Antagonists and Villains in Fiction

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Hello, my readers, to another installation about fictional worlds! It’s been a stressful time for all of us, so I wanted to entertain you with another post of mine: Villains in Fiction!

Last time, I discussed the purpose of disease in fiction. In many ways, disease is like an invisible antagonist that cannot be seen—but what about the villains that can be seen? What are they all about? What different types of villains in fiction are there? Let’s dig into it!

“Each film is only as good as its villain. Since the heroes and the gimmicks tend to repeat from film to film, only a great villain can transform a good try into a triumph.” — Roger Ebert

Throughout human history, each movie, each story tale, has a villain. Some love them, others hate them, or even love to hate these nifty characters. They are the individuals who forge dynamic prose and brilliant screenplay—epic scenes and heart wrenching moments.

Antagonists

While a villain is selfish, naughty, or seeks to harm people, an antagonist—strictly speaking—is the opposing force of the protagonist, the lead of the plot with sympathic values towards the audience. Quite often, villains are the antagonist. However, you can have a villain as the protagonist—or even a hero as the antagonist!

Antagonistic Perspectives

An antagonist can help drive the narrative forward, develop the protagonist, and add color to worldbuilding. A villain is seen as “evil” to the eyes of the hero, but this is subjective. You could, for example, have a character appear as a villain from the viewpoint of most of the characters, but to others the villain seems neutral or even righteous.

Here are some types of villains I’ve chosen to examine. This list is by no means exhaustive.

I. The Anti-hero

In the case where the villain is the protagonist, you get an Anti-hero. Although evil, the Anti-hero believes in doing what he or she thinks is right. The Anti-hero establishes sympathetic relations with the audience and drives the plot forward through heinous acts. An Anti-hero usually has three important traits, which you can read more about here.

2. The Anti-villain

Conversely, an Anti-villain is a character with strong morals, yet accomplishes evil in the long-run. Perhaps an Anti-villain is a priest, wishing to purge “evil”, but he or she commits heinous acts to achieve this. Once again, “evil” is subjective to readers and other characters.

3. The Visionary

The Visionary sees the world in a demented state and wishes to fix it. These types of villains believe they are doing good—despite the fact they may be collapsing economies and killing millions, and they see the hero as an “evil” interloper.

4. The Madman

These types of villains are psychopathic and enjoy being evil, causing mischief, or hurting others for the fun of it. The Madman may have a sense of humor, in the case of the Joker, or even a ruthless, calculating demeanor like Lex Luthor. They will throw whatever resources they have at the hero, even if it costs them their life.

5. Femme Fatale

Seductress, siren, temptress—the Femme Fatale is a female character with malicious intent. Often she seduces the hero in clever ways, provoking him/her towards actions of moral ambiguity. The Femme Fatale may promise the hero power, clout, wealth, or even sex for surrendering to her.

6. The Beast

The Beast is a feral animal or a monster, with a desire to feed, gain territory, rampage, and reproduce. It has a primitive mind and cannot be reasoned with. Some beasts may appear justified for their rampage, like in the case of Godzilla. Others are confused and lost in modern society as with King Kong.

7. The Machine

Similar to the Beast, the Machine has one motive: disrupting the hero’s plans. The Machine is pure logic and can be even more dangerous with its lack of morals and emotions. See the Terminator series as an example.

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8. Evil Incarnate

Some villains are pure evil by nature. Dark gods or devil embodiments do heinous acts because it’s what they do. Sauron in The Lord of the Rings is innately evil, and opposes Frodo’s quest to destroy the Ring. Sometimes these types of villains have certain morals they follow, a code that guides them to destroy.

9. The Outsider

The Outsider is an outcast or disliked minority, detached from the world. Though intelligent and experienced, the Outsider is bitter towards society and holds a degree of vengeance. Outsiders may also have a cult following who champion their cause. Motivated by this revenge, the Outsider is led to commit vile acts, often opposing the society-accepted-protagonist—whom the Outsider also despises.

10. Nature

Nothing can oppose the will of Mother Nature, and unlike other villains, this variant can seldom can stopped. The hero must discover how to mitigate the damage, whether from a storm, a virus, or violent earth changes. Fortunately, conflicts caused by Mother Nature typically resolve on their own once balance is restored.

11. The Authority Figure

The Authority Figure is in charge of a lawful system, and he or she seeks to maintain said system through rules. This villain symbolizes restriction and control, whereas the hero may want freedom. Authority Figures are seen in a wide variety of genres—and they can be anything from a school principal, a police chief, or an emperor. While not wholly evil, Authority Figures only wish to maintain the status quo and do their jobs.

