What is a Wordsmith, Anyway?

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.

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On Killing Your Characters

We live in an age where it’s trendy to kill off your characters but let me give you a word of caution:

If you kill off all the characters I care about in your story, I no longer care about your story.

This has happened to me a few times, actually. It’s a difficult thing to manage, because the really likeable characters, the characters that everyone loves and adores, those are the ones that are often the most tempting to kill off. Look at FMA. Hughes was pretty instantly a likeable character. I don’t know anyone who won’t join me in my mourning throes whenever he gets brought up.

Huuughes! Whyyyy! Huuuuughes!

But the thing about FMA is that I also really, really like Edward. Who is the main character, after all. I like Al, I like Winry, I came to like Scar, I like Mustang and Riza and Armstrong and Bradley and – well, there are a lot of characters! And I like them.

There was a book series, Heart’s Blood I think, it was about like a dragon fighting ring thing or something. I didn’t finish it. It was a trilogy that my bestie liked a lot, and the thing about books that she likes is that somehow, I never do. (The inverse is also true. You’d think two fantasy lovers could find some common ground!) There’s nothing inherently wrong with the series but I didn’t like it much, and the only character that I really liked, to which I had a real attachment, was murdered by an angry mob in like the first book. I finished the chapter, and then because it was near the end of the book, I finished the book. But then I just didn’t…care. I hadn’t attached to any of the other characters because none of them appealed to me and I just…stopped reading.

The same thing has happened with Homestuck.

Homestuck.full.708613

Yoinked from Zerochan, posted by user Bigadoo57. There are probably still twice as many characters as are drawn here.

Homestuck has about a million and half characters. It’s an ex-treme-ly long webcomic and the plot is so convoluted that despite my best efforts, I’ve never been able to adequately sum it up, not to my own satisfaction. It’s written in a series of acts, and last I checked it was still trudging towards the end in a mangled and over-drawn Act 6.

I loved Acts 1-4 of Homestuck, which followed the original main cast and encompasses everyone shown in the picture, I think… Act 5 and 6 just about doubled the cast from 1-4. Unless you count ALL THE EFFING GHOSTS in which case it multiplied the cast by infinity and I’m not really exaggerating here when I say that. Act 5 involved a lot of character death. The characters that were left that I liked, a lot of them started developing in ways that made them different enough from their original selves that I…didn’t like them so much anymore. Then we introduced a whole slew of new characters and I didn’t like almost any of them. Most of them were douchebags and a-holes. And then things got weirder in a way I couldn’t get behind, and I could get behind a lot of the weird that had happened in 1-4. It felt like the original flavor of those acts was totally lost. And then Hussie went and killed all the rest of the characters I cared about and just

I’m out.

Sadface

You killed them all. I’m out.

I’ll still wear my Terezi cosplay. I’ll still try to come up with a hyper-accurate Bec Noir cosplay because I’m insane and want to get that sword perfect. But I’m not going to finish reading Homestuck. I just…don’t care what happens to the ghosts or the kids or anything anymore because Hussie went and massacred them. And even if there’s a huge cast and there’s still more than plenty of characters left to tell the story, the homicide on all the ones I LIKED means I DON’T CARE.

I don’t hate Homestuck! And to all you Stuckies out there, glad you’re still enjoying it, I really am! I’d still even call myself a fan of Homestuck because I still really like Acts 1-4 and even some of 5. And like I said, I’d still cosplay from Homestuck.

Terezi cosplay

Myself as Terezi – used a blindfold since I couldn’t create/buy adequate glasses – and my husband as Phoenix Wright. Photo was taken by a friend of ours at Anime Banzai in Layton, UT. Yes I am short. Shut up.

But I’m not going to finish reading the story and if anyone tries to talk to me about it, I’ll just shrug and say, “eh.”

Almost all my favorite characters in Harry Potter died, too. Luckily for me, the last slew of deaths happened in the last book so I could and can finish the series without despair and apathy sinking in to the point where I don’t care.

So what do you do? If you are going to kill a character, review what you have left. In Firefly, the whole cast is friggun amazing. I love them. I love them ALL. The character deaths in Serenity were really hard. Any reminders make me want to cry all over again. But what we had left was still an amazing cast. If you kill your best character, take inventory and make sure there’s still a reason to keep on keeping on – for the reader.

