strange lands and see places I've never visited before - whether that's a New York urinal or a mystical glen. I don't just want to read a word that says I'm there. I want to feel like I've been there, like a tourist who can recount the wonders they've seen, and that means I need to see, hear, and, hell, smell that urinal or mystical glen. I want you to make me think and feel.
I want you to stretch my understanding and help me see the world from a different perspective. Not constantly. That would make my brain hurt. But once or twice in ways that fit with the mentality of the host body I'm riding (also known as the protagonist).
I demand some dose of the strange in the books I read, whether this be an assumption turned on its head (a really cantankerous witness to a homicide telling off the police about how they trampled his hydrangeas rather than a timid or helpful witness) or bizarre sub-dimensions and hell-pockets that barely match our reality. I don't want too much strangeness, though, not outside of a short story. Hell-pockets are all well and good but they're better if they imitate the familiar but just don't quite make it.
Mostly, I want to play the voyeur in an unfamiliar place. I want to root about in someone else's dirty laundry (lots of neat gossipable secrets and issues between characters, please), see what their homes look like, find out what they think about people, and see what certain situations (natural disasters, wars, divorces) are like without having to go through them (and yet somehow feeling like I almost did). I also like seeing someone else being dragged through the mud of tragedy but ultimately I'd like some hope with my horror, thanks."

So that's me. Guess I haven't really simplified things for myself, have I?

Damned demanding Ideal Reader!

Editors Anonymous

Well, I just realized a week ago that I've been editing for 6 months, going through Critique Groups, yadda yadda yadda, only to find that I haven't ended my novel with the ending. I've ended it with the pre-ending. I'm not all that surprised as I hate endings. Always have. The Butterfly Lady is the first novel that I've actually ended even with a pre-ending ending. So what I need to do, as my novel is already 100,000 and I'd rather not stretch to 120,000 even though it's a Fantasy novel, is delete from the beginning and perhaps a sub-plot from the middle, to make room for the ending. Especially as the ending is going to be at least 20,000 words. Possibly more. Possibly 40,000 words. So even if I delete 20% of the work, I'll still be pushing that 120,000 word mark which I promised myself I wouldn't.

So, in short, Editing =

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Local Government Meetings

Well, we had a big department meeting and other than sharing what each section has been doing, we also brought in wedding photos to put up on the whiteboard, told tragicomedic wedding stories, and had a paper plane competition. There were awards for Best Plane, Worst Plane, and Best-Looking Plane. I got the Best-Looking Plane award (despite having written an inspirational piece as an incentive to the plane that said: 'Fly well or I'll burn you). Our Deputy CEO decided to demonstrate to all of us the value of innovation (which was the Corporate Value we were working on that day) by scrunching up his plane into a ball and tossing it. It did go furthest but he was disqualified as it didn't look like a plane at all.

Other office antics include a girl wearing a party hat as her Do-Not-Disturb sign, a team leader using ticker tape to let us know that when she closes the door assume its a crime scene and don't disturb, a walk-around-with-balloons-tied-to-your-feet and try to pop the other person's while strolling around (I'd hate to do the Risk Assessment on that one), and other merry antics.

Also, our watercooler conversations actually take place at the printer when random people meet up to beg the Printer Gods for our paperwork.

So yes, for those writing office scenes and meetings but haven't worked in one ... life isn't always as boring as we expect it to be. Always find someone to ask if you can.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Meeting Differences

Well, it's funny how becoming a writer can really hone your perceptions. Or perhaps, being perceptive can really hone your writer-ness. I've been working in local government for awhile and have gotten used to the 'official meets shenanigans'-style that fills those meetings. There's a general leveling process in the local government meetings where I've been where people test the waters with humor and speaking their minds and the senior management encourages this ... to a point. While the bawdier meetings tend to be with people of the same, or similar levels, such as middle-management and their staff - and especially when its with the team leader and their staff - humor and free-spokenness also dominate in meetings with senior management and lower staff. Sure, people do censor themselves but not to the same extent as one might expect.