Other Villains in Fiction

There are numerous categories of villains in fiction, such as the Mastermind, a criminal overlord; the Henchman, who follows the Mastermind—and others. Some villains fall in multiple categories—they are a difficult breed to classify, and considerably more interesting than the cliché heroes that are often repeated. I encourage you to check these two articles out for more information.

An original hero will often break away from traditional stereotypes and establish his or her own set of moral values, not necessarily agreeing with society. Perhaps this is why an audience finds Anti-heroes more engaging and reflective of human nature. Anti-heroes also struggle more internally and this plays better with the audience.

Thank you for reading! Stay tuned for more content during this Quarantine with yours truly—and stay safe. 🙂

#fiction #worldbuilding #writing #reading #literature #villainsinfiction

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Disease in Fiction

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Hello, my readers. Today let’s discuss something that’s been on all our minds recently. Yup, that’s right—diseases in fiction. Right now, the world is in flux over the Coronavirus. It has created a bizarre, paranormal society where we’re all confined to our homes, some of us without jobs. The Coronavirus is like this invisible antagonist, challenging all of us right now.

“Plagues are like imponderable dangers that surprise people…” —Gabriel García Márquez

This makes one think: how would such events play into fictional stories? What examples do we see in published works for diseases in fiction?

—A List of Fictional Viruses—

Below is a list of diseases in fiction. These should give you ideas of how authors design them, both in fantasy and science fiction.

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1. Greyscale

If you’ve read Game of Thrones, you’ve run into this ailment. It’s a horrible disease that cause a person’s flesh—and later internal organs—to harden and die. Necrotic flesh coats the victim’s body, offering the appearance of cracked stone.

2. White Blindness

In the book, Blindness, by Jose Saramago, the disease robs its victims of eyesight. The protagonist is a woman who is immune to the ailment. Able to witness the world around her, the heroine must guide her comrades to safety.

3. Inferno

Created by Dan Brown, the Inferno virus renders people infertile. Used by the antagonists as a waterborne agent—and later an airborne one—this disease serves as a potent vector for conflict.

4. Nanoprobe Virus

No so much a biological virus as a form of nanotechnology, the Nanoprobe Virus is used by the Borg in Star Trek to gradually assimilate organic life forms. Victims become drones for the Borg Collective as nanotechnology slowly takes over their bodies.

5. Tyrant Virus

Also known as the “t-virus”, this disease defines the Resident Evil series. Developed by the Umbrella Corporation, the virus was designed as a eugenics project to cull world population and build an army of bioweapons—namely zombies. Umbrella eventually designed variants of the t-virus that affect victims in different ways.

6. Flare Virus

Found in the Maze Runner movies, the Flare Virus eats away at a person’s brain until they become mindless zombies. Like the Tyrant Virus in Resident Evil, the Flare Virus was designed by scientists to reduce world population.

—What Does a Disease/Pandemic Do to a World?—

Diseases are—surprisingly—versatile and useful in fictional worlds. An author, if clever, can use this disease as a plot device to strengthen characters and move the story forward. Disease can also be used to create conflict and established a degree of worldbuilding.

1. An Invisible Antagonist

Heroes can defeat a villain they can see and touch—but what about an antagonist that is invisible? Nothing evokes fear in a character like impotence. Finding a cure, or elixir, may be the only hope in defeating this intangible opponent.

2. Atypical Conflict

Diseases in fiction offer an unusual form of conflict—even better if the disease afflicts characters that the hero cares about. Mental illnesses can add further depth to the conflict, as the victim may experience situations that alter memory or cognition—even turning them into an aggressive mutant or monster. Now the hero may have to fight a loved one, offering moral conflict in the protagonist’s conscious.

3. Worldbuilding

A pandemic forces a society to explore its resources, introducing the reader to what’s in the fictional world. An economic slowdown—like we see in the real world—causes shortages of goods and services, forces people into a different state of mind, and encourages innovation in characters.

In short, a virus exposes the innards of a fictional world and allows a reader to become intimate with it.

—Summary—

Diseases in fiction—whether biological, artificial, or magical—drives plot and character progression in a fictional world. It creates atypical conflict that exposes the underbelly of a society—not just in the protagonist—and allows the reader to dissect the morals, financial resources, and technology of an afflicted civilization.


Thank you reading, as always! During these troubling times, perhaps we can derive some meaning from the Coronavirus and how it is exposing our society. Like the heroes of old, we too can defeat this invisible foe and establish a stronger, more orderly world if by learning from our own mistakes and what habits we have buried throughout the years. That said, maybe this virus can be seen as a good thing—a source of inspiration and growth for the human spirit.

Stay safe and healthy out there. And remember, we’re all in this together. 🙂

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Chapter 1 Excerpt from Blade of Dragons

 

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Hello, all! I’m getting ready to advertise my upcoming book, Blade of Dragons! Below is an excerpt from chapter 1 of the current manuscript. It’s undergone many changes in the past couple months after several revision passes and feedback from betas.

