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 Market Your Book

Woman reading book with abstract flying items around her
Marketing is the activity of delivering offerings that have value for customers.

A while back, I asked my Facebook group for authors, which aspect of being a writer caused the members grey hair. And that’s why this post deals with book marketing. Yes, writing the damn thing took years and cost me all my spare time! But that was nothing compared to the struggle of saying in public: “This is an excellent book, and you should read it.”

Join the Facebook group for discussion and tips: https://www.facebook.com/groups/569574570248527/

Marketing Versus Selling

There’s nothing wrong with selling your book (high five to the top sellers), but in this article, I’ll discuss marketing. What’s the difference, you ask…

“Selling is an action that converts the product into cash, but marketing is the process of meeting and satisfying customer needs.”

Source: https://mu-bit.com/blog/selling-and-marketing/

Remember that when it comes to marketing, what the customer wants is king. Do you have an ideal reader in mind? If not, now’s the time to picture him & her.

An Ideal Reader

“An ideal reader is the fictional person to which a book would most appeal. Most frequently, they represent a specific age group and interest or experiences, but in some cases, an ideal reader might also represent a certain ethnicity, religious background, sexuality, or other identifying markers.”

Source and more information: https://www.well-storied.com/blog/ideal-reader

Some identifiers:

  • Interests
  • Genre and theme
  • Why do they read? For entertainment, romance, or thrill? To escape or to find information? 
  • Demographics
  • Life experiences

Tip: Study what makes an ideal reader for famous authors of the same genre.

Mold your product for the ideal reader:

  • Write your next book with your focus group in mind (at least somewhere at the back of your mind)
  • Design your pitch (choose what to stress)
  • Cath the eye of your ideal reader with your marketing message (plus book cover & title)
  • Follow through and modify the message as you go
  • Do a bit of industrial espionage (the marketing message of similar authors)
  • Know your niche

Social Media Content

Social media is about sharing, and you must establish a connection before you can market, or people will just avoid you. Think about topics that you share with your ideal reader. Those topics can involve hobbies and other non-book-related stuff. Use them to stir conversations and encourage your followers to discuss. Follow other authors’ accounts and learn from them. Exchanging help among peers is advisable because someone has struggled with the same issues.

How do you react to “BUY MY BOOK!” posts? Which ads and messages catch your attention? Make a list of what causes a positive reaction (the cover image, the setting, the information, etc.).

Tips for gathering followers (and marketing your book):

  • Connect with your ideal readers (and people who converse with them)
  • Share their interests
  • Stir up a conversation–discuss the process of writing your book (historical research, a traumatic event or injustice which compelled you to write)
  • Find out what your followers and friends want (polls, questions, competitions)
  • Support other authors. Give tips and advice–lend your expertise.
  • Show them who you are (a selfie wouldn’t hurt now and then, show your pets and non-writing related hobbies)
  • Bring your book into life by discussing relatable topics
  • Go behind the scenes and show your journey as an author.
  • Be a reader
  • Take a look at your followers. Activate top follower badges, and thank your loyal supporters.

Source and more information: https://www.mixtusmedia.com/blog/are-you-making-one-of-these-3-book-marketing-mistakes

Giveaway content

Giving something for free might sound unnatural when you used a lot of money to get this far. Of course, you want book sales for your troubles. But sometimes the free lure can earn you sales.

Examples of freebies:

  • the first chapter of your next book
  • a sneak peek of an upcoming book
  • a deleted scene
  • a free first-in-series title before the launch of the next part
  • a free short story or novella
  • a free content library (images, blurbs, deleted scenes, character interviews, book cover versions)

Source and more information: https://insights.bookbub.com/how-promote-your-book-free/

Use The Cover of Your Book

I’ve dealt with book cover design before. Here’s the link to a previous blog post: https://rebeckajager.com/2020/04/17/what-authors-should-know-about-the-book-cover-design-process/

If you cannot afford a professional book designer, use time to make a beautiful cover in Canva, for example. Canva offers cover templates which you can browse by genre. Pay for professional photographs. We writers take for granted that readers pay for our book. The photographers need to eat too. 

When you have a gorgeous cover (the face of your book), use that eye-catcher in your social media posts. 

Remember to create a continuous brand. The same colors, fonts, and related book covers for a series all support your brand, which your customers recognize everywhere. Use consistent account names and steer clear from difficult letter+number combinations.

Build An Author Website

Having your website is a must. How to create one? You’ll find instructions from my previous blog post: https://rebeckajager.com/2019/12/24/1359/

An author’s website should contain the following information:

  • Your bio and photo
  • Excerpts from your books and book cover images
  • A link to buy your book on every platform you offer
  • A way to contact you
  • Links to find you on social media
  • Blog signup form (if you have a blog)
  • Newsletter signup form

Tip: Yes, you should have an author newsletter. 

