Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG. Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience, or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.
June 7th question – If you ever did stop writing, what would you replace it with?
Well, I don’t really want to think about having to replace it. I don’t know. I’d rather think about making more time for it and focusing more on write, publish, repeat aspects. I enjoy helping writers, so maybe that—just don’t know, can’t really imagine it. It’s part of who I am now. Pivot, retry or try something new is what I hope I would do but writing related. Guess we never really know what life holds for us, but I hope writing is always in my future.
I sent this out to my newsletter and thought I would post this edition on my website as well.
“Juneta is the BOMB! Every time I talk to her about my work-in-progress she whips it into shape. Not by doing the work for me, but by asking the exact right question so that I can see the path for my work. ” ~Shaunta Grimes
“In working with Juneta I realized things about my story that I hadn’t recognized, issues with pacing and tension, plot points that didn’t make sense.” ~Mark Ingram
“Wow!!! I was shocked at how much depth she was able to help me add to the story. She has this almost magical knack for helping you discover what you want to do.: ~Vanessa Wells
Hello Reader and Writer Friends,
A lot of changes going on in my life this month. The one thing that never changes is my love and passion for stories–reading and writing them.
To me, a good story is like an old friend. I was an only child. Books and the characters in them were my playmates. I visited Prince Edward Island in Canada and hung out with Anne Shirley. I played on the farm with Wilbur, from Charlotte’s Web.
I visited Middle Earth. I flew x-wings and wielded a lightsaber. I’ve sailed a thousand ships and experienced multiple lifetimes of love without ever leaving home.
I was never lonely with marvelous stories like these. I am so grateful to all the authors who shared their worlds and characters. They broadened my horizons, touched my heart, and revealed things I could never have learned or experienced in my ordinary world.
Our world is full of stories. Both real life and fictional. I am a series addict because once I find I story I love; I want to return to those characters and worlds over and over.
Powerful stories are loaded with characters that are human, 3-dimensional, and flawed, allowing the reader to connect and understand the motivation and drive behind the character and the story.
If you are struggling to write engaging stories, this is where I can help. I have spent my life learning the writing craft–it’s a passion. I help you develop the story as you write, with one-on-one coaching via zoom.
I help you recognize the elements, monitor your subplots, and deepen your character development—with the goal of moving your story forward to the end with consistency and flow.
If you are a writer or aspiring writer, I have four coaching spots available.
Do you need help with plot points? Is your book middle sagging? Are you having trouble figuring out the ending or getting your story stakes high enough? Maybe you just want to learn where to start. I can help.
When I think of female villains and archetypes, the scariest to me is the mother archetype.
I don’t know, maybe; it is because I lost my mother early in life, or it could be the whole psychological nurturing thing that is associated with mothers, but as villains, they scare me.
My mother was my world. I knew I was loved; safe, and I was secure in that knowledge. The contrast to that is a betrayal beyond imaging to me. I know it happens in real life.
Two movies pop immediately into my mind. The first is a drama based on the real life of Christina Crawford, Joan Crawford’s adoptive daughter, in Mommy Dearest.
Faye Dunaway played the mother in the movie. It was disturbing to watch such basic human betrayal, and horrifying to know a child lived it. Part of the fascination was the extreme contrasts in personality from good mother to evil mother.
The fear factor of what happens behind closed door, and the image the rest of the world sees created a compelling, disturbed character with many facets, that was hard to imagine in one sense, at least for me.
It was not a horror movie, but still a nightmare.
The second is a horror film, Ma, about a lonely mother who invites a group of teenagers to party in her basement, but with specific rules. Octavia Spencer plays the mother.
The story goes from being a teenage dream of liberty to a teenage nightmare of survival, as the mother-archetype morphs and twists into an obsessively dangerous monster, mentally unhinged, through her own obsessions.
The mother archetype is universal. The twist to the abnormal takes human expectation and comfort levels from safety to the ultimate betrayal and evil.
Challenge the expectations for universal archetypes.