I’m excited that this project is finally reaching the next stage of its evolution, as I’ll be looking for an agent and maybe a cover artist within the next several months—provided that the Coronavirus situation has stabilized. I am looking for one more beta reader, if possible—let me know if you’re interested.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s the excerpt. I do hope you enjoy it!


 

Blinking at the brilliance of the Twins, Pepper tilted her chin up to bathe in the sunlight if only to forget her troubles. Curling her toes in the dirt, she allowed the earth to swallow her feet. The grasslands stretched into the horizon like a blanket of green along the Fertile Crescent, heightening her comfort. In the distance, a few egg-shaped barns situated next to her pyramidal house, set with gemstone spires. Winterwall lay along the horizon, its snowy peaks piercing the sky.

With the drone of insects in her ears, she closed her eyes briefly to allow a breeze to rustle her hair—the familiar smell of manure on the wind. The climate was humid but balanced with a gentle breeze—typical Springcrest weather.

Pepper dug into her pocket and withdrew a golden coin. Along the penny’s worn edges was the depiction of a gauntlet shrouded in vines. Underneath the design was curvy Atläsian cuneiform.

It was the Slyhart family emblem. Pepper rarely went anywhere without it, and in some ways, it was a reminder of who she was—a Slyhart, not some animal or pariah. She placed the coin to the ground.

“Check for messages,” she said.

The penny flashed in response. “Checking etheric archives now, please wait,” it whirred.

From the coin, a light shot up a few inches high. The image of her father appeared with his red hair tied in a long ponytail. He was indeed athletic and tall, a splitting image of Pepper. A red goatee jutted from his chin, and he wore a blue jacket with a sword strapped to his undershirt, a pistol at his belt.

A second image appeared—her mother, in a silver dress and a green braid. She bore a stubby tail and pointed ears like Pepper, but had the addition of leathery wings behind her that the latter lacked. She frowned and hugged the redheaded man. “We hope this message reaches you well, dear. We’ll be home soon. There’s extra food and a month’s worth of melkä coins if you need it. Please promise to stay out of trouble and watch over the farm.”

“Your mom and I will be home as soon as we can,” the man promised. “It’ll be safer if you remain home. We’ll see you soon.”

He smiled as his silhouette wavered with the woman.

Pepper sighed and her shoulders sagged. That was the third message this month. The farm needed daily attention—and Pepper had promised her parents that she’d do it. She was never one to break a promise.

Putting the coin away, she whispered to herself, “Don’t worry, mom, dad. I’ll take good care of the farm.”

From her other pocket, she pulled out a fist-sized crystal of aquamarine. The stone, cold and jagged, shimmered like water. She whispered a mantra, and mist spouted from the stone, drenching the rows of crops around her.

Smiling, she spread her arms while the droplets of cool water covered her body. The crystal shrieked with a flash upon completion. You could never have enough water for your farm—and only a hundred more plots to go for the day. She rolled her eyes and shifted her shoulders, eager to complete her chores for the day.

“I see you’re still enjoying the farm, Pepper Slyhart,” said a soft voice.

She turned her head and her jaw dropped…


 

What Are My Favorite Fantasy Tropes?

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Hello, my readers. It’s been a busy month for me, and I just finished my long beta read for a fellow writer. Reading through the story got me thinking about fantasy tropes in general—especially since it’s #fantasymonth. In fantasy, you have everything from elves, dwarves, dragons, and halflings! In science fantasy, the scope expands even more to robots, cyborgs, aliens—the sky’s the limit.

Below, I’ll discuss some of my favorite ones, not in any specific order. I’ll focus strictly on the fantasy elements, but they can be applied to sci-fi too.

 

I. Elves

Who doesn’t like elves? An elf—by general definition—is beautiful, slender, graceful, and powerful. Elves have played a large role in fantasy since the Tolkien days—and continue to do so. Usually as a force for good, elves help maintain the order of the world they live in, often living in cities that are in harmony with nature.

 

II. Dragons

Another favorite of mine, dragons are the epitome of power, feral beauty, and arcane mystery. While elves are almost always good, dragons have played a multitude of roles ranging from villains, to advisors, and even heroes. Dragons are a wild card in how they have been used throughout all fiction.

 

III. Magic

Magic is a whimsical topic—and a detailed analysis of such a trope is clearly beyond the scope of this humble article—that symbolizes the human imagination. Anything from fireballs, to teleportation, flight, or telepathy falls under the magical category. The price of using magic can be just as fascinating as what it produces. An author can conjure whatever he or she wishes via magic; that’s what makes it such an unpredictable and exciting trope.

