On Heroes And Villains: What Is Right, What Is Wrong?

Good vs. bad is a common theme everywhere. It’s in novels: your protagonist is “good” and no matter what genre you’re writing in, there’s always a “bad” guy who happens to be the villain of the story, your protagonist’s rival, or simply just someone who is mean and considered “bad” by the readers.

This theme pops up (a little too frequently) in real life as well.

It’s probably one of the more common ones and it’s the broadest because there’s so much you can do with it.

But here’s the thing: Everyone has different opinions, different perspectives. So, who exactly is good and who is bad? Who’s right and who’s wrong?

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When you think of a hero, you think “good.” When you think of a villain, you think “bad.” We assume the protagonist is automatically good because they’re the “protagonist.” And we assume the antagonist is bad because they’re in competition with the protagonist.

But what exactly is good and what is bad? Who decides?

 

 

What makes a character Good?

Their traits

Good or nice characters typically have certain traits that include, but are not limited to:

  • Kind to all
  • Cares about others
  • Puts others before him/herself
  • Brave
  • Patient
  • Forgiving
  • Thankful
  • Respectful
  • Responsible
  • Self-controlled
  • Trusting

And there’s plenty more, but I could create a whole post on traits alone.

Their motivation

What is the ultimate goal for a good character? They want to help others, save and protect others, etc. They don’t want to help people in order to brag that they did a good deed, either. They simply do something good out of the kindness of their heart and because it’s the right thing to do.

What makes a character Bad?

Their traits

Similar to the good guy, they’re personality is made up of many traits that allow them to do the evil things they wish.

  • Jealous
  • Distrusting
  • Cold
  • Impulsive
  • Stubborn
  • Self-centered
  • Brave
  • Patient
  • Impatient
  • Wise

Like the good guy, there’s more that I could list, but these first popped into my head.

Notice that some traits are the opposite of the good guy’s, but some are the same. For example, brave is a common trait because no matter what you do (evil or not) they need to have the guts to carry through with it. I also put “patient” and “impatient” depending on the type of bad guy. I believe it can go either/or, or just one.

Their motivation

What’s the ultimate goal for any bad guy? They want to get what they want. They try to get that in any way they can whether it’s kidnapping a princess or trying to take over the world, among other ways.

Who is right?

The good guy and the bad guy

A key to creating good guys and bad guys that exist together in the same novel is that they should have a few things in common. One major thing they should have in common is that they both believe they’re the good guy.

Both of their reasons for doing what they do are both right. You yourself might not agree so, but both characters must whole-heartedly believe their the good guy, they’re doing the right thing.

Perspective and Opinion

The author may have the good and bad outlined in their mind as they write the story, but ultimately the reader will decide.

Everyone who reads has a different opinion about what they’ve read. They either like it or don’t like it. They either agree with it or they don’t agree with it. They also have a different perspective. You might think something in the book means one thing, but your friend might interpret it differently. And everyone has a different theory about something.

In other news, I’ve challenged myself to read five books between Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26. Feel free to join me and check out my daily updates on Twitter, Tumblr, and my Bookstagram!

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On Quests And Adventures: Where Is Your Hero Going And Why?

We all know that a novel isn’t really a novel if the characters don’t do anything or if they don’t go anywhere. Most of the time (but also depending on the genre), the characters leave home and go on some sort of journey.

This can happen in a number of different ways.

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What’s the difference between Adventure and Quest?

Adventure is when you go on a long expedition sometimes to unknown territory. It’s exciting, a little scary, and maybe a bit bizarre.

Quest means you’re searching for something or someone. I guess you could say it’s like an adventure, but with more meaning behind it.

Why would your protagonist go on an adventure or quest?

So many things can happen to the main character in a story that begins the plot, that causes the protagonist to move forward.

  • A stranger comes and asks for help
  • Someone they know and is close to asks for help
  • They get a message from someone somewhere
  • They’re adventurous and go off on their own running into the heart of the story
  • A threat is being made to someone, something, or somewhere and they must try to fix it
  • They may not journey anywhere. Someone may journey to them and they go from there

Anything that would cause your protagonist to jump out of their seat and go is a reason for them to go on an adventure.

Of course, they may not even want to go on the adventure and they have to be forced or convinced to get going. I think that makes everything more interesting.

For example, in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins doesn’t want to go on a journey. He’s perfectly happy staying at home, away from everyone else. They have to convince him and he even passes out in the movie. (I can’t remember if he passed out or not in the book. It’s been a while.)

Meanwhile, in Disney’s latest film, Moana, Moana wants to go on an adventure, but everyone stops her. It’s not until something drastic happens that she decides to go against everyone and just go.

Some characters have that sense of adventure and others don’t. Which trait is your character likely to have?

Where do they go?

They can go anywhere.

