Villainous Words

Let’s start Monday off with a little reader participation. I want to see what you think are the best lines/monologues/taunts ever spoken by a fictional villain. Often, stories are known for their villains, sometimes more so than their protagonists. Just think about The Dark Knight, Star Wars or even Wacky Races. In fact, in a lot of comic-book movies nowadays, people care more about which villain will be showing up, rather than the hero’s story. And why not?

So, here are my top 3 most villainous quotes ever!

I’m not a comic book villain. Do you seriously think I would explain my master stroke to you if there were even the slightest possibility you could affect the outcome? I triggered it 35 minutes ago.

~ Ozymandius (Watchmen)

I ate his liver with fava beans and a nice chianti.

~ Hannibal Lecter

Stop kitchen scraps to orphans and lepers, no more merciful beheadings……..and cancel christmas!

~ Sheriff of Nottingham (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves)

Right! Let’s hear it. What are your favourite villainous quotes? You can leave a comment below.

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Writing in Colour

Yesterday, as I was typing up a scene for my novel-in-progress, I realised that I had included a lot of descriptions/use of colour. The scene itself is set indoors, in a rather dimly lit room, so all the colours were dark and kind of “grimy”. I described an antagonist’s ink-black eyes, a non-human bodyguard’s clay-coloured skin and the blazing hearth which seems to glow a murky grey-brown. It’s the first draft still, so I didn’t look back over it, lest I realise that it’s utter drivel and consign it to the Writing 2012 folder on my desktop. I knew the descriptions were not up to par and I was just getting the images in my head down on paper. I also immediately thought: Wow, that’s a lot of colours I’ve just written about.

A Dimly Lit Room

But then, this morning, I got thinking. Colours are important. I know that in fiction sometimes less is more, but I enjoyed describing these different colours and working them into the scene. After reading it all the way through, the reader should have a fusion of black, rust-brown and copper in their head and they’ll paint everything else that they read about in the scene with those colours. Everything except the protagonist, of course. This is where the power of colour comes into play…

Think about Lord of the Rings. Gandalf the Grey merges into everything around him. He’s a neutral colour in the world of Middle-earth and nobody really considers him anyone to be amazed by. Then he becomes Gandalf the White and suddenly he’s transformed. Now he’s an infinitely wise prophet who rides a white steed and blinds the enemy with his pureness. He stands out, because nothing else in the world is white, until you get to Minas Tirith, which is then led in its defence by none other than Gandalf. When you first meet Saruman (at least in the movies) you see that he has hints of black in his beard and his robes are kind of cream/dull white–there are hints of his corruption by Sauron already.

Gandalf

In my own story, my protagonist’s primary colours are midnight blue and a vivid red. Nobody else in the story dresses in those colours–they are rare, foreign and reserved for my protagonist. I like to build colour themes around certain groups of characters. My antagonist and his henchmen, for instance, constantly suggest at black, muted browns and oranges. Another character is strongly accompanied by dark green and fiery orange-red. See, there’s the kicker: she has some elements of the antagonist’s colours and the protagonists–is she a friend or a foe? Can she be trusted? The green elements suggest she stands on her own, that she’s wild and independent.

What do you think? How important do you feel colours are when writing?

What is a (Modern) Hero?

People nowadays tend to steer clear of using the word “hero” when talking about stories, whether that’s a novel or a movie. The correct word to use is “protagonist” or “central character”. It’s funny, because back here in the real world we’re quite happy to call soldiers, doctors and teachers “heroes” (which is funny, because most people don’t actually like being labeled like that). I know that sometimes protagonists are not necessarily heroes. Sometimes the antagonist is. But the point is, where have the heroes gone?

Heading back to fiction, take a look at comic books and the movies spawned from them. They feature superheroes and supervillains and they often enjoy being referred to as such. The problem, I think, is that fiction has tilted towards realism and “grittiness” rather than the lighthearted, carefree (campy, even?) fun that seemed to be popular before. This means that heroes now have to have a great deal of depth and, usually, a tortured, dysfunctional past. If you disagree, look at Nolan’s rebooted Batman franchise, the new Amazing Spider-man or any modern war movie or spy thriller. These are modern heroes.

James Bond

We no longer have James Bond ordering martinis and hanging around in exotic locales in cream trousers. He’s now grim, determined, no-nonsense and very violent (not that I don’t love Daniel Craig’s interpretation). I guess it’s good, in a way. People are focusing more on story and substance now than flashiness and style. But, I still think it’s good to remember things that have fallen out of favour–one day they most likely will make a glorious return. Everything goes in circles, including the world of fiction.

Any character who goes out of their way to help or protect others is a hero. How many ordinary people do you know who would endanger their own life for a complete stranger? Any character who resists the pull of greed, selfishness and hate is a hero. Any character who’s made mistakes and has done terrible things, who can make a change and redeem themselves is a hero.

What is a modern hero? The person who decides not to be a sheep and makes a choice to make a difference. The person who stands up for what they and society really believe in. The person who is still standing after the weight of the world is piled on their shoulders.

Marvel Heroes

Next time you hear someone refer to a protagonist or central character, tell them its okay to use the word “hero”. We can always use more heroes.

I’d just like to remind you that these are just my opinions. If you disagree, agree or have something else to add, please feel welcome to drop in a comment.

Stuck? It’s not you, it’s your character!

Traits

When I start writing something new, whether it’s a new story or the first chapter for a new character, I occasionally find myself not fully getting into the writing. Usually, it’s a case of going back and doing a little more plotting, character development or just taking a break to collect my thoughts. On rare occasions, though, I realise what the real problem is… the character.

I ran into this problem recently, in fact. I had two main characters that I was intending to use to tell the story. They were both fully formed in my mind and I felt that I knew all about them and knew how they would speak, react and live. The only thing was, one of the characters didn’t seem right. I felt like I was writing a sub-plot (and not a very interesting one). I thought about ways to change this character’s story around and make them more interesting to follow. In the end, nothing worked. I knew that this character needed to be in the story, but he just wasn’t a viewpoint character.

So, I took another character that I had been developing and explored him in more detail. He was a little older, grittier, more bitter and had something to prove to the world. Now this was the kind of character that I could really do something with. What’s more, he was the opposite of my other viewpoint character and I could already see conflict emerging between them.

I can’t give you any concrete advice on spotting whether your character might be wrong. It’s instinct, really. Try writing a chapter with that character and see how it flows. Read it back to yourself and see if you like the character and believe their motives. If not, strip it back down and try another tack. When you’ve exhausted all possible ways of salvaging the character, then you can start thinking about a new character. Don’t just throw characters away straight off the bat, though. They need development and time to grow in your mind. If you’re struggling to come up with characters who excite you, try thinking of a negative trait and a positive one and then amplifying them for the purposes of your character. Conflicting traits are present in real people and they provide great inner conflict for your story.