How To Write The Motivated Villain

Compared to the hero, a villain needs explaining on the author’s part. I suggest you design him with care to justify at least some of his vile actions. The villain is the driving force of your story’s conflict. Plain evil is boring, but an unpredictable mix of motives keeps the reader turning the next page. 

I’ll call my villain “he” throughout this article just to make things easier. You can create a fantastic female villain by using the same principles. Some of the most memorable villains are female—femininity coats cruelty with an extra layer or opposites. Remember that not all heroines are kick-ass fighters. Softness on the surface makes the fangs hurt more upon a venomous bite. 

Villain or Antagonist?

Although authors might see villains and antagonists as the same coin’s different sides, they’re two separate things. The antagonist is a plot device, a person, or an oppressing societal system the villain personifies (like O’Brien in Orwell’s 1984). When personified, the antagonist’s sacred assignment is to sabotage and delay the protagonist’s plan. Hell, even mother nature can play the part of an antagonist. Tie the antagonist to the type of conflict you choose as your story’s backbone. 

More information on types of conflict: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-conflict-in-literature-6-different-types-of-literary-conflict-and-how-to-create-conflict-in-writing#the-6-types-of-literary-conflict

The villain is a character type: beast, bully, mastermind, devil, traitor, or tyrant, for example. 

More information on different types of villainy: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-different-types-of-villains#4-tips-for-writing-compelling-villains

Having a Backstory

Without a believable, layered villain which you can peel like an onion, your story flattens. Pure evil is a caricature: one-sided and predictable. Think about your favorite books: why do you remember that particular villain? 

“But a well-written villain doesn’t fit neatly into the evil box. The best villains are nuanced. Think Hannibal Lecter, Gollum, Baby Jane. There’s a reason why these villains need no introduction. You remember them because they’re complex. They are evil, but they’re not just evil. They’re disturbing, haunting, and unnerving. You can’t look away from them in much the same way as witnessing a train wreck.”

Source and more information: https://nybookeditors.com/2020/01/developing-a-sympathetic-villain-for-your-novel/

Using a character questionnaire helps. Divide the villain’s traits into negative and positive.

Examples of Negative Traits

  • Who the villain hates, and why? Hate is a driving force.
  • What or who does he fear? Fear can make your villain vulnerable, but also drive him to the most heinous acts.
  • What line won’t he cross to get what he wants? Yes, there is a line even he doesn’t cross!
  • Ask him to define a weak person. Does he despise weakness or feel pity?

Examples of Positive Traits

  • What are his best traits? Perseverance, loyalty, courage?
  • What is his happiest memory? The birth of a son, getting married, killing his first victim?
  • Who are his friends? People he looks up to, peers/colleagues, or faceless minions?
  • Who does he love, and why is that person worthy of his devotion? Because she belongs to the hero? Because she is out of reach?

Source and the entire set of character questions: https://s3.nybookeditors.com/blog/PDF/Interview-With-a-Villain-20-Questions-to-Ask.pdf?mtime=20191230064028

Motivating Your Villain

Below is a list of excellent motivations, but the sky is the limit when you mold a villain that breathes. Design a motivation which you haven’t seen before.

–         Romantic interest: love and sexual desire are among the strongest motivations on earth. A person will cast aside self-preservation, even stop eating or sleeping. Neuroscientists compare love to psychosis; it’s a state of ultimate bliss and chaos in the human brain–consuming. And yes, the sugarcoated and the vindictive views on that special someone are useful for a writer. You see the person you want to conquer as perfect, but if she dates someone else, that ideal view covers with darker, bloodier colors.

–         Duty and honor: at war, your side is the good guys and the enemy the bad. If you have to kill a fellow man, there can be no doubt. But the noblest motivation of doing your duty can turn into the famous last words uttered before a military tribunal: “I only did my duty. I obeyed orders. I had no choice.” Some of the most haunting books and movies deal with this moral question.

–         Revenge: being wronged in the past. Nothing drives a blade through the squishy human heart like revenge. Serve this meal hot or cold; it’s always delicious.

–         Fear: the hero is the real danger to peace and prosperity. The villain cannot refrain from acting when Superman will demolish earth.

–         Family issues: who hasn’t rebelled against a father, or felt like the black sheep? If the king denies your right to the crown, shall you melt into the shadows to plot an uprising? The character of Loki is a famous example.

–         Fame or status: classic movie villains strived for world domination/causing the apocalypse just because they could. Rewrite the worn-out trope with a twist: the villain seeks to develop the society. Think of the most massive human experiment in history: the communist dictatorships. The road to hell might indeed be paved with good intentions and the will of men who could.

–         To fit in—everyone needs to feel accepted, to belong. What if the people around you are crazy and fitting in means losing your mind? This is the question which the hero Winston Smith asks in Orwell’s 1984. In addition, the villain is more crazy and intelligent than poor Winston can ever become.

–         To develop, and not only as evil. What if the villain’s noble goal just happens to hurt other people? 

–         A desire to better humanity: the fate of mankind demands developing a superior mutant race via cruel human experimentation, making a pact with the world-conquering aliens, or surveilling everyone from the cradle to the grave to keep them in line.

–         Desperation: raises the stakes and heightens the conflict—on both sides. What if the villain attempts to keep his family safe? What reader wouldn’t identify with his motive?

–         Loss of perspective. They say the first victim of war is the truth. You can lose perspective when the thirst for scientific knowledge overrides everything else. The advancement of a military or political career causes collateral damage. Hunting a fugitive through thick and thin makes the character ignore his fundamental values.

Being Right

The villain is always right if you ask him, and as a consequence, the protagonist is wrong. Turn the tables: if this were the villain’s story, would good and evil mix with grey shades? Or would he use magic to turn black into white? Right and wrong are perspectives. If Nazi Germany won WWII, the meaning of terrorist and resistance fighter would trade places. The winner writes the history books and no one is a war criminal in his own mind.

Being Charming

Give the villain charm and let him seduce the reader. Thus, he becomes another reason for the reader to keep reading. You also cause a mix of conflicting emotions when the villain rips apart his victim–according to his nature.

Having followers

Create secondary characters and enamor them with the villain. What villain doesn’t enjoy a court of like-minded followers? How scary is the high-school bully without his posse? Remember that the followers see positive traits they admire. No one follows for the devil because they love evil.

A Force To Reckon With

Make the villain equal, or preferably more potent than the hero. This way, you’ll keep the reader on her toes. The villain must do his job so well that the reader no longer believes in the hero’s success (or survival) during the critical plot point called the darkest moment.

