Friday, November 18, 2011

A Rebel Learns a Lesson (Lesson #2)

If you're interested, here's the link to the first lesson I learned this National Novel Writing Month.

Now, on to Lesson #2 -

Regular readers of my stories are aware that a lot of what I write is dark, maybe edgy, often sad. (Don't ask me why. I don't know and I'm not sure I really want to know...) This NaNo novel is no exception. There are some funny parts and lighter moments (if not, I'd be under my desk, weeping) but there's one particular scene - a violent crime - that gave me pause. It makes sense within the framework of the story and by the end, a lot of questions regarding the crime have been answered. But that wasn't good enough for me. This horrible scene has to make sense to the reader the first time it's read. Not later in the story. Not after some things are clarified. Right then.

You've probably heard phrases along the line of "a senseless act of violence" and "a crime with no motive," right? To us, the outsiders, the spectators, that's how it looks. To most of the victims in my novel, to the other characters, that's how this scene looks - senseless, unmotivated. That's fine. But the reader needs to see more than that, even if just a little.

The reader knows the bad guy is a creep but is he that much of a creep? Yes. But I have to show the reader that beforehand, show how one thing leads to another then leads to another and so on, until this guy thinks he has every right to do what he's about to do. This horrible thing that's about to happen makes sense to him. And so, even if the reader would never see and do things this way, it still makes sense to the reader that this guy would behave like this.

I read somewhere once that the antagonist is really the hero of his own story, that he has a reason for everything he does and says and wants, etc. So, in his mind, my bad guy is justified in what he is about to do. It makes sense to him. And, hopefully, it makes sense to the reader.

(Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to crawl under my desk and try to figure out a way to stop this creep....or at least figure out a scene where he gets severely punished...)


  1. I'm currently working on fleshing out my antagonist's motives and back story too. Now you've also got me thinking about the best point(s) in the plot to reveal or foreshadow that information. Thanks and best of luck with your bad guy!

  2. And good luck to you, too, Jillian! It's funny because I used to think of the bad guy as just that - not as a character so much as a vehicle for moving the story along. But, when I started thinking of him/her as the star of his/her own story, well, it was eye-opening. :)

  3. I like to write dark stories too and was actually a bit squeamish about some scenes I have written this week, worried I may be getting too dark with them. Glad I came upon your post, as it describes just what I think and I'm no longer going to pay any mind to those nagging worries. Best of luck with your story and your creepy bad guy!

  4. Just keep going, Julie! Get it all out and down on the page. You can take those scenes out or tone them down later if you feel the need.

    For me, when I feel like I've been swimming in those dark waters too long, I go watch something funny, whether a sitcom or movie, or I flip through a lighter magazine or get outside for awhile. It helps.