So then I attended a meeting filled with social workers, teachers, and nutritionists and found it to be quite different. Where we might have a fifteen-minute brain storming session scheduled, they took an hour and made sure that everyone spoke their piece. They spoke quieter, were much more politically correct, oozed politeness and gentleness, and used the sort of clarification and giving of alternatives structures that a psychologist would be proud of. In other words, they went out of their way to be inoffensive and inclusive. Their body language was kept more open and there were so many 'mm-hmms' to show they were listening / interested / agreeing that at times it felt like a meditation session.

While I have ridiculed their style a little, in truth there are many benefits to it in terms of inclusiveness. It was just that after dealing with a particular type of meeting style for so long, their version made me feel a little uncomfortable because it highlighted so many differences in communication and meeting styles. Here I was thinking that the local government forums and meetings had a good style, and here's a whole other group also having a good, but very different, style.

It just makes me want to go sit in on a business meeting and see if they're different again! Of course, maybe it just depends on the industry more than anything. If I sit in on a business meeting of a range of pen-pushers and policy-makers, it may well be the same (The Office's generally silliness ain't far off in my book - though luckily we don't have similar managers, ours are quite clever and nice to boot). Whereas if I sat in on bankers and accounters, or marketers and PR people, or the entertainment industry, it might be different again!

Do any of you have interesting meeting or business-style contrast stories to give?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Three Good Posts

So, to make up for my week-long absence, here's another post. This one is a lazy one. I'm just going to direct you to other blogs that were pretty good this week. Then I may point out a few more good points from The Good Book for Speculative Fiction writers. Also know as The Writer's Digest Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy (the one by Orson Scott Card and the editors of the Writer's Digest). Maybe. Or I'll save that for another post if this one gets too long.

If I seem a little excitable, that's because I finally got a contract signed that I've been waiting on for awhile and it feels so good to be underway at work! Woo hoo! I've been working on it for a fortnight.

So, without further ado or distractions (oh look, a cubicle!), here's some decent blog posts:

Flights of Fantasy have a post on Swords in Fantasy. Many different types of swords are described, from sentient ones, to ones with different powers, and how the post author just loves all these different uses for swords in fantasy. It's an interesting and fun read.

TalkToYoUniverse have a post on details in fiction. This blog post contains one of those lines that really sums up what I've been trying to say with my posts on descriptions: ''confound the easy expectations and your world will start to pop." It's not only good because contrasts and contradictions catch the eye (try saying that one three times fast) but also because it makes the viewpoint character feel more real. I would notice the CEO's nose ring or chunky gemstone bracelet before I notice his Armani suit, after all. In a public library, I would notice the Warhammer 40k terrain set up in the Youth section (complete with a number of Warhammer 40k books in center stage) before I would notice the other book shelves. Therefore it makes more sense when the character does, too.
The Other Side of the Story have a post about why your novel died. It's also pretty handy for interpreting what your critters actually meant and what you should be asking yourself. Take a look at the long list of questions and thought-provoking statement designed to help you figure out why you stopped wanting to write that story.

Hmm, think this post is long enough. I'll save up the bits of advice from that wonderful Good Book for the next thrilling installment of: ON WRITING!

Learning Is Great Fun!

Well, I did my Senior First Aid certificate yesterday with St. John's and I must admit that it was a lot of fun. It also identified a few things that horrify me (objects embedded in the hands / eyes and anything to do with burns mostly). I got to relive my old Youth Theatre days by pretending to be an elderly man with a bad injury who was delirious with shock and I got to bandage people up.

Other than the improvised theatre practice, it also taught me something about learning. Anything you learn can potentially be useful to you as a writer. My First Aid lesson let me know a bit better how the body works and how it recovers. It identified a few urban myths. The new facts also inspired me to think about the level of health education and knowledge in my fantasy world. It also made me think about certain symptoms of injuries that are rarely touched on (bonk that man on the head to make him unconscious and that means he not only has concussion but there's a possibility that his position might make his tongue muscle relax and block his airway - meaning he suffocates to death).