 

IV. Alchemy

But what is alchemy? It’s essentially the transmutation of an object into something else. Lead to gold is a classic example, but you can make other things like herbal elixirs too. In fantasy settings, authors often use alchemy as a profession to make a living, a means to heal others via healing salves, or—even better—a plot device that integrates with your magic system like in Mistborn. In other ways, alchemy can be a religion or way of life that shapes a character’s decisions.

 

V. Culture

I enjoy reading about the different types of civilizations in a fantasy story. An elven society may differ from one book to another, for example. How do the people function in said society? What roles does said society play in the plot? From culture, you can derive things like currency, prejudice, personal values, and even a magic system.

 

VI. Food & Consumables

I love food in general, especially cooking with it. It’s like a gift from the Divine—every meal is a blessing, every bite a prayer. Anyway, food heavily influences culture, reflecting how the world is assimilated by the protagonist and his/her society. Bonus points to the author that devises a completely unique fruit or herb with special nutritive properties.

 

VII. Magical Creatures & Beasts

Who says a writer should stop at elves and dragons? How about a mix of the two with its own racial name, abilities, and cultural values? This is another way creativity can work its magic and weave beautiful fiction. Magical beasts can be ally or foe for the protagonist—and such creatures help shape the conflict of the plot, giving depth to the reader’s immersion.

 

—On A Final Note—

A fictional world is only limited by the author’s imagination. Each new story is a dive into untold depths, whimsical and sylvan mystery. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy reading and writing fiction so much.

What are your preferred fantasy tropes? What are your thoughts on elves, dragons, and magic? I’d love to hear in the comments below. Thanks a bunch for reading and enjoy #fantasymonth! Cheers.

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The Ballad of Atläs

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Atläs, mother of all
Throughout the years watched us grow tall
For many years, Tiamat ruled this land
Her draconic legacies spread like sand
In the heavens, a star shone
Sending chaos onto Tiamat’s throne
Long we have witnessed the ravages of war
Of demons, giants, ogres, and more
We plenty have much to repair
Lest calamity once more brings her care
The Gate will see us through
Or break us until we relearn what we knew
Guide us, divine Aspects; show us the way
For only through ourselves will harmony stay
Plenty would Ronald’s avatar wail
But to observe the strength of Tiamat’s renewed tail
Still, she claws at hearts with her call
Through mortals, dragons, and bastards most of all
Now darkness gathers around, priming for evil to rebound
Yet a hero may rise to meet the temptress
To foil curse, shadow, pride; strong yet relentless
A divine blade will shine free
Guiding the hero towards destiny’s tree
Guide us, holy Aspects; brighten the past
For only through peace, will the future last
—Lily Hymnfoot

Fantasy Month Blog Tag

Fantastical Realms Blog Tag

Hello, my readers! It’s February, and that means #fantasymonth! I’m excited to get involved in this blogging tag game. First, I’d like to thank Jenelle Schmidt for the idea, and A. M. Reynwood for tagging me.

Anyway, I’ll start with some questions on worldbuilding and gradually move to some zany ones. 😛

What aspect of worldbuilding do you enjoy?

Probably the spontaneous nature of it. It’s fun to give birth to entire worlds from nothing. The possibilities are endless—and you never know what the result could be! A novel that has a wild and whimsical world is my preference.

How do you worldbuild?

Usually by the seat of my pants. I’m not a great outliner and planner. I find the process to be tedious, and that it impedes the creative juices. The editing can come later—and I honestly don’t mind it.

What is your favorite fantasy novel in regards to worldbuilding?

Hmm…not an easy question. What first comes to mind—I enjoyed the worldbuilding in the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson. The use of alchemical reagents to fuel superpowers was fascinating. The world of Mistborn is also dark and mysterious, leaving the reader with a feeling of suspense.

What fantasy creature do you wish featured in more stories?

Instead of which fantasy creature, I’ll rather have a shift in the whole fantasy genre. Too often fantasy focuses on European mythology. There’s plenty of creatures and fantasy elements in East Asian mythology, for example. Speaking of which, I’ve had a lot of fun writing Tempest of the Dragon. The research I’ve done into Japanese mythology has been refreshing—and it has opened my eyes to how limited and dull European fantasies have become.

As you are reading this, a voice rings in your ear proclaiming:

A hero true, a leader strong,
A quest is where you do belong,
So arm thyself, and take your stand
With an item to your left your fate is at hand.

Besides the fact that this prophetic voice is clearly incapable of sticking to a meter, what ordinary item do you now find yourself armed with? (And, for bonus points, what helpful magical properties does it now possess that will help you on your quest?)

I would choose a set of prayer beads. The necklace would be blessed by a god and goddess, granting me wisdom in how to proceed in life. Through these divine words, I would walk forth, prepared to reforge creation and bring balance to humanity.