How To Write Dystopian Books

Apocalyptic landscape

“Dystopian fiction offers a vision of the future. Dystopias are societies in cataclysmic decline, with characters who battle environmental ruin, technological control, and government oppression. Dystopian novels can challenge readers to think differently about current social and political climates, and in some instances, can even inspire action.”

Source: https://www.masterclass.com/articles/what-is-dystopian-fiction-learn-about-the-5-characteristics-of-dystopian-fiction-with-examples

Laws of Causality

So, anything goes because we can write whatever we want? Well, yes, and a huge NO. Creativity is a good thing when you dive into a bestselling genre with an original storyline. But we’re talking about twisting the course of history. And if you believe my professor, there are laws to obey.

You have to explain what went wrong before your book’s moment of now, but the chain of causality must be plausible. Some sub-branches of the dystopian genre-tree inch toward Sci-fi. If you want to sound the trumpet of doom about the dangers of gene manipulation, you’ve got heaps of research to do. 

What about totalitarian governments? Look at today’s political turmoil. That should be easy to write because so many movies and books have leveled the way. But think of Orwell’s 1984: George never skipped a lesson in political history. His book leads the moneymaker charts today because he wrote a detailed vision of the future. And we might already live in it. That’s how believable his theory is. And if you skipped the boring stuff of Winston Smith holding the secret book of the resistance, read those pages before you write another Hunger Games. I’m not ditching Suzanne Collins, to the contrary. She wrote a cruel twist: reality television.

World-building 

Writing the dystopian or post-apocalyptic genre requires ample world-building skills. What went wrong with humanity or the environment? Did the aliens destroy the earth? Your future must root itself in today’s politics. The causes of destruction convince the audience that your book can take place in the not so distant future. You also need to explain why a handful of people continue to survive.

The Author Interviews

Harper Maze and Sevannah Storm answered my in-depth author interview. These two brave souls have unique views on the causes of the Armageddon. Their answers reveal exciting aspects of the dystopian and post-apocalyptic genre. And they’re amazing writers. Read and learn.