If there’s not, re-evaluate your other characters. Sometimes you can’t tell they were weak until the load-bearing character is shot down, but if you see it, fix it. If your other character is crappy because they were supposed to develop to be cool, make sure they’re at least cool enough when you axe the other cool character. If you’re not sure, ask a wide variety of people who they like! If you just get one Rii who says, “Yeah I don’t care about any of your other characters”, don’t be discouraged. You can’t ever make anyone happy. But be careful with killing your best character if it seems like everyone who reads dwells too much on only the death after it happens.

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Plotting Evil Plots

Sometimes, you come up with a pretty good villain, but you have no idea what he should be doing. This leads to ridiculous schemes of a Doofenshmirtz level, in a scenario that is not as hilarious. I mean, I’ve seen some ridiculous super villain schemes, schemes that seem to serve no real purpose except that they are problematic and…er, evil by some moral value, I’m sure.

I also have encountered the writer now and then that just isn’t sure how to DO the whole evil scheming thing. Their villains have potential but they always remind me of someone…

Someone who wasn’t actually a villain at all because he was just trying to fit in. Fate seems to have handed him the role of villain so he played the role because that’s where he fit and that made him happy.

That’s what happens when you just stick your villain into the story to fight your hero. They aren’t a real villain, they’re just filling the role fate gave them. And if they, like Megamind, were to capture the world, I imagine they’d react the same way. Woohoo! Launch a fire truck into a bullseye and…bored now.

If Megamind had been a villain, he would have had a plan for when he’d captured the city. He would have had ambitions, he would have known what to do with it, he would not have had an existential crisis. But that wasn’t his motivation, he wasn’t evil, again, he just wanted to fit in – all his evil plots, when he discusses them at the museum, were just about coming up with another epic battle for he and Metroman – all of his evil plots were just about fitting in this role.

That seems to be true of other super villains, that their plots are just about epic battles, and that’s why it gets Doofenshmirtz-y. So how do you plan out an evil plot worthy of your villain, book, and hero? How do you avoid the evil plan that has to be defeated because your villain’s got nuthin’ after that?

Easy.

Motivation.

Never, ever make a character’s actions independent of their motivation. Villains are people, too, and people don’t just do things randomly without motivation.

Yes, good, she will think that her burping me has been successful and will never see the spit-up attack coming! Muahahaha!

I do not cry just to ruin my parents’ lives and keep them sleep deprived. I always want something (probably food).

Don’t start with the what, start with the why. I understand sometimes, you find yourself with a what. “I need my hero to go X and do Y!” and then you’re stuck, because your hero doesn’t want to go X or do Y. And you fix that problem by giving him motivation to do so.

Meanwhile, your villain has no reason to fight the heroes other than that you kind of really need him to do so. But like your heroes, your villain needs motivation.

When you find yourself stuck because you can’t figure out what your villain is doing, ask yourself what his goals are, and then what he needs to do to accomplish those goals. Then, based on how evil your villain is, you can start adding the diabolical as he is not limited by morals. “I need money for X” might mean, “Let’s have a bake sale!” to a hero, but “Let’s rob a bank” to your villain. Or maybe, banks are too hard to rob nowadays, so they’ll steal something else.

Most big goals require smaller steps to accomplish so if you know your villain’s end game, you will have the rest of his plots figured out, too. And as your villain’s plots are foiled by the hero, he’ll have to adapt and come up with new plans.

That’s how you plot evil plots. You find out the why before the what.

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Artist’s Statement ….Part Two

Hey, Minions – the post on Monday is still gonna come, but this came across my Facebook feed and…

Well, all, take the time to read it. It meant a lot to me; I always feel like I need to make myself small, to apologize for telling my stories. There are…some outside issues attached to it, that require separate work, but these words will help me work on appreciating my own talent.

Confidence, minions. Confidence.

Artist’s Statement ….Part Two.

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Assumptions Are Tools

So I spent the last several posts talking about how we shouldn’t assume and how we should break the mold. Mould?

However, there is an advantage of using tropes and cliches. When you break the stereotype, you surprise your audience. That’s because we all know how the story goes and it’s a reversal of expectations. So that means when you do use the cliche, purposefully, you have less work because the audience can fill in the cliche themselves.

Oooh yeah we all know where this is going.

