Tuesday, 31 October 2017

The November Monster...

Happy Halloween, readers.

Today, I'm not focussing on candy and ghouls and all things in between. I'm thinking of something else. A different kind of monster.

Tomorrow is November First, and with it comes NaNoWriMo!

For those who don't know, that is National Novel Writing Month, the event in which people set out to write a novel from start to finish in the month of November. By the technical definition of the term 'novel', that is 50,000 words. There are contests, goals, the whole shabang.

This is also my first year where things have lined up so I can actually participate! Yay!

What, though, is the actual goal of NaNoWriMo?

I recently read an article that was bluntly against the idea of NaNoWriMo, saying that all it did was create crappy novels and bad book proposals, and that people shouldn't bother with it at all. Basically, it was saying that the whole idea of the event was just fostering an idea of quantity over quality in words, since it focusses so heavily on word count. That NaNoWriMo, in spite of starting with good intentions, had devolved into making bad writing acceptable.

In some ways, this can be seen as true. Unless people do NaNoWriMo properly and actually treat this as a first draft and do a solid revision and edit through the next months before claiming it to be publication ready.

The way I see it, NaNoWriMo is similar to an art challenge that has been going around called the 'Sketchbook Slam Challenge'. The concept of Sketchbook Slam is similar to that of NaNoWriMo, but for artists. Basically, the artist has a 300 page sketchbook that they have to fill in one month, both sides of the page, essentially making it a 600 page sketchbook.

That's 20 full pages of sketches every day for a month.

This challenge, obviously, isn't for everyone. However, the purpose of it is to foster a habit of sketching, and teach how to draw quickly. Even if the art is bad, even if the sketches are messy and strange and have plenty of issues, the artist has no time to dally on a single drawing, and has to keep going, forcing them to learn and adapt.

NaNoWriMo works in a similar way.

To complete the challenge of 50,000 words in 30 days, one must write and average of 1,666 words every day. Some people will write considerably more on some days, while others will write less, but the point is that people are writing, and are trying to reach a goal.

They are making a work habit, and learning how to get past the first chapter and actually complete a first draft without being hung up on edits, because they have that word count that they want to achieve.

The words being put to page might not be good, just as the sketches being put to page might not be good.

But the point isn't about writing the prettiest words or drawing the prettiest picture.

The good words and good artwork is hidden behind thousands of words and sketches.

The not so good words and sketches need to get out first.

My personal goal with NaNoWriMo is to become faster at completing a book, and to actually write a standalone story (everything I've been working on for the past several years has been a connected series, so I want to have practice at tying the threads of a story.)

The book I plan on writing is a story that has been lurking in my head for a very long time, and it's about time that I give these characters and this world the time that it deserves, and actually finish a story for them.

Another personal goal I have is to not just write 50k words in this book, but to actually complete the first draft. Considering that my estimate for this book's length is about 100k, that will mean writing 3,333 words on average per day to get it completed.

Whether or not I will successful in this is...questionable, but here's hoping for the best.

Anyway, that's my spiel. Probably going to be blogging a bit on the writing process as I go. That kinda thing.

On that note, happy NaNoWriMo! Enjoy the process, get lots of writing done, and have fun!

Time to get writing!

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Defeat Your Villain Deserves

There's a villain on the loose!

Oh no!

Stop the villain!

How are you going to do it?

...and the silence drops.

This is a problem that I hope isn't personal to just being my writing problem, but I'm going to talk about it anyway. So you make an awesome villain. Check! You give them terrifying powers. Check! They seem unbeatable, a perfect challenge. Check!

This villain is UNIQUE to your story.

Well, now what? You need to beat the villain somehow.

What do you do?

There are many options: just kill them, find a kryptonite, banish them, send them to jail.

For Fantasy and Sci-Fi in particular, the possibilities are endless. Is there magic in the world? Are there downfalls to the magic that can be exploited? What kind of weaknesses can be brought about by their strengths in their respective worlds?

As much as I love a great fight scene as an ending, sometimes a simple fist or sword fight can become tiring if it's done too often. For a climax in particular, there is also the added pressure of it being the FINAL FIGHT, meaning that it needs to stand out from all the others. In an action-packed story, to just have another run-of-the-mill fight as the finale comes off as underwhelming.

So how do you make your final battle interesting? How do you make the defeat of your big baddie feel fresh within the confines of your own story and within the confines of the genre?

Friday, 13 October 2017

The 13 Types of Villains You Will Find in the Wild

Attention villain hunters!

On your forays into fiction, you will encounter many kinds of adversaries. It is a dangerous road, and dangerous to go alone, and particularly dangerous to go unarmed!

Therefore, one must arm themselves with the most valuable weapon of all: Knowledge!

Knowledge is Power!

Power Corrupts!

Study hard...be evil?

Oooooh...don't do that. Just arm yourself enough to make it in the crazy worlds of fiction, please. We don't need another entry on the list. Not yet.

Anyway, it's Friday the 13th, and so I would like to arm you with some villainous knowledge.

Here are thirteen varieties of villains that you may encounter in your fictional travels.

Friday, 6 October 2017

The Makings of Darkness: The Relationship Between Heroes and Villains

Ah, October. The month of warm colours, Thanksgiving (if you live in Canada), bountiful squash, and Halloween.

It seems as good a month as any to keep the subject a little...dark. And so, let's talk about villains.

I love a good villain. To me, a villain is what makes a hero. The stronger and more interesting the antagonist is, the stronger and more interesting the protagonist must be and must become. Comic books are a good example of this. Without villains like Joker, Riddler, and Penguin, then how strong is Batman? How else does he actually grow as a superhero and prove himself as a genius, unless his villains are on par with – or further ahead than – him?

There are, of course, many great examples of heroes and their respective famous villains and rivals. Sherlock Holmes has Professor Moriarty. The Doctor has The Master. Van Helsing has Dracula. Luke Skywalker has Darth Vader. The list of memorable and fascinating villains goes on and on.

Some of the most famous villains go all the way back to one of the earliest forms of fantasy, which are the classical fairy tales. The Evil Queen archetype, the Big Bad Wolf (or, just plainly, the Wolf), the Evil Stepmother...

Apparently the old fairy tale writers had a thing for evil women. Good women too, considering that the protagonists are frequently girls (as I recently discovered, sometimes very young girls. Snow White in the original Brothers Grimm story was deemed too hot to live at the ripe old age of SEVEN YEARS OLD.)

Anyway. Back to awesome villains.

As much as there are villains that I love, I have also run into villains that are...lame. Very lame. Pathetic, really. They leave no real sense of danger for me (personally). They just don't...click as a villain. They don't strike me as being particularly great or scary.

I'm sure that you also have villains like this. Villains that feel more like slapped-on afterthoughts than actual threats. Or villains that are built up as dangerous and epic but when they finally show up they're just...well...lame.

So what makes a villain interesting? What makes a good villain into a good villain?

My personal theory and preference in what makes a good villain can be summed up in one simple word: Relationship.