Rii the Wordsmith. I always thought it had a nice ring to it. But what is a wordsmith, anyway?
A smith, dictionary defined, is one who works with metals. A blacksmith would be the guy who makes stuff out of iron and steel and whatnot. And then there’s the goldsmith, who works in gold, usually artful sorts of things. There’s not really such a thing as a leathersmith, or a silksmith, or a plasticsmith. I suppose, if you play Kingdom of Loathing, there’s meatsmithing, but otherwise that’s nonsense. Smithing seems limited to metal.
So why wordsmith?
Words aren’t so different from ore and metal bars. Language can be raw, or it can be refined. One could argue that language is more useful when it’s refined, since it can better express what is desired. Certainly, language is far prettier when refined. And words are weapons, or tools, or protection, or glamor. Words cut as well as any sword. Words can defend against such attacks as plate mail defends against the sword. Words build up others, build up nations, inspire others to action, and destroy.
Language is malleable. The meanings of words are, too, as words are bent into puns and double entendres.
And language is a craft.
Picking just the right word to complete a sentence is like picking just the right jewel to affix into the gold piece, the necklace or crown or earring. Such skill takes knowledge and an eye for beauty…or maybe an ear, in the case of words.
Why wordsmith? Because when I write, I pound out words into sentences. When I polish up, I grind off unneeded words that fly away like little metal shavings. When I put in the finishing touches, I take care with my word choice. And when I’m done, I’m exhausted.
My first draft, and even my second draft, may not be perfect in prose. But then, if a smith were to provide his own ore, the first step would be to procure said ore, unrefined and ugly. That’s the first draft. The second step would be to refine the ore – but a gold bar is not a beautiful work of art; it’s still, in effect, a raw resource. That’s the second draft. Subsequent drafts, those are the art: pulling the gold into wire, shaping the wire, melding the wire into something of beauty, setting in gems…wordsmithing is an editing skill, primarily.
So what is a Wordsmith? Perhaps not one from whom words flow perfectly on the first try…but by the finished copy, there are no words out of place.
But seriously, what is it? Even though it’s something that even humble creatures like doggos and kitters might experience, we’ve made it an austere topic as our best poets and philosophers have waxed past understanding on the subject. At this point, everyone tends to have their own opinion, and that can make it difficult to write, let alone experience in our actual lives.
Lemmie start with a brief explanation as to where I get my perspective because I think knowing from whence I come will be helpful in accepting or rejecting any portion of my view – because love is messy, for certain, in part because it is tied to emotions and choices and those things are so different experience to experience, and in the end, each person has to find their own way with it, but one perspective might be more helpful than another.
I come from a broken home, one where my parents divorced at 14 and signs they might were apparent for a while before, and between that and the fact that the way my personality interacted with some trauma I was experiencing at the time meant that I started paying careful attention to other peoples’ relationships as I feared I would never get to have one of my own. I paid close attention to my grandparents’ #goals marriage. I paid attention to my parents. To other parents that broke apart. To relationships casual and formal and weak and strong, fictional and real. I’ve been soaking it in for years. And now I’ve been married for eight years in a marriage that is far beyond anything I thought I would ever have and I’m not frightened in the least that it will end. And that’s because I’ve come to the conclusion that love is nothing else so much as it is a choice.
Love is a choice.
We talk about it as a feeling and feelings play into it. And there’s certainly aspects to it that aren’t a choice. Love is clearly multi-faceted. But the most important parts, I think, the make it or break it parts, are choices. So let’s talk how to write this sucker, huh?
The reason I’m back from the dead to write about love is a friend making mention that the understanding of how to write someone falling in love was elusive to him. How does that happen? How do you know? And I want to talk about my own love story to break down some of the parts. Again, everyone is unique, but I think there’s some helpful bits here and I am quite familiar with this story.