When you go to the movie theatre or sit at home with your friends and watch a scary movie, it’s hard not to scream at the characters. Why are you splitting up? Why are you going into the woods? Don’t go into the basement!

At this point, some tropes are generally not appropriate to use unless in parody. And some just won’t be useful to you the way they’re generally used. It could be possible that you want to paint your villain red, black, and slimy green so that we know who he is, but there are better ways to establish your villain than color-coding. But then when you invoke the High Fantasy Evil Overlord trope, your readers know what goes into being an evil overlord and will fill in a lot for you. If you say “far north”, your readers know what that looks like. They know he has some sort of Evil Citadel, and that he’s surrounded by The Army of Evil and Impending Doom. That saves you space having to say anything about it.

When I invoke a Final Fantasy trope, and I then say the word, “crystal”, anyone who knows Final Fantasy knows that the crystal is incredibly important, powerful, and good, and that the villain wants to…steal it or destroy it or something and we have to stop it. I don’t have to explain that if something happens to the crystals, the world is destroyed. No one’s going to be surprised when the villain has at least one final form, either.

I just said that maybe necromantic undead monsters should be, maybe, not assumed evil. But I meant that you, the writer, shouldn’t assume they’re evil and if you decide they’re not, you’re going to have to labor the point. Your reader is going to make that assumption, and that can work in your favor if you want to establish that army marching on the country is incredibly bad quickly. Because the only thing worse than an army marching on a country is an army of skeletons marching on a country. Or orcs. Orcs get bad rap too.

Yeeep, that army’s evil. You don’t even have to know what army it is.

The problem with assumptions is that they can be a form of lazy or amateurish writing. They can lead to boring, mundane, vanilla writing. It lacks innovation. But assumptions are tools and when used correctly, they allow you to make a masterpiece.

The most important assumptions I work with tend to be in magic. People who read a lot of fantasy come to make broad allowances and expect certain traditions for magic. As long as a magic system is internally consistent, it’s usually good to go. Readers don’t worry where magic comes from unless it’s important for some reason. Readers don’t question why some people can use magic and others can’t, not usually. It’s magic, we all know that means doing things that don’t make any sense at all for no reason whatsoever other than that we wanted it to.

But in working with these assumptions, I still will have to labor a little. The hand-waving of “don’t worry about it; it’s magic” should be used judiciously. I prefer hard magic systems with solid rules so I have to establish those rules – and in that case, I fight the assumptions. Why are there rules, isn’t it magic? Can’t it just do whatever it wants? But even in fighting that question, we have accepted the fact that even magic has rules because readers will have encountered magic systems with solid rules that were fun to work with and so it’s assumed, too, that even magic has its limits. The two assumptions work side-by-side: even magic has its limits, but if those limits are dumb, why are they there? That forces me to think about the rules and make good ones, and once I do, no one will question why magic has rules (unless they’re new to the genre).

Use assumptions as shortcuts and do so carefully. I’m not ever going to say “don’t use cliches” because cliches and tropes became such for good reasons. They’re not off-limits. Nothing is forbidden to you as a writer. When you hearken to advice like “don’t use flashbacks”, “don’t use adjectives”, and “don’t use cliches”, you limit yourself in a way that’s foolish for a writer. There is no forbidden fruit, not even writing yourself into your own story.

But whatever you do, do it well – there is no forbidden fruit, but there’s certainly a lot of rotten fruit.

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Other Assumptions

There are just some things that are always evil. Always. Bringing back the dead, for example, is always evil. Except when a god does it, or when they were only mostly dead, or when it’s Joss Whedon/Marvel, or-
Okay, okay, but bringing back the dead as a necromancer is always evil. Necromancy is always evil. And that means that walking skeletons and zombies are always evil!

Look, I don’t really like the undead. They’re against my own personal moral code; dead things should stay dead.* I actually made an oath against the undead when I was like eight or so. Buuut we’re writers, darn it, so we can do basically** whatever we want. So necromancy doesn’t have to be evil. It’s a sticky thing to pull it off, but there have been plenty of times when dead things have been perfectly friendly.

It was really hard to yell “SHE’S AN UNDEAD ABOMINATION CAST CURE ON HER FOR EXP!” because she was so dang -nice-.

Actually Burton kind of…does that a lot.

