Thursday, March 24, 2011

What Would Voldemort Do?

Somehow I've managed to write 3/4 of my story without fleshing out my villain, and now I'm paying the price.  So this week I've done some serious pondering.  I've studied famous villains in history and fiction, I've studied some writing books about characterization, and I've brainstormed a lot.

Here's my problem.  I'm writing a middle grade book and no matter what I brainstorm, my villain keeps sounding just like Voldemort.   And he's been done before. 

As I return to the drawing board to work this whole thing out, I thought I'd post some of the things I've read about writing a good villain:

1.  The villain needs to be equally as gifted/powerful as the hero.  If the hero is too powerful, there is no tension or conflict.  The villain can appear more powerful at first, but eventually the hero has to gain the strength to conquer him.  If the hero wins by chance, the reader feels cheated.

2.  The villain shouldn't be all bad.  There ought to be some quirk or attribute that is good.  He loves gardening, or he has a favorite pet, etc.  Something that gives him dimension.  (I'm starting to realize that my favorite villains are the ones who truly believe they are doing what's right, but they are woefully mistaken).

3.  Try to avoid the stereotypes (sorry Voldemort).  The crooked politician, the hypocritical clergyman, the super evil wizard who wants to destroy Harry, etc.  If you have to use them, give them some unique twist that makes them interesting.

4.  Generally, there needs to be a defining tragic event that has made the villain who he is.  He could've been wrongfully convicted of a crime, or he had a horrible childhood, or an unrequited love interested who was cruel to him.  Give him a reason for why he does his dastardly deeds.

Hope these tips helped any of you out there who are working on villains.  If anyone has other tips, please feel free to post them!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reality Check

I just read the YA paranormal novel The White Cat by Holly Black.  I won't go into too many details for those of you who want to read it, but the story boils down to this:  Are we the kind of people we are because of the memories we have?

So what happens if those memories get taken away?  I know someone who was in a serious car accident during college.  He lost much of his memory, as well as much of his cognitive ability.  He appeared to change into a completely different person.
So what part of us is us, and what part of us has been formed by our circumstances (and memories)?
It's an interesting thing to think about while creating characters.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

ANWA Conference

This last weekend I went to the ANWA Conference in Phoenix.  I love writers' conferences!  If any of you are aspiring writers, I strongly suggest you get yourself to a conference or two.  It's a great way to learn about the business and network, network, network.  Honestly, I don't know how an author would ever get published if they didn't have a support group around them.   And there's no better place to find a writing/critique group, pitch an agent, learn from experienced authors, etc.
I even pitched an agent who really liked my idea and asked to see more.  Yay!  Of course, I'm pretty sure that she gave her card to everyone who pitched to her, but that doesn't matter.  She like my idea, so I'm claiming it as a victory.
We learned some awesome stuff about writing, pitching, querying, etc.  I stayed up until 2:00 am working on my pitch, then woke up again at 5:00.  I would suggest getting this done beforehand-- it's not fun to survive the day on 3 hours of sleep.  I would've been more prepared, but I thought I was prepared until I went to the pitch class the night before and discovered I had it all wrong.  Just another good reason for writing conferences.  
Thanks to all of the ladies at ANWA and for all the speakers/agents/etc. for putting together such a great conference.