When I first met the man I would one day fiercely love, I almost didn’t talk to him. He was ugly and unfriendly-looking. But the circumstances of our meeting were my first day of college, and I’d enrolled in a physics class well aware of the fact that while I could understand the concepts, the math would prove impossible for me without some help, and I walked towards the class an hour early (I’d a free hour between stuff and it wasn’t worth it to go home) with determination to find someone who was good at math and annex them into a friendship where they would help me pass the class. This dweeb was also an hour early for the same reason, sitting there with a math textbook on his lap. I spent a few seconds thinking I’d ask someone else, but then reminded myself that that wasn’t very nice, and this guy looked like he could probably help me. So I introduced myself, “Are you in this class in an hour? Oh, so am I! My name is Leigh Averett, I’m a Psych major,” and he took my hand, “Hi, I’m Tyler Owens, I’m a Math major,” and YOU GUYS. MY LUCK. A motherfriggun MATH major? Jackpot. So I immediately informed him, “You and I are friends.”
It’s important to note here that yes, I was 100% engaging with this fellow because I wanted to pass a class. But also, I was 100% transparent about that. Tyler was never under the impression that I wanted more to do with him than his math skills, not because I was unkind or anything to him, but just because I didn’t fake anything more than what the relationship was. Study help. Honesty. I was honest with him.
During November, I mentioned working on my NaNo because, like I said, I was friendly with him. I learned that he wrote, too, which surprised me because I hadn’t met a very logical-math-person who was creative in that way before. This was the springboard for an actual friendship as we now had a mutual interest. We were able to talk about more things and learn more about each other, already comfortable with each others’ presence from his helping me understand how the math worked. I grew to appreciate him as a person and not just an asset (I mean, he was always a person, but he was a person I’d want around after the class ended.) And when the class did end, it was at least a month into the next semester when I realized I hadn’t talked to Tyler at all. But I had the dude’s number, so I sent him a text, asked if he wanted to catch up over lunch or dinner some time. We met at the cafeteria, spent several hours together catching up, laughing. We genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. I turned on a battle theme from Final Fantasy on my phone and “fought” a chair. When I went to get a drink, Tyler noticed my class schedule poking out of the back of my purse and saw that we had a free period at the same time in the same general area and suggested we hang out more. So we did. Most days, we spent that hour hanging out in a hall just talking bout whatever or watching silly videos. We could laugh together. We spent time together. I missed him when he wasn’t there. He missed me when I wasn’t there. I told him not to ask me out because I would say no. (I still found him unattractive.) He said he didn’t want to ask me out anyway. (He wasn’t interested in dating at the time.)
Summer came. We texted probably every day. I called him often. We talked and talked and talked. Our mothers knew. My mother’s suggestion that we were more than friends enraged me. Can’t a boy and a girl just be friends without having to be something more? (Yes, they can, but that isn’t what we ended up choosing.) And then I realized I was in love with him.
See what happened is that my family went on vacation, and our vacations were always going up to see extended family. I have a complicated or non-existent relationship with a lot of my extended family for various reasons, so I spent a lot of time calling Tyler while there. At one point, I spent an hour, a whole hour, telling him about the plot of the book I was working on, Death’s Tear. I got to the end and told him I wouldn’t finish because I didn’t want him to know the plot twist. He said he already knew the plot twist, because I’d told him the story already earlier (and spent a different hour doing it) . I was shocked. He’d patiently listened to me tell him the same stupid story a second time! “Why didn’t you tell me I already told you?” I asked. “Because I could tell you really wanted to tell someone this story,” he said. He cared enough about me and my interests and needs to give me an hour to tell him something he’d already heard especially because he knew my grandmother’s house could be a very lonely place.
A couple days later, I couldn’t sleep because of a new emotion I was experiencing. It wasn’t an unpleasant emotion, but I’d never felt it before. I puzzled and puzzled. I realized it was a type of happiness, contentedness, feeling safe. I determined it was because I finally had a friend to whom I was just as valuable as I valued them (my best gal friend and I had a difficult history and while at this point, this is also true of us, at the time, we were coming out of a time where I didn’t feel like she cared for me as much as I adored her.) That’s a whole thing, loving your friends more than they love you, or not feeling as close to them as they feel to you, and to have someone who cared about me as much as I cared about them, it was a wonderful feeling.
That wasn’t it.
