When I Meet the Bad Guy

Tags

, , , , , ,

Some time ago I read a draft of a story written in the point of view of the villain. Let me say upfront that I was entirely judging this character to be in the wrong, and I wanted to explore the character’s actions. I wanted to consider the story from her perspective.

The author began with an objective voice. It was great…for the first few paragraphs. Then something happened and my interest waned. I closed the book. Later, I asked myself, “Where did that story go wrong? It started out promising!”

It doesn’t matter which character’s eyes I’m seeing the story through; for a bad guy to be, well, good, I need some questions answered.

1. When I meet Cruel Bob, I will ask him,

“What’s Your Last Name?”

There’s a scene in the movie Galaxy Quest where the guy, named Guy, knows he’s going to die because he has no last name. He panics because he has no hobbies, no love interest, no back story, nothing. He knows he’ll be the first to go. As Captain James Hook would say, this is “bad form” for any villain who is going to be around for a while.

Leroux’s Phantom was given great context, both in the revelation of his past and in his residence under the Opera House. [Scan of still of Lon Chaney in The Phantom of the Opera (1925) ([1]) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

Cruel Bob’s a cardboard character (aka, the two-dimensional chump) who needs context, or he won’t matter to me. I want to know his temperament, his tendencies, his surroundings–anything that will help me understand who he is right when I meet him. I want to relate to him, if only to roundly hate him.

Even a drunken, violent character has his times when I can see the struggling person inside. The manipulative liar has his weak moments, when I see his doubts creep in. He’s still the bad guy, but a bad guy with a human element.

2. I will ask that devious Madame Vitriol,

“What’s Your Problem?”

In real life, it would be much easier if people would go around with “bad guy” and “good guy” signs, but in reality everyone chooses what he/she will be. They have a past and a reason for doing what they do. It’s often the motivation from their past that helped create their present path. We all have a motive. What is the catalyst for your baddie’s behavior?

The scene where Willoughby cuts off a lock of Marianne’s hair. John Willoughby was by nature a man moved by the moment, and by nurture he could afford to live recklessly. [By Hugh Thomson. (A scan from the book Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

For a writer, motives become characters in themselves. A trickster can make a bad motive look like it’s good, and, sometimes, even a character with a good motive can behave in a bad way. So, tell me about those interesting events early on in Madame’s life that changed her. This helps me to better understand her and want to keep reading.

3. Then I will ask Mr. Eville von Furioso,

“Do You Come With Commentary?”

There are characters who are clearly wrong in what they do and think, but an author who uses the narrative to harp on this is really doing the reader a disservice. The story I mentioned at the beginning of the post is a good example. The author didn’t keep the objectivism. The emotion welled up before my eyes as the lines progressed. At first, the character waited patiently, set things in order, considered the merits of her work, etc. Then the phrases and words changed. Her ‘lip curled in disgust,’ she ‘ordered,’ and she ‘demanded.’ The author’s perspective took over the story.

I don’t want to be told your baddie is cruel, manipulative, delusional, misguided, or fiendish. This isn’t persuading me, it’s hitting me over the head with a thick Board of Obvious. What if each book drew a bright highlighter through the bad guy’s every action by using adjectives with negative connotations? What if each encounter with that character was weighted down with biased phrases? A good story should give me the pieces to help me draw that conclusion for myself.

In life I have to exercise my critical thinking skills to protect myself because the world has some people who are not nice living in it. Those who have the greatest influence on the way I think are the ones I’ve come to know personally. When I meet a real, living mean person, who is sometimes warmly sympathetic and sometimes cold and heartless, I have to learn to see past emotions and realize when that person is doing something wrong.

The book characters who mimic real-life people are the ones with whom I become emotionally attached. Mr. von F can’t resonate if he comes with the author’s complimentary “view my character this way” specs. I won’t remember him. So, please, leave the Board of Obvious at home and help me work my way through Eville’s schemes organically.

Being a fan of the character-based novel, I’m looking for a good bad guy. He/She must have (1) Context, (2) Motive, and (3) No Complimentary Commentary. I’m not saying the world would be a better place if authors did this, but I can think of a few books that would be better books.

Tackle the Task

Tags

, , , ,

Shhh! Guess who’s school librarian this year? Great Dewey decimals, I am! Think small school, small number of books… I should have this in the bag, right?