Congratulations! You are a fantasy hero/heroine about to start your adventure. You get to choose a small fantasy creature to accompany and assist you on your quest. Who/what do you choose?

I choose you, pikachu!

Seriously though, I would choose a magical familiar likened to a mouse, something small enough to fit in places I could not. It would be a sentient creatures capable of defending itself or me with magic.

Elves or dwarves?

How about both? I find each to be fascinating in their own way.

Do you prefer your dragons (we had to have at least one question devoted solely to dragons!) good or evil or a mix of both?

A good mix is always refreshing. As dragons are usually wise, they can be benevolent or manipulative, no? Some may even be feral and savage.

World building is a complicated undertaking full of many details. As a reader, what is a small detail you really appreciate seeing when it comes to diving into a new realm? What is something that helps you lose yourself in a fantasy world?

Immersive, descriptive scenery draws me in the most. This teleports me into the fantasy world—to touch, smell, and feel what the characters experience. Now, scenery need not be external like mountains, hills, or castles; it can also be internal to the protagonist. What are their fears? Their hopes? How does this reflect the world they live in? You can do so much with internal world building.

You have been transformed into your favorite fantasy creature. Problem is… you’re still in your own bedroom and your family is downstairs, completely unprepared for this shock. What creature are you, and how (if at all) do you break the news to your loved ones? (Or how do you get out of your room?)

Quite a predicament. My favorite fantasy creature would be a phoenix. As this creature, I would fly out of my room’s window (unfortunately melting the glass) and soar through the skies. Eventually, I would return home and nest in a secluded spot, watching over the property until the enchantment faded.


Well, that was an entertaining set of questions. I’ll admit, I had fun doing it. Fantasy Month is a time to celebrate, so I’m tagging you, my dear reader, to take up the challenge! If you own a website or blog, try answering the questions posted within this article. Or, you could make up your own set of questions related to worldbuilding. Be sure to thank Jenelle Schmidt and mention #fantasymonth within your post.

Thank you for reading. Until next time. 🙂

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10 Tips on How to Write a Protagonist

 

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A protagonist is the central character of a story. Unlike side characters, the hero influences the story the heaviest. Because the hero holds the plot together, developing a solid character is vital.

Below, I’ll discuss some tips on how to write a protagonist; things that should assist you with your hero’s development. These are guidelines, as the majority of the hero’s creation comes from the author.

How to Write a Protagonist

When learning how to write a protagonist, there are several things to keep in mind. How each parameter lines up can influence both the protagonist and the plot.

1. Gender

This is one of the more prominent points when you write a protagonist, as the POV can change considerably with the hero’s gender. I read an enlightening series of forum posts that discusses male and female characters. You can check this and this for additional information.

Stay true to your character’s quirks and personality. Don’t let traditional stereotypes interrupt that creative flow. If you hit a roadblock, ask a reader of the opposite sex. Often, he or she can add some insights to your character design.

2. Race

Whether your hero is Caucasian, African, or some fictional alien race, have that racial background define who they are and their ordeals. Maybe a particular breed of space elves are hated in society, or they lack a specific trait that humans take for granted.

3. Height, Weight, Body Mass

Maybe your hero is a short, fat dwarf or a lanky human. How they appear to other characters can influence how the hero comes off. Perhaps a tall protagonist looks formidable and therefore commands respect.

Maybe give your hero some facial scars, a distinguishing feature that sets them apart. Make them unique, as the main character should be.

4. Secrets

Any reader enjoys secrets; even better are secrets within secrets. What I mean is, wrap your main character in mystery. Give them an enigmatic past and don’t give out the answers too quickly.

Have your secrets evolve as the hero progresses through the plot. This evokes intrigue and helps pull the reader in.

5. Character Flaws

“There’s nothing more boring than a perfect heroine!”

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Tension is fundamental on how to write a protagonist. Incorporate conflict into your characters, whether in their backstory, gender, race, or physical limitations. You can also give them technical flaws, like the inability to perform a skill or a specific action.

Giving them too many perks and too little flaws result in a bland, uninteresting hero. You want to challenge your hero, not make them a god; nor do you want them to fail in their quest.

6. Attributes

As in video games, especially RPGs or tabletops like D&D, a character in a story has a given set of attributes. These parameters define what the actor is good at, what he or she may fail at, and perhaps unique modifiers that make the character stand out from other characters.

First, define what kind of a character, or class, the actor is. Take your stereotypical warrior: they—usually—have high strength and resilience to trauma. Warriors may not specialize in other fields of ability like magic or stealth, but they have their toolbox of skills to make up for it.

Characters like the warrior fit a niche in a company of heroes, whereas others party members address their shortcomings. Having one character do all the work often comes off as lazy and boring. Give your characters a challenge that pushes them to their limits.

