I’m going to try and not go on too much of a rant against this book. I’ll just start by saying, that this is not a good book. I was not expecting this to be a good book. This is not an entertaining book. I […]
Tag: Stephen King
I always have to add in series, because a lot of the time, my favorite is because they are a series. And a good series can really take a good book and bring it to another level. I’ve also written about bad series before, but that’s it’s own article. Without any more ado, my top 5 Books/Series.
1 The Dresden Files
I don’t think that this will be a surprise for anyone, but I really love this series. Jim Butcher does a really good job creating an interesting urban fantasy world that has some of that classic pulp feel to it while having very interesting villains and characters. The series starts a little slow, but as there is more focus to it, Harry Dresden’s world really takes off.
I really like Stephen King and by far his standout work for me is It. I think that I’ve probably read the book a handful of times or more now. The story is just compelling and the interweaving of the past with the present to fill in the readers knowledge of what is going on works very well. I also like the fact that this book doesn’t fall flat at the end like some of his other books can do. The horror aspect is strong with this book, and Pennywise is a great villain and a valid reason for people to hate clowns.
3 The Reckoners
A series that I’ve talked about some and a game that I’m really excited to play, the Reckoners is a nice different twist on those with super powers. The Epics as the super powered are known in this series are all evil. And the Reckoners are a group of normal people who are trying to to bring some normalcy back to the world and take down the Epics who rule it. It’s a YA series and there’s a bit of it that’s not amazing at a few points in time, but overall, the series is really well done, and it’s just a good super power twist series by Brandon Sanderson.
4 Harry Potter
I’m done with JK Rowling in a lot of ways, she just needs to take her hands off the stranglehold she has on this world, but I really like the series still. There’s something nostalgic about them for me, though I am older than the average who has those feelings about them, seeing as I read them in college. There is just something so magical about the world that allows you to overlook some pretty obvious flaws with it. The story just stands up well, and while the movies might not, the first movie is rough, I will always enjoy going back to the books.
5 Stormlight Archive
More Brandon Sanderson for the list. This series is epic fantasy at it’s best. The leader who didn’t want to be the leader now has to save the people. The slave rising up to save the day, and so many more classic tropes put together, but it feels new and unique and so huge. I mean, the books literally are massive, and the audio books are great because they are 45+ hours long, so you have a good amount of listening time to them. This is the epic fantasy that I’m always hoping to find.
Of course, I’m going to do some honorable mentions as well. My goal will be to the finish off a top 10 with them, like I did with the board games. In no particular order, my honorable mentions:
Lord of the Rings
The Hunger Games
Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Swallows and Amazons
What are your favorite book series?
This is an idea that I’ve been bouncing around in my head as to what makes a great villain or even a good villain. It came from having watched Black Panther recently. Michael B Jordan’s Killmonger was a very effective villain and in my opinion is what a good villain should be like. To contrast that, Ares from Wonder Woman could have been a good villain, but ended up being a pretty weak villain. I’m not going to spend my whole time comparing and contrasting the two or contrasting Marvel movies vs DC movies, but I am going to use them as examples.
I think one of the strongest ways you can create an effective villain is to have a character who doesn’t think what they are doing is wrong or to have some more motivation than just being a villainous character. This will be one of the biggest points for Killmonger versus Ares. Ares, as a villain, is the god of war. As a villain, that isn’t that strong a motivator other than that is literally who he is. He wants there to be war. Compare that to Killmonger. Killmonger is also trying to set-up war, but he’s doing it for more reasons than just wanting war. Killmonger is seeking out war as a way of revenge, but also to change the world. There is a piece of him that knows how he’s going about stuff is wrong, but he doesn’t care, as the ends justify the means. He wants to create a world where those he views as oppressed can now rule and likely be the oppressor, but he doesn’t think about it that way, he thinks that he is doing something good.
The best villains often believe that they are doing something good. It’s hard to see a lot of the time, but when twisting it from their perspective, they see something as good. Even the right to rule for a villain is often them seeing it as the good and right thing to do. They’d do better than who is there right now. Granted, it would be worse for everyone else, but they don’t see it that way, they are thinking about what is good for themselves and don’t see what they are doing as evil. It’s an interesting way to look at things, but going back to Killmonger and Ares, it is something that gives Killmonger a lot more depth than Ares.
I’ll give DC some credit though with Ares. I think he’s one of the first DC villains that they could have had an interesting take on and made him someone who really manipulates from the background and only does that. Instead, they tried to make it that first, and then turn him into whom he is in the comics, with his armor and the big battle and basically made him an ineffective villain. Killmonger is instead of a villain who is trying to create some sort of change because they think it will be better and the ends justify the means, and there is also a large piece of hatred and revenge thrown in.
But, beyond those, why does it matter so much to have a villain that thinks they are doing good? I’ve already talked about it some, but it really is the crux to having a great villain. Sure, you can have memorable traits for a villain, like the Joker from The Dark Knight, but when it comes down to it, the Joker is a character who is crazy who does crazy things. His motivations aren’t that strong, but when you have a villain who has strong motivations from a place where they are seeking for something, that makes a great villain. They don’t have to be the muscle, they don’t have to always be on the scene, but someone who has a plan and is looking to complete it for the betterment of themselves or a select group of people or for revenge is a lot of fun to see or read about.
What else is important for a villain? I think one thing that often gets overlooked is having a backstory for the villain. Now, this is something that a lot of writers do well at, but there are a number of times where the villain doesn’t seem to have the background that they should. Even if the whole thing isn’t laid out, as a writer or dungeon master, you should know something about who the villain is. This can tie into them thinking that they are doing the right thing, but another way to look at it is it determines how they do things. A villain who grew up on the streets and is leading their own personal army to get into power might be looking at power as a way to say, I told you so or for riches, versus control over people, because they had nothing, and now they want things and everyone to see that they have things. Other characters might seek power for the ability to rule because they believe they can rule better or deserve to rule.
