Posted in character

Motivating the Antagonist

Think of your favorite show, or book series. More specifically, think about the villain. Think back on every terrible thing they’ve done.

Now, ask yourself why they’ve done those things.

If your first reaction is to say because they’re evil, or because they’re terrible people, or any reason that can be boiled down to ‘just because’ stop. If you can at least guess at their motivations or reasons such as greed or revenge, then you’re good to go: you have a fully developed character for an antagonist.

Whenever you come across an antagonist in a story—your own included—they should be just as developed as any other character. This means they have a backstory, they have motivations and they have goals. Because antagonists most often show up as the villains of a piece, it’s too tempting to say they’re doing things just because they’re  bad. People don’t like doing bad things, so he or she must be doing these things just because they’re bad, right?

Wrong.

Even someone terrible enough to properly earn the title of villain has a reason for what they do. They may not have the moral high ground, but they do have motivations and reasoning to make them choose the terrible instead of the ethical.

Take a look at your own antagonist. Ask yourself the same questions about them that you would about your protagonist or any of the supporting characters. What are their long term goals? What are their short term goals?

What obstacles do they have to solve to achieve those goals?

Now take it one step further. Ask yourself why they want those things. Don’t automatically assuming their logic is twisted either—your antagonist might be trying to get in the way of your romantic couple because they feel they need to protect one or the other from what they perceive as a bad choice. Similarly, your antagonist might want to kill the king because he feels the king is abusing his power.

Don’t forget backstory is just as important your antagonist as it is with any other character. Consider what their family life was like, where they grew up, what hardships or ordeals they’ve faced.

It’s also worth noting that two of the more common tropes in antagonists is either mental instability or abusive backgrounds. While these are tragic and often difficult topics, keep in mind that they’re common tropes and potentially harmful. Think of the people you know who struggle with mental illness or who have come from traumatic childhoods. They probably don’t go around doing things to hurt people or animals on the regular, which makes using it as a reasoning for your antagonist weak and unrealistic.

What motivates your antagonist? Let me know in the comments!

Posted in General

June of 2020

When I started writing this post, I wanted to focus on June and what’s happened this month. It was supposed to be the same as any of my other recap posts.  As I wrote however, it felt false and in many ways, forced.

June has been a painful and frustrating month. For me, the first week and a half was filled with moving to the new house as well as transferring to a new job location. The fire season in my state is above average; we won’t see an end to that until monsoons begin. Here in America, clashes have started because of systematic racial discrimination and blatantly willful ignorance. On a widest scale, there is a global pandemic which we cannot combat, and is forcing us to adapt as a global society.

These are not new issues. There are many of them and they are all frustrating and painful. They are large issues and when you’re faced with how to handle them all together, it can feel as impossible as trying to turn the tide. You feel small and helpless as one person. One person cannot turn the tide.

One person can, however, clean up a beach.

One person can tell a story.

One person can spare a dollar or a dime.

One person can adopt a dog.

One person can read a book.

One person can lend a hand.

You do not have to do all of these things. You are one person, but you are not the only one. While you write the story, someone else will read it. While you lend a hand for an hour, someone else will give spare change where it’s needed. While you rescue an animal, someone else is cleaning up the beach.

We are all just one person, but there are billions of people on the planet. Imagine the impact we could make if we all collectively made one choice to help someone or something else in need. That might be helping an elderly neighbor collect their groceries. That might be volunteering or donating to an animal shelter. That might be deliberately finding a new creator to support. That tiny action impacts someone else. A single action of kindness, of empathy, of simple positivity.

Every month, I like to put an aim in my agenda. Usually it’s something for me to work on personally, but I think the one I put down for May of 2019 fits here. Small positives create large impacts.

There are plenty of awful things in the world, but there is a reason why there’s always a story somewhere about the good things. Maybe it’s about a child who cuts off her hair to donate. Maybe it’s about the police officers who help a child’s lemonade stand. Maybe it’s that story about a kitten who finds a forever home.

These are the small positives. They might only stay with you for a moment. They might be the story you remember vaguely years later, but they are the positives. They are the reminders that yes, things are awful. The world is a terrible place with tragedies and travesties galore.

But it’s also full of people. Singular people that, together, have an enormous power. Your share of that power is not as minute as it seems. Those small positives collect and inspire more positives. They create a force of positive change.

Pick one thing. Be that writing a letter to a friend. Be that supporting a diverse creator. Be that offering time or donation to an organization. Be that offering to do an extra chore for a family member. Be whatever it is, pick one thing.

June has not been an easy month. 2020 has already been an trying year and we still have another six months to get through. But we’re not done yet.

Posted in blogging

Checking In on Goals

With all the insanity that comes up when moving, I feel like my entire routine has been thrown out of the window. I haven’t managed to get much sorted out for June and realized when I made Monday’s post that I’d completely forgotten to prep any prompts for this month as well.

Since I need to get back into my routine I wanted to also take a moment to reassess my organization and where I am with my goals for the year. Admittedly, it’s not looking great, which is somewhat disappointing.

I started out the year with a self-set reading challenge of twenty-four new books. Unfortunately, I haven’t been doing so great on that score. Although I’ve read around ten or eleven books, all but three have been rereads. While I could still try and rush through and finish all twenty-four by the end of the year, I don’t think that would be wise, so I’m instead opting to cut back down to a mere twelve new books.

