Do you like learning and talking about the writing craft? Are you interested in short story and flash fiction? Writing short can be hard. I love short story and flash and include some tips and resources you may find helpful. I also talk about the bigger picture of the novel. Do you struggle with beginnings, middles, ends of a story? Do you struggle with plotting, scenes, or nailing the endings? I will address such topics off and on in my new writer’s tips and resource bulletin called Writers Talk.
Get my cheat sheets, along with links to their corelated Medium Articles. Such as my Villain Profile, Negative Character Arc Sheet, Finding Your Character’s Flaw Sheet, and the brainstorm sheet. Challenge The Archetype — Create Female Villains That Rock The Protagonist World! But that is not all. I have more goodies planned, plus I have a thank you bonus for joining me set to arrive the next day.
” 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 Vella Author of Steve Saves The World
“I kept abandoning each one and coming up with new ideas. Juneta Key held my feet to the fire, made me choose one world to work on, and helped me plot three books in that world and possibly a fourth! “ ~Megan Stewart Fantasy Author of Where Are My Pants?
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.
Antagonists, nemeses, and villains, oh my, creating the rival hero journey!
The first time I read Christopher Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers 3rd Edition, I felt like I had embarked on my own personal hero’s journey. That was in the 1990s. I own three copies of that book, including the 25th anniversary edition.
Not only was it a book about writing craft, it was a study in human psychology personifying the dynamics of the subconscious that manifests in us all.
I could see all the archetypes described in the book, all around me, in everyone, including myself. Life did not feel so mundane anymore.
It helped me understand the people I interacted with in a more objective observing way that help me navigate my world, or at least understand aspects and dynamics better.
An adage and cliché I love is “Life is a journey, not a destination.”
My writing improved a great deal, as did my ability to understand how stories work.
What are archetypes?
Archetypes represent a set of universally recognized behaviors, as suggested by Carl Jung’s study started back in 1947.
Archetypes are universal, inborn models of people, behaviors, and personalities that play a role in influencing human behavior. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung’s theory suggested that these archetypes were archaic forms of innate human knowledge passed down from our ancestors.
In Jungian psychology, these archetypes represent universal patterns and images that are part of the collective unconscious. Jung believed that we inherit these archetypes much in the way we inherit instinctive patterns of behavior. ~Kendra Cherry on the verywellmind.com.
In 1949, Joseph Campbell’s interpretation of myths or monomyths showed that mythic structure of human nature operated on four levels concurrently: the metaphysical (spiritual), cosmological, sociological, and psychological.
Vogler’s book goes in depth about character type and psyche, about the hero, mentor, ally, herald, trickster, shapeshifter, guardian, and shadow that populate all stories. ProWritingAid Article on Archetypes.
These character types manifest in all of us at different times in our lives, and so they should for your character as well. When I read the book, it helped me understand the people around and identify the part they played in my life in that moment in time.
So how do you use this archetype information to create villains?
Well, first, let’s look at the differences in rivals, bad guys, and arch-enemies.
What is the difference between antagonist, nemeses, and villains?
An antagonist can be anybody: friend, family, co-worker, sidekick, mentor, and so forth.
Often in romance, the two romantic characters also act as antagonists to each other throughout. The antagonist does not have to be a bad guy, or be even completely in the wrong.
Sometimes it is just the complication of opposing desires/wants/needs, or misunderstanding or misinterpretation that sets them at opposite purposes.
Two boys in school sports and both want to win the medal.
Two coworkers giving different versions of the same project vying to win the boss’s approval and the client contract for the firm.
Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis, one of the most infamous and well-known bad guys is referred to as an overarching foe, or arch-villain, Professor Moriarty.
A nemesis is often an opponent on the opposite spectrum of the goal, need, or mission, vying for opposing results or control for their own nefarious purposes.
John Travolta’s character, Major Vic “Deak” Deakins, in the 1996 movie Broken Arrow, steals B83 nuclear bomb and ejects his partner from the stealth fighter they are flying during a practice exercise.
(Spoiler Alert) Here, Deak, the nemesis has sold the nuke for a lot of money. The goal is power and riches gained (greed) by betrayal of overlapping loyalties in an act of treason.
Another great villain, is Thrawn from the Star Wars expanded universe. He is an alien species who joined the Empire, rising in the ranks to become a scarier nemesis than Darth Vader, IMO.
Why? He has no superpower, just a superior intellect and the ability to predict flaws and weaknesses, as well as strengths, by studying the art of a culture. He is a military strategists and tactical genius. One of my all time favorite villains.
The nemesis in the form of Major Vic Deakins is mentor, friend, and trusted authority. Where Thrawn is an Admiral with his own fleet in the Empire vying to fill the power vacuum left by Emperor Palpatine.
Timothy Zahn is the creator of Thrawn. His first appearance in the Star Wars expanded universe book series occurred in the SW trilogy book one, Heir To the Empire.(Now called Star War Legacy Series.)
I am so psyched. My research just revealed that Thrawn will be in the Disney series, Ahsoka — tentative premiere date August 2023.
Dang, I hope they do him justice.
