New Fantasy Times: Villainous Complaints

Villainous Complaints

Elena recently discovered fragments of a handbook compiled by a villain (who will go unnamed) who also deemed himself a writer. After one defeat, he spent the better part of the night ranting to himself about the perceptions of villains by the common public.

There’s too many people claiming the title of villain now days. One has only to kidnap a princess or destroy a town and their names are suddenly spoken in hushed whispers. Ridiculous. There are some of us who actually had to WORK for our titles.

And the public perception of villains…I mean, I remember when the no one would dare speak the name of one who held their life in their hands. Now people laugh behind our backs and underestimate us in the most astounding ways. Do they honestly thing we got our positions with careless henchmen or soldiers who couldn’t shoot straight? HONESTLY, PEOPLE! Let’s think about this a moment here!

And besides that, why must our name be blackened and twisted into some cruel merciless form? What do they think a villain is? Someone who slaughters for fun?

Actually, that’s a good question…who a villain is, not the slaughtering for fun part. Slaughtering, by the way, is not to be recommended unless in the most dire cases. Nine times out of ten it only succeeds in raising up a rebellion among people who would have been grudgingly content to live under higher taxes and stricter laws as long as they themselves were left in peace. Plus, it gives us a bad name; as if we don’t have enough of that going around as it is. But I digress

A villain can be one of two things. The common definition nowadays is that he is a ‘cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime’. Basically, he’s a scoundrel or, as we call them, lower-class villains. But sometimes they are just the major evil agency opposing the hero, some character or another everyone always seems to like. Don’t ask me why. These ‘heroes’ tend to be beaten, captured, and have everything they love torn from them and still everyone wishes they were them.

But back to the ‘evil agency’ or, as I like to call it, the higher class of the villain guild. I’m not exactly opposed to the definition, but can we please bend that term ‘evil’ slightly to mean something more than gloomy towers, black clothes (where has the fashion sense gone now days?), and a love of death, gold, and pain?

Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up…the main points anyhow.

For starters, we villains can be in almost any position. Of course, we normally prefer a powerful place in society…say a king or a general. But sometimes we’re spies. Or tavern keepers. Or teachers. Or housemaids.

For one just starting a career, a lesser position might be a good place to start since you’ll be under less scrutiny. Of course, even as something like a blacksmith or actor, it’s taken for granted you’ve a powerful following of people who you can raise up at a moment’s notice to accomplish whatever schemes you intend to…well, accomplish. Otherwise, don’t you dare take the title of villain because the guild is growing aggravated at incompetents claiming to be villains. We in the process of hiring assassins to deal with the matter.

On the other end of the scale are the dark lords. SOOOO annoying. They might not do much, but their presentation is enough to make the bravest cower. Of course, presentation is half of what being a villain is about, but still they needn’t flaunt themselves over the rest of us.

Oh, and family relations have nothing to do with a person’s success, though it may place some people in a better position to exercise authority than others. But a nephew is about as likely to try to kill and take the throne from an uncle, as an uncle is from a nephew. Flaming terrors, but what is it with the poor uncles now days? Almost everyone becomes an uncle eventually, provided he has siblings. And what about the Aunts? They can be just as deadly, sometimes even more so.

Back to our grievances.

Like people thinking we’re some sort of monsters. All right, I admit, there are some who do enjoy causing pain or death. But most of us just have something we want. There may be a particular small group we hate and will inflict pain on if we can, but for the most parts life is just life. We may even show a touch of mercy here or there to keep the subjects in line. Ruling by fear is all very well, and we rarely rule by love. Too much work, the love part. But we can be nice if we wish. And besides, when those who fear us are also treated decently well, then tend to let us do as we please.

And honestly, there are far more entertaining things than stuck away inside some dank torture chamber.

Dancing, for instance. Music. Feasts. Hunting. Counting over treasure (for those with dragon blood in their veins, as well as a few mathematically minded souls. Most of us just like to spend it.) Hunting. Swimming. Climbing. Hiking. Racing. Chess. Writing. Reading. The list could go on and on. Basically, we can be very sophisticated if we please. And there are many of us who do please.