You can guess what it was, what I realized it was, a few moments later. I was furious. I didn’t want to love Tyler. (See, I get it, love isn’t always a choice. But also it is, so hold on.) Then I thought about why I didn’t want to love him. The two main reasons were he wasn’t super attractive to me, which is something that can change, and also he was leaving for two years to a foreign country in a few months, which was temporary. I decided that the attraction thing was something I wouldn’t worry about anymore (and it did change) and that I could wait two years. I was only like 19 at that point, anyway, pretty young to get married. If he was so important to me, two years was not that long to wait.
And I did wait, writing him all the while, falling more and more in love with him. We married, and even though our own marriage has been described as #goals by some friends, we’ve had some rough parts, too. I’ve even had the D word cross my mind in very stressed out circumstances. The reason I’m not worried about it, though, is because of that choice. No. No matter how stressed out I get and no matter how much that stress can be attributed to Tyler, I choose to work on this marriage with him. I choose to love him. I choose, even when livid with him, to hold his hand to remind him the feelings I have now aren’t the path I’m choosing, and I talk to him using my angry words while holding on to that bond. I might not have chosen to fall in love with him, but I chose to make that pact of love, to always choose him, even when that emotion long ago has evaporated. And he chooses the same (though I swear he’s never angry with me.)
So how do you write that? Okay, let’s break it down. First, I got to know him. I got to know that even though he had a rocky exterior, he was actually a pretty cool guy. He got to know me. He learned that I wasn’t ever going to lie to him to use him. If I wanted something from him, I’d be upfront about it. He didn’t have to worry that when I called asking to hang out, it was because I ACTUALLY wanted something else. It was because I liked him and wanted to hang out. We built a relationship on honesty and trust, we supported each other. This is important for literally any relationship. Without trust, your relationship won’t be healthy.
Based off of that initial trust, I gave him more and more of myself. I trusted him with my feelings and insecurities and some of the bad things in my life. Even if incidental. He responded respectfully. Our trust grew and grew, to the point where I could trust him with something like a need to be heard and validated in the form of letting me go on about a story because I did accidentally and he didn’t hurt me. Which brings up another facet of love: Tyler could hurt me more powerfully than anyone else on the planet because I have opened up more of myself to him than anyone else on the planet and I trust him not to. This is, of course, a choice – I choose to give myself, I choose to trust him, but it’s more than just a choice. Trust is more than just a choice, and more than just emotion, much the same way as love. Trust and love are, I think, closely intermingled. Not the same thing, but I don’t think you can have love without trust. And when I realized I could trust Tyler with my whole self, I realized I loved him.
So how to write falling in love? Think of the process of coming to trust someone. How do you realize you trust someone? What is that process like? Perhaps you’re more familiar with it. Falling in love is not so dissimilar. You give a little and give a little until you realize you can give everything and you want to give everything and you choose to try and if it backfires, it hurts like the literal hell that it is. Broken trust is agony. A broken heart is agony. They’re closely intertwined.
Tyler’s angle of things likewise is inextricable from the trust he has for me. The trust that I am genuine. The trust that I am not using him. He trusted me more and more until just as I felt I could give him my whole self, he felt he could give me his whole self. Which is why in conflict and difficulty, we always choose each other. We always choose love. Because that trust and support, that friendship and the moments of laughter, the self-improvement we inspire in each other, it’s worth fighting for.
To write falling in love, you have to write the development of a relationship where you can give your whole self to someone else, your secrets, your fears, your ugly thoughts and behaviors, all of it, and the realization that you can do that, and more importantly that you want to do that, that’s the realization that you love that person.
Love is multi-faceted. It’s a feeling, it’s trust, but most of all, it’s a choice.
Hello dear minions! It’s certainly been a while since I last posted. I’m sorry about that. Ultimately, my health, mental or otherwise, is pretty terrible and it’s been hard for me to keep up with this endeavor.
While I’d like to keep up the blog, right now, it’s just infeasible. I like to think I’ll get back to it some day, but part of the reason I can’t keep up the blog is because I’ve taken up an ambitious (for me) storytelling project – I’ve started a webcomic: Monochrome. It is, of course, about villains. Five of them. The inspiration behind the creation of the story is “a group of five villains seeking redemption” but honestly, they’re not all totally on that page, so instead, it’s more about five villains…seeking something better.
