Evil Motives

As I’ve said before, I have a habit of judging works of fiction by their bad guys. I therefore pay a lot of attention to my own bad guys. One thing I initially had trouble with, but have since gotten good at, is coming up with motivations for the bad guys. After all, even if you’ve come up with a memorable and dangerous supervillain, you still have to be able to answer the question of, “Why is he being evil?” Here, therefore, is a list of possible answers to that question, with examples in parenthesis. There are, of course, other examples than the ones I list.

Warning: Many of these links are to YouTube videos. There will be sound.

  1. Wants to take over the world (Sauron, Emperor Palpatine, and Voldemort all qualify, but Pinky and the Brain are this straight up)
  2. Wants to destroy the world (the Burning Legion)
  3. Instinctively attempting to feed (the Tarrasque, most zombies)
  4. Instinctively attempting to defend itself or its kind (the Horta)
  5. Doing it for sport (the Joker)
  6. Wants money (Gordon Gekko)
  7. Wants revenge (Nero)
  8. Wants to destroy a specific group (There was this one German guy whose name escapes me) Continue reading

Disney Villains

I love Disney villains. So rarely do you get bad guys who not only openly admit to being evil, but actually sing about it. I mean, Voldemort likes his followers to call him “the Dark Lord,” and Darth Vader talks about the Dark Side, but Dark is not Evil (a topic for a future post). No, only Disney villains truly take pride in their evilness, and can actually sing about it. Or even better, make their minions sing about it, and kill them for singing it wrong.

Here I’m thinking of Ratigan, the Professor Moriarty expy in The Great Mouse Detective. I’m going to insist you watch his villain song on the YouTube: The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind. Read more after you’ve watched that. Continue reading

Exposition and Notes

So I’ve written a bunch of expository chapters recently, Chapter 2 of Gigas’ Tale, and Chapters 1 and 2 of the epic. I’m not very good at expository writing, or at least, I don’t like it. I didn’t even do my normal editing process on chapter 2 of the epic.¬† My editing process, by the way, is to read through the entire story, to myself, aloud. It catches typos and awkward sentences, and lets me review what I’ve just written. But I need to take a step back from the exposition, and I couldn’t bring myself to edit the forest scene.

As a self-critic, I would like to make a few notes on what I’ve already written, especially the first two chapters (not counting the prologue) of the epic. Both chapters are written not objectively, but from a heavy point of view. The story told by King Thobis, in particular, was biased and inaccurate, although the full extent of this remains to be seen. I do enjoy unreliable narration, although I like to give some hint that it’s going on. It gives the impression that the characters view the world through different lenses, and even with different facts. Some of the mistakes in Thobis’ story are misinterpretations of the facts, or mistakes passed down through history. The idea, for example, that the King’s best friend would march into the throne room and demand half the kingdom is not very believable. It sounds more mythical than realistic, and in fact it’s not quite what happened. Other errors in the story are deliberate half-truths introduced by the Magnolium Order, especially the tale of its own origin. It started as nothing more but the weakest of the various street gangs, fighting for turf. And one particular claim is actually a mathematical error: Each king has not, in fact, died younger than his father did. The historians who have been publishing that fact have been fudging the numbers in order to make that sensational claim!

In chapter 2, there are very few outright untruths, but Prince Romm does have his own take on the world. He is a teenager, of course, and his relationship with his single father is not good. Part of that is teenage rebelliousness compounded by political disagreement, but part of it is a lingering reaction to what his father did to that girl. The same goes for his relationship with Cardinal Alabaster. He had liked both men a great deal when he was 7, but after that day, something changed, and he wanted nothing more to do with either.

I don’t think I conveyed this very well, but Romm’s inability to find a wife is also mostly due to his bad relationship with his father. It’s not intended to be a “rebellious princess” type of thing, where he refuses all comers because of a desire for independence. For one thing, as the man, he is supposed to come to them! It’s more the following thought process: “Anyone my father likes must be no good.” It’s not spite, therefore, it’s mistrust at an almost subconscious level: Romm doesn’t even realize he’s coming up with objections to justify his disapproval of anyone, or in fact anything, his father likes. Apart from that, there are no inaccuracies in what Romm is thinking that I’m willing to reveal.

On the one hand, therefore, I hate writing exposition. On the other hand, I like writing exposition when it’s full of lies. It makes me feel like I’ve got a fuller world, when the characters who live there have differing viewpoints on it.

Coming soon: Prince Romm runs away! Gigas the Halfling vs. Cloud Giants!

The Onion: Novelist Has Whole S—-y World Planned Out

The ability to make a work of fiction feel like it takes place in a complete world is much admired, and rightly so. I’d like to think I’m developing a skill with it, although the true art of immersion is probably well beyond me at this point in my life. Perhaps at any point in my life. You hear of J.K. Rowling’s vast hoard of information about characters that never made it into the books, and I think, “Well, I could do that, but why would I?” I have actually practiced coming up with useless side information. I once wrote a lengthy note on the organization of the Church of Pelor for a D&D campaign I ran for a semester. It basically looked like the Roman Catholic church, but with the names of the ranks changed, and four popes.

I ended up using almost none of that information, and although I saved it, I’m not planning to put it on my blog because it’s boring. Coming up with vast backgrounds is an honor I reserve only for very important characters or circumstances; all else is improvised. I do like coming up with names, or mini backgrounds, that I just have floating around my head and can reuse as needed. The idea of a church with four popes, for example, or that I can use the word Pontifex in a fantasy story to make clear that “This guy is the pope,” and “He’s nothing like the real Pope, so don’t get excited.” Apart from those little tidbits, though, I come up with stuff as I need it.

My theory is that, if I save enough of the stuff I come up with as I need it, and then eventually mash it together, I’ll have a Rowling-like compendium of little details that I can put all together into a complex, well thought out world. I’m kind of trying to do that with my epic, although progress is slowed by the fact that I keep changing things around.

On the other hand, merely having a well planned out world is no guarantee of success, as a recent article in The Onion points out.

Summaries vs. Detail

I’ve heard people say that one mustn’t take too much time to think over what you’re writing, but to just get it out on paper, and worry about editing later. I’ve never been good at that. I can do it, but only if I’m allowed to leave out dialogue and almost all detail. In other words, I end up with plot summaries, like I did for my Healing Potion story. Now that I’ve written that summary, I really don’t feel any need to expand upon it. In fact, the majority of the work I’ll be posting on this blog will probably be in summary format, or else will be discussions of plot elements and their associated tropes.

It feels a bit juvenile and a bit selfish to take this position, but it’s true. The reason is that my favorite thing is coming up with plots. Next favorite is coming up with characters, especially their personalities. A close third is settings — not rooms or buildings, but entire worlds or kingdoms. Next, I suppose, are all the little rules that go along with a setting — if it’s a fantasy setting, how does magic work? If sci-fi, what technology is there? If a setting for politics, what systems of government do the nations have? Stuff like that.

My least favorite things are, as I mentioned, details and dialogue. By details, I mean specifically details on what my characters look like, scenery, nearby sounds and things that are going on around the main characters, and additional characters that flesh out the cast, but end up having little bearing on the plot. I hate doing those things, not least because they slow my writing and thought processes down.

In fact, there’s one huge story that means a lot to me, and definitely will be worth the work. More on that later. For now, I hope you find my ideas interesting enough to read.