Harper MazeSevannah Storm
1. Tell us about you. Who are you?
Harper Maze. I am from the UK, lived all over the country but currently on the coast in the South East along with my amazing wife and two adorable cats. As well as writing, I have a full-time job as an IT specialist in the Banking industry and include playing top level sports in my past too.Call me Sev. I’m a Christian writing romance, amongst other things. I tried for something less romance and more YA dystopian. Invasion is my first novel in this genre. I have another in mind. I’m finding it quite challenging not to amp the sexual tension.
2. What are you working on now?
I always have two projects on the go, so while a book is out for editing, for example, I can work on something unrelated and return to the other project fresh. I am currently working on my Dystopian Sci-Fi series “Heir of God” and an action-thriller series featuring a character called Savanna Steel too.I finished Invasion on the 20/02/2020. My next project is called Chrysalis. An impending asteroid collision with Earth has the world in a panic. Tara’s family is one of the chosen few to board the ship escaping the planet. This is her story.
3. Why do you write dystopian or post-apocalyptic stories?
Told well they can have impact on readers. There are many things that occur in society that we should pause and reflect on. Dystopian fiction gives us a platform to present possibilities, and the fantasy or Sci-Fi genres provide a good backdrop, at least for me. My hubs challenged me to write a different genre and so Chrysalis and Invasion came into being.
4. What do you love and hate most about the dystopian genre? Any cliches which infuriate you?
I love different approaches to the genre, especially the ones that challenge the status quo. There is a lot of Dystopian fiction about, so finding a new theme can be a challenge. Personally, I am not into Zombies or post-Nuclear war.I love: The high stakes. Life and death situations once more impact our lives. I feel we’ve become complacent. I also love the stretching of my imagination. Science Fiction and Dystopian = entertaining, mind-blowing imagery and concepts.
I hate: How only young adults survive. Gimme a few elders to guide them. Some follow the Lord-of-the-Flies approach; I wasn’t fond of that story.
5. Name your favorite dystopian movie. Why did you choose that one?
This is an easy one for me: Blade Runner. Aging myself, I watched this when it first came out and it was awe-inspiring. I read the novella (Philip K. Dick's ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’) not long after.Bladerunner. The legendary cinematography on it was ahead of its time. Even the soundtrack is breathtaking. Not to mention, it’s a unique premise that deals with human hatred towards synthetics.
6. Why is dystopian such a popular genre of literature?
I believe we live in troubled times, with Global Warming, a growing desperation for power sources as the natural resources become depleted, the threat of nuclear war. Dystopian fiction allows writers and their readers to ask the ‘what if?’ questions. We’re morbidly fascinated with our own demise. It’s also more plausible than a zombie apocalypse. Whether we bring about our destruction with global warming, nuclear war or nature tosses in her hand with solar flares or super volcanos, it could happen tomorrow. Deep inside us, we want to believe we’ll make it and dystopian stories have hope as the currency.
7. YA versus adult dystopian: what's the difference?
From speaking to people, I think that many adults like YA fiction. YA is not much different other than lack of sex and (often) swearing.Simplicity: YA is one or a group of individuals against the cause or corporation and through sheer will and enthusiasm, gain victory.
Adult dystopia has layers; emotional investment where we buy into the villain’s purpose and each aspect has a meaning; the décor, weather, fashion, technology and moral ambiguity the main characters work through.
8. What are the biggest misconceptions about this genre?
It’s not all zombies and nuclear war. There are other ways the planet is being damaged. That we can win against all odds. Independence Day/War of the Worlds: we gave the aliens a cold! Hunger Games: one woman defeats them all. Battlefield Earth (the novel): Jonny kills an entire species.
9. Name the best subgenres for dystopian literature. Which of them fascinates you particularly?
We tend to need to label everything 😊 Dystopian is also subgenre, but there are many themes based on the setting; fantasy, Sci-fi, urban, apocalyptic. My preference is those based on Earth or Earthlike planets. Ecotopian, Society, Environment, Politics, Religion, Totalitarianism. I prefer Ecotopian. I like to imagine a world where something not caused by us brings about our downfall…in the wrong place at the wrong time, whether from solar flares, asteroids or aliens.
10. Do you think that every writer should try writing a dystopian story at least once? Why: yes/no?
If they have a story, and a theme to tell in the genre, yes.Yes. Writing out of your comfort zone challenges the writer; whether it is poetry or historical fiction. The same applies to dystopian; broaden the stagnant neural pathways of our minds but in the end...just tell the story.
Harper MazeSevannah Storm
11. Who do you write to? To yourself, to the public? For fame or money?
I’ve always enjoyed writing and have written for myself and people close to me. However, I beleive I tell a good story and it’s been a dream of mine to have books available for people to read. I have never sought fame. I write for the day I can be free to do it full-time. I would love for all my stories to find publishing homes, for someone, be it agent, publisher or reader, to embrace my stories, to enjoy them.
12. How do you research your dystopian books (history, technology, politics)? Or is everything based on your imagination?
For Heir of God, I have researched because I am dealing with current issues. My setting is an earth in the grips of a volcanic winter after fracking causes the Yellowstone Caldera supervolcano to erupt. By design, fracking causes earthquakes to extract shale gas from the bedrock, and has caused earthquakes of over 5 on the Richter scale. Fracking is still done in some geologically unstable seismic regions.Based on my imagination up until I need information like what gas is airborn and can knock out people if sprayed on them, as an example.
13. How do you find the motivation to write?
I enjoy it and I have stories to tell.The muse is an unrelenting slave driver. You may think you are done with a story and the following day he taunts you with another. The stories need to be told, so I simply type them out. I often call him—my muse, a dictator. He dictates, I type.
14. How do you beat writer's block?
I have many ideas, if one isn’t speaking to me, I put it to one side and work on something else until I hear it again.I persevere, pushing through the slow days, trusting my fingers to know what I want to say even though I haven’t formed the sentences in my mind.
15. What advice would you give to a writer who wants to create a believable & grim future?
The world/setting must be right for the character. The world needs to have rules, such as physics and gravity, light and food and society should have a structure. You can break any rules, providing this is explained. For example, the planet is not like Earth, or the person who can fly is from another planet, or the hero time-traveled. What is important is that the story follows the hero or heroes, and all the characters, be they allies, opponents or people, as well as the setting, support the hero and the hero changing from their initial broken state to a changed and aware hero at the end. Or not if they chose to ignore it.Layers and details. Start with the basics, add layer upon layer…physical environment, emotional manipulation, cultural depth and then cut back. Just because you have this massive world in mind, you don’t hit your readers with it. Imagine yourself in that world Don’t spend paragraphs describing things because you wouldn’t do that in real life.
16. What went wrong in your book? Why did humanity fail?
Frackers 😊 Fracking set off a chain reaction of earthquakes in the Mid-West USA which caused Yellowstone to erupt. The last time it did was approximately 600,000 years ago.Aliens arrived and they weren’t friendly. They use human bodies as husks...carriers while their drillships mine Earth’s core.
17. How much of your books are based on your experiences in life?
Fracking causes earthquakes is a good theme. I have met people with traits like the characters in the book because my characters are human, a mix of strengths and flaws.None, well maybe Mel’s addiction to sugar and caffeine...scarce commodities. She also does what she must to survive.
18. Describe an excellent dystopian book cover. Why do you like it?
The Hunger Games covers, with the evolving Mockingjay pin on the front are very clever. They are instantly recognizable, and they follow the theme of the trilogy. However, this series has already made it, and likely won’t work for new writers. Divergent (Veronica Roth) shows a broken city, a few key landmarks in the background and the heroine as the focus.Divergent by Veronica Roth - because of the layers. It isn’t just a single item on a cover, there’s a broken city at the bottom. Layered covers are more intriguing. Every time you look at it, you see something you missed.
19. Who makes your book covers?
A very talented lady on Fiverr.com has made all my covers. I provide a concept and some basic images and Rebeca combines them over a series of reviews to the final product.
https://www.fiverr.com/rebecacovers
My publishing house does. I tell them what I like with examples and they see what they can create.
20. Describe your ideal reader.
Someone who will take the concepts and thoughts in the book and think about them in the context of what’s happening in reality.Loyal, passionate, greedy...a cheerleader.
Harper MazeSevannah Storm
21. What inspired you to write your latest book?
I had a few ideas, such as a mass-access simulation where a blind girl could see inside the simulation but not realworld. Added to this was a dystopian message about fracking and other destructive methods for fossil fuels. I combined them into the premise “Ready Player One meets Hunger Games meets Divergent, only different”. Since I completed the first version, the world is growing increasingly concerned about climate change, and fracking has been banned in the UK. However, companies still frack within a few miles of Yellowstone in Wyoming. I write many genres, so my latest two works-in-progress are science-fiction romances. What inspired me to write Invasion; I started with a woman in a pawn store in the middle of a nowhere-town. I had images of The Host in my mind, the strange alien creatures but other than that, it was my main character that determined the genre. A kick-ass, strong young engineering student forced to join the resistance when her father is taken.
22. How do you market your books?
When it’s launched – hopefully in April, I plan to use a mixture of Facebook, BookBub and Amazon as well as bloggers and reviewers. It should be exciting for sure, especially as I am hoping to get all five volumes out in a 12-month period.That’s a tough question. I dreamed of living in a lighthouse, punching out books and never seeing a book launch. Since then, I’ve learned I need many social media platforms, book reviews, blogs etc. Ask me this again when I’ve launched my three novels this year.
23. Who is your favorite writer? Why is he/she so good?
Currently, it’s Brandon Sanderson, who is a terrific world builder. His original Mistborn series (The Final Empire, The Well of Ascension and The Hero of Ages) is an example of what I aspire to create. The way he builds Vin as a character, using the world and opponents to help her grow, is an awesome read.Terry Pratchett – there’s always something new when I reread a story. His mind was something to admire; his concepts unique and well thought out.
24. Links to your web-page, social media accounts, and blog.
Website: www.harpermaze.com

FB: www.facebook.com/Harpermazeauthor/

Twitter:
https://twitter.com/harpermaze/

Instagram:

www.instagram.com/Harpermaze/
See: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sevannah_storm
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/Sevannah_Storm (sample pages only)
Website: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website (Please subscribe to my non-spamming newsletter)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sevannah.storm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sevannah.storm/ (So new on this, could use some support)
Tapas: https://tapas.io/sevannah_storm (sample pages only)
Tumblr: https://sevannahstorm.tumblr.com (never on here, still trying to figure it out)
Pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/sevannahstorm/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/95639379-sevannah-storm
Advertise your book!
“Ready Player One meets Hunger Games meets Divergent, only different”
Heir God
No book links yet, launches will be throughout 2020.

How To Write Romance

Hades & Persephone: To the Underworld

The #1 most competitive category on Amazon Kindle is Contemporary Romance. Authors who write romance are bad-ass! Despite which genre your stories belong to, creating believable erotic scenes should be part of any writer’s ammo. Who are the romance writers? Read what three successful authors have to say about their craft and learn.

