Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Creating a character... the villain.

I have a sort of educational purpose here, or at least I feel I can share some of the knowledge I have within the general area, as I think more people should write...
My professor (one of the cool ones...he's Danish) told me yesterday that everyone has at least one book inside, so get cracking and get it out. There's not even close to being too many books in this world.

Obviously I prefer the imaginative stories, so my entries will focus on (in this case) the villain of a story I would like to read. But the emotional part could be transferred to any kind of fiction...or non-fiction for that matter.

First of all, and this is the most important point I can possibly make, make your characters, villain or hero, three-dimensional.
A man that is only evil does not work.
Having said that I think I might correct myself a bit as Sauron is pure evil. But he's never in the action more than like a symbol of the evil happening all over Middle Earth. His evil henchmen do all the villain-work. And they seem to have more than one dimension. Though I think Saruman a bit one-dimensional (and I'm aware of the trouble I can get myself into by claiming such a thing), but he has a past where he used to be a better man, according to Gandalf. But the evil of Saruman is almost as one-dimensional as that of Sauron. Sauron was always this malicious creature, from his creation (read Silmarillion for details). He never had a fragment of good in him. And to convey a great character (I'm about to contradict myself here again) he or she has to have several levels of personality. Following this advice, Sauron isn't a very good character, but again I think he is more the symbol of evil rather than a character. Morgoth started out as a good character (ish), and he is probably based on Lucifer the fallen angel from The Bible. Sauron just continued his work, representing The Devil... the symbol of evil, tempting and forcing to do evil in his name.

Back to the villain. When I wrote about building a character earlier, I told you to have the background story ready when you start writing. You don't have to spell out every single detail in the novel, but it's important that you know. You as a writer, or a storyteller, have to know where your characters are coming from, and also have a pretty good opinion on where or what they are going towards.

Is he a villain like Magneto? One with a terror in his past, a cause and good intentions?
Is he a villain like The Joker? One with no cause, no reason other than anarchy, and only trying to convey chaos?
Is he a villain like any of the traditional villains in James Bond, for instance, with a lair hidden far away, pools with sharks in them, instruments of destruction, and evil plots destroying the earth in one way or another?
Know your characters no matter their agenda.

When mentioning the villain, I also have to give some attention to "The Trickster".
And I'm not referring to Loke from Norse Mythology at the moment, though he would serve as a great example of a trickster character.
The trickster is a character who will do something that shoots the story off into a different direction. His reasons for doing so are simply to see what would happen if he did. He's not necessarily evil, or doing these things out of spite or a need to do bad things. He's doing them because he has an ability to check out the mechanics of the world. No one seems to be stopping him, and he's allowed to continue. If you have seen Once Upon a Time, the television show, you'll know that Mr. Gold is a trickster. He plays both sides. And you believe in him in both situations, or you actually distrust him equally in both situations.

Why do people do the things they do? Evil for evil's own sake is always very hard to comprehend, and so if a character is to do evil deeds just to be evil, then you better have an explanation for yourself (at the very least).

Emotional depths are also very important.
Let me repeat that.
Emotional depths are also very important.
Any writer writing a story just surfing on top of every emotion will not be able to dive deep enough into his or her material, leaving the story (and not only the characters) one-dimensional.
To convey true emotions, you actually have to map out how the various emotions really feel.
How they really, really feel. This might mean going soul searching...and that can be scary...

Anger. How would you describe a person so angry he could kill?
Sadness. How would you describe a person so sad he or she can't see any light?
Happiness. How would you describe a person so happy they can't think straight? So happy they can't stop crying ( a little paraphrase of Sting there)? So happy they are floating on air?
Afraid. How do you describe a person so afraid that they fear for their lives?

Let's give these a quick Much Ado About Shakespeare-try... (please note that all of my examples are just that, they are written quickly, here and now, and without much depth, and I'm sure you all could out-do me if you gave this a good try...)

"He could feel the tasmanian devil growing inside of him, it was growing like a hungry raging animal trying to eat him up from within only to get the food it needed. He tried to keep it all inside, but he felt like an accident waiting to happen. Sooner or later he would burst, and the poor people surrounding him at the time would be sorry. His explosion would be a cataclysmic event."

I'm not sure if this conveys anger, but surly some sort of aggravating emotion.

"She was lying on the sofa feeling as if drowned, as if water was enclosing her, stopping her body from functioning. Her chest felt so heavy, and the thought of drawing her breath one more time, simply to stay alive, felt like the hardest task in the world. She could not cry the tears she needed to cry, the only thing she managed to do was lie on her sofa, under water, drawn down to the bottom from the weight of her chest."

"He felt elevated from these new emotions awakening. He had never in his life felt like skipping. Now it seemed like the best idea in the world, skipping along the road, showing the world his newly awakened emotion. He wanted to scream, to let the entire human race hear his joy."

"She could hear her blood pumping, like the noise that could not be heard. She tried to breathe without sound, but the more she tried to stay silent, the more she heard her pulse pounding through her veins. Her hands became numb and she felt on the verge of fainting, but she managed to stay put, not revealing her whereabouts."

Now, you might note that I haven't spelled out in pure words the emotion I'm conveying, and you shouldn't. Try describing anger without using the noun anger.

Good writing, people. I believe in you!


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