Keeping with the example of wanting power, it can be broken down in different ways besides the end goal. How someone gets to that end goal can also vary a lot. From the backstory of the villain, you are going to know if they are leading the charge, controlling things from the back of the battlefield, waging a war of mind games, or seeking all the attention that they can get. All of these things make your villain feel unique. Unique is probably the word that I should have started with in terms of backstory and why it matters. You don’t want your bad guy to feel like just another bad guy.
A great example of someone who creates unique villains is Stephen King. In Under the Dome, the villain is truly horrible in terms of what he does. It’s still probable that he sees himself as a good guy, though it’s hard to know how. He does so many just horrible things to the other people in the town all with his desire to have power and rule and be right. You feel dirty in many ways after reading his character. That character is unique to It where it’s a much greater being that almost toys with people. However, there’s the human villain in It, who is again a horrible character, but he’s driven as a kid as being a bully, and as an adult as trying to relive his glory years in many ways. You can see how the character grows over time.
I do want to talk about one last type of villain. I don’t know how to describe it and it’s a character who is so heavily steeped in doing the right thing that they lose focus but seem like they can regain focus on it. It is really the antihero character, where you’re watching the hero be a villain. In Code Geass, Lelouch is trying to make a safer world for his sister and get revenge on his father, the Emperor of Britannia. His methods can at best be described as suspect and his power to control other people ends up causing as much trouble as you’d expect. His power ends up with characters you like way more than him being killed, and he keeps on going further and further down the villainous pathway. While I have issues with the show, and I’ll likely write a review on that soon, it’s interesting to see someone become a villain and have a level of awareness at times that they are a villain and how that can create an interesting story.
The above example is probably harder to pull off. By the time Lelouch is really headed down the villainous path, I was too far in to stop watching, I might have. There are certainly plenty of shows, books, and movies with anti-heroes or no clear cut good character, but there’s a balance of weight that you have to go with when making a villainous main character as it’s very easy to drift into something that is too dark or only depressing. I think you could make an argument with the book The Magicians, that the main character is practically a villain and he really doesn’t have redeeming qualities or ever get redeemed, the book ends up just being negativity piled on top of negativity and is a weak book because of that whereas Code Geass does a better job balancing out that weight with some levity and not just having the main character be bad.
What are some examples that you love of a character who is unique and believes that they are doing the right thing? Who are your favorite villains in books/tv shows/movies?
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Today, we’re continuing along with our series of articles about getting to know your nerds — this time, we’re going with Television Series. I didn’t talk about this last time, so I’ll mention it now — what criteria do I have for picking my favorites […]
I’m going to wrap up this series by talking about writing the Antagonist of your story. The starting point for writing an antagonist, that I’d recommend, is going through many of the same details we did with the protagonist. There is often a temptation to make the bad guy into just a bad guy, and having that be their defining trait. But looking through much of fantasy, that isn’t the case for most bad guys — or at least those that are written well. So ask yourself questions like you did for your protagonist.
What made your bad guy bad? Does he seem himself as a bad guy? Why doesn’t he give up being a bad guy when things get tough? A lot of the time when you are writing, you need to remember that your bad guy probably started out thinking they were a good guy. Maybe they got in too deep, maybe something pushed them over the edge, or maybe they were willing to go that extra step when others wouldn’t.
One master at writing antagonists is Stephen King. What I’ve noticed often about Stephen King’s bad guys is that they are really horrible, rotten people, but they have something about them that makes people flock to them. Sometimes they are very creepily charismatic, and while as a reader you can see the whole picture, the people in the town would be much more wrapped up in the antagonist’s cult of personality, or they have dirt on others, or are just a bully. So while King’s bad guys are really bad guys, there’s always a reason why the masses would follow someone that evil, besides the threat of death or violence.
Also ask yourself the question, what is the bad guy after and why? Do they feel like they were cheated out of their rightful inheritance and are going to stop at nothing to get it back? Did they get a taste of power and are trying to get back to the spot they were before? Or is there one of many other reasons, such as that they are just insane? They need a motivation for seeking this dastardly result — otherwise, why are they going to continue once the going gets rough?
And my advice on handling their henchman is much the same as for an ensemble cast of protagonists. The henchmen all have to have their own story as well. While it might not be much of a story, if they are doing something for no other reason than to just be bad or to just be an expendable tool for the antagonist, the reader can tell that. The flip side of this is that you really aren’t coming up with all of that backstory for the reader — you are coming up with it for yourself, so that when you write your bad guys’ death or aspects of their life, you aren’t just writing cliches and tropes.
Finally, ask yourself what happens when the main bad guy of your story is defeated. There is always a desire to make everything amazing and wonderful for your protagonists at the end of a story. But unless you’ve told the story of your protagonists hunting down everyone who was in the bad guy’s group, there is going to be a power struggle. When Voldemort dies at the end of Harry Potter, what happens to all of his Death Eaters, or even the more secretive supporters who weren’t willing to join the cause but had the same opinions on muggles (so basically were Slytherin)? There is a power void there, and there would be massive fallout. In Harry Potter, they really leave the world in shambles, and then jump suddenly to the future, where things have already gotten back to normal. An example of how this is done better is the end of the Hunger Games trilogy. Katniss and Peeta are both extremely broken people who are sent off on their own, at least for a little bit, because they are a danger to society. Yes, the main bad guy is gone, but things haven’t gotten fixed overnight, and only after a while do the protagonist lives get back to (some kind of) normal.
What is going to make your bad guy different than someone who just wants to kill or rule everyone else? What is their rise to power, or the tragic backstory that has driven them to this point?
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