They can go to the other side of the state, to the other side of the country, to a new country, or halfway around the world. Or, they can even go to a different time, if that’s what’s needed for your story and genre.

Or, as I said earlier, someone could journey to your protagonist. In which case, your protagonist’s home could be the destination. Together, they search deeper in their town or village for whatever the stranger needs or wants.

In conclusion

Writing about adventures and quests is a lot of fun. It adds more depth and meaning to the story and allows you explore who your characters really are. You find out what they would do in certain situations and you discover things about them you wouldn’t normally see if they had just stayed at home and continued to go to work every day.

Of course, I think this depends on the genre as well. If you’re writing fantasy, someone is bound to go somewhere. If you’re writing a high school drama, not too much is going to happen other than the occasional college visit.

What do you think of adventures and quests? Do you typically write them? What other advice do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

In other news, I’ve challenged myself to read five books between Sunday, February 19 and Sunday, February 26. Feel free to join me and check out my daily updates on Twitter, Tumblr, and my Bookstagram!

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On Rescues And Escapes: Run, Character, Run!

Rescue and escape seem to go hand-in-hand. If someone is captured, they can either save themselves and escape or someone will have to rescue them and everyone has to escape together.

This is a common theme in most novels since a lot of plots, depending on the genre, has the good guy versus bad guy thing going on.

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What is Rescue and Escape?

Rescue can be a number of things:

  • The hero is rescuing another major or minor characters
  • The hero is rescuing himself
  • A major or minor character is rescuing the hero

There are a few more scenarios, but those, I think, are the most common.

Escape is a bit more simple as someone is trying to get away from a person or a place (or a thing, I guess).

Why is this important?

When a character has to rescue someone else or escape someone or someplace, that means there’s some sort of danger. There’s something on the line whether it’s a life or something the character is fighting for.

Bringing this sense of danger advances the plot forward. How are the characters going to get out? What’s going to happen to them before they escape? Are they even going to be able to escape? Who will come rescue them?

Not only that, but it gets the reader’s heart racing if done the right way.

Is this a side-theme or a theme on its own?

This depends on your genre.

If you’re writing an adventure novel, then chances are rescue and escape is going to be a pretty large component of your plot.

For example, if you’re writing something along the lines of Super Mario Bros. (sorry, I have video games on the brain) then that’s the whole plot right there. Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser (bad guy) and Mario (good guy and hero) has to save her. Then there are side games such as Luigi’s Mansion in which case Mario is kidnapped and Luigi is the hero in that story.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be the major theme of the novel. Throw a rescue mission in the middle of the novel to add a little something to the plot. It keeps the story going and doesn’t let the readers lose interest. It adds conflict but doesn’t completely overshadow the plot.

In Conclusion

I think rescue and escape is a fun theme to explore. It’s been done over and over again to the point that it seems cliche, but there’s a lot you can do with it and it keeps things moving at a steady pace.

What do you think of rescues and escapes in novels? Have you written them in your novels? Let me know in the comments below!

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On Themes: How To Incorporate Time In Your Novels

Time is weird. It flies by when we’re having fun, yet the weeks drag on. Something can happen in the blink of an eye, yet certain situations seem to last forever. We wish we had more time in the things we do, but we always waste the time we have.

When it comes to talking about time in our novels, it’s not exactly as easy as you would think.

Time, in my opinion, is probably a theme in every novel you’ve written or read. It may not always be noticeable, but think about it: everything that happens, happens in time.

Time can either be used for or against the protagonist. Time can just be present because… well, time is always present no matter what. Time can be subtle, time can be noticed. There are a lot of different ways you can use time in your novels whether you’re advancing the plot or you’re just making your world feel that much more realistic.

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Transition

Probably one of the most common forms of time in novels is transitions, or changing scenes. You can change scenes by ending and starting a new chapter or using a page break such as (*) before beginning the next paragraph.

Transitions can do a lot of things:

  • Change the POV
  • Warp to a new location
  • Allow time to pass

Changing the POV may not necessarily mean time has passed, but then again I don’t think you would rewrite the same scene in the same time and space just through the eyes of a different character. I feel like that would be redundant, but who knows? Maybe it’s been done.

When you go to a new location, chances are you’re changing the time. It takes time for your character to get to one place to another. Unless you’re writing fantasy with interesting world rules, your characters can’t teleport instantly.Of course, there’s also changing locations to look at different characters doing something different at the same time your characters were doing their thing. Of course, you’d just be showing off time in a different space.

Of course, there’s also changing locations to look at different characters doing something different at the same time your characters were doing their thing. Still, you’d just be showing off time in a different space.

Then there’s letting time pass through. Is it the next day? The following week? Maybe two years had gone by. The point of changing scenes to let time pass is to give the reader a sense that life went on, but nothing too important happened that the reader has to know.