If you’d like to follow the comic, you can find it at Monochromecomic.com – you can currently find it on a variety of webcomic archives, including Top Web Comic and Comic Rocket. I’m planning on putting it up on Webtoons, but that would require a cover page I’d need to draw fresh and right now I’m just trying to build up good drawing habits to get out a page a week, which I have done consistently and honestly I’m pretty proud of that.
I’ve also got an instagram, @riithewordsmith, if you’d like to keep up with…well, mostly my art, but sort of what I’m doing?
Thank you so much for your readership. It’s meant a lot to me. I hope that those of you who enjoy webcomics find Monochrome a good read. If you ever decide you still want to contact me, my information here is still correct, and the same information is on my webcomic page – so go right ahead.
“People never change,” the common belief goes. But many people are trying each and every day to do better. Sometimes, even though they’re trying, they don’t make any real progress for a long time, just thinking over and over every time they participate in a behavior they’re trying to change that they need to do better. And sometimes they have bad days.
I think all of us have bad days, “woke up on the wrong side of the bed” days, though I have also known people who are basically always pleasant, even if they’re having an off day. And there are grouches who always seem to be having a bad day. On my bad days, I’m more prone to snap on a hair trigger and yell at my kid, who as a three year old, does not have the coordination to navigate hair triggers. It’s not the kind of mom I want to be, but trying to get back in control feels like I’m watching someone else yell at my kid. It’s something I have to work on. When I was younger, sometimes I just wanted to antagonize my younger brother, pick a fight with him. He and I got along astonishingly well for most siblings, so this wasn’t usual behavior for me. Overlord persona aside, I don’t really think of myself as a villain, even if I sometimes behave badly.
Therein lies the line between villains and jerks – you have to define for yourself where that line might be, but dynamic people might be a villain for a day, one off day. Some people might be genuinely lovely in one setting, and genuinely awful in another; a friend recounted in a Facebook status how one associate once left their garage door open for days straight because a bird had made its nest on it and he waited for the eggs to hatch and babies to fly away before he dared close it, but in a discussion about the Middle East, suggested our best tactic would be to bomb it into a sea of glass. Tenderness and heartlessness in the same person at different times and different situations. Perhaps you could say he was a villain that day (and of course, saying something is pretty different than doing it – perhaps if he had the button to actually bomb the Middle East into a sea of glass, he would hesistate and fail to press it).
This is why mere bad actions alone do not a villain make. Villainy has to come from somewhere deeper, more innate. Certainly there’s some room for argument, but even if you feel comfortable calling a man who’s just having a bad day a week or month or year in a row trashing the lives of people around him a villain, he’s absolutely different than a villain who does the exact same outward actions for a different reason than “grouchy and angry”.
It’s the difference between a murder of passion and premeditated murder – you can say that either way, you’re a murderer, and you’re usually going to be right, but I find someone who can sit and carefully plan out a murder more terrifying than someone who gets caught up in the moment and does something terrible. (I am not, of course, particularly talking about the kinds of murders that are accidents or self-defense, but the kind where there were so many other options to deal with anger or a displeasing situation, and the assailant chose murder out of all of those). There certainly can be and often is something that’s terrifying about someone who, when pushed to a particularly excited state, responds with the extreme response of murder, and that sort of person can be especially bone-chilling as a villain, maybe even moreso than the premeditated sort of villain, but premeditation suggests a long game, a heart already filled with some kind of evil rather than a snap decision that might or might not indicate a dormant bit of evil that was always in the heart, that might or might not lead to increasing amounts of bad decisions, growing heartlessness, or any sort of true villain. Maybe they were just a villain for the day, a murderer for the day, and afterwards, the stain of their actions never leaves, but they aren’t really a villain either, they aren’t so changed of heart to be predispositioned towards more harm. Maybe they try to hide their crime until it all falls apart from within and they give in to the truth. Maybe they don’t, but they try to make up for their actions other ways.
In this, they’re not so unlike a heel-face-turn character, especially if you meet them after the turn, like Skyrim’s Erandur.