And on the subject of likes, can I just touch on clothes? Put quite simply, we’re as varied as any other guild. Some like black. Some like scarlet. Some stay in fashion. Some start fashions at the point of a sword. And some of us don’t care how we look as long as we’ve several weapons nearby. But everyone looks good in black; hero, villain, or idiot. It doesn’t have the same flair it used to. And we don’t all use such dark colors.

And…oh yes. Minions. If anyone knows where to get simple, mindless, happy minions, please tell me. Because I’ve yet to find them. One either has slaves, or they pay others for labor.

Also, just because we tend to control many people by fear of one kind or another, doesn’t mean we don’t have friends who help us simply because they like us. We, or at least I, can be very charming if I please. We don’t give power to anyone unless there’s a reason. And that reason is normally because we like the person. A friend. A brother. A son. Of course, if they betray us they’ll die. But isn’t that how life goes with heroes too, and no one complains about them.

We true villains didn’t get where we are by making mistakes, and we are careful our subordinates are smart as well. They support us, we reward them. Everyone is happy. Also, they know their success is bound up in ours. And we rarely kill someone for failing. That’s a disastrous waste of talent and those who do kill subordinates who fail tend to be villains of the lower quality.

Oh, and the skills. We’re the same as any other person. What did you expect? Of course, many of us can fight well or are at least skilled at tactics, but that’s to be expected. But we have interests and skills like any other; reading, music, debate, riding, sports. Even cooking and gardening.

Our security, on the other hand, tends to be top of the scale. Your hero can’t run across twenty paces of open garden while being shot at. Either he sneaks in, or he’ll die, because we only hire the best. Actually, cut out the sneaking in too. Even that would be very difficult. And when we capture the hero *insert mocking tone* we DO NOT tell him all our plans, or stand around taunting him and giving him time to escape. The villains who do this are, in reality, double agents or are so insecure they need to see the hero’s fear to ensure they have succeeded. A ridiculous mindset when they already have prove their power by capturing him or her in the first place.

But really, in many of our tastes, we’re like any other person. We’re not monsters, at least not normally. As for our choice of career, there’s many reasons. Sometimes it’s revenge. Other times its love of family or nation. Sometimes we want power or riches. Sometimes a villain really is a bit insane mentally (they also tend to be great masterminds. Why do the ones who don’t enjoy what they get always succeed?) But in the end, it’s because we want something, either physical or ideological, and so we set our mind to get it. And we do get it, no matter the price.

Also…presentation. Anyone can kill or lie to take what they please. The real villains do it with such class that their foes feel honored to be defeated by them. (Yes, I know they’d deny it, but they do).

Disclaimer: The views held in this report is in no way supported by either myself or by Kirin or Elena. It is the copy of a diary rant only, to give you a quick glimpse into the mind of a villain. Please do not put this advice to play in your own life.

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Developing Your Characters: Part 1 – The Want

Developing fictional characters can stray into great detail, from what a character likes to eat, to his favorite color, to ‘does he snore’? I’ve filled out pages of questions about various characters, so much so that I forget almost everything I’ve written, then don’t bother to look back, and write the character as he or she first comes to mind. A problem, I know. I’m working on it.

But there are three main questions, powerful, yet short, which an author should answer for each of his or her characters. In fact, character development might not need to go much further for some secondary characters. Meanwhile, with main characters, keeping these questions in mind while writing will be a great help in giving them their own voices. And the first question and answer is…

*rolling drumbeat*

What does your character want?

Not the little things, like food and shelter. There’s always going to be some things a character needs and others he wants. But what does he really, really, really want? What is always in the back of his mind? What would he give almost everything to gain? Honor? Love? Gold? Salvation? He may not realize his desires narrow down to a single phrase but, once we the authors know what this desire is, we can use it to inspire him, torment him (we’re awful, I know) or change him.

As an extra note for major characters, is what the character wants what he needs? What they want may drive the story to the end where they get it. Or what they want may be wrong or not as important as they once thought and, by the end, they will give up what they want more than anything else for something else they’ve realized is more important.

Or what they want might change.

The character’s desires will drive what he says, does, and how he views the circumstances going on around him.

Keep an eye out next month, for the second of the major question which should be answered for every character, large and small.

MASTERSOFTHESOUND.COM

Flames of Resistance

The moat was nearly dry, all except the pool surrounding the causeway up to the castle gate. It was deep there yet. Hopefully it was deep enough.

