Gone are the days when villains could be evil just for the sake of it. Today's readers want complex villains with great backstories who they can love to hate. So what makes a great villain?
Some of my favorite villains are those that have tragic backstories, who were mistreated themselves or lost someone they loved. Rather than try to get help, they let their anger and grief consume them. They're better villains because you can almost understand why they turned to the dark side. You might even see yourself following the same path if you were in their position. Another recurring theme with villains is that they want to do something drastic, that will throw everything into chaos, but you do see their point. They make a good point, they just lack the right execution. (Looking at you Marvel)
One of my all-time favorite villains is Regina or the Evil Queen from Once Upon A Time. She is complex, the daughter of a narcissist and she lost the man she loves at the hands of her own mother. She did not immediately become a villain, but that anger grew over time. It became more complicated because Regina loved her mother, and from a young age, she was told that what she was doing was for Regina's own good. Regina couldn't hate her mother, so she directed her anger toward Snow White. She then isolated herself, let jealousy get the better of her, and gave in to her dark magic. Her anger became a shield to hide behind and to protect her. Even later in the series, after she redeems herself, you can see her putting up that shield when upset. This makes her more sympathetic because her journey is long, but she wants to be a better person in the end for her child.
Many villains on TV shows are redeemed, usually by falling in love with the main character such as Spike or Damon. Redemption is a great theme in books, but it cannot happen overnight. You also need to balance out what that person has done as a villain and what they had done to redeem themselves. The scales will never balance of course, especially if they have killed people, but they can work toward their 'happy ending' by doing the right thing and letting go of their villain ways.
When it comes to writing your villain, you need to have a good reason for their actions. People aren't born evil, events shape them. This could be loss, neglect, abuse, or simply being raised in an environment where it was expected of them.
You need to understand what makes them tick, that way you can predict how they will react to a situation. A villain often comes from a similar background to the protagonist. They are two sides of the same coin, where one gave into darkness and the other finds the light. Do research into how a person reacts to a bad upbringing or abuse and this way you can accurately reflect this in the villain. Not everyone born into these circumstances becomes a bad person, but for those that do, there is usually a point of no return for them.
We like to cheer when the villain is killed, but when you give your villain depth, you often have mixed feelings over their demise. Yes, they did horrible things and they have to die. However, you can see that had circumstances been different, they could have been saved. This makes it all the more tragic.
When it comes to writing your villains, take the time to get them right. Give them good motivations for doing the things they do and don't forget to give them some good attributes too. Your villain may be the most horrible person on Earth, but that doesn't mean he still can't have a soft spot for animals!
We were all first-time writers once, and some of you still are. Writing a book is hard work, but rewarding too when your story finally comes together. Most first-time writers don't think much beyond getting to the end of their book, but you need to consider what happens after you finish and create a plan. Here are five mistakes I see first-time writers make and I have made some of them myself.
1) Once your book is completed, it needs to be professionally edited. There is no way around this. Even if you are an English Major, it still needs to be looked at by a professional. Putting up a book with a lot of typos or spelling mistakes will put readers off and they may give you bad reviews. A professional editor can polish your manuscript and ensure you are putting up the best version of your book possible.
2) Consider your audience. What genre is your book? Who are your potential readers? You need to be sure that the book appeals to them. For example, if you market your book as a romance, but the story is full of adventure scenes with romance playing second fiddle, then you have it in the wrong category. Genre is something to be considered before writing as you need to make your book as appealing to readers of that genre as possible.
3) Being unfamiliar with the genre you are writing. Never write a genre you haven't read extensively yourself. Most writers will write horror for example, because they are huge horror fans themselves. They know what works and what doesn't for that genre. If you have never read a thriller before, do not attempt to write one. Do your research first. Read as many books in the genre as you can and learn what tropes work best for that genre.