By Michael Holley Swtpc6800 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I have a tendency to overthink the simple task. My mind is chock full of ideas, most of which are, well, blown out of proportion. If you asked me how to paint a tall building, my first thought would be to use a hot air balloon. A fascinating visual, yes, but it doesn’t work.

There are four ways I check my overactive imagination:

I ask God to help me.

God should be my first line of offense, not just defense. He happens to be in charge of the universe, which means he has an incredible way of dropping things into my lap right when I need them. (Does He do that for you, too? It’s nice, isn’t it?) I find out a friend I’ve known for years knows all about a subject or skill that helps me solve my dilemma. A complete stranger walks up and gives me the piece to a puzzle I’ve been wracking my brain over. My mom calls and mentions the perfect solution to that niggling problem. I’m telling you, it happens all the time when I go to God first.

Years ago, when I was working at Dairy Queen, I left my planner in the bathroom. It had all my wedding plans laid out—which included the blank page with the word, “Cake: ?” A lady walked up to the DQ counter after the lunch rush and asked, “Who’s getting married soon?” She waved my planner in the air, I walked over to thank her for finding it, and guess what she said.

“I do cakes, and my prices are reasonable.”

Need a cake decorator anyone? Ha! Not only were her prices reasonable, I got the decoration of my dreams! No DQ ice cream on a stick for my guests. Coincidence? Yes. A lovely, lovely coincidence created by God especially for me.

I ask Realm for help.

He specializes in process design, after all. I’m amazed at how he can simplify the problem and address the big picture. I told him my plans for the library this year. His eyes gleamed. He gave me a method to break down the job into manageable steps. The steps all begin with ‘S.’ If alliteration is involved, you know it’s good. ;)

Finding someone to bounce my ideas off of always helps me! Most of the time I go to Realm. Sometimes I need a family member or a close friend to give me direction.

I set a due date.

It’s hard to grow a gigantic plan when it has to be done by Tuesday. When I see that day looming on the calendar, my mind leaps from possibility to practicality. The elaborate system I’m concocting will have to wait.

I don’t consult Pinterest.

Someone once said, “Pinterest is like crack for the creative types. You begin to spiral out of control, stealing tissue sheets out of gift bags and repurposing toilet paper rolls for wall art.”

Okay, maybe I said that.

What are your suggestions for an easily-distracted creative soul?

School Time!

Tags

, , ,

Get out your paper and pencils—or iPads, as some schools have it. Time for a

POP QUIZ!

1. Which amendment in the Bill of Rights protects a citizen in criminal cases, specifying that the court cannot require or compel one to testify or bear witness against him or herself?

a. Amendment I
b. Amendment III
c. Amendment V
d. Amendment VII

2. A zebra’s stripes are its defense against lions and hyenas, two predators that have which fact in common?

a. Their females are predominantly 10% larger than their males.
b. They are both part of the cat family.
c. They can run up to 50 miles per hour.
d. They are color blind.

3. What is wn?

45 = 5/9 x wn

a. 81
b. 72
c. 40
d. 76

4. What prophet succeeded Elijah, asking that a double portion of Elijah’s spirit be upon him?

a. Noah
b. Elisha
c. Isaiah
d. Benhadad

5. Complete the sentence with the correct verb form and explanation.

“I wish I (was, were) finished with this quiz.”

a. was; singular verb form agrees with singular subject
b. were; ‘if’ or ‘wish’ changes verb to subjunctive mood
c. was; realistic wish places verb in indicative mood
d. It is a matter of hot debate.

 

The answers are:

1. c (That’s what “I plead the fifth” means.)
2. d (The zebra’s stripes were a dead giveaway, right?)
3. a (It took me forever to figure this one out. Math is not my friend.)
4. b (II Kings 2:9)
5. c (I thought it was ‘b’ until I researched it online. It’s a freebie if you went with ‘d.’)

Have you ever wondered what ends up knocking around in this brain of mine after a day of homeschooling? Well, there you have it.

And everyone needs their thirty minutes of aerobic exercise!

Everyone has a story: Rilla Zerbert

Rilla Z:

Shelly asked me three questions. How would you answer?

Originally posted on The Goal List:

After introducing the mini-interviews last week, I’ve received a lot of interest in continuing them, so consider them now a permanent part of the blog!