What makes these types of antagonist/villains so interesting?
Well, for one because it is so universally human. Everyone has a mother. Mothers take care of their children, or at least we expect them to nurture, as they are raising the next generation.
Unless you have lived it, you don’t expect mothers to act in villainous or in evil ways. The above movies challenged society’s expectation of the typical-mother archetype and prevalent stereotype.
The mother/child relationship is universal, whether you grew up with a mother or without one. It is globally relatable, and matters, broken or unbroken, it’s part of who we are.
Create Creditable Female Villans.
Make the motive creditable, layer the reasons, dress them in a pure motive layered with the undertones that are linked to selfish motives, such as power, revenge/vengeance, or perhaps a twisted justice.
1.Motives require substance: Alma’s veiled motive involved freeing her oppressed people. Her true motive involved vengeance and bloodlust on behalf of fallen victims. While morally upsetting, this was still a believable and tangible motive for Alma.
2. Motives can have a moral gray area: some would say Alma was right to seek vengeance on behalf of her people. After all, it was just getting back at the Capitol for their heinous crimes- Right?
3. Motives can (and should) have layers:Alma sought justice, but her imbalanced thirst for power and blood had her justifying heinous ambitions.
How far will your villain go for love? Think of Kathy Bates in Misery.
Sexuality — use it skillfully. Don’t make it all about the sex, but give the antagonist complexity and depth. The movie Fatal Attraction plays on the protagonist weakness and the antagonists obsession, which is not obvious at first.
Try not to use romance as the primary motive. Add layers to make a more 3-diminishable female antagonist.
Color your character in shades of gray, creating a tug-a-war and uncertainty in choices and principal motive.
There is not really any such thing as villainous traits. Traits are just traits and can have a positive and negative side. Even positive (the good traits) can produce negative consequence and morph it into the monstrous.
Find the strengths and weaknesses of your antagonist/villain and then, Flip the Trait, like a two-sided coin, allowing it to be their strength and their greatest weakness. Such as confidence morphed into the trait arrogance that blinds the character to their faults or missteps.
Or ambition that drives them to kill, or admiration that takes it to the level of stalking, or love that forces them to recreate, preserve, claim, perfectionism, or own aspects of that love e.g. serial killer or maniacal futuristic societies and so forth.
These are extremes, but there are many shades of gray in between positive and negative.
And nothing says your villain cannot have some positive traits with good results either. That just makes them human and more relatable, despite their bad deeds or monstrous acts.
“Female villains are notorious for fighting other women in novels, movies, TV shows and comics. The implication often being that women can defeat other women, but it takes a man to bring down a fellow male. While we all know that’s not true and we also know there is a lot of interesting material in pitting women against each other, make sure you don’t fall into any territory where you are assuming the only match for a female hero is a female villain and vice versa. “ ~SHE WRITES
Challenge the stereotype of female. Women can be just as powerful antagonist/villains as men.
Hella from the Marvel Universe faces off with her brothers and holds her own.
In the movie Fatal Attraction, the female antagonist becomes terrifying in stalker pursuits, creating a feeling that she’s unstoppable. This would give me nightmares for years.
Mystique in the Marvel Universe is one of my favorites. She is both supervillain and an antiheroine.
She started as one of the X-Men’s deadliest foes in league with Magneto, the main Superbad, and then her character arch carries her into the status of antiheroine. She is just a cool character, able to shift hiding in plain sight.
NovaCore sat like a small city in the middle of the dense jungle just 20 klicks from where Akira DeNaga, leader of The Hand, landed his Stealth fighter just outside NovaCore’s detection zone. He activated the camouflage shields as he exited, watching the ship blend into the jungle canopy.
The tranquility of the jungle moon of Pandaria could be deceptive, and yet almost magical. Moonbugs danced in the darkest areas of the jungle, tiny flashes of light in the night.
Akira had one goal. Destroy the Gynnos Seeker Project.