Omg look how happy he is he’s adorable! Even I can’t hate Skellington. I don’t want to kill him for EXPs, I want to drink hot chocolate out of a giant mug with his face on it.

I mean, sometimes even when they’re in the middle of being totally evil, an undead horror can still be my favorite character  endearing  more than just a tool of mayhem and destruction.

Is Richard a villain? I dunno, I stopped reading LFG when he stopped killing things as much and started acting more heroic. My facebook feed says he blew up a moon but at this point, I’d have to start over and I’m just not up for a webcomic binge. Because there’s no other way to read a webcomic.

There’s plenty of things we assume are evil. Chaos. Sociopaths and psychopaths. Death. Monsters. The G-Man. Witches. The color black or scarlet or glowy-green. And it’s totally fine to write these things as evil! But they don’t have to be. We’re writers, we can turn these assumptions on their head.

A sociopath isn’t a murderer, a sociopath is someone who doesn’t feel empathy. At all. That’s perhaps oversimplifying it, but a doctor could be a sociopath – someone who sees you as a big, moving, talking It. A sociopath won’t automatically become a murderer or rapist, he just won’t care about people around him. A psychopath is different from a sociopath, but not by a whole lot – it’s attitude mostly, which makes a psychopath a smooth-talking, likeable person who doesn’t care about the people around him.

We fear death. It’s fear of the unknown, really – not a hundred percent, but mostly. I for one am not particularly afraid of death, but I am afraid of dying before I get done everything I want to do, and I am afraid of leaving my husband and children behind before they’re ready. As far as actually dying goes, I see it as an experience that’s intriguing. I hope it doesn’t hurt, I don’t much like pain, but beyond that, I am curious as to what it’s like. You know, one day. In the distant future. When I’ve done everything I want to do and I’ve seen my grandkids and my husband wouldn’t curl up and die like a swan.

I have seen this from so many different untrustworthy sources that I’m inclined to believe it but I still haven’t seen like a National Geographic that’s said so…but honestly, it’s not important whether or not it’s true, it’s important whether or not you got what I meant.

Now Death as a person – I always like the representations where Death isn’t out to get the mortals, regardless of what he – or she! – is instead. Actually I’m totally in love with any representation of Death as polite or sassy or lazy or HILARIOUS or anything that isn’t murderous.

Monsters…monsters is a harder one. In one way, the whole point of a monster is to be something horrific that wants to kill you. But then, there are these creatures over and over again that are monsters and that’s what I think might be interesting to break. I mean, look how that turned out for dragons.

It turned out Sean Connery well for dragons.

A “monster” is a horror, sure. But maybe the things that are always the monsters…don’t have to be. You know, aside from axe murderers and serial rapists and creepy horrible things like that, because those will always be monsters, just like those things will always be evil because murder and rape are evil. That’s not an assumption, that’s not up for debate. It just is.

And on a lighter note, color-coding. Color-coding is traditional, and it’s a terrible cliche-trope. And. It’s. Not usually done well anymore. Sometimes you can’t help it. I mean, my overlord LIKES the colors gray and black. Back before he was a villain, when he was still a good guy, his family jewel was a (fictional) black gemstone – so it’s not like he’s wearing black gems because they’re ominous and evil and color code him as a villain, it’s because black gemstones are rare and symbolized the power of his family and even if he’s turned evil, he’s proud of his heritage. Same story, different villain, likes scarlet. Because she likes blood. I mean, darkness and blood – these things happen, there’s a reason those are the coded colors.

I have no idea what’s up with glowy green though. I guess maybe it’s just because the color is so unnatural? It’s even in “This Is Halloween”, though the exact line is “red and black and slimy green.”

Buuut then you have the villains who like pink and those who like white – President Snow, for example. Red, black, and slimy green (and maybe the one shade of purple) should not be the only three (four) colors your villains get to choose from. Your villain should get to pick from all the colors. They’re allowed to like black and they’re even allowed to like it because of its association with darkness. They’re allowed to like scarlet, even if it’s because blood. But. Just. Stop assuming it has to be?

Break the mold some times. Your writing will be better for it.

(Hey guys, due to baby I’m just…gonna start shooting for “before noon” to post on Mondays rather than like 7 or 8. That is MST. This should have posted AT noon but I swear WordPress randomly added two hours…or maybe my baby smacking the keyboard did.)

