Wednesday, November 12, 2014

No Sympathy for the Devil

Winter has arrived here. At least, some cold weather has, and as usual around here, it was very drastic, going from nearly 80 degrees one day to 40 degrees the next. I went from going out in short sleeves one day to having to wear my winter coat on the next day. I think we got a freeze last night -- my outdoor thermometer gave the low as 36, but it's in a sheltered location close to the house. This being Texas, it will probably be in the 70s next week. The good news about a freeze is that it makes hiking a lot safer. We can get off the paths without worrying too much about things lurking in the underbrush. And since it's supposed to be cold all week, there will likely be some serious baking going on. Not today, since I have choir, but tomorrow night's dinner will be chicken pot pie, and I may make apple turnovers because there was a sale on all varieties of apples and I have a bunch I need to use. Ever since the heavens opened and the secrets of pastry appeared to me, I'm looking for excuses to make pastry.

The first review for the upcoming book has come in, and it got five stars (out of five), with some very positive comments. This was from a librarian, so I hope that bodes well. I've been nervous about this book because it's different from my previous series and is a bit of an oddball. Seeing some positive feedback helps.

Meanwhile, I'm developing the next book in this series. I was plotting yesterday, trying to come up with possibilities of things that could happen in each stage, when I suddenly realized that although I knew the things that were going on and what the good guys were doing about them, I didn't know who the villain was or what the villain was trying to achieve.

I guess that says a lot about my mindset. I'm definitely not a "sympathy for the devil" person. I don't generally care about the villains in a story other than as someone for the heroes to push against. I don't care if the villains are charismatic or sexy. I tend to think of the "misunderstood" thing as them just making excuses (it's very, very rare for a villain to truly be totally misunderstood and not actually bad at all), especially since the heroes usually have had just as sad a backstory as the villain but didn't respond by doing bad things. As far as I'm concerned, the perfect villain stirs up trouble for the heroes to deal with in ways that really challenge them to rise to the occasion, but mostly stays offscreen so we don't have to waste any actual story time on him/her. The villain needs just enough character development to make some sense, but I care more about what his/her plans are because of how that affects the heroes.

And I realize this apparently puts me in the minority these days, when even the writers are more excited about their villains than their heroes, the villains get the sympathetic backstories, heroes get torn down to make the villains look better or provide some moral relativism (we're all just gray, no black or white), and the villains have the most vocal fanbases. It's cool to cheer on the villains, to want to be in Slytherin House, to be hypercritical of the heroes. So I'm very, very uncool. But that's okay. I don't think I write very good villains because I can't get into that mindset and I can't make myself care about them or be sympathetic toward them, so it's probably for the best that I keep mine offstage most of the time.

I did figure out who the villain is and what he/she wants. And it's not at all misunderstood or sympathetic. This person may be on stage more than my usual villains because this person is kind of a wolf in sheep's clothing and will really challenge the heroes in personal ways, but I hope no one will come away from this book liking this person or wanting this person to get a happy ending. It's rather amazing how much better the plot started falling together once I knew who the villain was. Duh.

I may one day redeem a villain, but it will require a real redemption arc that puts them through hell first.

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