Today’s mini-interview is with Rilla Zerbert, an American writer working on a new book called Dragonfly Prince.

Rilla Zerbert - Photo used with permission

Rilla Zerbert – Photo used with permission

What is one of your dreams for your life?
My temporal dream is to publish my book, Dragonfly Prince. It’s a modern Alice-In-Neverland adventure.

My eternal dream is to go to heaven. I want to be with God always. In the meantime, I’m trying to learn what it is to love in an eternal sense.

What is something on your bucket list?
I’d like to visit Ta Prohm temple monastery, dating from 1186 A.D. I’ll like to see with my own eyes the decorative carvings of the animals, specifically the stegosaurus. I get super excited by the evidence…

View original 182 more words

Heads Up! I NEED Your Vote!

Tags

, , , , , ,

My heart is racing. I want to throw up my hands and scream like the crazy woman I am.

My short story, “Sara’s Whistle,” has been shortlisted! It’s been accepted by the judges to compete for first prize in MASH magazine’s quarterly competition!

You guys, this is my first contest. And I need your support. I need your vote.

MASH magazine asks its readers weigh in on which story they like best. (Of course it’s mine. Do you even need to read the others?) These are 500-word stories. You will not be reading my magnum opus here. It’s quick; it’s painless.

Your vote means I have a chance of winning! That’s kinda fun, right? When I become a famous authoress, you can say, “I supported Rilla in her first short story contest. Yeah, I knew talent when I saw it, even back then.”

You’ll like my story! Read and vote on it here.

In case you missed the link, you can vote for my story here.

If you want me to quit begging, vote here: http://mashstories.com/shortlist/saras-whistle-rilla-zerbert/.

Clash of Priorities

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I’m not a writer. I only play one on my blog. How’s that? Well, really, who has time to write and play Clash of Clans?

By Kolele22 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Seriously? Rilla plays Clash of Clans? Yes. Yes, I do. And I don’t even like video games.

It all started a couple of months ago, when my son, Magne*, said, “I wish you’d play Clash of Clans with me, Mom.”

I thought, “Aw. He wants me to play a video game with him.” Yeah, I thought I would be playing with him. Silly me.

So, here I am, sitting between my husband and son on the couch, saying, “I think I can get three stars on eight, but seven is iffy. If you give me hog riders, I can get at least one star on seven.”

“What if I give you a dragon?” Realm asks.

“Hey, give me a dragon! I need it to take down five!” Magne tells him.

We have pow-wows going into a clan war. When we’re neck and neck with the enemy clan, I get serious.

“Mom, it’s okay. It’s just a game,” my son reminds me.

“I know, I know,” I say, but I sneak out of the room to text a friend of mine whose son is in our clan.

“Can you tell Battlegade we need him to attack?”

She has no idea what I’m talking about. She thinks I’m asking if her son can come over to actually play. Who ever heard of that?

On the way home from our vacation, we had two hours to go before our clan war ended.

“Okay, they’ve got two players who each have one battle left,” I say, looking over our opponent clan’s scores. “They could still get more stars and win if we don’t get more players to participate.”

So, I look up a friend through Facebook. I message her, “Can your son, who’s in our clan, can get on and attack number six?” Then I write, ‘See you at church services tomorrow!”

She writes back, “Now or tomorrow?”

I tried to explain myself, but there is no explanation for the social disaster I’ve become.

I have no shame.

I dream of millions in my gold storage. That way I can upgrade my town hall. I’m so close to a dark elixir barracks that I can almost smell it. And it probably stinks.

*Pronounced “mane.”

Rilla Scriptzilla

Tags

, , , , , , ,

“Bing Crosby Gary Crosby 1951″ by CBS (eBay item photo front publicity release) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

In the past two years, I’ve become more acquainted with scriptwriting. This is odd because I’ve never though of myself as a scriptwriter. Scriptwriting requires me to utilize crisp segues to get to the point, which I think I have a knack for. It also challenges me to write out my vision of what is happening. I don’t get to practice this type of descriptive writing enough—oh, I write action, but not action this mapped out. So, tackling the tricks of the script is a fun exercise for me.

But there is another aspect to writing a script that I can’t get used to: the actors. These are people who don’t want to do things the way the script is written. Ever. I go from scriptwriter to patcher-upper, working to bring the actor-revised script back around to its point, the punchline of the joke or the principle message.