*I once got in a…discussion…with a guy who died for about five minutes about this when it came up that I felt dead things should stay dead. Some people like to point out that Christ didn’t stay dead and that’s kind of the whole point and seeing as I worship Him…look those are different, okay? They weren’t dead anymore. I believe in resurrection and that’s different from re-animation. Re-animation is not okay. Resurrection is. If you try to talk to me about this, I’m going to slap a troll mask on you and refuse to engage. Long-time irk over.

**There are some things you can’t do. And I mean you just can’t. Those things are called bad writing and you can’t do them. No one will like your writing if you do them and I’m sure you know what I mean.

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Religious Villains

When I say “religious villains”, you probably think,

villains who exemplify corruption within a religion, or,

evil cultists, probably of the virgin-and-baby sacrificing sort.

Because villains are a very narrow type of person who can only be one or two things, right?

There’s nothing wrong with writing in a good old-fashioned satanic cult in your book, or even a corrupt priest, even one as a symbol for the corrupt religion as a whole. They’re cliches, but as I’ve said before, a cliche used well isn’t a crime. Cliches are tools for writers. But the whole “corrupt religion” thing IS pretty stale at this point.

What? There’s a prevalent religion in this game? I’m gonna go with…uncovering secret corruption for 500.

I mean, when you do the corrupt religion thing every time, and when your villains are either probably atheists or else hooded, blood-soaked cultists who are worshiping an elder god they probably shouldn’t, you are once again taking all your villain kittens and duct-taping them into the villain box.

Did you know it’s entirely possible for your villain to be part of a religion that isn’t an evil cult, nor is it totally corrupt and he’s part of the corruption? True story! Just take the Mafia for example. Wednesday they grab someone who didn’t come through on the deal and shoot him in the back rooms of the casino, Sunday they pray in Mass and pay their alms. Incredibly evil, yet devoutly Catholic. There IS some dissonance with the whole, Thou Shalt Not Kill thing but hey, it’s just business. When you think of the widows and the poor, you’ve done right by God and surely He understands that if you go soft in your business, your empire collapses. I mean, if you send flowers to his funeral and money to his kids, you’ve basically made up for it. Just follow Al Capone’s example.

Side note, Albanian mafia > Itallian mafia, just so you know. No, this isn’t a matter of opinion, it’s the Albanians are bigger and more terrifying and troublesome than the Itallians, who are actually based on the Albanian mafia anyway. Albanians are generally Muslim though, so if you want to write them instead, probably don’t do it devoutly Catholic.

Villains are people too. Any of us religious folks have our pet sins, even if it’s not usually murder. It’s easy to be religious when you think of religion as just the ritual things to do and nothing else. Say your prayers morning and night. Go to church every Sunday or Saturday  or whenever. Follow the prescribed dress code. Follow the diet. Love thy neighbor as thys-waaaait a minute that crap is hard. Whatever, just do the ritual stuff that marks me as a [Christian/Muslim/Buddhist/Fictional Religion/Cultist] and call it good, that’s enough for God, right?

That’s not even a stretch since that’s how a lot of people actually DO religion. Any religion. And it’s easy to write away the parts you don’t follow. How many fuggy old Christian men say that we shouldn’t feed or clothe the poor because something something give a man a fish versus teaching him to fish and Christ was the Fisher of Men and so we have to teach the poor to help themselves. That’s what Christ meant when He said, feed and clothe the poor. Yep. Nailed it.

Even when you’re trying to justify murder, you can do it. Crusades, anyone? It’s fine, they’re just Infidels. You know, in Ye Olde Bible Times, there was a reason we don’t have anymore that justified a killing. We have self-defense and insanity – they had “delivered into your hands by God”. You know that story of David before he became king when Saul was being a huge jerk to him, and David fled because Saul threw a spear at him while he was playing his harp and joined a gang and had the chance to kill Saul twice due to God delivering Saul into David’s hands, like twice? Yeah, it wouldn’t have been murder for David to kill him. And even if I’m a little foggy on the details, that story is seriously in there, at least in the King James Version. But there are plenty of other stories where God directed His people to genocide another people so it’s not like it’s particularly hard to come by in the scriptures. Even if we’re going to pull that “oh no, you confronted me with uncomfortable stories in the Bible” face and push it carefully to the side, I can turn to my LDS friends and say, “Hey remember when God told Nephi to kill Laban?” The Bible isn’t the only scripture with an example of slaying someone in the name of God. I can’t say much about other religious books because I haven’t read them, although the Torah has most of the Old Testament in it, doesn’t it? So in that case it almost definitely has God-ordered slayings. I don’t really know what’s in the Qur’an but then, there’s enough fanatics to show that regardless of what’s actually in the Qur’an, they can justify murder through religion too.