Joanne Fisher, Sevannah Storm, and Lynda Rees answered my in-depth interview questions about this bestselling genre.

Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
1. Tell us about you. Who are you?
My name is Joanne Fisher and I am Canadian-Italian-American. I’ve been published now for just over 3 years and I have published a total of 8 books with genres ranging from steamy romance, historical fiction, murder mystery and travel guide.Call me Sev. I’m a Christian writing romance with a bit of Song of Solomon thrown in.

I love kick-butt strong, independent women who fall for alpha males.

I’m creative; studied art for seven years, lectured graphic design…that sort of thing.

For me, writing is a form of creativity release. I have a pug underfoot, two teenagers and a supportive husband.
I’m a multi-award winning author, part-Cherokee, a coal-miner’s daughter born in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. After a corporate career in marketing and global transportation, I followed my dream to become published in fiction. I’m wife to my personal story hero, mother of two, grandmother of three human children, one feline child, four equestrian babes and a donkey.
2. Tell us your latest news as a writer. What are you working on?
At this moment, I’m working on my second historical fiction titled “Magnolia Blossom” which is a forbidden love story that takes place during the American Civil War.I have dates from my publisher for The Huntress and Xiaxan Fox. It makes it feel more real.

Now, I’m writing a genderswap witcher in outer space.

Across endless darkness, Mick kills or collects creatures for credits. Mutated in one of those attempts, she may be stronger, faster but loneliness eats at her soul. Tasked to confirm the existence of a dragon-like species, she joins forces with an old friend who thought her a boy. Can she survive what he has planned for her, the origin of the death threats and the revelation that her not-dead mother has assassins out to kidnap her? (M)
In December, The Thinking Tree published, sequal to my middle-grade children’s book, Freckle Face & Blondie.

Also in December, The Bourbon Tree, Book 10 of The Bloodline Series, a mystery series set in Kentucky horse country was launched in English, German, French, Italian and will come out in Spanish in February.Kentucky is famous for fast horses, beautiful women and amazing bourbon. Or is that fast women and beautiful horses?

Book 9 of The Bloodline Series, Real Money, detailing Chloe’s hazardous career as a real estate agent, was published in August in English and in audiobook in October. It came out in French, German, Italian in December, and is pubishing in February in Spanish.
3. Why do you write romance?
Yes, romance is my favorite genre to write.I write more than romance. Every story must touch on the basics; adventure, intrigue, action. But such a story without romance means it's missing that special something.

Also, I feel love conquers all. It's that one emotion we have yet to fully udnderstand and it's something everyone searches for... hence The One, Soulmate, Mr Right.

But, on a personal level, that moment when the MMC snatches my breath, makes me swoon... that's the feeling I chase when I write.
That’s tough, like asking why I breath. It’s part of me. If I failed to put my characters’ lives in writing, they’d never let me sleep. As it is, insistently invade my resting brain as I try to drift off. You could say, I write scenes in my head, before they end up in manuscripts.
4. Do you write other genres as well?
Yes. I write historical fiction and murder mystery as well.Not initially. My first book written and snatched up by a publisher was a sci-fi romance so it’s my go-to genre.

Since then I wrote a fantasy romance, paranormal romance and then, a historical fantasy. It was the hardest due to the research.
I mostly write cozy romantic mysteries, but have an award-winning historical conspiracy theory romance Gold Lust Conspiracy. My two middle-grade children’s mysteries published are co-authored with my granddaughter, Harley Nelson. Freckle Face & Blondie and The Thinking Tree, Book 2 Freckle Face & Blondie Series were published in January and December 2019.
5. Why is romance such a popular genre?
Because in today’s culture, chivalry and romance are dying. Romance books and movies are keeping the romance fire alive. With all the different types of romance genres, it is alive and doing very well.Everyone wants to feel loved, to relive moments of joy in our lives and share in others even if it’s fictional.I’m a fan as well as author of the genre. I love it because it takes me into other worlds and gives me experiences I’d never have otherwise.
6. Name one thing you love about romance.
Romance takes you to a world where a woman is not only loved but respected and cherished. The meet-cutes, the first kiss and the I-love-you.Reading romance provides a few tears, some laughs or suspense, and leaves me with a feel-good vacation experience without having to leave home, though I can take it with me anywhere.
7. What are the biggest misconceptions about the romantic/erotic genre?
The major misconception is that it is compared to porn but I assure you it’s far from that. Erotica sparks sensual sensations in a woman and develops it in a way that the reader will feel what the protagonist is feeling. The unintended consequences of this is an awakening of the reader’s sensuality and this is definitely a good thing.Romance is for bored housewives, for women with low esteem and without love in their lives.

A proper romance is a story with a little sex in it. Why is reading it different from watching it? The Titanic, The Kissing Booth, Crazy Stupid Love, The Notebook, to name a few.
I don’t write or normally read erotic romance, so am not be the best to comment. My opinion is erotic literature is misconstrued as trashy or unholy by many. Of course, it’s about sex, which is a touchy subject for some, though it’s what keeps this world going round.

That misconception could be true of romance in general. A man, in an elevator full of writers at an RWA convention, said he’d been having a lovely time in a hotel filled with dirty women. We laughted, but it was a clear example of what those who have never read romance may still believe.

Erotic romance is written with the main focus on sex. Other genres of romance may include sex, but romance is the primal focus. Romance can have several heat levels from zero to five. My books aren’t erotic, though they have sexual scenes in them, depending on the story’s need, ranging from level three to five. This of course, doesn’t include my children’s books.
8. Name the best subgenres. Which fascinates you?
I enjoy a good drama or political suspense that goes along with a murder mystery or a romance.Historical, Contemporary, Science-Fiction, Fantasy and Paranormal…because vampires and werewolves are sexy.

It’s not the blood or animal thing, it’s the unapologetic masculinity and strength they exude.
I love and write mystery and suspence. I adore romantic comedy, though it’s difficult for me to put to pen. I enjoy thrillers and U. S. historical and western romance. I’m a history buff and have woven Kentucky history into The Bloodline Series (Books 1-10), God Father’s Day and Madam Mom. My state has an intriquing past of settlers and a little-known history of mobsters, gambling and sin. Gold Lust Conspiracy spawned from my fascination with Alaska’s frontier days.
9. Do you think that every writer should try writing a romantic story at least once? Why: yes/no?
Of course! If not anything, it will awaken the writer’s sensuality along with the thrill romance gives you.No. A writer should stick to what they’re comfortable with, but for an added element of realism, there should be a little romance.Write what drives you, whatever is inside that needs to come out. Experimenting with genres may help you find your voice, but consistency and doing it every day makes you better. A writer must write, and write and write. When the voice finally sets in, you recognize it.
10. Who do you write to? To yourself, to the public? For fame or money?
I write for my fans. Obviously, I’d like to write for money but right now, it’s a hobby for me although, who knows, one day I may write that best seller that will make me famous. I am content to satisfy my readers right now.For myself. I tell the story circling my mind. Once it’s out, I’m at peace. If I could earn a little to do it full-time, then I’d be grateful. Making a living doing something you’re passionate about is the ultimate dream.I write what stirs my soul and hope it helps someone else, if only go give them an enjoyable experience. I love my characters. They’re real, living beings dear to my heart. I hope they’re unforgettable to readers.

