Please excuse any mess around here while blog is undergoing damage repair.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

These Shoes are Just Creepy!

Seriously, who would wear them? If the point is to scare, they don't accomplish it. They do nothing for me. Well, they do kind of gross me out. But other than that, nothing. In The Fire in Fiction, Donald Maass discusses the antagonist, the villain, the doer of all evil. He says that in the work submitted to him, most of these mean-spirited characters fall flat. Why is that? Well, because they have no depth. He or she is just bad by default without explanation, and just really aren't that scary. Mr. Maass suggests that one way to fuel fire into our writing is by giving the villain some human characteristics and a reason for acting the way he does. He can't just be bad for the sake of being bad. The reader won't buy into it. Maass even goes so far as to suggest that we make him somewhat endearing to the reader. This adds great depth to a story. My primary antagonist is somewhat ambiguous and needs to stay that way, so this is difficult for me. I'll be thinking about it during my rewrites, though. In the mean time, I'll be applying it to my secondary antagonists. Is your antagonist just bad for the sake of being bad? Or have you given him some motivation for his behavior? Please share.

56 comments:

Julie Dao said...

Ew! Those shoes are freaky. Can you imagine trying to go into a restaurant wearing those shoes? "I'm sorry, ma'am, we require a shirt AND shoes." "But I AM wearing shoes!" "No you're not." (pulls off feet-shoes to horror of everyone watching)

I always try to give my bad guys some motivation. I like it when I can sort of understand the villain in a book or movie, so I try to do the same for mine.

Mary said...

Yep very creepy. My antagonist is ambivalent as well. Sometimes she does things that are helpful. I believe every character needs depth. I try to have backstories for even the minor characters. In my view if I don't know their stories I won't understand their motivations. It is so fun to create an antagonist that we love to hate.

Natalie said...

Those shoes are messed up. This was a good one Susan. I need to work on creating motivation for my bad guys.

Abby said...

I've considered this before. My novel is in first person and the MC really has no way of knowing what the primary antagonist is thinking. So, it's been rather difficult to add that depth. I know what his motivation is, but I don't know if that's coming across very well on the page. Great post! You've given me a lot to think about. :)

Paul Greci said...

Great post Susan. And the shoes, well, Halloween is coming up!

I've given my antagonist some motivation. He wants to be liked. He wants his parents' love. He wants to feel like he has some control in his life. Basically, he wants what the protagonist wants.

Mandy said...

Oooooh! I love making my villians endearing! I have to admit, I have a tendency to develop crushes on my bad guys. I like the bad-guy-backstory the best. Why is he bad? What turned him into the badass? There's always a motive for that unsavory behavior! ;)

Matthew Delman said...

I know what motivates the villains in both my MSs, but I also have to play with those motivations a bit.

In SON OF MAGIC and the other books in that trilogy, the main antagonist's motivation is the spurned affections of the god she fell in love with 3,000 years ago.

In CALLARION AT NIGHT, the antagonist's motivation is his conviction that the hybrids are at fault for what he sees as the decaying moral fabric of the city (exacerbated by the fact one of his nephews is a hybrid).

Corey Schwartz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Corey Schwartz said...

Oops, let me try that again. One of the reasons I liked the movie Inglorious Bastards so much is because the bad guy was so much fun to hate! (And it is, after all, a film about revenge.)

Tamika: said...

Those shoes are too creepy. They maybe for Halloween they would be neat, depending on your costume.

My antagonist, is bitter and angry at God. He refuses to get close to anyone, especially his own children. I want to reader to ache for him and his loveless life. Cheering him to open up and grunting with disbelief every time he refuses.

Great post Susan!

Tere Kirkland said...

Hmm, my bad guy right now has his motivations, but I'm not sure yet if they're clear enough to the reader. Something I'll have to put on my revision to-do list.

Thanks for a great post!

Carolyn V. said...

My antagonist is supposed to be a good guy (at least as far as society goes).

But I agree, the scariest villians are the ones I connect with and then they do something I thought was terrible. That makes them extra spooky!

Patti said...

Those are the ugliest things I've ever seen.

I agree that the antagonist can't just be bad for bad's sake. I think there has to be some motivation. Sometimes you can write where the reader thinks one person is bad, but really there's someone else much worse.

Lily Robinson said...

He's just a creep. One we've all heard about. I don't think he needs a reason. His endearing qualities are only on the surface.

Kathy said...