So, not only is learning fun and useful for the original reasons (i.e. now I can do first aid!) but it also helped me as a writer. And this is also why I like my long bus trips to work, and working out of the back of a library, so many opportunities to borrow a book to learn something new. Fictional works teach me about techniques and perspectives (it makes sense that someone might view it like that - I never thought of that!) Non-fiction helps fill me up full of facts that might suggest new ideas, plug up plot holes, and simply get more educated.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Writer's Digest Guide to Science Fiction & Fantasy

I have found very few how-to-write books purely on fantasy and few of those have been as useful to me and as inspiring as this one. It even breaks down the rules of some of those medieval institutions upon which so many fantasy novels rely - manoralism, feudalism, etc. A very cool read.

Thus quototh the book: 'In fantasy, more than in any other form of fiction, the reader must feel transported to the world being created, while at the same time readily comprehending what it is he is experiencing. When an otherworldly character is introduced, the reader must be made to see the differences, but must recognise the similarities as well. Dtails ground the story's larger images and keep the reader engaged'.

I thoroughly recommend this work.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Too Many Bits of Paper

Well, as I world build, culture build, identify and develop characters, possible plot arcs, develop possible plot arcs into sub-plots and plot-points, further refine such sub-plots and plot-points into a series of instances, re-develop characters in line with current thinking, strengthen culture, jot down points of history, consider architectural norms, draw maps, jot down notes for revision of prior chapters in Book 1 I find myself in a sea of paper.

Post-It notes, loose sheets, loose sheets in plastic sleeves, random notes, precisely laid out notes, computer documents, printed documents, notes on pads, lengthy detail on pads, detailed write ups of notes in a booklet with the cover ripped off... I'm sure the answer to what I seek is around here somewhere but where? It's enough to make me want to rip out my own hair!

How do I file it? I try to gather it up, but if I print it too early, then I'll just need to re-print it. I can file it in my physical folder but what about the soft copies on the computer? Where do they go? What about the sub-sections? How do I divide it up to make it easier to access? How do I rememebr what I've written down, i.e. with characters? In short, what do I do?

Anyone else been there?

Architecture: Blends Through The Years

Here's something about world building that I've never really consciously considered until reading this lovely TalkToYoUniverse blog: The architecture of a city changes over time, yes? But it doesn't just change whole-sale. No one takes out an eraser and says: 'Well, we're a bit over Gothic architecture, let's just pull it all down and start again'.

No, they just build new houses in the newer styles. Thus you can get a crumbling old Roman-era fort surrounded by, I dunno, wattle-and-daub houses with a Gothic-era church sat in the middle of the whole town*.

Sometimes they renovate older buildings, perhaps leaving the gargoyles, but replacing the Gothic windows with ultramodern tilted, computerised windows that adjust the darkness gradient depending on how much light should be let in (an extreme example, but I'm hyped up on sugar so there you go). More often they'll renovate the interior, or part of the building (especially if it's been damaged by fire or the elements) than the whole thing. Buildings in the midst of renovations would be interesting to see in Fantasy as would buildings that are very old and aren't up to code and might dump the inhabitants through three floors into the basement if they're not careful.

Sometimes they'll just build on top of / over the older construction. The blog post mentions a Roman construction underneath a small, ancient church, that can be found inside a bigger, more modern church! Sometimes it won't be that obvious. Sometimes it's only when the owners decide to open up that painted shut door, delve into the basement, renovate the property, that they locate old rooms and basements and sub-basements from where the building had been build on other buildings or rooms pasted over.

So yes, have a think about the next time you're designing a place, whether in Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Contemporary fiction, and think about just how likely it is that all the buildings in that village, town, or city look the same!

*This is based on examples to make you think. I haven't researched the architecture here and cannot vouch for the authenticity of these buildings sitting side by side! These are really, really, really not examples of my researcher credibility...

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A fantasy variant of Hitchcock's description of suspense vs. surprise

The difference between surprise and suspense taken from a quote by Hitchcock and transformed into a Fantasy example by yours truly.