I certainly don’t write for fame and money, though that would be nice. Most of my life, a corporate career made money and paid the bills. I’d love my books to be famous, though I don’t need that personally. Fans have written me the most incredible tributes, so I’m a success without my face on television or being a household name.
Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
11. How do you find the motivation to write?
I have ideas for at least a dozen books. It’s quite funny how you write your first book (which took me ten years to write) and then the ideas come pouring out. Once I create a word document, with a title and a temporary cover, I’m committed to finishing it. I don’t struggle with punching out word count. The saggy middle is the hardest and I find, to persevere through that, keep to a daily word count.I am and always have been, self-motivated. Some authors are introverted and need the alone time. Though I’m an extrovert, I thrive on writing. At the computer, the room is filled with characters waiting their turn to speak. Jessie, Logan, Jason, Becky, Tisha, Sam, Lemon Sage, Wyatt, Levi, Riley, Corrie, Justin, Calvin, Rose, Chloe, Leo, Jaiden, Sam, Shae, Reggie, Dory, Chance, Zoe and Dex—they’re my motivation. I can’t shut them up.
12. How do you beat the writer's block?
Thank goodness, I haven’t had to deal with writer’s block yet.I push through. It’s easier to edit something written than a blank page.I’ve never experienced it. If I did, I’d take a walk in the woods, dance with my husband, have a cocktail and chat about the day with him or a good friend, play with my grandkids, feed the horses and donkey or go swimming or fishing.
13. What advice would you give to a writer who wants to create believable romantic/erotic scenes?
I would advise to read other writer’s work. This will allow you to be guided by their style and at the same time create your own style.Romantic: Be authentic and natural, place yourself in their shoes. How would YOU react in that moment?

Erotic: Be realistic. The elbow will poke him in the ribs. He will squash you with his weight and you will sweat. It's not pretty, don't make it a ballet dance choreographed to perfection.
-
14. An action thriller needs an erotic scene. Any tips?
Again, I would read a few action thrillers that do have that type of scene in it and create your own style.It depends on the mood and pace at that moment. If it’s after the detective finds the first body, then it’s hard, fast and intense. If his partner’s killed, then in grief, it’s long and slow. If he cries afterward, even better.-
15. How much of your books are based on your experiences in life?
A few of my books are inspired by certain moments in my life but then the characters take on their own journeys.
There are a few that are completely made up or based on someone else’s experience but again, I try to give my characters their own personalities.
The intimate scenes; I had my husband describe what he felt in the moment. The fight scenes; I do Krav Maga for fun and some of those techniques slip into my novels.I write fiction. Characters, places and events derive from my imagination. A splattering of actual events or similarity to historical happenings sometimes play out the way I want them to, instead of how they might occurred. Characters are a mixture—partly me, a spash of folks I’ve met and a measure my fabrication. We all draw on life experiences in order to be who we are.
16. Which format you enjoy reading: e-book/audiobook or print? Why?
I enjoy e-books because they can be carried anywhere where paperbacks can’t go like the gym for example.E-book. Instant gratification. No leaving the house to get my next fix.Some of my books came out in audiobook the past year, and the rest will launch this year in audio; so I’ve experimented in the medium and am learning I like it. It’s great when you’re too busy to read, working, cooking, working out, walking, running, driving or doing housework. People who don’t have time to read, now have access to books. I prefer print, but am also hooked on reading ebooks on my iPad.
17. Describe an excellent romance book cover. Why do you like it?
I like to see a very sexy couple if the book is an erotica or a couple in a romantic position like a kiss or a hug for clean romances. These covers already give the potential reader a taste of they are about to embark on. See, for example, my book “Her Spanish Doll” or “Christmas in Venice”.I grew up with the damsel clasped in a bare-chested man’s arms. Those are classic. For me, I like covers in the middle of an action scene or layered like the epic Tarzan covers. It’s not just the main character. There are bats and a city skyline and a forest with wolves all on one cover.It depends on the genre, but the cover should first of all have stopping power. Secondly, it should be compelling, signify the genre and give a hint what the story is about.
18. Who makes your book covers?
She’s my best friend and we used to work together. When she was let go she ventured in starting her own business and she handles my website, all marketing items and my book covers.
Robin McDonald - MacRed Designs - https://www.robin-mcdonald.com/
I do, for now. I have three novels launching this year. I don’t know who the publishers use.-
19. Describe your ideal reader.
Anyone who has some romance in their hearts or who loves an “on the edge of your seat” type suspense story.Someone passionate, supportive…a squealer. “OMW, I can’t believe she said that…he did that!”He or she reads and is touched in some way by every book I write, and can’t wait for the next one to come out. They post a review at Amazon, Goodreads and/or BookBub; and contact me directly so we can build a personal relationship. I love chatting with readers.
20. What inspired you to write your latest book?
Not who but what, Venice! I lived in Italy for 18 years and I’ve visited a few times while there. Then in 2018, my husband and I visited Italy. It is one of those cities that are unforgettable and for me, it inspired the story that I wrote. “Christmas in Venice”. There are also authentic Venetian recipes at the back of both the e-book and the paperback. I love to cook and I will definitely be trying the most difficult recipies. You should too!I’ve read all of Andrzej Sapkowski’s novels and played The Witcher. But I didn’t want to mimic the concept and since sci-fi is my go-to, then that’s what I went with.Two things have driven my need to write Hart’s Girls. I live near the I75 corridor, heavily used by traffickers of all sorts. As a mother and grandmother, child abduction is a concern gotten worse now, with internet access. The Tri-State Area is #5 in top areas experiencing human trafficking. I took a writer’s class last year on the subject, and it has eaten at me ever since wanting to come out.