How to build it? Use a MailChimp plugin, for example. There are numerous other providers. Check out my previous post on the matter:  https://rebeckajager.com/2019/11/10/why-every-writer-needs-a-newsletter/

The website establishes your brand as a writer and acts as a base for directing traffic. Remember to take care of your search engine optimization so that your potential readers find your page among millions. From your site, direct readers to retailer sites, invite them to join your mailing list through free downloads. Ask people to follow you on social media.

Book reviews

How to earn those fantastic five-star reviews which you can boast across your existence on the web? First and foremost: write top-notch quality (means pay a professional editor).

Ask people to review:

  • Ask for a review at the back of your book and on social media
  • Offer an ebook for free
  • Ask for comments in your paid ads
  • Search for book bloggers and email them
  • Swap reviews with other authors
  • Once you have subscribers on your newsletter list, ask them
  • Offer an advanced readers copy (ARC) and establish an ARC launch team
  • Join reader rooms

Source and more information: https://www.thecreativepenn.com/2018/08/29/book-marketing-10-ways-to-get-reviews-for-your-book/

ARC

An advanced reader’s copy is used for promotional purposes before publication. Offer ARCs to readers who will post endorsements and write reviews. An ARC should be free of charge and offered in exchange for newsletter subscriptions because those email addresses are worth their weight in gold. Market the ARCs through every channel at your disposal and gather a set of names as your ARC launch team.

More information: https://www.1106design.com/2019/11/06/what-is-an-advance-reader-copy/

Reader Sites

Did you know you can send book recommendations on several platforms? BookBub and Goodreads are the ones you probably know, but here’s a list of other sites where you can design an author profile: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/10-best-book-recommendation-sites-you-need-know.html

Most big platforms offer paid advertising, but remember than reviewing and recommending other writer’s books is an essential part of building your community.

Paid advertising

Ads on Amazon

“In addition to selling your book on Amazon, you can also promote it there, too. If you do decide to buy advertising, choose the sponsored product ads option. This pay-per-click ad allows you to target Amazon users with keywords that are related to your book.”

Source and more information: https://nybookeditors.com/2018/05/9-tips-for-marketing-your-first-book/

Facebook ads:

Remember that paying for a Facebook ad doesn’t mean you’ll get results as book sales or even clicks on that Amazon link. At the heart of any successful Facebook ad campaign is understanding your marketing goals and thus choosing which action you want the ideal reader to perform. Start by experimenting with a few bucks and register what works. Link your FB ads with the other measures mentioned in this article.

“The first thing to clear up is that there are different types of authors and different goals for your book. And once you are clear on the next step, a reader should take with you, your marketing strategy becomes clearer.”

Source and more information: https://www.andreavahl.com/facebook-advertising/the-4-best-types-of-facebook-ads-for-authors.php

BookBub ads tutorial: https://insights.bookbub.com/tutorial-how-to-use-bookbub-ads-to-promote-any-book/

Plan Your Book Launch!

Now, this is the most important advice I can give you about book marketing. If you just press the publish- button on Amazon and start shouting your marketing message across platforms, you’ve already lost the momentum which you can build beforehand.

More information (with a timetable): https://www.writersdigest.com/publishing-insights/18-ideas-successful-book-launch

You don’t have to throw a lavish launch party in person. You can do it online and record a Youtube video for further use. Even if the idea of an actual event doesn’t get you all excited (because you have to turn up in person and talk about your book in front of people), planning a launch means setting dates for all the marketing operations pre-and post-publication. It requires knowledge and action based upon your ideal readers. 

Some examples:

  • Take care of your SEO and write a list of suitable hashtags according to the genre. 
  • Do a cover reveal
  • Build hype before ARCs, ebook and print publications
  • Create merchandise and plan how to distribute it
  • Build your community (make a list of people who can spread the message)
  • Ask family and friends for help (yes, this includes your author friends)
  • Contact book bloggers
  • Contact possible reviewers
  • Devise social media posts and send them to your supporters via email:
    • Tell them when to post and where: a call to action
    • Design a post for FB, Twitter, Instagram, and so on, complete with images and hashtags. Remember allowed text length in different media.
    • Make posting easy
  • Join Facebook groups and ask the admins if you can post about your launch

And remember to have fun. We don’t become writers unless we have a dream.

The Delicate Art of Taking Author Selfies

As a writer, you’re active on social media, right? For most of us, talking about our work comes naturally after a period of awkward shyness. When you gain confidence, advertising your book or short story becomes second nature. 

There’s an extra asset: you! Yes, your readers are dying to know who you are and what’s your writing process. Here, we enter the terrifying phase. For those who don’t take selfies daily, the first author photograph would be the image on the back of your book. The book cover artist will ask for the author’s portrait to accompany a passage on your writing career. 

