Our Twitter handle 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.
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 a 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. Remember, the question is optional! December 6 question: Book reviews are for the readers. When you leave a book review, do you review for the Reader or the Author? Is it about what you liked and enjoyed about your reading experience, or do you critique the author?
I review for the reader. I appreciate when reviews help me decide if a book is worth my time to read and whether it will give me my reading fix. My TIME is precious and I am selective where I spend it. I don’t won’t to waste it reading something I won’t enjoy or get my reading fix.
Reviews in retail are for the reader, not the author, although the author can use what is liked and/or disliked or mention to help improve their stories. There is a place for critique, but reader reviews is not it. The review is about the reading experience (although how good the writing is affects this, but should be relayed in how it affected the reading experience, not what the author did wrong so much).
The review should tell if the book is something I will enjoy reading or not—sharing your experience allows the reader to make an informed decision/selection. Mistakes are not so important to me as GIVING me a GREAT immersive story—give me that and I can overlook A LOT and I will continue to read the author. Suck me in–Pull me in and make me CARE about your characters and I am there and happy.
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.
My top five strengths are: Connectedness, Adaptability, Intellection, Empathy, Input.
Number five input clarifies my constant need to always learn something new and explains why I am such a fiction writing course-acholic. I can’t get enough.
Now you are asking what does this have to do with negative character arc?
Nothing, unless you use the 34 skills to enhance your characters’ villainy (which I do), but it was an interesting way to lead into talking about my delight in discovering Abby Emmons on YouTube.
I became addicted to her writing style methods and perspective on writing fiction, which is very similar to my own, with great aesthetics and fun presentations. I am not as organized or aesthetic-minded as she is, and I learn a lot from watching her. And yes, I own a few of her courses, course-acholic, remember?
What is a negative character arc?
The simplest way to look at it is when a character, through life circumstance, situations, or tragic events, goes from bad to worse in choices, outlook, and attitudes.
The Positive ARC: Character starts out with a need/want. Often unhappy in present circumstance, they face obstacles they must overcome to learn the lesson that will return them to the happy status, and get them what they desire. OR they start out happy, it’s taken away, and they spend the story finding their way back to their new happy.
The Negative ARC: The character makes bad choices, behaves badly, and gets worse. They decline morally and hold the negative perspective as their truth. You see this in tragic stories, and it works well for creating villains, but ultimately never ends well.
The Flat ACT: These are stories where the character does not change. You often see these in detective type stories where the character has all the skills and knowledge needed to solve the crime-think Sherlock Holmes. You may see in supervillains and comic villains where the character has no backstory, remaining mysterious, illusive, taking great pleasure in their own villainy. K.M Weiland talks about Wonder Woman being such a flat arc character here.
In this article, I am focusing on the negative character arc, specifically for antagonist, arch-nemesis, and villains.
Anyone who knows me knows I am a Star Wars superfan. Star Wars gives me joy and was part of the inspiration why I started writing. Okay, why am I telling you this?
Emperor Palpatine is a super villain. He acts out of his own selfish desires and causes great harm to others without remorse. This negative character arc brings him to a tragic end through his own arrogance and false belief that his knowledge in the Sith arts makes him all powerful and ultimately undefeatable.
The Emperor is a flat character in that he never grows or learns. He is a character whose sole focus is to conquer the universe. Palpatine is the definition of evil, as defined by Holly Lisle.
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.
Darth Vader’s negative character arc starts in young adulthood, born out of fear creating a lie he holds as truth — a truth that consumes him, shaping all his choices until the point of no return.
This eventually turns him into the big bad until years later, when he grows and learns when faced with the choice of losing his son or choosing to do the right thing, no matter the cost.
This shifts him into a redemption arc, but the big bad still meets with his tragic end. He learns the truth of his choices too late, the consequence of the negative character arc. Abby Emmons Redemption ARC.
There are three types of negative character arcs.
The disillusionment Arc: The character believe a lie, learns the truth which is much worse than the lie. This arc has a nasty twist.
The Fall Arc: The character believes a lie, learns the truth but rejects it, and adopts a more destructive lie.
Corruption Arc: The character knows the truth from the beginning but suffers emotionally damaged or deception by someone or a situation in life. So, the character accepts/embraces a lie that reinforces their false belief, which shapes their negative outlook and choices.
Check this article by Abi Wurdeman on Dabble.com to learn about the 8 traits a negative character must have, such as a powerful lie, a believable journey into darkness, a plot driven by a negative character arc, plus five more.
Abby Emmons says, “The negative character arc stems from the lie the character believes. The disillusionment, fall, and corruption arc are all based on the lie the character embraces.” On YouTube.
You need to map the beats of your negative character arc change. Keiffer’s article outlines this well.
Kristen Keiffer says, “the negative change arc is a tug-of-war between the ultimate truth and the ultimate lie.”
It starts with the character flaw framed in a limiting belief and then creates a specific story-related lie associated with a story-specific truth.
Example: Darth Vader
Anakin aka Darth Vader fears losing someone he loves because he could not save the most important person in his life — his mother.
The lie he believes is — if he becomes a powerful enough Force user, embracing specifically the Sith philosophy, he can save the woman he loves from death which he foresaw in a force dream-vision.
Vader’s flaw is his fear. It dictates all Anakin’s choices, as he struggles to walk the Jedi path.
Palpatine (a secret Sith Lord) convinces him that if he accepts the darkside and becomes his Padawan, he will teach him the secret of life and death, which the Jedi have kept hidden from him.