4) Cover Design is key. If you plan to self-publish your work, a great cover can really improve sales. This can be daunting because some covers are quite expensive. You will find though that they make all the difference when it comes to getting readers to notice your book. Don't be tempted to use the cover creator tools on sites. They do not make your book stand out.
5) If you choose to go down a traditional route for publishing, always do your research. You need to be sure that you are sending your book to a publisher or agent who deals specifically with your genre. Check out their websites for the submission terms and always follow them to the letter. If they say they are currently closed for submissions, don't send your book anyway. If they expect a cover letter and synopsis, be sure to include them. You want them to take the time to read your book and that means following their guidelines.
When you are first starting out, you may find that a lot of writing is trial and error. Take on board any advice offered, and do your own research too. Writers rarely become overnight successes when starting their careers. Perseverance is needed and the ability to learn and adapt to new changes. Writing is a marathon, not a sprint. Take the time to get it right and you can have a lasting career as a writer.
1) Tell us about your book
A Measure of Happiness was inspired by the true story of the Casket Girls. In 1728 young French women were sent to colonial Louisiana to become brides. Upon their arrival, rumors started floating around that some of the girls were vampires. A Measure of Happiness is the story of Mariette Rossard adapting to life with her new husband in the wild country. (And yes, she is a vampire.) It is a historical fantasy tale with a dash of romance (and blood—because you know, vampires).
2) What themes does your book explore?
Looking for a home, a place to belong. Adapting.
3) Tell us something unusual about your main character.
Sunlight and garlic do not bother Mariette. She became an orphan and a vampire on the same night. All she knows about being a vampire she has learned through trial and error.
4) Is this a standalone book or a series?
This is a standalone book. I do have plans to write a follow-up story for Mariette which will take place ten to twenty years after the events in this book.
5) What is next for you?
Right now I am writing a steamy wolf-shifter romance.
6) What genres do you write in and why?
I write urban fantasy, paranormal romance, steamy romance, and occasionally horror. While I read a multitude of genres, magic hooks me every time. I love the possibilities and pitfalls of magic and magical worlds.
7) Describe your writing style
I write in both first and third person. It depends on the character which POV I choose. I have started writing in one style and changed because I can tell the main character’s story better in the other style. There’s no rhyme or reason behind my decision—it just feels natural to tell the story in a way that fits the main character best.
8) What inspires you to write?
Ideas come to me at odd times. While walking my dog, or at work, sometimes when I’m trying to fall asleep. I have little notebooks with ideas, but what inspires me to write the full story is how vividly I imagine the characters. They take on a life of their own as I write.
9) Who are your favourite authors?
Oh so many! This is not in any particular order—Ilona Andrews, Patricia Briggs, Kelley Armstrong, Nalini Singh, Lexi Blake, Joey W. Hill, Chloe Neill, Jennifer Estep, Neil Gaiman, Anne Bishop, Stephen King, and Jim Butcher.
10) Tell us something unusual about you.
I volunteer for a local horse rescue (sixteen years and counting). It isn’t glamorous, but someone has to muck out the stalls. Before that, I volunteered with Miracles in Motion for ten years. MiM uses adaptive therapeutic riding and hippotherapy to provide support and opportunities for children and adults with physical and mental disabilities.
When not daydreaming about plot lines and characters Andra practices yoga, reads voraciously, and drinks too much coffee. She loves road trips and going off on wild tangents. Andra writes in multiple genres—including but not limited to—urban fantasy, steamy romance, paranormal romance, and horror.
Urban Fantasy is a popular and multilayered genre that has really proven a hit with readers. Urban Fantasy authors include Kelley Armstrong, Laurell K. Hamilton, and Kim Harrison, but what is Urban Fantasy.
Urban Fantasy refers to a subgenre of books that feature magic and the supernatural in a modern-day setting. The appeal of these books is the idea that magic could exist in our world, we just don't see it.