7. The Hero’s Journey

The hero should be someone who struggles through the impossible. The protagonist should suffer but persevere. This is a reflection of the journey we all go through—the Hero’s Journey.

It is vital when writing a protagonist that the hero is relatable to your audience. This draws readers in and generates sympathy and a sense of kinship with the hero. Plot out your story using the Acts found in the Hero’s Journey. Joseph Campbell did an excellent job in his novel, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I highly recommend this book.

8. Antagonist

An antagonist complements the protagonist, forming a wholesome plot. The villain often provides the tension and challenge to the hero. In traditional works, the antagonist is a reflection of the hero with exacerbated personality flaws. It could also be a father figure.

9. Leveling Up

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As a character progresses through a story, they level up or gain additional attributes. With games, the hero adds new parameters to their character sheet. In a novel, leveling up is more subtle. The author may demonstrate this as a character acquiring a new artifact/weapon for study, graduating from school, or finishing a spellbook.

The development of new experience enriches the character’s worldview and the way they handle problems. A rookie fighter may view a few brigands with horror, while a veteran would display confidence.

This system of progression enhances characters and leaves a player or reader with a greater sense of appreciation by the end of the story. Typically, characters begin with little to no experience and graduate to seasoned fighters by the end of the plot.

10. Tropes

If you’re still struggling with how to write a protagonist, check out TV Tropes here to browse a list of familiar character tropes. That may give you some idea of what you’d prefer in your character.

As an example, the farmer hero trope is heavily used in fantasy settings, but it still works. My main hero of Ethereal Seals starts out as a half-dragon farm girl who trains into a knight by the end of the story, yet she fails at some tasks that others take for granted.

There are endless variations to this trope alone, and putting your original spin on it will help it stand out.

Conclusion

Learning how to write a protagonist can be a complicated process. There are certain factors to keep in mind, like gender, race, body proportions, and flaws. Tropes provide a convenient starting point for character creation. Remember to challenge your hero—introduce some tension.

I hope this article has provided a good idea of the thought and time put into a character. For more information, please check out the provided links throughout the page.

Thanks for reading. Much love and gratitude. 🙂


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I’m looking for beta readers in my app here. Click it and read about my ebook if you’re interested. My book cover has a green gem on the cover, titled Ethereal Seals: Dragonsblade. Thanks.

 

Making Maps for Fantasy Settings: A Tutorial

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Crafting a map for your fictional universe can be a handy resource for readers. Not every fiction has a cartographic reference, nor is it a requirement for good work. However, it dramatically compliments the space where the story takes place. When done correctly, a map benefits to both author and reader.

In this article, I’ll give an example of how I create my maps. You can take what you find appropriate and apply it to your projects. Hopefully, this tutorial will get you started. It may be a bit complicated and technical but bear with me.

—Some Startup Info—

You can use whatever media you want to design your map. I use a free program called GIMP, which is like an advanced version of Microsoft Paint, last I checked.

—Creating a Digital Map—

Layer 1: The Background

When you have your blank canvas set up, first address the background. My personal preference is a basic fill tool. Your mileage may vary, depending on what kind of background your story needs. Most maps are continents, so they require an ocean or blue background.

Something like this.

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I did a fill command in GIMP for the ocean backdrop here, then added some darker shades to indicate ocean depth.

Layer 2: Landmass

The next layer I work on is the outline and general fill of the land. Choose a yellow, peach, or brown color that resembles dirt or clay—or do whatever you want of course—for the land color.

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You can use a pathing or pencil tool to create the black outline of the land, as shown, then use the fill tool. Most land isn’t perfect or smooth—go for jagged edges along coasts or coves to simulate water erosion. You can also get creative and design fragment islands.

Layer 3: Land Color/Features

With the general land layer in place, you can focus on the more detailed facets of your map. This step can be done in several ways, but in my example, I use pure color to indicate trees and mountains.

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That may be a doozy of a step forward, but allow me to explain. I used a light green to represent grasslands, dark green for forests, blue for lakes and rivers, brown for mountains areas, and white-brown for snow. One suggestion I have is—if you’re doing this method, select all of layer 2 with a wand tool, so you don’t create color outside the landmass.

For the water masses, I went back to layer 2 and erased parts of it. Doing this allowed layer 1 to fill in where lakes and rivers lie.

Layer 4: Additional Land Details

This is another optional and flexible step, depending on what you want for your map. I added redundant mountain figures and then floating islands here. This gave the map more depth.

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Here’s a tip: create one mountain figure and then use the clone stamp tool to easily replicate it. This makes it a lot easier! 🙂

Layer 5: Landmarks

Now that you have your land finished, it’s time to add landmarks! What do I mean? Cities, castles, special areas, and so forth. No, you don’t have to draw an entire castle—use symbols to represent them.