Okay Doge speak aside, the importance of scrutinizing both “Because I’m evil!” and “It’s okay. They’re evil!” in their parallels and differences is that doing so hopefully steers you far away from most of the toxic mindsets for writing a villain that probalby lead to some sort of edgelord crap. I mean, even if you’re not trying to be an edgelord with your villain, sometimes villains feel like they were written based on answers to the questions:
“What can I do to make my villain look evil?”
“How can I make my villain scarier?”
which is exactly the wrong way to go about things. Not starting at this point is in fact one of my basic five tenets of writing villains; villainy, evil, scary comes from within. It’s not the stuff your force on them from the outside, not outside acts. In real life, you can tell the difference between a punk trying to act tough and someone who is actually seriously terrifying. Readers can do it just as easily in books.
Don’t worry about trying to get your villain to do something bad, or dress provocatively, or have poor habits, or what they are or aren’t allowed to do. Just worry about what they would do. You will probably have to talk to them to figure it out.
Because when you just try to force them into evil, then you only get a certain kind of villain. Might I say…
What I mean is easily encapsulated by the old trope of villain women wearing less. (see both “Skimpy villains” and “Evil is Sexy”). Back in the day, censors were a lot stricter about dress, and you could get an “uncomfortably” revealing outfit past the censor if the bad guy (I mean girl) wore it because, of course, they’re a bad guy, so they’re going to do something “bad” like wear less clothes.
Beyond the fact that this, of course, goes right to that problematic “because I’m evil!” nonsense (a female villain is about as likely to dress in skimpy clothing just because she’s evil as any person is to not wash their hands just because they’re evil) there’s two other problems.
The first is where you get into weird moral statements. With the censorship thing, you have the statement, “dressing in a revealing way is immoral and only bad people do it.” This is a belief some people, perhaps in part, hold. I myself adhere to a religion with a dress code. But at the same time, I’d never want to deliver this message – you aren’t a bad person if you dress in a way more revealing than my moral code dictates one ought to. And what if it was swearing? Yes, yes, we all know swears are bad words. So only bad people say them!
“Why I can even cuss a swear myself! Ahem! Diaper biscuits!” (Commandos in the Classroom, Homestarrunner)
But I mean, swears are things you say in a state of frustration, and literally everyone uses them. Maybe you say “crap” instead of something stronger but that’s still swearing. Pretending like good people don’t swear and bad people do is as foolish as pretending like good people never smoke and bad people do. Look, villains are often people who murder people, are you really going to put swearing and cleavage and cigarettes up there with actual criminal acts? It’s ridiculous and doesn’t make for strong writing. That’s not actually how the world works and when writing doesn’t reflect reality, even try to, its chances of becoming campy, cheesy, or otherwise poor rise exponentially.
And I get it, I get the moral messages you’re worrying about sending – but there are actual consequences to some behavior, and actual conflicts with others, when these things aren’t just “evil” and rather than trying to equate “oh no boobs” with “oh no villainess!” or “look kids only bad guys smoke!” you could, you know, actually try to add some depth into your story by adding those consequences and conflicts in. Maybe the good guy does smoke. Maybe he doesn’t get cancer, but is short of breath or finds that he hates being dependent or that he spends so much money on the problem. Maybe there isn’t a bad consequence, not visibly, as there often isn’t in real life, because your audience should know that things are complicated.
What about cartoon characters? Media for children? Yeah, that’s where the smoking is for bad guys thing comes from…while things are different when you’re writing for kids, they still deserve good media, so use your judgement skills and figure it out. Besides, they still live in a world where adults they know and judge as good will smoke.
The second is the line of thinking, “They’re allowed to do it. They’re a villain.” This is not quiiite the same as, “Because I’m evil,” but a problem for all the same reasons – and a few more. Just becasue a villain is “allowed” to do it doesn’t mean they will, yes.
Additionally, just because whatever “it” is is deemed unacceptable doesn’t mean a villain is actually “allowed” to do it – for one thing, this wording suggests it’s “okay” if you’re “bad” when a lot of the behavior is not okay ever. The villain is not allowed to murder people, that’s why they are a villain. They aren’t allowed to. They choose to do it anyway. If you get this mindset of allowed to, you’re going to get weird, stilted characters and the messages of morality are going to be weird and offkilter. Heroes don’t always do what they are allowed to do, either. Honestly, unless it’s relevant to the setting by laws and culture therein, don’t think about allowed to so much as choose to.