Waiting

How much of our lives are spent waiting? We wait in line at the grocery store, we wait at red lights on our way to work, we wait for the doctor to see us, and we wait for our future, for our lives to finally begin. (That was a bit dramatic, I know, but I’m leaving it in there.)

In order for the plot to move forward, your characters just have to wait in line like everyone else. Writing a mystery? You have to wait for the autopsy to come back. Writing fantasy? You have to wait for that special potion to brew.

Waiting is what advances the plot. What does your character do in that time of waiting? Maybe he doesn’t want to wait at all and makes some rash decisions.

Flashbacks and Flashforwards

Writing flashbacks and flashforwards are probably the most tricky ways of telling time in novels. You should only use these forms if your novel really needs it–if it helps the reader gain certain information and advances the plot.

Flashbacks should only be used once in a while and should only show one quick scene or plot point that goes along with your theme and plot.

By writing a flashback, you’re showing a different timeline that has nothing to do with what’s going on (at the time) but has everything to do with what’s happening to your characters at that present moment.

Or you could just have someone read someone else’s diary. That could work, too.

Flashforwards are hard because, depending on the genre, no one can predict the future. Those should be used scarcely or go along with the rules of your fantasy world.

Time Travel

Speaking of flashbacks and flashforwards, this is a fun way to incorporate those. Again, this depends on the genre you’re writing, but characters can have special powers or have a certain machine that allows them to date backward or forwards. Like the flashbacks and flashforwards, though, you should only use this to advance the plot.

Timeline

Now, not every story is told chronologically. Chapters can jump around from one year to the next if two different stories are being told that end up intertwined somehow.

Books can be told out of order as well. One of the major issues I’m having with my mystery series is that the cases aren’t all one right after the other, and until I get a good timeline down, I keep confusing myself.

Telling stories out of order can be pretty clever, though. It allows some mystery for the reader when the characters know something they don’t, and vice versa.

Progression

What exactly does time do for us? It helps us move forward. Healing takes time, grieving takes time, growing up takes time, everything takes time.

Something may happen to your protagonist at the age of 10, but the real heart of the plot doesn’t begin until he’s 21 or something. In other words, time has to pass to get to that moment. Are you going to write about his ups and downs at school, him going through puberty, getting his driver’s license? No, because they don’t matter.

Time passes to allow us to get to the major point of the story and to show certain aspects of our characters and setting. (Yes, setting. A lot can happen to the Earth in ten years.)

In Conclusion

Time is easy to talk about, but it can be hard to write about. Of course, time doesn’t always seem present, but it’s always lurking around somewhere.

Make sure you and your characters use their time wisely.

How do you incorporate time in your novels? Do you have any advice that I missed? Let me know in the comments below.

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On Themes: How To Write About Death

Death is part of real life as it is in fiction. The main difference is that we have the power to kill our characters whenever and however we want. We also have the power to bring them back, if our novel allows it.

When it comes to writing fictional pieces, I think we often forget that we don’t live forever and neither should our characters.

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Common themes about death:

  • Circle of life
  • Grieving
  • Illness
  • Age
  • Immortality
  • Early death
  • Homicide
  • Accidental death
  • Escaping death

There are more death themes, but these were the ones I came up with for now.

Why writing about death is important

We don’t write about death to be a downer to our readers. We write about death because it’s part of everyday life. People get sick, people get old, freak accidents happen, some people are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

This is the same for your characters. If you’re writing about war, then some of your characters are going to die. Yes, your story may be fictional. However, unless you state that all the good guys in your novel are immortal somehow, then there must be death.

Grieving is a big part of death. Seeing characters grieve can help readers relate the situation in real life.

How death can help your characters grow

Your protagonist’s grandmother can’t be 90-years-old forever. If the main character’s grandmother passes away, what happens? The grandmother is gone physically, but not mentally or emotionally. Your protagonist will be sad and grieve, but will eventually move on. Remembering the good times and life advice from their grandmother develops your protagonist and teaches the readers something.

Death is beautiful

Yes, that sounds weird, but hear me out.

When writing about death, you’re not actually talking about death. You’re talking about life.

Think about it: When you go to a wake or funeral in real life, people have gathered to comfort each other, talk about and remember all the good memories of the deceased. You’re celebrating the deceased’s life.

What was it about the deceased’s life that was so special?

Make the deaths count

Don’t kill characters for the sake of killing them. Let their death be a lesson to your characters and to your readers.

Let the deceased leave something behind for your characters and your readers to hold onto, to remember. Something that makes them really miss the deceased, something that makes them feel real emotions for the death.

Keep in mind your genre

If you’re writing a murder mystery, then the deaths are a little more loose and most likely have less meaning behind them. They may not be someone close to your main character, they may not be someone that your reader will get to know before their death.

However, if you’re writing a coming of age story and a dear family member or close friend passes on, how would your protagonist react?