I also wanted to publish at least two stories published this year. Crimson and Gold came out in January, and I have another project I’m looking to possibly start discussing and showing in July. For my publication goals, I’m pretty pleased with where things stand.

Also! Crimson and Gold is available through Kindle Unlimited and will also be free on July 4th and 5th.

Although I’m not meeting all of the goals I set for myself, I’m still really pleased with where things stand for right now. There’s plenty of time to wrap things up. Although I’m missing the prompts for June it’s given me a good chance to reorganize and sort out some of my older posts and plan ahead.

How are you feeling about your goals?

Posted in writing

Coping With Writer’s Block

It happens to almost every creative out there. Block. Writer’s Block is arguably the most famous and well known. It’s often presented as a lack of ideas but writer’s block can also take another form: lack of energy. You might have plenty of ideas, but no motivation to get them down.

Regardless of how it presents itself, the result is largely the same: your writing has ground to a practical stop. There are a variety of reasons behind a block. You might be stressed, exhausted, dealing with real life issues or perhaps you’re coming down with a heavy case of seasonal allergies. Perhaps you don’t know why. The why may not matter, but coping with it does.

Recharge. A lot of blockage might come from needing to recharge. This goes both for your healthy, and your well of ideas. Put the writing up for a week. Binge watch those awful shows you can’t resist. Take some time out of your day to do something for you. Treat yourself to a hot bath or shower, or that glass of wine you’ve been putting off because you don’t have a good reason. Relax and accept that it is what it is and that you’ll come back to it later. 

Check in with yourself. Almost all creative types—artists, actors, writers—have higher numbers of mental illness like anxiety and depression. The reasons behind that are a little murky, but the numbers speak for themselves. If you’re blocked, it might just be because your mental health is dropping. Check in with yourself and be honest. Anxiety and depression can do a lot worse damage than just dry up your creativity. You can take that from someone who has experience with anxiety. Check your health, both mental and physical.

Motivate yourself. Sometimes the biggest problem for a writer suffering from block is fear. Maybe we think we’re not good enough. Maybe we think we’ll be rejected. Whatever the case may be, we’re still fighting writer’s block. It might be an idea to set up a couple of prompts and spend ten minutes free writing to help you get moving again. Find a way to motivate yourself—be that through a sprint or through gentle encouragement. Some of us work well under pressure, but sometimes that pressure can make us crumple.

Change something. This might be your space or your routine. If you’re more of a plotter, throw your outline out the window. Find a random prompt and splash it down as the next sentence of your story. Build from it. If you’re a pantser, try sitting down and doing some light plotting to see what gets moving. If that doesn’t work, try moving your space around.

Find a cheerleader. If you’re finding it hard to get any writing done, don’t feel bad—you might just need a little more support! If you have a writer’s group you can turn to, ask if someone doesn’t mind being a cheerleader for you. This can range from an in-depth discussion of their favorite character, to reader comments on your current draft. If you don’t have a writing group, now might be a good time to get one. Writing in itself is often a lonely venture, and loneliness can make even our favorite tasks unenjoyable.

Posted in General

Everyone Is Afraid

Originally I’d planned today’s post to be on co-authoring, but in light of the reaction to COVID-19, I wanted to address the concerns plaguing the world. The fact is, the reactions we’ve seen are massive. Here in the US schools are closed or are having their spring breaks extended. In my state, there has been some talk of postponing the end of the year tests. Employees are sent home for a cough and told not to come back until they’ve been tested. National Emergency has been declared, and people are scared. 

This is reflected across the world. Canada. Ireland. Australia. Schools are closed, large gatherings are cancelled. People are told to self-isolate and travel is heavily restricted.  There are shortages of incredibly questionable items.

In the face of all this, things look grim. There are no concrete answers to what the next steps are even while researchers, scientists and medical professionals work to contain and combat the virus.

There are however, things to keep in mind and reassure yourself with. To start, do a self-assessment.

Are you currently ill? If no, do the things you would normally to stop yourself from getting sick–wash your hands regularly, cough into your elbow, don’t touch your face and if you know someone who is sick, don’t hug or kiss them.

If you are ill, stay at home. Enjoy some of your favorite shows, drink plenty of fluids and follow medical advice.

If you need to stock up, please, please pick up reasonable amounts. Remember that although it doesn’t hurt to be prepared, there is such a thing as being over prepared. Also keep in mind that for those of you buying up large cases of water and toilet paper that you’re not facing a natural disaster, you’re facing an outbreak of a virus. Tap water will still be available. You do not need six months of toilet paper.

In the event you end up having to self-quarantine, even temporarily, there are plenty of ways to socialize without having to be around people. Messaging systems like Skype, Discord and FaceTime give you a way to be around people without having to be near them. You can call and chat with people even while they continue their day-to-day lives. Work from home if you’re able.

Above all else, remember that as scared as you are, everyone else is scared as well. The virus itself may never come anywhere near you or your family, but the actions you and others take out of fear will have a much bigger impact.  Fighting over basic supplies won’t help anyone. Checking in on your vulnerable community members and helping them get the things they need such as cough and cold medications or soap and hand sanitizer will help protect your community as a whole and minimize the spread and any potential deaths from it.