Secondly, my character, FBI Special Agent Reggie Casse, needs a love interest according to fans. It’s difficult with her career. I want Reggie and U. S. Marshal Shae Montgomery to help get the word out. Child abduction and human trafficking occurs under our noses in all neighborhoods, no matter what income level or social class. Our children are vulnerable.
Joanne FisherSevannah StormLynda Rees
21. How do you market your books?
I use social media a lot and I create my own memes. I use the different seasons to send different messages to my readers. I also have a very active website where you can view the book trailer for each one of my books, along with listening to the audio clip, you can read the teaser and you can buy it if you like what you see, hear and read. I also have a blog on Goodreads and I send out monthly newsletters with a surprise in each one.I thought it was via social media so I built those up. Now I know it’s through advertisements. At this point, I haven’t gone down this path. I’ll start closer to my first launch date.I’m an active member of professional organizations sharing among authors and readers and active on social media. I do news releases in papers; ads on Facebook, Amazon, Goodreads and occasionally BookBub. I blog on my website and share news from there about my work, as well as other authors, and publish a monthly newsletter to VIP’s. If anyone is interested in FREEBIES and PERKS of a VIP, they can sign up at this link:
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09
22. Who is your favorite writer? Why is he/she so good?
I love Wilbur Smith. His way of describing Africa is non comparable to any other writer that I’ve read. Oh! This is a tough one. Christine Feehan; the way she writes is inspirational.

Terry Pratchett; no matter how many times you read the same book, something new is revealed.

David Gemmell; the epic scale of his stories.
I love many authors. It’s difficult to say. If I can only pick one, I’d have to pick Janet Evanovich. She’s responsible for my embarrassment, laughing out loud on several air flights. I love her comedic mind. Also, I’d list Debbie MacComber, Andrea Rhodes, Thayne Rae, Robyn Carr, Jennifer Crusie and many more.
23. Links to your books and social media, please!
Website: https://joannesbooks.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ReadJoannesBooks
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JoannesBooks
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/joannes_books_2018/?hl=en
GoodReads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16797940.Joanne_Fisher?from_search=true
Email: joannes_books@outlook.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sevannah_storm
Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/Sevannah_Storm (sample pages only)
Website: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website (Please subscribe to my non-spamming newsletter)
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sevannah.storm
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sevannah.storm/ (So new on this, could use some support)
Tapas: https://tapas.io/sevannah_storm (sample pages only)
Tumblr: https://sevannahstorm.tumblr.com (never on here, still trying to figure it out)
Pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/sevannahstorm/
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/95639379-sevannah-storm
http://eepurl.com/cTtS09 Become a VIP, get FREE reads, gifts and news.
http://www.lyndareesauthor.com Website
https://amazon.com/author/lyndarees Amazon
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Beaches, sand, shells, lots of sunshine and books! Life is grand! Don’t you agree?
JoannesBooks.com or Amazon.com


#amreading #lovetoread #bookworm #books #murdermystery #romancestory #lovestory #JoannesBooks
No book links yet, launches will be throughout 2020.

See: https://sevannahstorm.wixsite.com/website
Love is a dangerous mystery. Enjoy the ride!- Lynda Rees

A Bundle Deal on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B07JD5CSPL?ref_=dbs_r_series&storeType=ebooks


My latest publication:
https://lyndareesauthor.com/the-bourbon-trail/

 

About Rebecka Jäger:

Rebecka Jäger is a published author, blogger, and book cover designer. She lives in Finland and writes spy thrillers. She also co-authors with a U.S. – based novelist. The setting of Rebecka’s books ranges from supernatural to historical.
A group for writers on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527/

Do You Study Character Actors When You Plan Your Next Story? – You Should!

Glam retro diva

Do you struggle with creating characters that feel like real people? You’re not alone. The job becomes harder when you have multiple books up your sleeve. Variation is tough work, and as humans, we are tempted to repeat models which worked in the past. Beware of the cookie-cutter character!

Character or Plot-driven?

If your writing style is plot-driven, you develop the three acts and the key scenes first, and characters develop after that. Maybe the first thing you envision is the historical era or the fantasy setting with intricate maps and systems of magic?

If you’re character-driven like me, you see the characters in your dreams. You hear them talk and envision them in different scenarios. I speak the dialogue out loud and practice the expressions of my heroine in front of a mirror. I form the MC and the villain first. The conflict brewing between them becomes my main idea, and their backstories take form later on. But a character with little to do is… yawn. Many writers elevate the characterization over the plot, but if you don’t get on with the story… wham! That’s the sound your book makes when the reader tosses it to the corner and shall never pick it up. 

Which type of writer are you? Examine your preferences. 

 “It doesn’t matter how “interesting” the character is if you cannot create an antagonistic environment that chisels and defines that character. Even an awesome plot that takes the reader on the most mind-bending twists and turns will fall flat when depending on the strength of one-dimensional character. No matter how you approach storytelling, remember this: your story needs both character and plot.”

Source and more information: https://nybookeditors.com/2017/02/character-driven-vs-plot-driven-best/

Emotional Identification

Let us return to the process which actors and actresses go through as they layer their next Oscar- nominating role. Yes, they have their work cut out for them, like the screenwriters who wrote the part which snatches the attention of Anthony Hopkins or Angelina Jolie.

Method acting means a technique in which an actor aspires to complete emotional identification with a role. Method acting was developed by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg in particular and is associated with star actors such as Marlon Brando and Dustin Hoffman

“Method actors have this amazing ability to not only get into character but live through the character and bring an unsurpassable depth. What I love about Method Actors is that they don’t appear to be acting, they appear to be living; they know how to get into character so well that you believe they ARE the character. Lots of method actors are very humble about their work, but when you see them on stage or screen, it is electrifying, to say the least.” 

Source: http://www.standbymethod.com/how-to-get-into-character/

As a practice, compile a Pinterest moodboard of your favorite movie actors in their most bedazzling roles and compare them to their photos taken on the red carpet. The difference between the person and the character is striking! Great actors and actresses take their roles seriously. Whatever they do, whether on stage or screen, will be forever etched either onto film or in the minds of their audience. They move hearts and will live on in the souls of their fans. The mechanism of transferring emotional identification is your aim as a writer.

Watch a clip of Meryl Streep On Accessing The Characters Within:

https://youtu.be/phv85MERpLw

If you write from personal experience, you have an array of intimate emotions at your disposal, but you might struggle with transferring that emotion to the inexperienced reader. The actress uses her director as a mirror. Who do you use? Duh! Beta readers, of course. Remember to ask if they felt the emotional fireworks. This is important because the book lives or dies via Showing, Not Telling. The audience experiences what your Point-of-View character senses with his eyes, nose, ears, skin, and so forth.