Ooh, good question.

In my erotica novel, the antagonist is a guy who verbally abuses his girlfriend. He tries to control her. I have not actually explained why he is that way though. I guess I'll have to fix that.

Stephanie Faris said...

I remember seeing (of all movies) The Rock and being impressed by the villain...it drew you into the story more for him to have a motive and depth. I agree. I don't really have villains in my stories, per se...just people who sometimes act as obstacles. But I'm always sure to give them motivation.

Dominique said...

Okay, those shoes kind of freaked me out. It looked like they were the product of some new form of piercing.

In my WIP, my antagonist isn't a mean guy, actually. He's not evil either. He's just a cop trying to do his job, namely arrest the MC's mentor, hopefully by forcing the MC to betray her. But he's got good reasons.

I don't like antagonists who have no motivation. I always wonder why they bother.

Lady Glamis said...

Those shoes ARE creepy!

I went through this with my villain when I rewrote my book. He really needed to be more human. :)

Angie Muresan said...

Hahaha! Where do you find your photos of shoes?? My villain is plenty bad and also plenty endearing, as he has been based on a family member who was both evil and loving in good measure.

Diane said...

That's why all the cool villians are super handsome too. Confuses me into thinking someone THAT good looking couldn't possibly be that horrible. :O)

SPEAKING FROM THE CRIB said...

i have no bad guys. i write true short stories based on my life so i guess that bad guy would be moi :)

WhisperingWriter said...

Eek, creepy shoes!

As for my bad guy, she's not really BAD per say...more like ANNOYING.

Wendy @ All in a Day's Thought said...

This is where the psychological bit comes into my works...understanding the bad guys enough to be able to make them humanly bad.

I want those shoes to put on when my kids are being bad. :D
~ Wendy

Betty Manousos:cutand-dry.blogspot.com said...

We need to create an antagonist we love to hate!Those shoes are just horrible!
have a lovely time!:)

strugglingwriter said...

I'll let you know once I figure out who my antagonist is. :)

It is my aim, however, to make my "villian" have a real reason to be bad. Not just because.

MG Higgins said...

I'm really enjoying these posts, Susan. I've got to get his book! I think my story doesn't have enough of an antagonist. Hmm.

Beth said...

Gahhh! Those shoes! I'm going to have nightmares...seriously. Completely unrelated (or maybe it could be related) my MC's sister breaks up with guys if they have bad feet - these shoes would SO NOT FLY with her.

I'm working on my antagonist character...my story isn't really a good girl/guy vs. bad girl/guy, but there will be conflict. I have to think about this further (while also trying to forget that picture)...hmm.

Faith said...

For my NaNo novel, my primary antagonist is bad because that's part of his nature... he was created that way, and thus will have no redemptive qualities nor any way to become good. I think it'll be a good exercise for me -- I've never written a character like this, so it'll be an interesting stretch.

Jennifer Shirk said...

In Jenny Crusie's workshop she really stressed the importance of giving your protanganist as well as your antagonist a goal, a motivation, and a conflict.

And yeah, those shoes creep me out!

Deb@RGRamblings said...

I'm still trying to flesh out my villains--but I agree, there has to be an underlying reason to explain how they came to be the way they are.

Karen said...

I don't really have an antagonist in my current novel. Well, there is, it's just that the way the story goes, the two main characters both serve as protagonist and antagonist, just in different ways. I know that doesn't make any sense.

The novel I'm writing for NaNo, though. Wow. That antagonist is going to be FUN.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I could better at this. I'll need to read that chapter in fire in fiction thoroughly. :)

Heather Sunseri said...

That's one of the things I'm working on in my rewrite. I actually enjoy developing the villain. My first villain ended up being the hero. I have a new villain. I'm starting to like him too, but he's definitely evil through and through.

plainolebob said...

Susan,
those are some kinda scary shoes, I think i saw em in a desinex commercial.
BIG HUGS

Rae said...

Those shoes really are creepy. Good for Halloween though. Just wanted you to know that I stop and read your blog posts everyday even when not commenting. Sometimes I can't add anything because I am not writing a book, but I still love learning your perspective on it. You are such an inspiration.

Regina Quentin said...

My antagonist is horrible, but she has a "reason" for being that way.

I think I want this book you are reading.

Kristi Maloney said...