Fathren tried to swallow, but his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth as a hot wind swept over the dry parched plains. He told himself it was from the rationing of water, but the dust raised by the invader’s armies wasn’t helping either.

“Ready?” His whispered cracked.

“Ready.” Three soft voice replied from the dry grass about him.

Fathren nodded his fingers tightened around his bow as his breath hissed rapidly though the cloth covering the lower half of his face. They had one chance, the four of them. If they failed, they’d die. If they succeeded, they would be branded destroyers. But at least the invaders would suffer a bitter blow.

Already the steady tramp of feet were echoing along the brush filled moat surrounding the castle. On the wall, the sun glinted off silent troops.

Fathren closed his eyes for a long moment, then drew an arrow. “On my mark, and may the Prince be with us all.”

“May the Prince be with us.” His companions’ voices were accompanied by the swish of arrows.

Fathren tensed, measuring the distance of the approaching soldiers. The troops in the moat. The horsemen behind his party in the tall grasses. The dryness of the grasses.

Almost…almost…

He raised one hand.

Now!

Fathren sliced his hand downward and leapt to his feet, springing to the middle of the causeway. Focusing, he breathed on the tip of his arrow and his heart leapt as it flashed into a flame.

“Draw!” His voice seemed to echo along the battlements even as startled cried from the wall reflected the shouts of derision from the invaders.

“Aim!”

He focused toward the brush just beyond the lead troop, feeling rather than seeing his friends fall in place behind him.

“Loose!”

His string sang as the arrow cut through the air. Shouts burst into a confused babble and Fathren spun, a single glimpse assuring him his companion’s arrows had found their mark while anger ripple through the walls above. But it was the only way. The lord would have surrendered if given the chance. Surrendered, and been slaughtered.

He’d not have the chance.

And, as Fathren followed his men, leaping over the causeway to the murky pool beneath, he only hoped the flames already catching hold on the plains and enveloping the invaders would be enough to save them all.

Reading, Writing…Guns

So, so, so, so…where to start? I think I’m going to stop saying it’s been an insane week and just leave it for granted that I’ve been busy unless I say otherwise.

Monday was Memorial Day. At home we didn’t do too much: hamburgers for supper and then a movie. *clears throat* Ok, we watched HOME again. Seriously, that movie is so cute.

Some of us did go out that day though. Since a Memorial Day parade goes past our church, the church does an outreach: inflatables, free food, and sharing the Gospel. Myself and four of my siblings volunteered to help. The neatest part was the drive there, with the mist hovering over fields and rising from still pools in the rising dawn… I love mist. It appears in some form or another in almost all my stories.

Or all my stories. Probably all of them. But I digress.

My sister and I ran a bouncy house during the outreach. Once we got organized, I ended up going inside the bouncy house and clearing out the kids ever minute and a half (they wouldn’t all listen otherwise and besides, even if I have practice ordering younger brothers about, I don’t want to yell at kids I don’t know. *smirks*) But the best part of the day was after the outreach and lunch was over and the inflatables were blown back up for all of us mature adults.

I thoroughly enjoyed both the obstacle course and the large slide, even though I burned my elbow on the latter. But, as much as I enjoyed playing, watching the young men in their jumping competitions was just as exciting. You can see a collage of the videos my sister took here.

Then, Wednesday, I killed a character. As my brother grinningly (yep, I don’t care about that red line, auto-correct) informed me when I told him earlier in the week of my intentions, my character ‘had a deadline. A literal deadline.’ I’m still not sure if I ought to laugh or slap him. A bit late for the slapping though. I suppose.

But, though I’d been agonizing over if I’d be able to write the emotions of the death scene well, I ended up being very pleased with the results. Though the death was sad, I was (partly) over my own emotion on the subject. Instead I just sat, my fist pressed to my lips, staring at the blank screen and wondering how on earth I could put to words what I was picturing in my mind. But I did, eventually. And I’m very happy with those three chapters.