You can argue that we’ve made progress on not being so ashamed of the existence of bodies and so the dress thing is less relevant, but “evil is sexy” is still alive and well and arguments about “what she was wearing” are too, so…in one form or another, this weird line in the sand of “good” and “evil” based on things that actually have little to no moral value also exists. Some things are wise or unwise, healthy/sanitary or not, desireable to one and not another, and people are all mixed bags, so to try to put everything into neat little columns of “good” and “evil” and then carefully tuck those items into your respective “hero” and “villain” boxes isn’t going to get you rich characters. You don’t have to draw a line every single time. There certainly are some lines that haveto be drawn, and those are the lines you should be fighting over – because that’s the point of heroes and villains.
In Justice League Unlimited, there’s an episode where due to shenanigans, The Flash and Lex Luthor’s minds get switched. Lex, at this time, is in the depths of a secret society of supervillains (who aren’t hugely fond of him right now) and Flash is on edge.
Flash doesn’t realize he’s Lex until he walks into a bathroom and sees his own reflection. He stumbles into a stall to try and think things through and try to call the Watchtower, which he fails to do. On exiting the stall, one of the supervillains demands that he get on with an evil scheme he’d been plotting so he, Flash!Lex, goes to leave the bathroom. The following exchange occurs:
Ah, Flash. You’re adorable. If The Question wasn’t my favorite, you might have a chance.
Who knew? I hate conspiracy theorists but…somehow his charisma and hilarity got past that. “Orange socks?” haha.
No, Flash honey, that’s not how evil works. And I’m glad I know that you didn’t have a reason to wash your hands because otherwise I would have been a little freaked out.
That said, I’ve uttered, “Because I’m evil,” before, too, when I did some teasing impolite thing to my husband. “Why would you do that?” “Because I’m evil!” It kind of goes with the whole scene in the first Pirates movie where Turner says “You cheated!” and Sparrow says, “Pirate.” The real problem with “becasue I’m evil” is how easily it lends to getting mixed up with motivations. Evil is not a motivation. What I really mean is, “you’re operating under the assumptions that I’m going to act in accordance with basic morals and societal niceties all decent people hold to, when I don’t, because I’m not a decent person, aka evil.” A more solid example could be, “Why did you steal that?” “Because I’m evil” meaning, “A normal person might see something they covet, but they won’t take it, because they are hindered by the wrong moral nature of stealing. I am not so hindered.” In which case the actual motivation was, “I wanted it,” but the answer of, “I’m evil,” was answering the real question, which wasn’t just, “What was your motivation?” but also, “what allowed you to do something that isn’t allowed?” in which case the, “I wanted it,” is implied in the, “because I’m evil.”
Parsing out this whole train of thought might seem pendantic, but I find it necessary, since you get Flashes otherwise. If you don’t separate motivation from morality, then you get a blob of gelatinous evil goo that will just do whatever can even remotely be constituted as “bad” even if it’s not evil so much as rude or unsanitary or just a bad decision and that’s not a real person. I don’t consider someone who doesn’t wash their hands to be more evil than me. They’re just more gross. I also don’t consider someone who eats a healthier diet and exercises to be morally superior. They’re just in better shape. Uncouth is not evil, else all small children are evil as they haven’t learned societal niceties yet.
When I encounter nice people who have a hard time with villains, it’s usually this core Flash problem. It’s the inability to tell the difference between evil switching up a worldview to different moral inhibitions (or not), and no inhibitions on anything, even if that doesn’t make any sense. I mean, you can’t rule the world if you get sick and die since you didn’t wash your hands, right?
Also important to note is that a willingness to do something (like steal) is not the same as a motivation to do it. Just because a character does not feel guilt over stealing doesn’t necessarily mean that they always want to steal. They still will have to be motivated to do it. I could joke here that the exception is me playing a video game, but that’s still not totally true.As I try out the Octopath Traveler demo and, of course, pick Therion the thief, and strip every NPC of everything they own, it’s in part becasue I can, but also because then I don’t have to buy supplies, and might find something cool (there were some interesting key items held by NPCS), and I can save my money for something cool that I have to buy.