Remember that the reader must also understand the villain on some human level, and you are responsible for making that happen. A character actor villain has what’s called a presence. When he steps on the stage, he rules the scene. How does that happen? You’ll feel the tingling on your skin and the chills down your spine.

Ruining Your Favorite Movie

Warning: using my method might ruin watching movies for you. Like when you started learning the craft of authorship, which spoiled the enjoyment of a great book. That’s because you know how the chassis works and cannot see the beauty of the Ferrari sportscar anymore.

Watch clips of great method actors in their star roles. Choose characters that resemble your own. The clips help you construct body-language and subtle expressions because method actors are rarely flamboyant—unless the role demands precisely that. Think of Joker in Batman: he’s a showman, which means he knows how to get the audience’s attention big time. Admire how Heath Ledger breathes life into the iconic villain.

The age of the internet has made extensive research more accessible than ever before. You have libraries of movie clips to watch. See how Anthony Hopkins or J. T. Walsh animates a bad guy. Who is your favorite hero? How has he aged and changed? Remember that the nature of characters is perpetual motion. Does blind idealism fill your favorite heroine, or does she come from between the-rock-and-a-hard place?

angelina

Do your characters age?

Image source: https://www.fashiongonerogue.com/photo-shoot/angelina-jolie-peter-lindbergh-wsj-2015-cover/

However, this method doesn’t allow copycatting. You shouldn’t copy a movie on paper; its a copyright infringement and punishable by law. Watching great actors at work can be compared to moodboarding: seeking material for inspiration.

Two Sides of The Same Coin

“The best and worst specimens of humanity are two sides of the same coin. Heroes and villains are not categories that are divided by the expansive sea of morality never to have their shores meet. On the contrary, both the most exalted heroism and diabolical villainy are manifestations of a human spirit that has become capable of great things. And great things need not be good things.”

Source: https://rightreason.typepad.com/right_reason/2013/04/good-evil-and-human-capability.html

What differentiates good from evil? Point-of-view. Yes, sin is relative, and you can use this in your writing because humans are a social species. Skillful actors mud their characters layer by layer, and they mirror themselves on other people. One of the best tricks you can throw at your readers is to let someone else reflect the bad guy. Describe how the military villain’s subordinates act when he enters the room. Show a conversation between the hero and his sidekick about the dark one. 

If you want to dig deeper into the depths which a character actor would use, show the villain’s first crime: when he wasn’t yet a developed killer. 

The sides of the coin are the reason why the same brilliant actor portrays heroes and villains with incredible authenticity.

More advice on designing your Villain/Antagonist: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/01/04/give-evil-the-central-stage-groundbreaking-villain-moments/

How to Write Realistic Action Sequences

woman boxer boxing isolated

Whether you write thrillers or fantasy, you’ll engage your Main Character in battles for life and limb. Nothing beats experience when it comes to describing a sequence of near combat. Take classes in Jiu Jutsu or Krav Maga if your hero uses his body to stand up for himself. You don’t have to engage in a Mixed martial arts cage fight to know how it feels. The beginner’s course in any martial art will help you sort out a few basic questions. I watch clips of Michelle Waterson or Ronda Rousey to learn. The MMA and WWE sports are different from Hollywood fight scenes. The fighters bind each other, and the straight punches which reach the opponent with a thud/smack belong mostly to the movies.

Rebane Nordstrom- my MC in Unholy Warrior, fights dirty and my book features some iconic Russian Systema moves to evade an overpowering assailant. I asked my Defendo instructor to attack me- the things we go through to write! Don’t worry, he went easy on me, but I never forget to raise my hands to shield my chin after that. One hit to the jaw and: lights out. Only in Hollywood do people get hit in the head with a metal pipe and go on kicking. In real life, you’d earn a visit to the ER with a skull fracture and a brain injury.

There’s nothing wrong with creative freedom. If you have dragons and magic in your book, what stops you from inventing new fighting skills? Forget realism but remember a few basic rules which help your readers relate to your MC: the danger is an inherent part of raising the stakes. You must allow your hero to be weaker than the opponent at times.

My MC loses a fight in the crowded, narrow cell. Here’s an excerpt from Unholy Warrior:

“There’s no need to pick up a fight, Miss Nordstrom. Stand down and spare yourself from a beating,” Weisser said with a matter-of-fact voice.

Rebane ignored him and targeted the next man who stepped in: a stumpy, wide-shouldered guard who opened his telescope truncheon with a swift hit. He drew his arm back to smack her, but Rebane evaded with a simple Systema move: stepped aside and nudged him. As he folded on the bunk, she delivered a hook into his kidney and wrenched the truncheon from his grip.

The second guard leaped at her, and her baton slammed into his thigh above the knee incapacitating his leg. His attempt to punch her missed and he slumped on the floor. Guards number three and four bumped into each other in the narrow doorway. The duo hesitated when they saw the injured guards writhing on the floor. They exchanged glances before the bigger one rushed forward. The sequence seemed to amuse Weisser who leaned against the wall.

Rebane backed up until her shoulder blades met the cold cement and lodged herself between the washbasin and the bunk. She tried to leap over the bed and go around the attacker, but her pelvis hit the washbasin, and she crash-landed over the blankets. The bigger guy managed to grab her shirt. She extended her left hand, and the bony base of her palm cracked his nose. He fell on the floor as blood gushed into his cupped hands. The next man got kneed in the stomach. Rebane lost hold of the truncheon while she grabbed his neck and mashed her knee up repeatedly.

The master alarm went off and filled the corridor with a deafening noise. A swarm of men toppled her, but she managed to kick nuts, thighs, and shins. She scratched the faces which came near enough and bit into the flesh of a hairy forearm. Rebane didn’t let go until a crowd of hands and knees pinned her to the floor and forced her jaws open. The first blow landed at her shoulder and watered her eyes. A jackboot stepped on her diaphragm. Tears forced out when she squirmed and battled for air. It took just seconds for her to lose the fight.

“Stop!” she screamed when the violent hands tore her clothing and fists pounded at her ribs.

A boar of a man sat on her stomach and growled into her ear. Rebane spat at him which only angered him more. Weisser’s voice toppled the screams and the commotion. He grabbed the boar by his fatigue collar and tore him away from Rebane, but the next madman mounted her and banged her head against the cement floor.

Choose Your Weapons

A baton can do terrible damage at the hands of a skilled user, but when you get threatened with a knife, the stakes assume a different intensity.