There were dozens of building clusters covering over 25 leagues of ground. The science labs hovered on large daises among the clouds, above jutting buildings that punch the sky. The ground buildings extended 30 feet underground, connecting to the ancient catacomb mazes that ran even deeper throughout the inner planet.
The Hand spies within NovaCore had provided a detailed map of the planet and the building that house the Seeker Project, plus the Pandaria sentries patrol shifts and routes. Automation controlled the science centers and sky labs during sleep cycles. The security detail focused on ground patrol while sentry droids patrolled the sky.
At the main building, Akira placed a communication control device on the outside communications array. He entered the code that had disabled security alerts and allowed entry into the building. The inner lift took him to the roof, bypassing all other levels.
One sentry operated the security post on the roof. Akira pulled on his gas mask, counting to mark time. On the last count, the door opened. He sprayed the sentry, knocking him out before he could stand and react.
Stepping out and moving around the guard post, he flipped the lever that released the sky-hopper. Once he docked with the Sky-Lab above the building, he crossed the sky bridge through arched doors to the control panel, punching in the entry code, GJH289KV834.
The force field dropped. Moving down the hallway to the next door, he repeated the process through three more doors using different codes.
The lab was home to thousands of storage cubes and data panels, and other life forms detained within containment housing cubes.
Akira accessed the database inputting the project ID number, SEEKER-420DALF. Library cubes and panels shuffled and shifted, bringing to the forefront project SEEKER. Instead of biotech data, or bioweapons, or sophisticated bio intelligence, he found living animals.
He read the data file.
Gynnos Mountain Wolves. Genome experimentation. Gene Splice on the bonded pair. Genetically altered for hunting and finding the Gynnos race, specifically the ones that carried the marker of the royal lineage.
Male rejected alterations over six full lunar rotations. Male did not survive. Female survived because of the mutated gene and elevated antibodies that appeared with the onset of the gestation period. Three pups, all born healthy. Project successful.
The female wolf growled, pulling his attention away from the data file. A movement to his right was the only warning he got. An MEC9 robotic sentry appeared, extending an arm and firing at him.
Akira dove to the ground, pinned down between the housing cube and the database. The sentry had grazed his arm with that shot. He checked the wound. It hurt worse than the sun scorch, but he’d survive it.
The MEC9 fired again, hitting the cube control panel, releasing the door mechanism. One adult wolf and three pups jumped out. They watched the robotic sentry instead of him.
He took a deep breath and prepared to stand and fire. The female wolf jumped over the database, ripping the sentries’ firing arm off. Akira fired at its sensor panel, completely disabling the MEC9 unit.
Turning to the database, he entered the code that would wipe all the information about the Seeker Project from the system. Looking at the wolves, knowing the mission requirements, he gripped his blaster and then re-holstered it.
When he retold the story later to the rest of The Hand on their ship, the Hidden Glove, he ended the adventure tale by saying, “I arrived a destroyer and left a savior.”
One of the wolf pups scratched his boot. He picked it up. Mama and the other two wolf-pups were asleep on the palette in the corner of his quarters.
Escaping Pandaria Moon was tricky, but without the wolves, possibly impossible. They were way more intelligent than the average mountain wolf. There had been a genuine connection, a silent communication, between him and them.
Finishing his report log, he input mission complete. He left out the part where he released the wolves before destroying the project.
The real savior of the day? Smiling, he thought, wore a furry suit.
Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop Jan, April, July, and Oct.
Welcome to Storytime Quarterly Blog Hop! Below are the participant links, so you can cycle through and read all the flash fiction stories if you so choose. All stories are around 500 to 1000 word speculative fiction—flash fiction stories. The story I am sharing today is from my Space Opera world Starlight Galaxy series. It is an origin story about the wolf-pup that befriends Bella that you meet in the bigger story. Read with joy, as Holly Lisle likes to say.
“Sorry, Miss, the next bus is after sunrise. Gotta close up. You can’t stay here.”
He locked up and all but ran down the alley. She heard the whine of an engine and smelled exhaust. There was a bench out front. Sweat discolored her dress.