Stoked for this game, guys.
It’s the same in Skyrim; houses aren’t cheap, and leveling skills often isn’t, either. Working honestly takes so long to earn enough. I can say that I ride on the giddyness of just taking ALL THE THINGS but there is actually a motivation in there beyond “I am doing it because I can.” And sometimes “because I can” is a motivation, but it’s still probably different than just a willingness to; Therion has a bit of that attitude but he’s also enjoying his reputation as Best Thief, so there’s more to it than that. (As an important sidenote, especially in Skyrim, there are things I don’t steal – if it’s worth little and isn’t even heavy, I am not as motivated to steal it and I probably don’t.)
So especially if you struggle, get pendantic with yourself about what your villain is willing to do, and what they’re actually motivated to do, and always remember that you can’t lump in all poor behavior into one great “evil” because that makes no sense.
I think at this point, there are probably more people who are aware of the fact that a leather-clad handlebar mustache’d tattooed big guy with a bike is probably a Nice Dude who is not going to run you down with his loud bike, but there are definitely still people who aren’t sure if all bikers aren’t Hell’s Angels who want to kill and/or traffic them. And frankly, even BACA is working on the “bikers are scary” stereotype. So even if we think bikers might actually be nice, we apparently still think they are scary (perhaps because we still think they can break our face and/or kill us with their biker gang, who knows).
In a fantasy genre, this honestly makes me think of Orcs. Orcs are a “bad” race. But of course, if you talk to enough DnD players, you find several who wanted to play an orc or at least a half orc and turn that trope on its head. Even I have one that I want to do one day. Along with Orcs, it’s always bugged a friend that the Uruk’hai’s language was considered objectively worse and more evil than other languages like, that’s not actually how languages work, thanks. And along those lines, that’s not actually how races should work, either.
I’d like to advise that you scrutinize carefully any bad races in your story, especially if they’re the good old stereotypical Orcs. And I’d likewise suggest you think carefully about class/occupations that are stereotyped as evil. Bikers or necromancers, you shoudn’t just box order a cardboard printout of a sterotype. I mean, sure, stereotypes are useful, but flat characters are bad.
And hey, maybe you can present The Evil Race and it turns out your MCs are just racist.
Look at those Isvhalans, with their scary red eyes and their psychotic murderer- oh actually most of them are perfectly nice people and are gonna be essential in our Save The World plan nm my bad.
As always, it’s important to remember little involving sapient life is black and white and you should always take a close look at anything you’re framing as objectively good or objectively evil. You could come up with a race or class that’s definitely totally evil 100% of the time, or define it as such in your story – I mean in the defense of the Uruk’hai, they are literally made from bad crap to be evil people. Their reproduction is popping out of a tar pit thing. They’re arugably not real people. But before you go making your villain a member of a Bad Race or leader of a Bad Race, you’ve gotta remember people are dynamic and race might sometimes be more than just skin-deep but it’s not that powerful.
Actually this is pretty unfair to Drakoth (that villain cat there). I liked the main story of A Cat’s Quest, and Drakoth was developed decently and not horrendously generic, even if he put up a farce of it to meet his ends. The game itself was pretty fun, the battle system was simplistic without being stupid, and the amount of cat puns was about a B- Could Stand to be More Unbearable.
“Even pretend to become a crappy generic villain.”
But seriously, to talk about what Drakoth said – If I say, “I hate generic villains,” what I mean is, “I find generic villains to be uncompelling and boring and it ruins my experience of trying to enjoy the story because the hero is less appealing to me because s/he looks lame in comparison wasting their time with some dumb loser who calls himself a villain and I hate that.” This is as opposed to if we’re talking about a villain I hate, because what I mean there is, “I hate that guy.” That’s a huge difference.
Whatever way you take it, the idea that a villain is upset because of this destiny nonsense that pits overwhelmed foes against him is a good start for making a dynamic person, who has good and bad traits, even if the character is, ultimately, evil, and that’s what matters most about making a villain.