The thing about being religious is that with this discussion of murder and God, that dips back into the corruption thing. But I want to be clear I’m not talking about corruption, I’m talking about justification. The religion is NOT okay with murder. Your villain talks himself into thinking that it’s all good anyway, or just doesn’t address that part.

Your villain can be religious, without being part of a corrupt religion, and without being a member of a cult. Your villain can be anything. Villains are people too.

Do take care, though, when using actual religions. Make sure you’re not sending a message you didn’t mean to send.

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#NotAllTricksters

You know what’s common? Fighting the powers of Chaos – which appear to just about always be synonymous with Evil.

I have a problem with that.

The problem is that evil and chaos are not the same thing, and that law and evil are not opposite. I mean, technically, a lot of people get that. In DnD, the alignment chart is a grid of Good, Neutral, Evil, and Lawful, Neutral, Chaotic – that means that there’s Lawful Evil, Neutral Evil, and Chaotic Evil. You can run into the evil priest or evil politician or devil who has a specific, orderly way of being totally evil. Robin Hood is the classic Chaotic Good hero – heroes can be chaotic too!

I have a hard time placing myself on this chart. As a person, outside of my overlord caricature, I am somewhere on the line between Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Evil; as an overlord, I’m somewhere on the line between Lawful and Neutral Evil.

Technically, it seems we understand that chaotic and evil are not synonymous, yet we still see chaos presented as evil all the time. If there’s a pantheon of gods and there’s not a god of evil but there is a god of chaos, guess who the deific antagonist is? Guess which god is worshiped by evil cultists, guess who wants to destroy the world? Not the goddess of Fertility! (which is a shame because that has the potential to be totally awesome.)

Why is it that we assume chaos is always evil? I think it’s because on a personal level, chaos isn’t well appreciated. Chaos often equates change and people hate change. People like to know what’s going to happen, what to expect, people don’t like for their lives to be turbulent, and that’s because people like to be comfortable. Turbulence is not comfortable. Change forces you to get up out of your slouchy little chair of How Things Are and move forward, maybe to something better, maybe to something worse, maybe just something different, shunted along into a new reality. If forced to change, people want to settle down into their new reality and get comfy again as soon as possible. Chaos doesn’t allow this. Chaos is a constant battering forward, uncertainty, flux. No one likes flux.

And it’s easy to villainize things that people don’t like. That’s why sadness isn’t an acceptable emotion and if anyone is sad we try to cheer them up as fast as we possibly can and freak out a little when we can’t cheer them up, why we don’t handle people with depression well. It’s not okay to be sad – except for the fact that sadness isn’t inherently bad, it’s just unpleasant, and no one likes to feel sad. Sadness isn’t bad but as soon as someone feels sad, the sadness has to be defeated immediately; it is, in our view, wrong to feel sad.

So we have Chaos and Chaos is always the villain.

Chaos is the actual name of the final boss in Final Fantasy. Chaos is the name of a host of video games monsters and bosses, actually, and literally fighting Chaos, whether as a personification or embodiment or what, is oft A Thing too.

And thus we construct another top flap to the Villain Box, where we can take all our little villain kittens and tuck them in the box and then fold up the box nice and tightly and throw the box at our heroes. And our heroes have to fight a bunch of kittens in a box and your story becomes lame and pathetic because we didn’t bother not to limit our villains and make them actual people.

The important thing to remember is that chaos means turbulence, nothing more. A trickster is chaotic, because he’s on the prowl for causing the unexpected and shaking things up, so when you think of chaos, don’t think of an evil god bearing down on the world. Think of a silly little trickster. Think of a Shakespearean jester, of a God of Giggles. Your villain can be the Joker who is definitely chaotic evil, sure. But don’t start off with the assumption that chaos is evil because when you start off with assumptions like that about what evil is, you set up standards for your villain that are limiting.

Not all tricksters are evil.

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