3 Tips To Brainstorming Villains

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Photo by Olly Bennett

One of my very favorite parts of a book are its villains. They create the drive to will a hero/heroine to survive the worst the villain and life can throw at them. Their journey to survive and overcome are inspiring.

When it comes to inspiring the reader with a hero/heroine’s survival, the villain is key. Not just any villain will do, but the worst possible foe, with great skills in bringing about their evil schemes.

Some of the best ever villains have similar qualities exhibited in stories. Susan May Warren teaches the importance of showing an almost insurmountable ability to do evil, when pitting him against the hero/heroine. This is of huge import when trying to make a believable villain.

There are other important elements to a villain as well.

As you brainstorm villains for your stories a few tips will help you to create a villain that draws the reader to keep turning pages.

3 Tips To Brainstorming Villains:

  1. Brainstorm A Lair. A villain needs a place for his evil to have a home world. Writing mentor Rachel Hauck shared this insight with me. If there is a villain point of view, this might be a place where s/he reflects on their crimes, or looks at mementos. If not, it can be a place that others discover to uncover the plots or evil intentions of the villain.
  2. Brainstorm Incidents That Place The Villain Next To The Hero/Heroine. Placing the villain next to the hero/heroine without them being aware of the evil that is so close creates tension and a feeling of danger.
  3. Brainstorm a tell or unique behavior for your villain. This can be as simple as a smell, or sound that brings a sense of foreboding in the hero or heroine, even when they don’t know what caused it. This tell can be used at different times to create an emotion.

Who is your favorite villain of all time? Why?

3 Secrets To Creating A Story Readers Can’t Put Down

Photo by Kadri H

Photo by Kadri H

Authors look for that perfect formula to keep readers engaged in their stories. The qualities that make one book a best-seller and another at the bottom of the sales list can be illusive.

There are many secrets woven into the recipe for a can’t-put-it-down novel. Just the right blend of these ingredients can transform a ho-hum story into a best-seller.

Although there are many ingredients necessary for a best-seller, there are 3 Secrets To Creating A Story Readers Can’t Put Down that stand out. If you make a purposeful effort to add these to your novel, it will drive readers to keep reading.

3 Secrets To Creating A Story Readers Can’t Put Down:

*Cliffhanger Scene Endings. At the end of each scene and each chapter it is imperative to create a sense of uncertainty going forward. The reader must long to find out what will happen to the hero or heroine. Creating the perfect cliffhanger can be as simple as leaving the action hanging, showing what the hero/heroine has to lose going forward, or creating a mysterious element that a reader can’t wait to solve.

*Characters Readers Want To Spend Time With. Some of the most beloved stories have larger-than-life characters that readers love. For example, in Dee Henderson’s O’Malley Series, we all fell in love with her characters that were once orphans and created their own family. As each family member fell in love and tried to stay alive, we journeyed with them. Create characters that draw readers into the story’s family.

*Keeping The Mystery Of Discovery Alive Throughout The Story. Wondering how the story will unfold keeps a reader’s mind engaged in the story. Be unpredictable in your plot, intersperse small surprises about the characters or the story, create a uniqueness that makes readers wonder what is coming next.

What book were you unable to put down?

How To NaNoWriMo Through the Holidays – 3 Cold Turkey Plans & Strategies

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Photo by kindhelper

So you’ve signed up for this crazy thing called NaNoWriMo and the holidays are staring you down, threatening to derail your whole plan. Take heart, there are ways to keep on track, even during the holidays.

It won’t be easy, but it is completely doable. Groan, right? Well, NaNoWriMo is not for the faint of heart. You’re a warrior writer, right?

During this holiday you can do some cold turkey writing to keep you on your word count goals for the month. The key is to plan now and pick the plan that works the best for you.

How To NaNoWriMo Through the Holidays –

Photo by Vaughan Willis

Photo by Vaughan Willis

3 Cold Turkey Plans:

  1. Prewrite your goal. This one is just like it sounds. Divide up the writing you would normally do during the days you will be vacationing for Thanksgiving to do in the days ahead of time.
  2. Schedule writing for your strengths. If you write earliest in the morning, ask someone else to prep the turkey. If you write best in the evenings, ask someone to clean up after the meal. Plan your writing time by your strengths. If you know that you will not want to write after the family comes over because you want to see them and chat until late into the night, then plan to write in the morning. Be purposeful to avoid failing to meet your goals.
  3. Post-write your goal. Take the word count you would have had during the holiday and divide it over the few days after the holiday is over. Try to get this all done within a few days after the holiday, or you will feel the task to finish the month is insurmountable.