I’d prefer to write the script, turn it in, and watch the result without having any part in the massacre that takes place in the middle. I’d rather view the aftermath, saying, “Wow, nothing I wrote was used except that joke in Scene Two. And it wasn’t funny because it was set up all wrong.” Then I might cringe while my name rolled through the credits and be done with it.

“Stumme Coronation of Mary jpg” by Creator:Absolon Stumme (imgc.artprintimages.com) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

You see, scripts are a temptation to the control-prone writer, which I happen to be. When a writer works out the specifics of every movement and word of an actor, it can have one waxing a tad dictatorial. I want complete control. There, I said it! I want everything to go exactly as I see it in my mind. Well, sometimes I let things go when I see it played out and realize it doesn’t work as smoothly as it did in my head. I’m okay with changing that. You know me, I’m generous that way.

When I was young, my cousins and I would put on skits at family gatherings. I was in charge of these skits. Every year my cousins would revolt against my direction. Oh, all right, my tyranny. I shouted. I threatened. I hovered. It’s true.

Every year I became more and more convinced that I was not going to do another skit the next year. I tried letting a cousin direct it one year, saying, “You do the skit. No, do it this way.”

Obviously, that didn’t work.

I tried, “Oh, you guys should definitely do a skit! I think I’ll watch this year.”

That came off like I was sulking or something. I wasn’t. I just knew I’d take over and be hated for the rest of that visit. I could never seem to help myself.

Then came the skit-less years. No one understood why I didn’t head up those fun skits anymore. One cousin in particular, who’d been captain of the skit mutiny every year, came to me and asked, “Why don’t you put together our skits anymore? I miss it.”

I laughed good-naturedly and said, “Because you were always mad at me for being so bossy.”

She crinkled her nose and smiled.

“And I am bossy,” I admitted. “I wish I weren’t, but it just comes over me.”

I don’t mean to be bossy. I really don’t. To be honest, becoming a mother confused me a great deal because, suddenly, I was completely within my rights to take charge. It was necessary. Someone needed to direct and instruct those crazy kids. Could that somebody actually be me? Yes! I was perfect for the part! And I have gotten, far and away, my fill of being in charge as a mom.

So, all that to say, I need to learn to loosen my choleric grip as a scriptwriter. And I can do it. I can let go. Just don’t overhaul the whole script on me, okay?

What I Knead

Tags

, , ,

I beg you not to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: I make my own bread.

I know, I know! I’m one of those people. I probably have my own wheat fields and store my scythe next to the 200-year-old quilting loom, which I’ve used to make intricate quilt patterns since I was three.

Okay, it’s not that bad. I just make bread. After breaking three bread machines, I went back to basics. Yes, it takes a big chunk out of my day, so I make about eight loaves at a time. This lasts us almost three weeks…if I don’t give any away. But I like to give it away.

Yum!

I’m soy intolerant. It’s tough to find store-bought bread that isn’t made with soy products—the flour, the oil, the lecithin. Mainly, the soybean oil. That one really messes with me.

I could buy some specialty breads, but they cost at least twice as much. Homemade bread is equivalent to the price of the regular, store-bought varieties. That cost includes using butter, milk, honey, wheat germ, and sea salt. So, it’s healthier, heartier, and it tastes incredible.

It’s also a perk that my children think store-bought bread is a treat. Whoo hoo! We get Nature’s Own and Skippy today? Suddenly, I’m the greatest mom ever.

Punch that dough into shape!

Punch that dough into shape!

My sister came over to learn how to make bread. When it came time to knead it, I asked, “Wanna try?”

She worked the dough for a while. “Is this good?” she asked, showing me her progress.

“It needs to be more elastic. Punch and roll it.” I showed her what I meant. “Remember the Tae-Bo fast punch? That’s a good one.” I demonstrated.

She started laughing. “So this is why you like making bread,” she said as I socked the dough with a right uppercut.

“Totally.”

Here’s my bread recipe presently. It changes. (Currently, I’m experimenting with yeast substitutes, since that’s the most expensive ingredient.) Feel free to substitute bread flour, since the bromate makes the bread less likely to fall apart. Using all-purpose flour means having to work the dough more to get a firmer loaf.