If you have thought about writing Urban Fantasy but don't know where to start, you should be aware of the most common tropes for this genre. If you are unfamiliar with tropes, these are elements that go into a story that tells the reader what genre they are reading. For example in a romance book you would have boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy and girl find each other again. They are familiar events that shape the story and give readers what they want.
So what are Urban Fantasy tropes. While some can come and go, the main tropes of UF are -
The MC tends to be a woman, although there are male leads in a lot of popular UF series including that of Jim Butcher. There will be little to no romance, or it can feature but it won't be crucial to the plot.
When it comes to writing these types of books it is important to take the time to worldbuild before beginning. What are the rules? What creatures exist? Do humans know about them?The rules you create in your world could add more conflict for your MC. For example, perhaps the humans don't know about magic and she accidentally reveals it to the world. Or perhaps the supernatural community has revealed themselves, but they are forbidden to harm humans. When someone is found dead, seemingly by a supernatural creature, your MC could investigate and try to clear their name.
The possibilities are endless and you can have a lot of fun coming up with new ideas for these types of books. Be sure to check out Urban Fantasy authors and read their work to familiarize yourself with the genre.
Nissa Whitlock is the main character in the Road To Nowhere Series. A half-wizard, she has an unusual power, that could just save her town and everyone in it. Here is a little insight into the character with an interview from her perspective.
Tell us about yourself
What's to tell? I live in a small, crappy town in the middle of nowhere. I co-own the local bar with my Aunt M.
The town you live in is full of supernaturals. So what type of supernatural are you?
That's my business. (sigh). I'm a half-wizard on my father's side.
Interesting. What kind of powers do you have?
I can stop time. But only for 27 seconds. Not good for much. But it comes in handy when some creep is trying to feel you up in the bar.
You don't seem to like the people you live with?
A bunch of supernaturals crammed into a tiny town together, most of them on the run from something, yeah, let's just say things can get tense.
Do you ever think about leaving Nowhere?
Tried that. Things didn't work out. Guess I'm cursed to remain here.
What would you change about the town?
Everything. How about the gossip, the small-minded bigotry, and the feeling like you are constantly being watched. Change the town? Ha! Given the chance, I'd blow it off the map.
Perhaps we should end the interview there. Thank you for answering our questions, Nissa.
1) What genres do you write in and why?
I write fantasy fiction because it’s a fun genre to explore and the possibilities are endless
2) Describe your writing style
I plan my book by chapter, write everything in a rough draft and then I type it all up. I stop and edit every 5 chapters and do an audio run-through afterwards
3) What inspires you to write?
I just get a random idea and I run with it
4) Who are your favourite authors?
I like Christina Henry, George.R.R.Martin and Stephen king. Each of them have their own unique style of writing
5) Tell us something unusual about you
I can read three books at once
I am a lover of books, tea and fantasy. I have a joint degree in English literature and history and a Siberian husky named Logan. Awakening and Darkness (first two books in the Mythics and mortals trilogy), are out on amazon.
Celestial Awakening is out now and features a collection of mythology retellings about Goddesses. My story For The Love of Goddess features Freyja from Norse Myth. The set is available to buy now, but here is an excerpt from my story -
A LONG TIME AGO
Standing in the great hall, I surveyed the chosen warriors before me. All worthy men who would serve us well. Moving amongst them, I stopped to speak with a few. One man died in a battle with a warring clan. Another defending his family.
Pausing in front of a confused-looking man, I placed my hand on his shoulder. “And how did you die, noble warrior?”
“I do not know. A creature came out of nowhere and then I was here.”
Strange. Perhaps he had slain the beast just as it killed him? That would earn him a place here.
He raised his hand and rubbed the back of his neck. As he did, I noticed an unusual rune on the back of his hand. I had never seen it before.
“Where did that come from?” I asked, taking his hand in mine.
“I do not know. It just appeared.”
Leaving him to it, I left the hall and went in search of my brother, Freyr. He could have the answer.
I found him in the banquet hall, being adored by the maidens, as usual. Shooing them away, I sat down beside him.
