Making it Easy for the Villian

I recently read Temple of a Thousand Faces. I really enjoyed the setting of Angkor Wat and the culture. The story takes place about a thousand years ago and is based on historical figures and events. The king of the Khmers narrowly escapes death by the conquering Cham king. The story follows four different sets of characters as the Khmer king rallies his people and plans a counterattack to retake his throne. I liked all the different characters and their stories, I liked learning about their beliefs, but ultimately, what made me lose interest was the fact that about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the way into the book it started to bug me that things were just too easy for the villains. Everything fell their way and I realized that even though that made the villains a powerful threat to the protagonists, because the breaks all fell their way, it felt manipulative. Not much is known about what really happened all those years ago beyond that fact that the Cham king invaded and the Khmer king ultimately defeated him. Therefore, all the breaks happening for the villains in the novel were author manipulation. The villain needs to struggle a bit, too, not just the hero. Everything can’t go their way. When it does it makes the villain unrealistic. You want a proactive, smart villain, but at the same time, they can’t be a super-villain who wins every round. If they do, they become cardboard—a bwa-ha-ha villain. The Cham king wasn’t quite that bad but he did get all the breaks until the end. Villains needs to be strong, proactive,...

Setting Goals Part Three

I didn’t make my writing goals this week. I had wanted to rework the middle of my first PowerForce book to add some tension and up the life and death stakes. I only managed to get one scene reworked instead of the three I wanted to do. I guess some goals can be too ambitious. I’d forgotten how hard this type of writing is for me. The first PowerForce book Attack of the Dinomatrons has gone through several edits and it’s a pretty tight manuscript at this point. It’s so much easier to write a first draft. Or at least it is for me. I’m not constrained by things I’ve already done. But when I have to take apart a polished scene and only keep bits of it while adding new pieces, it’s like taking a jack hammer to a sculpture—It’s really hard to end up with something beautiful. It takes a lot of work and control to get that jackhammer to make refined shapes. It always takes me much longer to do this type of writing than a first draft. In the end I know it will be worth it. And I know eventually these changes will be seamless. But until it’s finished it’s tortuous. Sometimes I think it would be easier to just write it fresh. I have done that with other manuscripts but usually it’s because I want to change something major, like the tense or the POV. I only need to change three scenes in this story and maybe do some minor tweaking in others to maintain continuity. How hard can it be? Judging by...

The Art of Digging

  Sunday was another play date for Bo and his girlfriend, Sadie. They quickly resumed excavating their den in the dog run. I was impressed to see how Bo handled the accumulated dirt. When the pile got too high he stood on top of it and his back paws industriously kicked the pile of dirt so that it spread over a larger area. That let him continue excavating the den without the discard pile getting in the way. It never occurred to me that he would know to do that, but after thinking about it, animals that dig must have a system for it. Sadie seemed content to watch her man work, although occasionally she lent a paw. It was interesting to see them working and playing together. They invented a new game, which I called I’ve Got It and You Don’t. Sadie found one of Bo’s balls and started squeaking it. Bo immediately ran over and took it out of her mouth. She ran after him, grab the ball out of his mouth and high-tailed it out of there. Bo chased her, retrieved the ball and the game continued. I tried throwing a second ball into the mix but they ignored it. The game was getting the ball away from the other one. Eventually, I had to take the ball away as it started to get a little too aggressive for my furniture. But then they started it again with a leaf Bo picked up from the floor. They had knocked it off of my Christmas cactus during their rough housing. Sadie leaned over and took it away from...

Premature Story Ejaculation Treatment

You’ve got a great idea for a story and you can’t wait to start writing. I’m here to caution you against spewing out your story too soon. You need to indulge in plenty of foreplay before you’re ready. Okay, enough sexual innuendo. The truth is that no matter how tempting it is to start your first draft, you need to wait until you’re ready. A story needs to mature before you start writing it. Or, at least for me it does. I’m an outliner. I can’t speak for pantsers—people who sit down and write without knowing where their story is going. I need to know. It helps me build layers of depth in the first draft. If you start writing too soon you will quickly run into a wall. You won’t know where to go next. Your characters will thrash around wasting a lot a time until you figure out the next move. When this happens you end up with passive characters—the story happens to them instead of the characters driving the story. When you take time to think about your story you’ll be able to see how the pieces fit together, how you can strengthen themes, add motivation, create nuances. You can add the subtleties up front that often don’t develop until a third or fourth draft. It saves time and you’ll have a stronger story to work with. But this blog is supposed to be about treatment, so the next time you have a great story idea I want you to open a new document and write down your ideas. And then walk away from it. Keep...

Bo’s Latest Trick

This is Bo’s latest trick for trying to get me to pay more attention to him than my laptop. Of course I was just reading Huffington Post at the time so I wasn’t exactly working on a deadline. He can usually entice me into a quick game of fetch. And when I’m too busy, he lets out a big sigh then curls up between my knees with his head draped over my right shin. It’s surprising how heavy a dog’s head can get. Still, it’s nice to have him curled up next to me while I’m working—like he is right now as I write this post. Plus there’s nothing like the comfort of  a warm dog on a cold...