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In this example, I used simple dots with minor details. You can certainly be creative with this and draw one small castle—then, using the clone stamp tool, replicate it wherever you need to.

Layer 6: Map Legend

Every map needs a legend—a reference to tell readers what your landmarks mean. A north arrow or distance bar is also handy.

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Position your legend so that it doesn’t overlap over map details. Choose a location where there is a lot of “empty space”; this will add visual balance to your map.

Layer 7: Captions

You need captions that specify major or minor points on the map. Include text for your legend, a title, and any additional information a reader should know. A small bit about who authored the map is also essential.

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In this example, broader or more critical areas have a larger font size, while minor or smaller areas have a lower font size. If I were to do this over again, I’d probably make the font size for cities a bit larger, but at the same time, I don’t want to crowd the other map details with text. On an ebook or actual copy, the text would scale larger, but in the thumbnail here, it’s smaller.

Other Things to Consider

You could also add in fantasy details like sea dragons swimming in the ocean, or maybe other mythic creatures that add an “ancient” feeling to your map. Go wild! Remember, this is your map and fictional world.

—Conclusion—

Creating maps is a fun activity that adds important detail to your story. A map can be a wide variety of things—and the example above is just one of them. I hope this article has helped get you started with the map making process. Thanks for reading and click that “follow” button below if you like what you see. Cheers. 😎

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hero’s Journey in Fiction

 

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Years ago, I read a fantastic book named The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. In it, the author details the Hero’s Journey. This is a powerful story element that every writer, artist, or screenwriter should understand. It illustrates a protagonist’s adventures, from safe haven to the darkest dungeon—be they literal or figurative.

—What is the Hero Journey?—

The Hero’s Journey is a story mechanic that centers around the protagonist’s progression through the various acts of the story. Typically, there are four acts for each journey, from which the audience witnesses the evolution of the hero.

The first act of the Hero’s Journey introduces the hero, while the second and third act elaborates on their ordeals, and the fourth finishes round circle. You may notice certain tropes or definitions used in each act; these are minor plot elements that form the Hero’s Journey—and some are necessary to flesh out the story.

—Act I—

The Ordinary World

The story begins in the Ordinary World, a mundane realm that may be a safe haven or even a prison for the hero. Here, the audience learns about the hero’s life situation, his/her abilities, fears, and personality.

The Call to Adventure

From the Ordinary World, conflict arises that stirs the hero from complacency. This may be something serious like an assassination or a minor incidence like a strange phone call. The hero now has a choice to pursue the source of the conflict and resolve the issue, or remain in his or her realm.

Refusal

Initially, the hero may be hesitant to leave the safe boundary of the Ordinary World. The hero sees the risks involved and what’s to gain if s/he succeeds. Some stories skip this step with a willing or reckless hero who jumps onto the quest immediately.

—Act II—

The Mentor

The hero encounters the mentor, a wise or experienced individual. The mentor trains and/or guides the hero, providing new knowledge about the nature of the quest. This character is more often an elderly person but can manifest as a younger individual or inanimate object such as a legendary sword.

Crossing the Threshold

The mentor guides the hero away from the Ordinary World to the first Threshold—or the point of no return. The hero’s commitment is tested, determining if the hero is truly ready for the quest. The Threshold is the gateway to a new dimension, far away from the Ordinary World.

Tests, Allies, and Enemies

Now in a world of mystery and danger, the hero learns more about his/her new adventure. This strange world brings a host of challenges, allies, and enemies. Every obstacle is a stepping stone to unearthing the hero’s personality and capabilities. Abilities are sharpened, and pain is endured. Temptations are met, and the hero struggles with his/her inner shadow self.

—Act III—

Approach to the Dungeon/Inmost Cave

The hero prepares to enter the Inmost Cave. Setbacks occur, but the hero endures, priming for the Supreme Ordeal—an inner crisis that demands change from the protagonist. The hero must analyze personal flaws and push forward to complete the quest. This brief respite offers another connection between the hero and the audience as both understand the danger and gravity of the quest.

Supreme Ordeal

The protagonist faces a dangerous challenge, often against the antagonist, risking life and limb to complete the ordeal. The antagonist can also be a dark reflection of a father figure, such as with Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, with exaggerated flaws of the protagonist. The Supreme Ordeal is a highlight of the hero’s quest, and everything is at stake. S/he must draw upon all the experience from the journey to survive against the antagonist.

Reward, Seizing of the Sword

If the hero succeeds, s/he emerges as a changed person. The hero also receives an award as proof of victory; this might be a mythic sword or artifact, signifying the change in the hero’s life. The hero now prepares for the last part of the quest.

—Act IV—

The Road Back

With the quest completed, the hero begins to travel back to the ordinary world, which is the opposite of the call of adventure. Instead of worry or pain, fulfillment and satisfaction arise. The quest is not done, as the last challenge awaits the hero.