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

(Makes 4 loaves)

2 cups scalded milk
½ cup honey
5 1/3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. salt
2 pkg. (1 ½ Tbsp.) active dry yeast
2 cups cold water
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups all-purpose flour

Mix melted butter, honey, and salt, pouring in scalded milk. Add the cold water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir until dissolved. Add wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough, stirring with a wooden spoon or dough hooks.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; let rise until doubled in bulk (1 ½ hours). Punch down; let rise again until doubled (1 hour). Shape into 4 loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled (1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours).

Bake at 375, keeping low in oven for 25-30 minutes for freezing or 35 minutes, or until golden brown, for serving.

One of these days I hope to get my own grain mill. Electric. No, I don’t intend to grind wheat by hand. Really.

Home. Drive.

Tags

, , , , , , ,

I grew up on the First Coast. My family still lives there. I don’t. Yes, I miss it. I even miss the sweltering summers, though the heat we meet with every summer should have cured me by now. We came down in tropical storm Debby two years ago; and while we were there, the water stopped running at my parents’ house. Ironic that. The roads were flooding, and we couldn’t flush a toilet. But that got fixed, and then my sister’s boyfriend had the nerve to show up. (I guess I should add that his plans to visit had been made before we jumped in the car and sped down there, but I really don’t think that’s important—we were there first.) Nobody kicked us out of the house or anything, but my sister was there, and my 91-year-old grandmother was there, and my mom and dad were there (being their house and all). Then the boyfriend arrived.

By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Stuffing our Cunningham family of five into the house was a bit much, we thought. So we asked folks in the congregation there if we could bunk at someone’s house for a couple of days. Seriously, there is nothing like having church family! You get all up in each other’s business and aggravate one another to no end, and, somehow, you can’t get enough of ‘em.

The couple who took us in must feel the same way about us because they didn’t mind telling us, “You guys can stay here or not, we just wanted to keep the kids.” My husband and I felt we could accommodate them and promptly made plans to spend a night in St. Augustine, which happens to be my absolute favorite place to wander around. Realm picked the place we stayed. While it wasn’t solely based on what we were having for breakfast, he admitted that was a big factor in the decision-making process. The style of our room was ‘vintage,’ quaint and lovely, and I had a delightful assortment of hot teas to choose from in the morning. The breakfast was hearty. Our host shared his recipes and experiences, which had me wishing I ran a bed and breakfast—a wish that is rekindled every time I stay in one. I was very pleased.

Then we went all around the city, wherever I wanted to go. I almost killed Realm because I had him trekking in direct sunlight halfway up the boulevard and back. He came close to having sunstroke, I think. He became increasingly nauseated while I was paying for my raspberry sorbetto, handed me the keys, and got out two words: “Home. Drive.”

Advice to St. Augustine tourists: The Old City should be taken in doses and not in the midday heat. The locals know a siesta is more than just about a nap. You’d think that, as many times as I’ve been there, I’d heed my own advice, but I become too giddy with the adventure of scouring the city again for more tidbits of history.

It ended up being a refreshing visit to Florida after Realm recovered. And when it was time to leave, I toted out my suitcase to find a go-kart strapped to the top of our minivan. (We stored a go-kart in my dad’s shed when we moved from Florida.)

Yes, that's me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it's a typical Florida winter.

Yes, that’s me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it’s a typical Florida winter.

Now, I love go-karting. It releases some crazy, competitive monster in me when I race around a track breathing in oil fumes and tire particles. But it’s just not the same feeling, the wind whipping the bungee cords and ratcheted straps of the go-kart tied to the roof of the van. As though it wasn’t enough that Realm drives like a maniac, we were perfect targets for any annoyed driver who wished to pinpoint our location by satellite throughout our trip.

About two hours into the drive, Realm began to regret his great idea:

“We are getting terrible gas mileage.”

“Oh, really? You should see the stares we’re getting from the drivers we’re passing.”

“We aren’t getting any stares.”

“No? Try slowing down and driving in the right-hand lane for a while.”

My backseat driver sarcasm didn’t faze him. Early on in our marriage, he dubbed me “The Naggravator.” Besides, he was too busy scouting out a semi to draft behind.

And you know what? I’m missing Florida again. I guess it’s time to “Home. Drive.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 150 other followers