Holly Lisle says, “Villains act against that which is good, taking definitely evil actions that result in horrifying consequences that envelop the hero and others.” How To Write Villains.
Is your character evil or just misunderstood, or just a human whose views became skewed or twisted along the way?
I tend to think of the Marvel types as Arch-Villains. Sherlock Holmes’s Moriarty is classified as an arch-villain because of his superior intellect and long standing rivalry.
There is something over the top about these characters, and they are relentless — hard to kill too.
Another example from Marvel is Mr. Glass who was introduce in the movie Unbreakable, and goes on to star in a sequel called, Mr. Glass.
Glass’s childhood is miserable because of his disease, Type I Osteogenesis Imperfecta, his bones are brittle and break easily, but his battle with the disease his entire life shapes the man he becomes and his twisted perspective on the world around him. (See early life)
Batman’s The Joker. There are many versions of the Joker backstory. One of the most recent is the movie called, The Joker.
Seeing The Joker through his own warped perspective is fascinating, while making us understand how the child he was becomes the supervillain.
This character is very human, very flawed, and his perspective on life becomes very dark. We the audience get it because he is sad, misunderstood, and an underdog starting out. (A play on the save the cat moment?)
Why the villain/antagonist is equal to the hero’s role in the story?
A powerful story has a powerful antagonist or villain or at least one equal to the hero. This nemesis challenges and puts roadblocks in the hero’s way often because they want the same thing, but for different reasons or purposes.
Crafting a powerful villain makes a stronger hero because the antagonist becomes that invisible, immovable force the hero smashes and chafes against throughout the story, bringing the hero to a death moment. The dark night of the soul when all is lost, and it looks like the bad guy has won.
What about when the antagonist is not so obvious or a person, like in Charlotte’s Webb?
Wilber’s is happy living his life on the farm, until he finds out that the reason his life is so cushy is because he is being fattened up to be sold at the fair for the butchers block.
The antagonist here is life, the way of the world, and situational. It’s not even a person per say, but what happens to pigs living on a working farm.
So, which type of antagonist, nemesis, villain fits your story best?
The many masks of the archetypes of personality can be applied to the same character for a layered affect. According to Christopher Vogler, the most common character types are: hero, mentor, ally, herald, trickster, shapeshifter, guardian, and shadow.
One character can play many roles, or those roles can be used as masks to hide or disguise the villain.
The answer to the question for best fit is all of them, because people change, grow or regress, as their choices, situations, and circumstance change throughout life.
In early life, your villain may have been a hero or ally, later a mentor, guardian, or herald, who developed into the trickster, and/or shapeshifter to ultimately morph into the shadow character an amalgamation of all the dark sides.
In having a basic understanding of these roles in everyone’s lives and within ourselves, we can use them to shape believable villains that scare the crap out of people, and who the reader can also sympathize with despite abhorring their choices or hating what the antagonist has evolved into.
PLOTTR Outlining Software: Author Tools I Use & Recommend
PLOTTR Outlining Software: There is nothing more exciting outside of writing story for an author, except when you find tools that make that job easier and enhance your experience as you write, while keeping track of all you are doing especially when writing series.
I use Plottr and Scrivener together for my writing and series projects all in one place. It was the fact the two softwares were compatible and can be used together that sold me. A great investment in my author career. I have been using Scrivener for years, and Plottr since its release. I recommend them because I use them. I want to be up front and let you know, these links are affiliate links and I may receive some compensation if you buy, but it will not affect your price in any way at all. Whether you choose to use my link or not, I highly recommend. You can Google and get a direct link to the site. Plottr also is easy to use and they have short help videos for everything.
My Project In Progress In Plottr: The 1st screenshot is my timeline–I am using outline templates from Save The Cat & Romancing The Beat in this one project. The 2nd screenshot is outline list mode without the color timeline. The colors dots, in the left tree, represent character colors, tag, places. The 3rd screenshot is characters and places all in one section, the 4th screenshot is a single character with notes about that character in my story. The 5th screenshot is places with info entered about a single place and image, and the 6th screenshot is book projects place holders where I will be able to see all my books in the SERIES together once I get them entered. Plottr not only is great way to PLOT but is also makes a great Story Bible to track your stories and series. If you CLICK on the image it will launch in another window bigger so it will be easier to read.
Once you have your project outlined, mapped out, and all info entered you can IMPORT it into Scrivener or Word. I imported mine into Scrivener while I am still in process of entering info to demonstrate here in this post. All info except photos were imported. I will have to add the photos to Scrivener.
I love the fact that when imported into Scrivener from Plottr the outline suggestions notes about what goes in that section that matches the Template I am using are also imported. In this shot it Save The Cat notes to right.
I hear a lot of feedback about learning curves and such. The truth is USE only what you need, If you only need basic word processing then don’t worry about all the other features of Scrivener–you don’t need them. And opening it up and just start typing is fairly simple and up front in the program.
If you want an easier and low cost course to show you Scrivener my all time favorite Scrivener Coach Michael Joseph has one on Udemy. Learn Scrivener Fast–There is sale going on right now as I write the post.
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