The lie associated with the truth is he could not save his mother as a Jedi, but as a Sith Padawan, Palpatine will reveal all the Sith secrets enabling him to save his beloved Padme from death.
This series of associations drives the story arc once Anakin and Padme are a couple until he crosses the line of no return. It’s a tragic domino effect of choices by Anakin, against all advice and warnings from those close to him, including Padme.
Anakin is so steeped in his own fear and misbelief that his internal conflict drives and motivates his choices almost on an instinctual level.
The inner duel between the quintessential truth and essential lie blinded him to his own actions, and brings about what he fears most — the loss of Padme and ultimately her death.
The lie believed, the fear, became a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Understanding how the negative character arc works can help you craft antagonists and villains that will challenge your protagonist and strengthen them, making their story more dynamic.
And remember, watch out for that villain he’s on his own hero’s journey even if it is a tad skewed.
Connect the dots, deepening the reader’s experience and engagement.
Why does your character need a flaw?
The more you can humanize your character, the better your reader can relate to them, which deepens your reader’s connection to the entire story.
When you can take this flaw and tie it into the core TRUTH of your story, it will grab them and keep them reading to find out what happens next.
The best part is that flaw your character has helps generate meaningful conflict for the story, and helps you push past bumps or moments of being stuck.
Flaws can be misbeliefs or lies the character holds about themselves or others. Maybe your character grew up in the foster system and believes themselves unlovable.
This makes them feel unlovable and unwanted.
They might spend their whole lives trying to prove themselves worthy or lovable. Every choice they make, even the simplest, can affect every action and motivation derived from the flaw to drive the story or create active conflict.
Maybe they pick the wrong people to involve themselves with and get in trouble proving that point to themselves over and over, and this leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. When, in fact, it is their unwise choices or negative perspective of life that create these situations.
Or the opposite: they push away when other people get too close, which proves to the character they are unloved and unwanted.
This can create a nice growth ARC for your character throughout the story, and it helps generate conflict connected to the story core.
The flaw can also help you maintain character consistency and give them internal motivation to help you create a deeper reader experience.
A flaw might be that your character is stubborn, strong willed, and determined to do everything alone rather than ask for help.
Maybe they get angry easily and are quick to judge.
Or perhaps a deep need to control everything stemming from a childhood trauma, which puts their relationships, job, or mission in jeopardy.
This character flaw carries the story arc for the character, teaching them the lesson they need to learn, which is to work as a team, and/or to trust others to succeed.
I just saw a good example of a story flaw (which is a disability) on a TV series, The Good Doctor, season six, episode 16: The Good Lawyer.
She has a disorder called OCD. She freezes up sometimes in crucial situations, for example, a sound or something else that doesn’t go in cycles of three. It totally debilitates her, causing her angst or hardship.
They linked this disability to a childhood trauma and fear, even though the character knows it is not totally rational. It affects her behaviors, choices, and shapes the life she is currently living.
How knowing this can help?
Knowing the flaw can create strong motivation and internal conflict for your character. This causes them to act out their choices by taking action, which can create external conflict and situations tied to the flaw or misbelief.
In the example above for the OCD lawyer, why did the character want to overcome her flaw? She wanted to be normal and a trial lawyer. She wanted to be a lawyer, not just a researcher for lawyers.
Another way to find the flaw is through the theme.
A novel can have many themes throughout the tale, but there is only one through-theme that drives the story to the end. That through-theme can be represented in your character’s growth arc.
Finding the character theme is simply the way the theme affects your character at the beginning of the story vs who they become by the end of the story.
What is the story theme?
Abby Emmons says, “The theme is universal, and the theme means truth.” Here is a great video about the theme.
You will want to break these down into components. Figure out why they are meaningful to your character, how they shaped your character and motivate your character. (Check Abby Emmons’ video linked below in the next section to learn more.)
Connect your character’s deep need or desire to a theme, and then flip it on its head to show the polar opposite. You can use it to show drive and motivation through choices and false beliefs about their world or other people.
In the OCD example, the character’s deep need was to help people. She was a trial lawyer because a lawyer helped her as a child, but because she has OCD, she thought she could never do that, so settled for being a researcher for trial lawyers.
In the beginning, the choices she made were around avoiding people and she focused on research. However, this left her frustrated, until she acted despite her flaw, and it became a strength which made her a better trial lawyer with a unique perspective.
The Chosen One: FLIPPED: The character is the chosen one, but doesn’t believe or know it, or just shows up as an unlikely hero/heroine. We often see this trope in fantasy.
The Girl Next Door: The girl next door does not believe the boy she is crushing on would look at someone like her. Because she sees herself as ugly, overweight, or wears glasses or something, she thinks, makes her not attractive enough. In reality, it is a confidence thing — her character flaw is low self-esteem. All this connects back to the theme and drive within a story often seen in romance or women’s fiction.
Too Good To Be True–The Jaded One. Things are too good to be true, so they do not accept the love that is offered or friendship, or they create conflict via mistrust and being difficult to deal with. We might also consider this a trope or theme.
A Loose Cannon. The character might have anger issues that cause them problems and embarrassing situations. Or maybe they are too impulsive, which causes them to act without thinking, putting them into dangerous situations, or shows a lack of good judgment. These things can also be a character arc connected to the theme.
Understanding your character’s flaw and how it connects to their fundamental truth or theme can help build stronger characters and stories. Knowing that connection helps you leverage conflict and story arc to drive the story through to the end and keep the reader engaged.
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