“You spoil my fun, sister,” he said, pouting at me.
“I need your help. What does this mark mean?” Holding my hand over his wine cup, I use my magic to manifest the mark in the liquid.
Freyr frowned when he saw it. “Where did you see that?”
“On a man in the great hall. One of the fallen.”
“Do not get involved,” Freyr said, drinking from the goblet and erasing the mark.
He sighed. “The man was marked for death.”
“He is one of the warriors.”
Freyr shrugged. “Then he must have fought valiantly before whatever came for him, finished him off.”
“So someone marked him and that sent a monster after him?”
“Yes, the mark is like a beacon, calling to whatever has been tasked with killing him.”
I had never heard of such a thing. Why mark the man for death instead of just doing it themselves? Unless they could not risk being implicated.
It was no matter. Whatever the reason the man had ended up here. There was nothing that could be done about his death, but his afterlife could be used wisely.
Leaving my brother to his cavorting, I returned to the great hall to finish welcoming our guests.
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The dreaded self-edit. You've just finished your latest book and typed the words The End, but unfortunately, your hard work is not done. It is now time to edit and polish your book before taking the next step. Here are a few tips for writers when it comes to editing their work. While some writers might edit as they go, others wait until they are finished writing to check it. Whatever style you adopt, these tips can help you catch those annoying typos.
Genre: YA Fantasy Romance
Publisher: Synthesis Press
Date of Publication: 12/17/2022
ISBN: 979-8-9866022-0-2 (eBook)
ISBN: 979-8-9866022-1-9 (Paperback)
Number of pages: 286
Word Count: Approx. 99,500
Cover Artist: César Pardo
Tagline: A Shade. A Storm. A Soul.
Cursed with forbidden knowledge, 19-year-old Dela must hide her secret from her nomadic tribe or face exile into the frozen wasteland of the Bitters. When she becomes separated from her people during a blizzard, a mysterious and dangerous wanderer named Talon promises to help her find her way back to them. She quickly learns that nothing is what it seems, that her curse may actually be a gift, and that the Bitters are far more dangerous than she could have imagined.
Packed with unexpected twists, Bittersouls is a mixture of survival, adventure, and slow-burn romance that is sure to get your heart pounding.
Something moved at the edge of the horizon. It was like a shadow, black as a cloud but moving fast across the snow plain. Time seemed to stop, but Dela could feel herself sliding forward as if she were standing on a lake of ice. Freja was still yelling, but she couldn’t hear her. Her arms were flailing, but Dela hardly noticed.
A wave of lights moved in front of the thing, jumping and turning, quick as sparks. It was like a field of quails fleeing into the sky before a coming wolf, but the wolf—the shadow—followed them. The closer it got, the more the shiver racked her spine. She knew exactly what it was, though she’d never seen one. No one in the congregation had. There were no stories. No whisperings. Only a name.
Freja stared at her, bewildered into silence. Perhaps she was going to speak, but then--
“Shade!” Dela reached for her friend, snatching her by the sleeve and pulling her toward her. They ran, berries forgotten even as the bags bounced in Dela’s grip. They were a dozen strides from the bush before she thought to secure them to one of her belt hooks. How could she even think of them at a time like this? They had to get to the camp. People had to know.
They skidded to a stop at the edge of the overhang they’d climbed. The tents were only a dozen feet below, and a handful of people had gathered at the commotion. They stared up at the two girls with confusion intermingled with irritation. They weren’t used to their evening being disturbed by shouting, and the long journey had people’s nerves worn thin.
None of that mattered. All that mattered was what they would do. What were they supposed to do?
“Shade coming from the east!” Dela yelled. “Get the Ministers!”
Chaos possessed the camp. People scrambled, yelling. Others just stood with disbelieving frowns. Some started running in no particular direction. As if that would save them.