Resurrection

The hero faces a test or battle against the antagonist at the final Threshold—likened to the supreme ordeal on steroids. This ultimate tribulation challenges the hero immensely, evoking his/her greatest fears and requiring all the experience they’ve gained from their quest. Failure may result, leading to the hero’s death, a dearth of all hope, or even a severe injury that mars the hero.

The protagonist is reborn from the flames of demise, returning as a new person–transmuted into the true hero, and no longer the false facade from before. Following the brush of death, the adventurer conquers the final ordeal, or the Dragon at the Final Threshold, seizing the Elixir. Reconciliation with the Father is obtained and the hero is purged, fully equipped to end the adventure.

Return with the Elixir

The adventurer returns to the ordinary world as a changed person—physically, mentally, and spiritually. Using the reward from the final ordeal, s/he improves upon the ordinary world and a new era of peace and reflection results. The prize is multifaceted, manifesting either as a damsel in distress, a powerful relic, or a shift in the climate of the realms.  At this point, the hero finishes the journey back to the ordinary world, but things will never be as they were.

—Conclusion—

Others Variables in the Hero’s Journey

While the hero’s cycle is a general formula for a fictional plot, there is a multitude of additional elements, such as sub-cycles that stretch throughout a trilogy. Sometimes, the hero cannot return to society as they are, instead choosing a form of exile to live a new life more suiting to his or her needs.

How The Hero’s Journey Relates to Readers

The Hero’s Journey repeats in every good fiction; it’s a retelling of human life, the growth of a person into a mature and wise individual. It is a blueprint from which anyone, as a soul, can appreciate the heroic archetypes and make changes for a more prosperous, happier life.


Thank you for reading, and Merry Christmas!

christmas tree with decors under the staircase

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: The Phoenix Unchained

 

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Hello and welcome to my latest book review. It’s been a busy month between family, work, and NaNo; that doesn’t mean I can’t offer another informative review from yours truly.

A writer friend recommended this series to me, and I decided it give it a go. Needless to say, I enjoyed the read and plan to read the following books at some point.

—The Phoenix Unchained—

Premise

The Phoenix Unchained is an immersive story with a rich amount of lore and enjoyable cast of characters. Book one includes staple mythology like dragons, goblins, mages, and unicorns. What I found most interesting was the magic system and how it weaves into the character arcs—but more on that below.

Length

The book is around 380 pages. Chapters can be long, but are broken down with several scene breaks that alternate between character perspectives. Personally, I enjoyed the many scene breaks, as it makes it convenient for taking breaks or stopping for the day.

Characters

The other week, I submitted a short story for an online Publishing company called Havok. The submission had what was called Dynamic Duos, or two characters that interact with each other (e.g. Frodo and Sam).

The two protagonists in the Phoenix Unchained strongly share this trait. One is soft-spoken and thin, the other is hot-tempered and burly. I enjoyed the character interactions and especially the dialog; it left me amused and satisfied, as any good cast should.

Magic System

The magic in the Phoenix Unchained initially comes off as generic and uninteresting. However, I was amazed at how the authors cleverly wove it into the character development for one of the protagonists. It even plays a part in the antagonist’s arc. The lore behind the magic system is deep and left me interested.

Conflict

The tension is a rollercoaster of stressful encounters to peaceful resolutions, as I expected in any fantasy thriller. What caught me by surprise was the death of a main character halfway through the book.

The monsters and demons are portrayed excellently, some at a Stephen King-grade level that left me shaken and worried for the protagonists.

—Overall Summary—

The Good

The Phoenix Unchained is a great read for fantasy buffs with its rich amount of lore, tension, amusing characters, and clever magic system.

The Bad

Despite its enjoyable dialog and immersive environment, several prose errors caught me off balance. At other times, I felt like I was reading a manuscript that wasn’t well edited. It wasn’t so much as finding a typo as it was the excessive amount of adverbs used. The POV also wasn’t as detailed as it could as been, leaving some distance between reader and character.

That said, the prose concision was poor, lacking a fine polish that you may find in another fantasy novel.

The Ugly

There is a lot of travel involved in the plot. The authors failed to include a map that would have been helpful as I read through the story. There was also no chapter index—but that’s a minor nitpick.

—My Rating for The Phoenix Unchained: 4/5 stars—

This is a solid book for anyone interested in fantasy. As long as you don’t mind lacking a world map and the plethora of adverbs—and prose concision for that matter—, then you should enjoy the story. The characters will entertain you and some scenes will leave you at the edge of your seat.

I may do another review when I get through the second book.


Thanks again for reading. Remember to hit that “follow” button below. I really appreciate the likes and comments you leave below. Cheers.