3 Cold Turkey Strategies:

  1. Write crazy family dynamics into your story. Be inspired by the crazy family dynamics during the holidays. Use a quirky family member to build on a character. Use someone’s dialogue patterns to make one of your characters more unique. Let the characters you interact with, even that crazy lady who almost ran you over on Black Friday in the Walmart parking lot, inspire uniqueness in your story.
  2. Add a festival or community activity into your story. Community is built in your story through its culture. Add a touch of what makes your story character unique by adding a community activity or festival to your novel. It can be the May Day Parade, or Cat Fish Days, as long as it is part of what makes your community unique.
  3. Build the sensory details in your novel. Scientists have discovered that smells are the strongest memories. What does your character’s story world smell like. Think of all of the wonderful holiday smells and foods. Add some of these sensory details into your novel to expand your creative pallet.

What is your favorite part of the holidays?

3 Tips To Brainstorming A Captivating Antagonist Or Villain

Photo by Ear Candy

Photo by Ear Candy

There is nothing as suspenseful as a creepy villain or cunning antagonist. Books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and Sail by James Patterson draw their reader in by their intense villains. Regardless of the genre, an author needs to pull in an antagonist or villain to build the tension in their novel.

How can you brainstorm a captivating antagonist or villain?

The key to developing an antagonist or villain that captivates the reader is all in the purposeful brainstorming strategies to create them.

Just as an author brainstorms the backstory and characteristics of the hero and heroine, it is necessary to brainstorm the backstory and characteristics of a villain.

3 Tips To Brainstorm A Captivating Villain or Antagonist:

*Brainstorm what formed the villain/antagonist. A villain/antagonist is created by the combination of environment, intellect, and personal qualities. In determining what formed the villain/antagonist, the author can determine what motivates their actions in the story. This will make the villain/antagonist more believeable and more able to add conflict.

*Brainstorm the elements of their private world. This is the lair where they obsess over their villainous actions. Writing mentor Rachel Hauck taught me the key of setting up this world for the villain or antagonist. The antagonist might enjoy plotting at their desk, scribbling over the faces in a year book. A villain might have a grungy shack in the woods where (s)he keeps their trophies.

*Brainstorm a public persona. Determine what face your antagonist/villain shows the rest of the community. Are they a loner, the next mayor, or a down and outer. Build this piece till it is deeply layered. It will allow you to place the antagonist/villain right next to your hero/heroine, ratcheting up the tension. Then determine the secrets that they might hide with their facade.

What is your favorite villain or antagonist in literature?

How To Find Unique Flavor For Each Novel – Rearranging the Spice Drawer

Cooking at my house can be a blend of where east meets west sometimes. With a blend of Chinese and American cuisine you can imagine the amount of spices in our spice drawer. Make that two spice drawers.

The more variety of spices to choose from, the more diversity your dishes can have in flavor. This past week I organized our spice drawers and it made me think about what kind of spices I like best. Could I mix things up a bit to create more variety in our dinners?

Writing is much the same way. When we rearrange the spices we work with we create a more unique flavor for each novel.

Finding the unique flavor for each novel is as easy as changing up the following spices:

*Location. Varying the location of where a story takes place can change everything. It changes the details and richness that create story world.

*Occupations. Striving for more unique character occupations will change the direction of a story just because of the kinds of events and competence your character will inspire.

*Quirky Character Types. Not every story can have the same type of quirky characters. You select different ones for different novels. You may have a dry humor sidekick in one and a goth scientist in another.

*Who Gets The Point of View Scenes. You will always have point of view perspective from your hero and heroine, but the type of characters you give additional POV scenes to when developing a subplot can vary greatly.

*Villain Type. There are many different kinds of villains in all genre’s. Everything from the unintentional villain to the sociopath. Even Romance can have a villain of a blander variety. Mix up the villain type and adversity they create.

*Spiritual Thread. The spiritual truth in each of our novels should be varied. You may run into some that are similar due to series theme or focus, but you do want it to variate somewhat.

*Relationships. The success of different types of relationships for your hero and heroine should fluctuate. The heroine can’t always be adopted, or always have a poor relationship with her father. There should be a mix and match of different character relationships.

