Friday, April 28, 2017

3 Thought Provoking Questions For Crafting Unforgettable Antagonists

Your antagonist can breathe a little extra life into your story, or flatten it. Wholly. Just like we know our heroes as well as we know ourselves, we should get to know our antagonist as if they are the hero. Because it's no secret that every antagonist believes they're the hero of their own story.

1. Why do I love this character?

If you've ever read James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure (which I recommend you do!) you may have come across this question. Getting to know your antagonist--finding qualities that you not only adore but respect--can help you understand your antagonist more and see him as more than a villain with a villainous top hat. Your antagonist is a living, breathing, person that doesn't only exist to create barriers for the hero. He has massive stakes in your story that may have bigger consequences than your protagonists! 

2. What draws the line for this character?

Would you antagonist refuse to pursue the hero if he had to destroy a pet cemetery in the process? Perhaps your antagonist hates modern weapons with a passion and only uses spears (think No Country for Old Men). Maybe this character is extremely spiritual and only does battle using words and manipulation. Maybe he is well liked in his community, so he only uses goons to do his dirty work? There are millions of possibilities here. Finding out what your antagonist wouldn't do under any circumstances humanizes and empathizes him. It makes him seem that much more real and all the more dangerous.

3. Is there a way out (for your antagonist)?

Is there a way for your antagonist to avoid any dealings at all with the hero? Is there a way for him to avoid being the antagonist? Just like how your protagonist must be locked in this situation, the antagonist must be locked in too. Maybe he is forced to stand as a bulwark against the hero because of blackmail. Perhaps his daughter is in the hands of a higher power, a greater evil. Or, maybe he's just plain old obsessive. Whatever your reasoning, make sure your antagonist has one. Your antagonist shouldn't be able to just pack up and leave town--there should be stakes. Clear reasons as to why he's vehemently against your protagonist winning.

Those are the most important questions that help me unravel my antagonists! Have I missed anything? What questions do you use to flesh out your antagonists? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, April 21, 2017

3 Awesome Lessons I Learned While Worldbuilding This Week

Worldbuilding in a shellnut.
It's no secret that writers must write, and when one novel is finished you've got to move on to the next one to keep your mojo going.

Recently, I finished a duology of Japanese historicals and realized that I really--really--wanted to get back into fantasy writing and indie-authorship. So, the first thing I did was open up SFWA's 100+ question worldbuilding leviathan and get to work. But as the week progressed, I realized--well, I'm not writing at all! At least, not on a fiction project. Am I truly writing if I'm just world and character building? When is the right time to set down this sheet of questions and profiles and just get to writing the damned book?

Here's what I found out.

1. Set a deadline.

Seriously. Set a deadline. Over the hundreds of questions I've answered about this world's culture and mythical creatures and climate and...well, you know the rest...I began to realize I might never finish. Thousands of things go into creating a world (even if it's just a world within Earth). You've got to put thought into topographical features, mountain ranges, species of plant and animal life that live in your world. If you don't set a deadline and own up to it you might never get the novel down and finished. So, instead of worldbuilding generally, I decided to...

2. Major in the details.

Let me tell you how much that helped me. Paying close attention to things that would actually interweave with my plot (i.e., what fabric are clothes made out of? What mythical creatures live here? Where is their major source of water?) not only helped me plot more thoroughly, but it helped me think in big picture terms. The world I've built is a jungle island that is itself a living creature. Because of the abundance of water, I put a lot of time and thought into the creatures that could live in and around it. Could some creatures actually be made of water? Could there be a water dragon or two? Is it nonpotable? Can magic change that? 

And finally...

3. When you're ready, you're ready.

Don't second guess yourself. If your deadline has come and you've answered enough worldbuilding questions to make you question how well you know your real world, you're ready to emerge your audience in it. It's easy to get lost in "worldbuilder's haze" and simply keep stacking on more and more details about your world. What use is a freshly built fantasy world if there's no story there? Isn't that what the world was built for? For your awesome characters and their story? Remember, while the world you've built is a character it is also a stage. A stage for your characters to stand and fight and live and die on--all for your audience's entertainment. So, don't lose sight of the goal.

As for me, I've finished world building for the week and can't wait to start on my next series of novels. Here's the first graphic for my new novella "Wild Hope", made in celebration of finally getting out of the character and worldbuilding phase.

Winterskin's sequel, Blade and Soul, is also getting its blog tour this June. Pretty excited about that. You can get Winterskin here before Blade and Soul comes out. 

What do you do to get out of "worldbuilder's haze"? Let me know in the comments!