And, as my reward, Wednesday evening I had fun with…this:

Before I explain, have I ever told you all about the Greek class I’m part of? Welllll…

*grins sheepishly*

It’s not really a class. More of a Greek club, aka, meeting place for six people who talk on about anything but Greek. The two men sit to my left and talk of politics and guns. The three women are on my left and, with one who used to be a nurse and the other who works in an ambulance…well, you can guess where that conversation goes. Two conversations are normally going on one time, I might add, so I sit in the middle, not talking too much since everyone else has so much to say, and switch my focus from one group to the other as the mood takes me. Oh, and I do sometimes translate a Greek sentence or two while listening and gathering material for stories. Anyway…yes. Greek class, um, club.

But four of the six of us like guns, so we have a shooting evening about once a year. This was my first time joining it, but it was great fun. Especially shooting the piece pictured above. An AR-15, with a 30 round magazine (I got to shoot two magazines). And then the senses; the difference between the sharp crack of the gun while wearing those small foamy earplugs and the muted roar with a double set of earplugs. The sharp smell of gun smoke. The thud of the recoil against your shoulder or in your hand. The smooth pull of the trigger. The flash of fire at the end of the barrel as night drew on. We wrapped up the evening with picking up dozens of casings and then shooting some milk jugs full of water. Now that…that was fun.

*rubs hands together*

*grins*

Oh, and I can’t forget the books.

I went though my shelf and four boxes of books; around 368 books, give or take a handful. (Yes, I counted.) I do this every few months to refresh my memory of what I have. What is put away. Get new books out on my shelf.

Anyhow, I’ve done this before. But this time…this time, I cataloged all of them. Half my books on my shelf. The others in boxes with their titles written down in a document, along with what box they are in. It took me several hours, but I’m very pleased with the results. And my books. Not, you understand, that my 360+ books in any way impedes my desire to purchase more book on my list of books to-buy, which is almost as long as my books to-read.

And my to-read list isn’t getting any shorter even though I’m reading about six books at one time. Or is it seven?

Anyhow, this week has been a jumble. Reading. Writing. Trying to plan a movie . Reading. Killing a character and tormenting his best friend. *evil laugh* *sniffs* *chuckles gleefully again* Not wanting to make a movie. Knitting hats. Books. Reading. Wondering if I can get away with making the movie next year. Guns. More writing. Butchering chickens. And did I mention trying to read? The operative word there is try, in that I have been trying to read a lot more than I’ve been finding time to read…partly because I’ve a stack of books a mile high and partly because they look so interesting.

Besides, it’s research, right? Nonfiction gives me idea. Fiction gives me more ideas as well as examples of good writing (or what not to do in writing, as the case may be).

What about you, my fellow pilgrims? How many books do you own? How many do you like to read at a time? What are you reading? And, most importantly, are you finding time to read?

Books Worth Reading – May 2016

I’m delighted to be able to share with you some of my bookish discoveries this last month.

It’s not all fantasy this time. My second great love, after fantasy, is futuristic fiction. There’s more connecting the two genres than might appear: one gets to create the world and do pretty much whatever one pleases, either with technology or fantasy type power. The rules can be bent and history invented. So, first on of all…

Futuristic Fiction

I read the first book in the Out of Time Series, A Time to Die by Nadine Brandes. Yes, the title made some of my family give me strange looks, but it is perfect of the theme. What would you do if you knew the day of your death? And if that day was almost upon you?

Writing: 5 out of 5; well written and engaging. The style, while following a basic story arc, reminded me of how a biography would follow a person’s life more than the normal novel.Hence, there were some parts which might seem a little slow in a novel where every scene is building towards one single goal, but I think it works in this book.

Characters: 5 out of 5; oh the poor characters. I can’t believe how much Nadine hurts them. Even as a writer, there were still some parts which shocked me. And then it got me thinking…and that might not be good news for future characters of my own. But I digress. I loved the characters in this book. And I loved Parvin, the main character. Her fears, her doubts, the raw realness of her struggles in and with faith… it was excellent.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5; Fresh, strong.

Theme: 5 out of 5; Very clear and foundational to the story, but at no time does Parvin’s struggles seemed forced or sections turn preachy.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; I highly recommend this book. I just bought the second book, A Time To Speak and am looking forward to reading that as soon as I get though some library books. And the last book, A Time To Rise, comes out this fall. *squeals* Which is another reason I keep putting off A Time To Speak; once it’s over, I won’t have the next book to read until later this year.