Let’s imagine that a rather perfectionist wizard is sitting in the dining room of his tower, playing with both his children and his familiar, and then, when the grandfather clock by the window fails to chime at the stroke of midnight, he goes over to a take a look. Let us assume that there is an assassin behind the curtains near the clock … suddenly he leaps out and slits the wizard’s throat before leaping out the window. The audience is surprised, but before that surprise, they have only seen a very ordinary scene without any significance.

Let us instead look at a suspense scene. The assassin is behind the curtain and the audience is aware of this because they have seen the assassin sneak behind it. They have also seen the assassin stop the clock from making a noise at midnight because the murder is to take place at midnight and up on the wall is the clock that is perfectly visible and it’s 11:45. In the first scene we have given the reader 15 seconds of surprise. In the second scene we have given them fifteen minutes of suspense.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Writing Exercise: List your Themes

One thing that I've noticed in my novel is that there are a lot of themes and sub-texts that are rolling about. I suppose that's because it's more of a character study than a plotted piece. I mean, there's a conspiracy bouncing around, but it's the characters that matter the most. So I decided to jot down a short list of themes and then round out what sort of things have happened / could happen / will happen that would fit under it. I won't include the Happen List here as it has a lot of spoilers in it for my *fingers-crossed* someday-published works, but themes are:

Loyalty to Family / Friends vs. Loyalty to Self
Trust vs. Paranoia
Broken Promises
Reconciliation v.s. Burning Bridges
Corrupted Families
Divided Loyalties
Struggle for Self-Worth
Family / Friend Obligation v.s. Personal Happiness
Hope v.s. Despair / Hope & Horror
Sanity v.s. Dissolution of the Self

And that's just to name a few. What are some of the themes in your stories?

How To Develop One's Voice

Well, there's a really cool quote in this blog by Katie Ganshurt. Basically, she was given advice by her agent to strengthen her Voice in Chapter 1 so that it sparkled as well as it did in the Prologue. She queried how she was supposed to do that.... Her agent suggested that she read the Prologue out loud, feel the mood, the pacing, the cadence, and then try to write Chapter 1 in a similar style. Very good advice. Now I just need to figure out which one of my chapters is a good enough example of my Voice.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Writing Exercise - 10 Top Villains - Part 1

Taking a leaf out of Alexandra Sokoloff's wonderful blog post on villains, I decided to list my top 10 villains and why. Be sure to tell me yours! My villains are largely drawn from videogames and movies just because I haven't read as many stories as I've played / watched (something that's changing now that I work out the back of a library). By the way, these are in no particular order.

Sae (Fatal Frame 2 / Project Zero 2)
In many ways, a representation of the Fallen Hero. This young woman was meant to be sacrificed by her twin sister in order to appease a great evil. When she fled with her twin sister, and only her twin escaped, she was sacrificed anyway but as the proper protocol wasn't achieved, she came back ... different. Now she's a twisted, laughing ghost whose touch spells death for the protagonist even as she begs the protagonist (who she's mistaken for her sister) for answers as to why she abandoned her. There's just something so tragic and yet so manic about the poor, broken soul that really pulls my heart strings.

Lucy (Elfen Lied)
This young girl was born a monster. Always an outcast in primary school until a group of bullies beat her pet dog to death, triggering a rage that slaughtered them all, she then roamed around killing people and living in their homes. That is, until she met a young boy who befriended her ... and who she rewarded by killing his younger sister (who recognised her from an earlier massacre) in a fit of rage and jealousy. Later on, she's hit on the head and develops Dissociative Identity Disorder - one personality is sweet, confused and can only say the word 'Nyuu' which I believe is the word for 'milk' and the other one is the predatory, cunning, and intelligent Lucy. I think I like most the contrast between the monster and the innocent, sort of like a ditzy Jekyll and a cunning Hyde, that makes her easier to sympathise. There's also a definite driving desire to be loved mixed up with a cold acceptance of her own condition. This tragic villain doesn't angst nor is she manic. She just accepts ... and that makes her scarier.