Why should a customer pay for your book? Because you’re a hell of a writer, duh!

rebecka_selfies.png
Some examples or yours truly as the model.

The Dreaded Moment

For some of us, one extra photo among a mobile stream of selfies is no biggie. Just capture your profile using the best camera angle at the end of a selfie stick and open an image retouching app. Voila! The bravest of writers venture on dangerous soil: publish a bikini picture from the recent vacation.

For the rest of mankind, letting the world see our wrinkles, puffy eyes, and triple chins is a nightmare. If you have serious self-confidence issues, I suggest a visit to the professional photographer. He or she will create an atmosphere of a world-famous author and highlight your best features. This method also ensures the required quality pixel-wise.

The Gadgets

If you do half of your marketing by yourself (like me), learning to take selfies is a required skill. Discovering how to display your best side brings personal joy as well. Readers communicate with the author of their favorite book, especially if they know what you look like.

selfie_stick.jpg
Image source: https://besttopreviews.net/best-gopro-selfie-stick-remote-control-review-2017/

A selfie stick is used to take photographs or videos by positioning a digital camera device, typically a smartphone, beyond the normal range of the arm. This allows for shots to be taken at angles and distances that would not have been possible with the human arm by itself. A quality selfie stick can save your phone from being dropped into the Niagara Falls as you pose for the perfect photo!

The rods are typically extensible. Luxury models, which work via a wireless connection, have a remote shutter button. And that is an excellent feature if you want to show your followers the beauty of your homestead.

Camera Angle

Using the stick allows you to include the scenery. Also, the downward-facing camera angle makes your face look narrower and the eyes bigger. For me, this works as my puffy eyes disappear. Experiment, it’s fun. I’m forty-eight years old, but with some secret tricks, I look thirty.

  1. Look up toward the camera
  2. Extend your head away from your neck
  3. Relax your mouth, and exhale
  4. Instead of holding your phone in front of you, keep it to the side 
  5. Spin until you find your best light. Direct daylight and fluorescent tubes produce images that are worlds apart. Find which lighting suits you.
  6. Use props like hats, scarves, and sunglasses to hide flaws. As you become a better photographer, you won’t need them.

Source and more information: https://www.cosmopolitan.com/style-beauty/a12378/take-the-best-selfie/

An extra hack: try the camera’s portrait mode.

The Retouching Apps

Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are professional image manipulation applications, and their price is compatibly high. I use both and will never go back. But you can search for free mobile apps from your app store. Most house advertisement which might distract use but offer pro versions for a few bucks.

To name some

  • AirBrush
  • FaceTune 2
  • Pixelmator
  • Photoshop Fix
  • Fotor
  • Visage
  • TouchRetouch
  • Parfait
  • YouCam Makeup
  • VSCO
  • And many more…

Source and more information: https://expertphotography.com/photo-retouching-apps/

Source and more information: https://www.dailydot.com/debug/best-selfie-apps-iphone-android/

The Beginner‘s Mistakes

If you write romance, why not exercise a 1980s soft filter? Most novice photo retouchers amplify each effect to the max, which will leave your face and background hazy. Every follower spots you overdid the editing.

Narrowing your face and enlargening your eyes will make your author selfie look like a Manga character. And that’s fine if you write manga, but a serious writer wouldn’t wear teddy bear ears and nose either, even if the app offered some.

The best selfies exhibit you in your natural habitat. If you run each morning, take a selfie in front of the sunrise. If cooking is your hobby, why not take a casual photo with the delicious result?

Maybe you bought a new dress? Share the end result of hairdressing and makeup. Most of us enjoy life’s simple joys. Whatever your interests are, some of your readers know in an instant what you mean. Your dad’s old SUV might work as a backdrop. We don’t need a tribe of Bedouins as extras for a full-blown Hollywood photoshoot in the Saharan desert. But if that’s your thing, I say go for it.

You rewrote your opening chapter twenty times, and the same goes for learning to edit. Retouching a photograph is like editing a book. As with everything else, practice makes perfect.

Check out my Instagram profile.

For more visual content, meet me on Pinterest.

Subscribe to The Writer’s Newsletter for more tips.

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/

Using Scene Trackers and Plot Points to Plan Your Story

Beautiful woman in the magic forest

You might wonder what to insert into my Scene Tracker Template or Plot Point Graph. If you’re a pantser, you know your story by heart and use the tools of plot-weaving instinctively as you go. You might strip needless elements and refine your story as you reach the editing phase. But if you’re serious about being a professional writer, you must study your beloved craft and recognize plot points, character arcs, and other tools of drama.

Here are my methods of outlining:

Scene tracker model (Microsoft Office Excel).

PowerPoint Plot Graph Template (Microsoft Office PowerPoint).

Download files from the Internet at your own risk.