I enjoyed reading this post. Thank you for the great writing. You have been awarded the Heartfelt Blog award. Come on over and grab your award! You deserve it and here is the link:

http://kristimaloneyblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/heartfelt-blog-award.html

Jade said...

Where do you find these pictures?!

I try and make my characters shades of grey, rather then black and white. I don't like the "evil" guy and the "good" hero angle.

My bad guys have a valid point of view for their actions, it just happens to disagree with the so-called good guys. Plus they've taken their beliefs to the extreme!

Brittany Laneaux said...

That is a really good point. I find that when reading, depth is added to characters when situations happen that don't have anyone to blame making the antagonist elusive and hard to pin point. I'm speaking of the kind of situations where the reader would see a sequence of events play out that turns out bad for the protagonist, but can look at what started the sequence and say..."I would have done that too."

There is no one to really be mad at, but you are mad...that's like real life.

Gina Conroy said...

Donald Maass workshop on Writing the Breakout Novel was fabulous. I'm working through his notes now as I plot my next novel. I have Fire in Fiction on my shelf. Probably should pull it out and read it as my antagonist' isn't fully fleshed out yet!

Weronika Janczuk said...

That picture is hilarious! Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Susan.

Terri Tiffany said...

I have reasons why he is the way he is--and I hope I built it in. I want the reader to feel for him despite his meaness!

Robyn Campbell said...

EW! I can't see me wearing those shoes. But then...? Who knows. Maybe. Just to weird everyone out in this house, I might consider it. :)

I have started it the book. And I'm enthralled. I wish I could have his brain until I get this WIP finished. Then I'd be choppin' in high published cotton! :0)

My villain has a reason why he killed my MC's mother. He was in love with her. She did NOT return his feelings. So I am trying to make him out a good guy until the reader is hit with the discovery that WHAM! He did it. We'll see how it turns out. Ah, if only I could switch brains with Mr. Maass. Hmmm...

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

This is a great point! It's important for there to be a reason behind the antagonist's actions. I think in the novel I'm editing, the antagonist is so because of fear. It's a great motivator for her.

Kelly H-Y said...

Those shoes are just every kind of wrong!! Too funny!

plainolebob said...

Susan,
whew, that was quite a scroll down.
One of your followers has selected you for our "Hot Dawg" Friday awards.
Congrats and
BIG HUGS
the site is plainolebob2.blogspot.com

Terresa said...

Those shoes look like they walked off the movie set of "Saw VI" (or whatever sequel they're on now).

My antagonist has some serious motivations for being creepy/bad/muck of the earth evil. If not, writing him so creepy would feel like a farce.

staceyjwarner said...

I am the protagonist and the antagonist in my story so it is a little tricky...I am my own worse enemy. LOL!

we'll see how it plays out

much love

Tabitha Bird said...

I agree, those shoes are creepy!
Love Stacey's comment. That would be true for my memoir as well. :)

~Ellie Kings~ said...

You found my shoes! :D just kidding of course! I wouldn't be caught dead in those! ;0 They clash with my personality.

My antagonist wears masks making others think that he is a great guy, but in reality he's far from it!

You're so cute Susan! Always getting the best ... or worst shoe pics!

Barry said...

Hi Susan, I just linked to you from another site. I love to write, mostly poems and short slices of life (vignettes). Your blog is intriguing, I'll go through it more later.

Those shoes are freaky! :)

Janna Qualman said...

Ew, those are nasty creepy!

I don't have a "bad guy" per se, but characters who do wrong. I try to put some emotion shortsight or misinterpretion as motive or reason. We'll see if it works out in the end.

Chantele said...

Ew! Ew! Ew! I have a hard time with feet as it is!;)
My "bad guy" lost both of his parents when he was really young, so he has a little motive as to why he wants to take over everything. The only compassion he feels is for my main character, because he once loved her. But, that is all the compassion he ever shows. Great post by the way! I'm just getting back into reading writer's blogs again, and writing on my own, so it's excited to see what you have been up to!:)

Krista Phillips said...

Those are some flippin' weird shoes, girl!

I'm working on making my antagonist have a "reason" for being bad. I think I'm almost there... but finding the motivation is crucial.

On my last book, I finished it and someone pointed out to me that there was no "reason" for the bad guy to be bad.. that we didn't know much about him. Adding his "problem" was fairly simple, and helped tremendously.

Solvang Sherrie said...

Seriously, where do you find all these shoes??!!

Concord Carpenter said...

Very creepy, freeky shoes!