Fantasy Books

I heard about The Blades of Acktar series from a friend who highly recommended them. In a fantasy land, set in some obscure corner of our world, Christians must worship in secret to escape the wrath of an evil king and his handpicked blades; assassins proficient at spying and fighting with knives. And the best thing about Dare and Deny is that the third (and, I think, final) book in the series just came out yesterday. I’m eagerly looking forward to reading it.

Writing: 4 out of 5; the beginning of the first book was a little slow, but not enough for me to stop reading.

Characters: 4 out of 5; the characters are deep, but not broad. Each character has a distinguishing characteristic by which they are defined, and that characteristic is present in almost every interaction. But I still love the characters, even Renna, who’s doubt and fear sometimes made me sigh. This, by the way, is simply personal opinion; but while I like and know there needs to be room for character development, I do like reading about main characters with a little more confidence.

Dialogue: 4.5 out of 5

Theme: 4.5 out of 5; Very clear and very up front, but it didn’t proceed to the point where it was annoying and preachy.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; I love the blades, and I love Leith. And my only consolation for the end of the second book was that the third book was about to come out. The mixture of a fantasy land in name, along with real life Christianity works well. While not my absolute favorite books, mainly because I like my characters to have more breath and nuances, I would recommend them as an interesting and exciting read filled with danger, turmoil, and treachery.

Other…Book

I’m not sure what to call The Hidden Oracle, the first book in the Trials of Apollo series. It’s not really fantasy; more a mix of modern and mythology. The premise in all of Rick Riordan’s books, of which he’s written quite a few (the Percy Jackson series being my favorite) is that the Greek gods are real. Not real in that they are God (the idea of there being an all-powerful God is left open ended), but they are immortal beings which tinker in the affairs of men and who have children with them. These children are called demigods and are the main characters in most of the books…except this one, where the main character is actually Apollo, who Zeus has made human. (Apparently that happened twice in mythology…and now once in Riordan’s books.)

Writing: 5 out of 5; Rick Riordan is an excellent writer who makes me laugh with the most outrageous random lines.

Characters: 5 out of 5; the characters are all layered, distinct, and play off each other in a very humorous manner. Also, there is an arrow that talks in Shakespearean English near the end of the book. I’ve read of talking swords, but never about talking arrows. It was absolutely hilarious.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: Umm, this is the one reason I debated between mentioning the book, but the talking arrow tipped the scales in the story’s favor. Rick Riordan is not a Christian author. Actually, his books are some of the few fiction books I read outside of the ‘inspirational fiction’ area. There are good themes of loyalty and courage, but Riordan’s view of life, and of marriage is not the Christian view of one man and one woman. Not that there is overwhelming romance of any kind in these books, but when it is touched on in minor subplots, the worldly view of ‘marriage’ is treated as normal and perfectly fine.

Recommendation: 4 out of 5; because of the book’s theme not being Christian as mentioned above, I can’t recommend it 5 out of 5 like I’d really like to. I enjoyed the book, and love most of Riordan’s works that I’ve read. But, in the end, you’ll have to decide if you want to read a book which treats some sins as fine and normal, recognizing that the author’s worldview is wrong, or if you’d rather forego it altogether.

Flashback Fantasy

And I figured, since there’s lots of books I’ve read which I won’t be rereading any time soon but still want to share with you, to have a ‘Flashback Fantasy’ section each month. So, without more ado, the Wingfeather Saga, everyone!

I started reading this series when a friend sent me the first book for my birthday. She sent me the second book a few months later, and then I eagerly bought the last two books in The Wingfeather Saga before handing them off to my brothers who also loved them

Writing: 5 out of 5; the writing is for a younger age group than I normally read; probably 12-15. But who cares? I loved the story and I loved the humor, even when it was a bit silly in the first book or two.

Characters: 5 out of 5; very distinct, each character with their own humorous addition to the story which sometimes covers painful secrets.

Dialogue: 5 out of 5

Theme: 5 out of 5; these are fantasy books, but the Maker (God) is mentioned and referenced as a part of life, not just some abstract and distant force.

Recommendation: 5 out of 5; These books made me laugh. They made me cry. I ached for the characters and I loved them. It’s an especially great series to read out loud to younger siblings. I just might do that this summer…

How about you? Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned and what did you think? What other Christian fantasy books do you love?

 

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