Dela knew nothing about Shades. She hadn’t put much thought into what they might be or do or want. All she knew was that whatever that thing was, it was one of them. And the lights? The things it was chasing? What were they?
Freja was trembling as she crouched and threw her legs out over the edge of the rocks. It was a maneuver she’d done a hundred times, and in colder weather than this. But for fear or anger or nerves, her grip failed. Dela lurched downward, chest striking hard against the rocks as her hand snapped out into the air—and caught her friend’s arm. She grunted as she swung the girl toward the rock wall, which Freja caught in an instant. They exchanged an important glance, but there was time for little else.
Dela stood again, scanning the snowfield for signs of the shadow. It was still gliding forth on nothing but empty air, like a nightmare in a dead sprint toward an innocent dreamer. But, she realized, it was not heading straight for them. It had deviated, aiming toward the empty field north of them, and if it kept going that way, it might miss them entirely.
Could it see? It didn’t seem to have eyes. Nor any other body part, per se. Did it smell, then? Or feel? How could it expect to find anything out here in the cold, white abyss of the Bitters?
Whatever rules it followed couldn’t be the same as what humans or animals followed. It didn’t make any sense.
Then she saw the reason. One of the congregation, maddened by fear, had made a break for it, out into the open Basin. The Shade wasn’t just going to miss the camp. It was going after him.
He’d made it a hundred feet from the camp, and showed no signs of looking back or slowing. From the angle of approach, the man couldn’t see the shadow coming. Couldn’t see it bearing down on him. Couldn’t see the impossibility of his flight.
The Shade engulfed him as though it was little more than a localized fog. He vanished entirely from view, and for one bizarre moment, the beast of a cloud seemed to stop.
Then they heard the scream.
About the Author:
A life-long lover of the magic of storytelling, L.A. wrote his first story at the age of 7 and has been writing ever since. Speculative fiction, particularly fantasy, has always held a special place in his heart for the uniqueness of the places and the questions it can address. Though veiled by apparent strangeness, he has always seen it as capable of revealing deeper truth about our own reality.
L.A. graduated from Montana State University in 2015 with Honors in Biochemistry and a minor in Music Composition. This helped nurture his critical thinking and research skills which continue to be instrumental to his writing. During his collegiate years, he also met the love of his life, Julie, whom he later married. At once his greatest supporter and his staunchest critic (when he is wrong, which is more often than he’d like to admit), she has been an integral part of his creative process ever since.
In February of 2018, L.A. became the father of his first son, Griffin. His second son, Tiber, was born in December of 2019 and his third son, Malachi, was born in January of 2022. Though life has become considerably busier since he became a family man, L.A. continues to work on writing in what little spare time he can find. He hopes to one day pass on his love of literature to his sons.
Twitter - https://twitter.com/lamortonyates
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/lamortonyates/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/authorlamortonyates
1 $35 Amazon or Barnes and Noble Gift Card (winner's choice)
The first book in the Beacon Hill series
Young adult fantasy
Date Published: 04-04-2023
Publisher: Wander (Imprint of Tyndale House Publishers)
A coming-of-age teen is thrown into a world of ancient secrets when he discovers a supernatural artifact that protects a weapon of mass destruction. With the help of a diverse group of friends, he embarks on a global adventure, seeking the truth about his sister’s death, and uncovers two clandestine, supernatural societies waging an epic, hidden war that threatens the future of civilization.
D. J. Williams’s suspenseful, page-turning style whisks readers into a wildly exciting, supernatural adventure that grabs hold of the imagination and never lets go. As Jack races to collect ancient artifacts critical to the survival of the world, readers are transported to incredible locales across Asia, including the lush jungles of the Philippines and the high-energy streets of Hong Kong. Themes of addiction, revenge, faith, and friendship emerge as Jack battles literal and psychological demons, and even his own friends and family members, on his quest to thwart the forces of evil.
About the Author:
S. K. Gregory is an author, editor and blogger. She currently resides in Northern Ireland.
“Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.”