One cut can bleed your hero out, or sever a tendon (which means your arm or leg becomes useless). Blocking someone wielding a blade isn’t simple. Books and videos offer help to a writer. I like to refer to Combat Knives and Knife Combat by Dietmar Pohl & Jim Wagner, but you can find great resources on Youtube as well. If you want to get the hang of sword fights, join a Kendo club or try some Medieval martial arts the European way.

At Arm’s Length

One trick I like to use when I write a battle is grabbing anything at arm’s length in the setting and throwing it at the opponent. This is an essential skill in writing action: you cannot omit the environment even if you don’t want to utilize foreign objects.

Consider these elements:

  • Are your opponents facing each other on an open field or in a tight space?
  • What dangers are present besides the assailant(s)? Can traffic or avalanche kill the hero?
  • What can the MC use to his advantage?
  • The season: darts of wind-hurled snow can stop you from seeing, and the wind will raise clouds of sand. It’s hard to escape in knee-deep snow, and a sweaty combatant is difficult to grab.
  • The time of day: will darkness provide cover or the sun blind you? The atmosphere of the fight is vital!
  • Escape is always an option: can the MC run without being hit in the back by a bullet or an arrow? Remember to zig-zag, which makes the bad guy miss.
  • Can the heroine speak her way out of a threatening situation? Both escape and avoiding the battle altogether are the wisest options if you listen to my Defendo instructor.
  • Use the element of surprise: a trained soldier will see the punch coming if you draw your arm back before you strike.
  • Every kick and punch must be backed up with the rotation of the torso and the weight of your body. There is the correct and the wrong way to do this.

Examples From Hollywood

Charlize Theron, Atomic Blonde, The Stairway Fight Scene:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XarGS1AeEcE

Charlize uses everything she can grab, and the sequence has guns, knives, hot plates, and whatnot. She also fights multiple assailants that are stronger than her.

If you need a fast tempo, watch Matt Damon as Jason Bourne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UFnmq5PPScA

Or Daniel Craig as 007: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7kFoR4m1Y0

Both clips have high energy, and I love the moment when Daniel Craig watches how the attacker dies.

The last clip is from the Kurt Russell movie Breakdown. A car chase evolves into a duel between a semi-trailer and pickup truck. The fighters wield multiple weapons and the use of the deadly bridge, in the end, is a stroke of genius: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ovVlk6jCBY

Don’t Overdo The Details and Mind The Players

Know the capabilities and weaknesses of your hero/heroine before you tap your fight scene. My MCs (so far) are women who get attacked by opponents with a larger mass. Evasive movements allow them to strike back and to go for the opponent’s sensitive parts. When it comes to the laws of physics, a force has both magnitude and direction. If your knight is a big guy, he’ll use his mass as a blunt force weapon. Wearing armor and yielding the long sword is hard work, especially if you’re trying to stay on top of a galloping horse at the same time.

In the receiving end of the blows, anatomy, and physiology come into play. If your book takes place in the Middle Ages, knowing the common battlefield injuries helps you understand the weapons of the era. Find out what a beating causes to the human body. The method isn’t used as torture for nothing! The physiological side becomes increasingly important if you write murder mysteries and the key leads come from the killer’s ammo and the ME’s autopsy report.

Letting the reader glimpse a hidden world is a standard trick in the thriller and mystery genres. For example, the usual “slitting of the throat” in Hollywood style isn’t the way to go if you’re a commando sneaking upon a German guard in WWII. I was quite proud of myself when I wrote the “correct” way. However, my training as a Radiographer caused me to overdo the anatomy lesson. No one wants to know if your MC cuts the external or internal carotid artery of the victim with her knife! When your knowledge broadens, the temptation to write detailed descriptions (which get in the way of action) increases.

Don’t Teach The Bird To Fly Or The Fish To Swim

If something comes naturally to your character, use it. Remember Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man (1976)? The movie shows him running from the start and in the climax, he outruns the Nazi’s henchman. The film is a classic thriller for a reason. I never looked at dentists the same way after Laurence Olivier’s excellent performance as the Villain Dr. Christian Szell. Dustin Hoffman excels as well, and the film has terrific control of tension build-ups and releases all the way through.

article-2141122-12FC4F33000005DC-0_634x461
Image: Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man (1976) by Paramount Pictures.

The fight-or-flight response is automated because it helped animals survive the challenges of evolution. The symptoms, which even the most battle-hardened hero experiences, offer a writer many ways to put the reader into the skin of the character:

  • Acceleration of heart and lung action; you breath faster and your heart gallops
  • Paling or flushing, or alternating between both
  • Digestion slows down or stops- long-term stress causes harm
  • General effect on the sphincters of the body (urinary tract and bowel)
  • Constriction of blood vessels
  • The liberation of metabolic energy for muscular action
  • Dilation of blood vessels for muscles- the blood gets directed to the places which you need for resistance or escape.
  • Inhibition of the lacrimal gland (responsible for tear production) and salivation- your mouth becomes dry, and you cannot release tears
  • Dilation of the pupil
  • Relaxation of the bladder- you need to pee, or you wet yourself
  • Loss of hearing- you don’t remember everything afterward!
  • Tunnel vision (loss of peripheral vision)- anyone who has experienced this knows what I’m talking about
  • Overactive or overresponsive reflexes. Adrenaline or noradrenaline facilitate preparation for violent muscular action.
  • Uncontrollable shaking or shivering

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response
The subjective experience of danger is unique. Don’t forget to describe the character’s emotions. Remember, the fight-flight reaction impairs some senses and enhances others. The emotional response is delayed in most cases. Allow your heroine to deal with a traumatic memory afterward as she heals from her wounds. The rule of action-reaction, remember?

The natural capabilities of the MC help him deal with a surprise attack. You can train your hero until basic moves flow from his muscle memory—this method is used by law enforcement and the military. But anyone who has experienced a traumatic situation knows the phenomenon of freezing. The same person can fight successfully on one occasion and freeze on the next.

“Fight flight freeze is a description of our responses to threat. In recent years, the fawn response has been added. To fight is to confront the threat aggressively. Flight means you run from the danger. When you freeze, you find yourself unable to move or act against the threat. With fight and flight both unavailable to you, you may find yourself hiding from the danger. Fawn is the response of complying with the attacker to save yourself.”

Source: https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/trauma/

The aftermath of freeze or fawn makes coming to terms with what happened harder, which could be a starting point for your MC’s internal conflict.

Further resources on how to write the pace of action and build tension:

https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-action-story-good-pacing/

https://thewritelife.com/writing-action-scenes/

https://writeitsideways.com/7-tension-building-tips-for-writing-action-scenes/
Continue reading “How to Write Realistic Action Sequences”