Sir Guy (Robin Hood television series)
I like this guy because he's unapologetically lawful evil. He wants power whatever the cost. He'll do what his boss, the Sheriff of Nottingham says, and doesn't flinch at torturing innocents, dumping his own illegitimate babies in the woods, or chopping off the hands of children. He also holds himself with confidence and just oozes calm but tough masculinity. His soft spot for Maid Marian also provides internal conflict to make him interesting as he wants her a little more than he wants to please his boss and has to constantly seek a way to juggle his two interests.

Alex Mercer (Prototype)

Alex Mercer is a disease-based mutagenic organism that reanimated the corpse of a scientist that dropped a vial of it on the ground just before being killed and collapsing on the shattered vial. The virus consumed Alex's corpse, reanimating his body in the process, using his cells to preserve its existence and creating a new entity with inhuman and assimilation abilities. While he's technically the protagonist of the game, and kind of falls under the mantle of anti-hero as he strives to halt the infection and save Manhatten Island from being nuked, his methods are anything but heroic as he consumes and absorbs random and not-so-random humans, murders hundreds, and at times assists the virus in his own need to learn what he needs to know. He's slightly emo about it all, which provides a little emotional depth, but his little shots of angsty irritation at the evil men who did this to him seems a little alien when you compare it to what he's happy to do himself! A delightfully convoluted bad guy and an alien mind to boot. What a guy!

The Faustian Devil (Many).

More of an archetype than a character but still my favourite. This is the evil con artist with the welcoming smile. This person is clever and cunning, though not very wise, and often will end up over-playing his hand. He'll play to the hero's faults, enshrining them, developing them, helping them grow, and thus is a lot of fun. He also tends to be at ease with himself, genuinely happy with his situation (at least while the going is good), and eager to gain more. What can I say? I like happy, conniving bad guys. Too much angst is bad for the skin.

And that's it for the ones off the top of my head. I'll start taking a look around, read a few more books, and do the next five over the next few months because - sadly enough, I've just realised that there are too few bad guys of interest for me to learn from.

So, do you guys have any suggestions of books I should read to find some of your favorite villains?

Two Awesome Links on Plot Building

Well, I just went and found yet another awesome couple of blog posts. This one is from Aleksandra Sokoloff and it goes into an in-depth diagnosis of what Act I should hold and takes a very good look at the characters. The whole blog seems really cool, in-depth and interesting and well worth a look and a Favorite.

Helene Boudreau's plotting OCD style is also a fun and very in-depth look at just how far you can go when plotting out your novel and ironing out the kinks. Again, well worth a look.

Cool Post on QueryTracker's blog

Learn From The Masters. We all try to do so but so often it's difficult to figure out just how we're supposed to learn their tricks and tactics. I mean, we could just read widely but we might not be able to learn by osmosis everything we need to know. This blog post on QueryTracker covers a writing / reading exercise we can do to improve our skills.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Endings ... I hates them

I always find novel endings to be the most infuriating. I mean, there I am, plugging away at my novel. The beginning rushes off full of inspiration and roses, the middle drags its butt for a bit and then lifts off and takes flight, and then at the end I'm trying to capture every one of the threads blowing in the wind and tie it into a pretty bow only to realise that I'm both athritic, drunk, and vision impaired.

Basically, endings ... I hate them.

I've written at least 3,000 pages worth of novels and it's only in this last one, The Curse of the Rose: The Butterfly Lady, where I've managed to write the ending. Only even then I hated it so much I wrote it in a very cruddy, rushed way that I felt even as I wrote it. Now that I've edited the novel a half dozen times I've realized that I always end the editing before the ending... Basically, I have a realtively polished manuscript with a First Draft ending. Now I've managed to edit my way partway through the ending. One could say that I've edited my way up to the Climax chapter.

And now?

Now I'm out of steam and want to start a new book or edit from the start again. *sigh* I guess I've gotta face my Endingitis.

What do you guys reckon? Are endings win or fail?