The files make it easy to analyze the dramatic arc and structure of your story.  If you don’t want to plan your draft one meticulously, use my templates as a refresher of your memory before you start revising your second draft. You don’t have to include all the crucial plot points, and your arch can curve up and down several times to surprise your readers.

Think of each significant event in your story as a sequence which consists of:

  • setup
  • complication
  • crisis
  • resolution

Your book is one instance of continual transformation which composes of smaller events (acts), which in turn comprise of chapters and scenes. I like to know my word count, and that’s why I included it in the Scene Tracker. I also keep track of days and months which pass in my book, just to stay level with continuity issues.

Keeping Track of Scenes

Scene= “a part of a play or film in which the action stays in one place for a continuous period of time.”

A scene means a small section of your novel where your characters engage in action or dialogue. They are mini-stories with a beginning, middle, and end. A chapter contains one or many scenes. Usually, the scenes within a chapter are related to one another. If you change location, or the clock of your manuscript moves forward, give the reader a pause in the form of moving into the next scene or chapter.  Scenes are like pearls in a string. Each story consists of these pearls, some small and ordinary, and others big, shining ones which surprise the reader.

Both templates let you add cells/boxes for your key scenes and plot weaving mechanisms.

Great scene beginnings include:

  • Put unusual events in motion
  • Tone-building scene setting
  • Intriguing backstory
  • New, interesting viewpoint
  • Introduce uncertain factors

More information: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-scene-beginnings-grab-attention/

Great Scene endings:

  • Cliffhanger – place your protagonist’s life is at risk or produce some other threat which forces the reader to turn the page and begin a new scene/chapter
  • Revelation –something changes the course of the story
  • Setback– one of your characters should be frustrated about the latest event
  • Reveal a secret–a full secret or part of it to keep the mystery going
  • Question left hanging –teasing the reader
  • Unexpected plot twist –keep the reader guessing.

Character Arcs and the Three Acts

“A character arc is the transformation or inner journey of a character throughout a story. If a story has a character arc, the character begins as one sort of person and gradually transforms into a different kind of person in response to changing developments in the story. “

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_arc

Your protagonists and antagonists evolve through character arcs. An excellent way to build conflict is to make the main character unable to overcome an opposing force at the beginning of the story because he/she lacks skills or resources. The main character must change through learning or achieving new capabilities. Let the MC interact with the environment or produce a threat or a charismatic mentor. At the heart of your story lie conflict and change.

Plotting a Novel in Three Acts

“Aristotle plotted in three acts, and almost every story comes with a beginning, middle, and ending. Act One makes up 25% of a storyline, with Act Two taking up 50% and Act Three, the final 25%. The story is divided in half as well, with the midpoint squarely in the middle of Act Two. The first half of a story involves introducing characters, themes, motivations, settings, conflicts, and important elements. In the second half of a story, all its threads untangle.”

Read more about The Six Key Scenes of Aristotle’s Incline and source of the above snippet: http://livewritebreathe.com/how-to-plot-a-novel-in-three-acts/

Plot Points

A plot point is an incident which impacts what happens next. A plot point:

  • Moves the story in a different direction
  • Impacts character development
  • Closes a door behind a character, forcing them forward

Plot points form a whole, each piece informing the event before it and after it.

Seven-point

Image source: https://blog.reedsy.com/plot-point/

Examples of plot points:

Hook: A story must start off strong to keep the reader reading. The Hook is the point that pushes a novel into motion and sets it apart from others.

First Pinch Point: The middle of the story consists of the character reacting to the Big Event and its respective consequences. Pinch Points put the character under pressure.

Midpoint: Perhaps the most crucial plot point occurs near the middle of a story. The midpoint is a critical turning point that forces the protagonist to stop reacting and start acting.

Final Pinch Point: For the second half of the middle, the protagonist experiments with the agency, taking different approaches to overcome the conflict. The protagonist reacts to or acts on pressure and conflict, with middling success.

Final Plot Point: Going into the third act (or the beginning of the end) there is one Final Plot Point. This shows the protagonist at their lowest, having taken a profound misstep among their newfound actions, which drives them directly into the Climax and Resolution.

Resolution: A great story will end on a Climax, Realization, and Resolution, a series of events that bring the story and character arc in full circle. Usually, these revolve around a choice presented to the protagonist.

Source and more information: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/what-is-a-plot-point/

How to Design Plot Points

  • Draw them from your central idea or theme
  • Show desires, motivations, and setbacks
  • Place plot points at crucial structural junctures
  • Create points of no return
  • Create and arrange summaries of each plot point

Tension

Tension is a product of uncertainty and the resulting suspense we feel.

“To take the analogy of watching a tightrope walker, we know they are moving from an A to B of safe ground. Yet between these two points, how things turn out depends on many variables. Their balance, focus, and how they place their feet. And how swiftly they correct any stumble.”

Source and read more: https://www.nownovel.com/blog/writing-a-scene-that-engages/