In conclusion

Death is an interesting topic because some people are averted to talking about it. It seems like a difficult subject, but it’s easier than you think. Don’t be afraid to put emotion behind it. Don’t be afraid to really express how you, as a writer, a reader, a human being feels about it.

What’s your advice on writing about death in novels? Let me know in the comments below!

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On Themes: How To Write About Love

Love is a broad topic. You can love your significant other, your family, your friends, your pets, objects, anything.

There are certain kinds of love. There is such a thing as loving too much or loving too little. Sometimes something is mistaken for love or there’s no love at all.

When it comes to novel writing, romantic or not, there’s always some sort of love element thrown into the mix. No matter who it’s between, someone is loving someone or something.

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Common themes about love:

  • Loving others – relationship
  • Loving others – friendship
  • Loving yourself
  • Mistaken love
  • Lost love
  • Forbidden love
  • Marriage/Divorce
  • Parent/Child
  • Love triumphs
  • Happy love
  • Unhappy love
  • Accidental love
  • Forced love
  • Rejected love
  • Love at first sight
  • Teen romance

There’s so much more, but I can’t think of them all right now.

What kind of love are you writing about?

Before you begin, figure out what kind of love you’ll be focusing on. A sweet romance? Erotica? Friendship? Is this something you experienced in real life, or are you winging it?

Either way, lay it all out for yourself so you can figure out where to go next and when. Of course, your characters will have a lot to say about it, as they should, but it would help if you had some sort of idea.

What makes a good love story?

I’m sure this goes without saying, but…

Emotion. You need emotion.

If your main character is falling in love, let your readers fall in love, too. There’s nothing I love more than falling in love with a fictional boyfriend and then getting mad that he’s just that: fictional.

How love can help your characters grow

We all have a heart. We all feel love, we all feel heartbreak.

Falling in love or falling out of love can help define us as a person. It puts us through a certain challenge that we may or may not be ready for, but we face it head on because that’s life. This should be no different for your characters.

If someone asked your protagonist out, what would they do? If someone broke up with them, what would they do? If they broke up with their significant other, what would they do?

If they were losing a best friend, if they rekindle with an old family member, what would they do?

In conclusion

Love is important and you can interpret it in so many ways. When it comes to writing about love, let it come from the heart. Let it come from experience.

Okay, this is getting corny now, so take this as you will.

How do you interpret love, romance or otherwise? What other tips do you have? Let me know in the comments below!

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Why Theme In Novels Are Important

When you were read to as a kid most books had a moral, right? Be kind to your friends, change happens and that’s okay, etc.

When I read to my preschoolers at work, it usually connects with our current unit. It’s a learning point, it connects us to real life.

Reading, as you get older, doesn’t really change. There’s usually a moral, or life lesson, and there’s always a theme. Some themes include growing up, or coming of age, time, life and death, love, and so much more. Anything could be a theme, really.

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What is a theme?

The theme of a novel is a life lesson, it’s what the book is trying to teach you. It’s the “big idea” or the main message the characters and plot are trying to tell you.

An author may have a theme in mind when they write, but in my opinion, I think the theme can also be interpreted by the reader. Everyone has a different opinion, we all view things differently. I may think a book means one thing, while it may have a completely different meaning to you.

Why are themes important in novels?

Why do we read? We read to entertain ourselves, we read to learn something new, we read to escape the world. What do we like to read? We like to read books we can relate to.

Themes are important in novels because it allows the readers to connect themselves with the book. It allows them to connect what’s going on with the characters with what’s going on in real life.

It teaches readers something new, it assures them that everything is going to be okay.

Did you recently break up with your significant other? You’re most likely going to go pick up a book about a break-up and revenge or something like that. Or, you may end up picking up cheesy romance novels and then cry yourself to sleep. Everyone’s different.

So, what themes should you write about?

Write about what you want, what you’re interested in, what you know most about.

Relate your writing to your own life and it will become much easier. Ultimately, write about whatever you want.However, your own life experiences can be a life lesson for someone else.

For example, 11 years ago, my aunt passed away unexpectedly at the age of 32. Most of my writing was based off of that. Death, grieving, the circle of life. It helps you, it helps your readers. There’s a deeper meaning behind it all.

A list of common literary themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Circle of life
  • Coming of age
  • Power
  • Beauty
  • Communication
  • Friendship
  • Love
  • Death
  • Fear
  • Family
  • Justice/Injustice
  • Knowledge
  • Lost
  • War
  • Wisdom

There are so many more themes out there, way too many to count. Some are common, some uncommon. There may be themes out there that we have yet to discover.

This month, I’m going to be zooming in on certain themes. I’m going to look at:

I can’t wait to take a closer look at these themes.

Themes are so important and I think these ones are some of the best.

What are some of your favorite literary themes? What themes do you typically read or write about? Let me know in the comments below!

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