The light above went out. Everywhere she looked, the lights were out. Businesses were closed, and not a soul walked the streets.
Except in one direction – a radio was playing, and there were lights from houses.
“Gotta be something this way.” At least her bag had rollers.
The street was potholes and broken asphalt, and the sidewalk was cracked and spat itself up here and there. Windows were open and inside people were listening to the radio about how they were responsible, they were ruining things, and if it weren’t for them, everything would be better.
A dog’s head came up in a yard; instinctively, she turned away and kept walking, right into the darkness.
“Barking dog ain’t safe,” she told herself. “Gotta find somewhere safe. Then get back for the bus.”
It got quiet. A slight breeze ran through her legs, and the moon played hide-and-seek with banks of clouds.
Her stomach rumbled.
Dark, dark, dark – a porch light was on. The house was old, a shotgun shack with one light inside, perched in the middle of all these trees. On the porch, an old man in old overalls and a pair of old boots rocked back and forth, each rock a squeak or a sigh.
Fireflies floated all over the lawn.
Everywhere else was dark.
The rocking stopped.
“You’re not supposed to be here.” He said.
She pointed down the road. “My aunt’s just down that way.”
He didn’t look. “That’s a graveyard, so she’s not likely much help now.” He stood up and stretched. “Hungry?”
“No,” but her stomach growled again.
“Ain’t much, but it’s dinner and it’s food. Or you can stay out here. Likely not safe out here… but it’s your choice.”
The sound of the radio carried from far behind her, a speech, cheering, louder and louder. The hairs on her neck stood up as she glanced back into the darkness. The dog barked.
He was holding the door open when she turned back, stepping carefully over the toadstools on the walkway up to the house.
It was basic fare – potatoes in white gravy, fried chicken, collard greens, rolls and butter, and sweet tea. He laid a second plate and let her choose, and when she chose he nodded and filled her glass. He ate as much as she did, set the bones in a pile, and asked no questions she’d have to lie to answer.
Not even her name.
One cough and he wiped his face. She blinked. All the food was gone, they’d eaten it down to the dregs.
Her stomach felt full.
“Can I wash up?”
He pointed at the sink, got up, stretched again, and went into the other room. So, she washed and dried; he only had four spoons, four forks, four knives, and four plates.
The wind blew again, cold and harsh, rattling the window. Outside was darkness, even the moon had fled.
The middle room had a box fireplace lit and burning so it was warm but not hot. A cotton sheet, a blanket, and a pillow sat on the couch.
A grandfather clock, the wood lovingly polished and each figure a craftsman’s delight, shared the room with her.
“Plumbing is in there. Sink, washcloths, soap, so not that hard.” He gestured vaguely in the direction of the only other door. Then he closed his door, a yellow light spilling underneath until she heard a click and it went out. Fold the sheet in half the long way, put the blanket over and the pillow at the top.
There was a creak from the other room. Then silence.
The clock chimed.
She woke up with the sunrise in her eyes.
“Morning.” He came out of the kitchen. “Sausage in a biscuit, if you hurry you might make your bus.”
Thanking him, she accepted her breakfast in a napkin and took off down the road. Halfway there, she heard the radio again and saw the dog sleeping on the ground.
She hadn’t mentioned the bus. She hadn’t talked at all about traveling. She hadn’t talked about much at all.
The dog looked up and then lay back down. The radio was still talking about them and how awful them was and how them caused all the trouble. The sidewalk was still a cracked and broken mess.
The phone was still there. She sat on the bench. The man came and jingled his keys and opened the bus station.
The bus arrived, and she got on.
Ninea dropped a coin into the phone and called. The bus had run late, so she missed the connection. She’d be there tomorrow. She put her bag on the bench and lay down.
About Chris Makowski
Chris was born in the Pacific Northwest and lived briefly in Hawaii before being reared in New England. After traveling up and down and back and forth from coast to coast, he was dragged kicking and screaming in the bonds of matrimony to the State of Texas and has been mostly residing there ever since with his wife and son.
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