If you haven’t heard of Doki Doki Literature club and you love anime dating sims but hate psychological horror…yooou should stay away.
While I am fairly easily able to say, NO YURI, FRIGGUN STOP SUGGESTING THAT, it’s a never-ending thought now that my depression is back. And it’s awkward because on the one hand, I kinda want to ask for more attention from the people around me – I mean, an uncontrollable part of my subconsious is trying to convince me that suicide is a good idea – but on the other hand, I’d be asking for attention and I kind of hate doing that because then I feel needy and/or like an attention whore.
It made me think of how it can also be awkward writing about a person with a mental disorder – like any character with a “glaring” personality trait, it can be hard to have them be fully fleshed characters instead of just embodiments of their unique “thing”. Kind of how if you’re trying to diversify your cast and you include a POC or someone who’s gay, making it so that everything they do is a highlight of that trait is a particularly unuseful way of diversifying your cast. It’s better to write the person as a normal individual and what makes them unique just changes some of their behavior rather than overtly reminding the audience repeatedly that they have this unique trait.
Which, surprisingly, brings me to the Octonauts.
Yep, another children’s show.
The Octonauts are undersea explorers/marine bioligists/police maybe. It’s a show I don’t mind watching with my daughter, since they explore sea creatures even I’ve never heard of before and teach new things about the ones I have, and that’s always good for writer brain. Siphonophore, for example. I mean, look’em up, they’re pretty cool.
One thing I really appreciate about the Octonauts is that they often have some kind of environmentalist agenda, but they’re pretty subtle about it – and not just for a kids’ show, they’re actually subtle. For their full-length Earth-day special, they addressed global warming without ever actually even saying the words global warming. All they did is that the polar bear captain went home to his sister to help her cubs go to the arctic circle and they couldn’t find any ice floes to rest on until they were crazy exhausted and then the one they did find already had polar bears complaining that they couldn’t find any others, either, and that the one they were on was already suspiciously smaller/thinner than it should have been. Then the Octonauts did their thing and got all the polar bears to their hunting grounds on their ship. The end.
I mean they introduced a problem that I, as an adult who is aware of hot button topics, knew to be more than just an “oh no” problem that shows up in a kids’ show. But for a kid who doesn’t know about global warming, it is just an “oh no” made-up problem no different than the episode where a fish gets stuck under something or whatever. It was just showing the consequences for the characters of a problem (whether or not global warming is real isn’t the point here). Just like the trash episode where the Octonauts are cleaning up ocean trash, and some fish show up in a feeding frenzy, and they have to get help from pelicans to get the trash away from the fish. No belaboring where the trash came from, or what a huge problem it is that people litter, could have just as easily been about kelp and fish that can’t eat kelp or something.
When they bring up issues like litter or global warming, instead of educating my child, it gives me, the parent, the opportunity to talk to my kid about this. If a parent didn’t believe in global warming, the show just presents that it’s an issue for polar bears if there isn’t ice between the continent the bear lives on and the arctic circle. That’s it.
If you were to write about what I look like when dealing with depression, it wouldn’t look so much like a neon “depression” sign hanging over me; there’s a reason why mental disorders are an “invisible” illness. It’s instead just going to look like the consequences – being subdued, sad, empty for no real reason, avoiding activities I love for no reason, being tired for no reason. You can specifically highlight that I’m walking around a restaurant looking at tables with my head cocked at a weird angle because I have OCD, or you can just write about my bizarre walk around the restaurant. You can try to imitate my self-interrupting dialog that is always spoken just a little too fast without saying it’s becasue of my ADD.
And honestly writing the consequences of mental disorders without the neon sign label might be beneficial anyway, because I’m still a normal person and I’m more than my illness. The only reason I find knowing my issues spring from depression useful is so that the people who get it can know “get more sun” is not going to cut it as a fix. It might be worthwhile to specifically say “this character has X disorder” and it might not – and either way it’s probably a bad idea to belabor the point.
So when implementing a mental disorder, consider just writing out the behaviors without needing to carefully dissect each one. And seriously, look up Siphonophores.
It’s a Midnight Zone creature, so you know it’s cool.