Remember that even though you rearrange the spice drawer, you are still the cook and your cuisine should have your signature style or voice.

What kind of things do you like to read in a novel that give it a unique flavor?

How To Add Real Life Conflicts To Your Novel – Help! I’ve Fallen Into The School Bus

Photo by Holger Selover-Stephan

Photo by Holger Selover-Stephan

If you are reading this blog, chances are I survived the back to school rush of 2016. Whew!

Four kids make back to school a challenge. There’s all of the Open Houses, school supply lists, clothes shopping, and new schedules. As luck would have it, my four children are attending three different schools, making it even more chaotic.

If you are a last minute shopper, or forgot a few items, you just might be duking it out Jingle All The Way style in isle ten. And if you are looking for a TI 84+ calculator. . . sorry, we got the last one.

This past week has been full of real life conflict that is enough to make any mom want to move to Australia with Alexander. Just like us, our characters’ lives are full of real life conflict, too.

Have you built that into the ebb and flow of your novel. Characters seem real when we give them the experiences we go through every day and they must navigate the potholes.

Here are a few tips on How To Add Real Life Conflicts To Your Novel that make it easier for readers to identify with your characters.

How To Add Real Life Conflict To Your Novel:

*Brainstorm a list of real life situations your character might face at the time of year your story takes place. It helps to focus in on the time of year when your novel takes place. List holidays, professional busy seasons, personal hobbies that might draw a character away from their goals, and even key times for other characters when they are not as supportive due to outside pressures.

*Select the events that are highest in conflict in conjunction with genre suitability. At Christmas, a chic-lit novel might have shopping woes and complicated to shop for mother-in-laws. Although those might work in a suspense, it would be much more helpful to make a character more vulnerable, having to shop after dark when there is a chance their stalker would wait for them in the parking lot while their arms were weighed down with packages. (For more on plot conflict and escalation techniques check out my book here.)

*Intensify the conflict by making us care even more. If a character has to chose between the dangers of facing that parking lot when your life is at risk and not finding a special gift for your mom’s last Christmas, the tension increases. The reader cares about the character’s safety and the last Christmas for a mom and her daughter. Using these competing values is a trick I learned from Susan May Warren in her book Deep And Wide: Advanced Fiction Techniques.

What was the crazy part of your back-to-school season?

3 Brainstorming Idea Sparks to Start Your Writing Day

Photo by esra su

Photo by esra su

Have you met someone who talks in monotone?

I’ve met a few. We’ve all been subjected to speakers who made us yawn from the moment they started speaking.

Imagine the last time you sat with your family or extended family around the table. Think of the different words and tones they used to communicate.

From the hippie, to the teenager, to the toddler, to the politician, they all have a unique choice of words and tone. The politician may strive to be politically correct and not offend anyone. The teenager’s words may ooze sarcasm.

Who are voices in your scenes?

Do you have enough different tones and unique word choices? These differences create an auditory pallet for your novel’s dialogue. The more diverse your auditory pallet, the more unique each character will feel to readers.

In creating dialogue today, think about how you can add richness to your story through voice. Use these 3 Brainstorming Idea Sparks to Start Your Writing Day.

3 Brainstorming Idea Sparks to Start Your Writing Day:

Tell your writing pal or a friend one of the most unique individuals you remember for their tone and word choices. Review what you wrote yesterday in the final scene. Then answer the following questions about your cast of characters.

  1. What are the different auditory palettes of my characters? You should have at least a few different varieties, if not, go back and add them in.
  2. What can I do to enrich these or add secondary characters to make a scene’s auditory diversity more obvious? Put characters with different dialogue styles in the same scenes together. This will create greater interest in your scenes. That is why we often see a side-kick character very different than the hero or heroine.
  3. How can I more clearly define my hero/heroine’s word choices and tones? Make your hero/heroine the only one who sounds like they do in your novel.

If you are looking for more Idea Sparking Tips like these, you can find them in my book- Idea Sparking: 30 Idea Sparks to Write a Novel in a Month.

One of my favorite author’s for dialogue is Mildred Taylor. Another favorite is Susan May Warren who once used the phrase, “How do you like your yellars?” (Eggs) Her newest release is: Where There’s SmokeBoth of these authors have very rich dialogue in their novels.

 

What are some of your favorite dialogue characters?