Category Archives: villains

The Thing About Urban Fantasy

Okay, I did it!  I promised to post one chapter a week for a short urban fantasy novel until it was finished.  And I made it.  I posted the last chapter on Friday.  Once it was up, I spent the rest of the day, putting all of the images and chapters together into one book, and I’d written over 48,000 words.  Not bad.

River City Rumble is the last story, so far, in a series of novellas that I’ve been writing for a long time.  When I’m wading deep in middle muddles of other books, I turn to Babet and Prosper to re-energize me, to pull me out of the muck.  And they always come through.  That’s why I decided they deserved a novel of their own instead of a week or two of my attention in short spurts.  They’d earned their own novel.

The thing is, urban fantasy writers–at least, the ones I read–tend to use a big cast of characters, and those characters grow in number with each book they write.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I loved writing about all of the people I’d introduced in previous novellas, but it’s hard to keep track of them all in one book.  Before, in shorter works, I picked and chose who I wanted to highlight.  In this book, I decided to go bigger and better.  I wanted someone or something that threatened everyone in River City, so that they’d all have to work together to defeat him/it.  The trick was to try to bring each person in and then not forget him when the next person joined the team.

Hatchet and Colleen had to be part of the struggle.  Hatchet is Prosper’s partner on River City’s supernatural detective force, and Colleen’s his vampire/wife.  If Hatchet’s walking into danger, she’d be beside him.  Babet’s mom and Hennie had to help, too, because they’re all part of River City’s coven.  And since the villain/antagonist who instigates all of the trouble is a vampire who controls a huge seethe, every vampire in River City will band together to battle him.  And those characters are just for starters.  By the end of the book, the voodoo community and the shape shifters all joined in, too.  But you know what they say–the more, the merrier.  So we all just teamed together and did our thing.

The second decision I made while posting my weekly chapters was to include an image with each one of them.  I’ve done that with some of the short stories I post on my webpage (all available in its left column, if you’re interested).  But I don’t do it on any regular basis.  This time, I had to come up with an image every single week.  And to my surprise, I found ones that fit my idea of what suited each scene.  One of my readers–and I so appreciate this–complimented me on them.  That meant so much to me, coming from her.  My biggest challenge, though, came when I started to write the last chapter.

Urban fantasies–at least, my favorites–are a string of small battles that lead to a big, final battle, usually to the death.  That meant I had to wrap up every small subplot before I stepped onto the battlefield.  I’d created an antagonist–and I’m proud of this–whom many people loathed.  She wasn’t the main villain, but more than a few readers said they hoped she got what she deserved before the book ended.  I hope I satisfied them.  Then, I was clear to send almost every supernatural in River City out to meet Zanor.  This couldn’t be just any battle, though.  The good guys couldn’t win too easily.  They had to face near death to overcome their enemies.  And everyone had to have a part.  That’s when things got tricky.  And that’s when I had to bring in more evil reinforcements so that Zanor’s forces gave as good as they got.

My protagonists survived, and so did I.  But I really sweated that chapter.  Fingers crossed that it satisfies.  Now, it’s time for me to move on and concentrate on my fourth Mill Pond romance.  A complete change of style.  And that’s a good thing for me.  I’m a Libra.  It helps keep me balanced.   Hope you find balance in your writing this week!  Hit those keys.

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter:  @judypost

And FYI:  If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, my friend, M. L. Rigdon’s PROPHECY DENIED is FREE thru March 7: http://www.amazon.com/PROPHECY-DENIED-Seasons-Time-Book-ebook/dp/B004S7EQ92/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1457193638&sr=1-1&keywords=m+l+rigdon

 

 

 

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Chapter 22’s up

I put up chapter 22.  I’m tying up subplots before the last chapter–which I’ll put up next Friday.  Urban fantasies end with big battles for the final showdown and small wrap-ups.  I have my work cut out for me:)  Zanor’s a villain who won’t be easy to defeat.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

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Writing: I’ve had fun!

I mentioned that I was trying a writing experiment with POV. It’s taken more time than I expected it to, but I met my goals. Each day this week, I’ve put one part of a short story on my webpage, with one more to go up tomorrow. Each part was from a different POV character. What have I learned?

It’s fun writing from the villain/antagonist’s POV. I don’t do that very often. As a matter of fact, I use third person, single POV in every series I write except Fallen Angels. Those are the only books I write with multiple POV, and I still rarely write from the villain’s veiwpoint. I think it might be hard to do without giving too much away, but it worked for a short piece. And letting myself live inside Merlot’s head helped me understand her more. I read once that villains don’t think of themselves as bad or wrong. Instead, they focus on what they want, what they’re striving to do, and they justify their actions. They often feel they’ve been wronged, and they’re putting things right. Merlot has that tendency. Hezra, on the other hand, (in part 4), decided to turn to the dark arts and makes no bones about the fact that she wants power. It was fun writing from her perspective, too, but I still wanted to make her an individual–not just the “evil” who battles my protagonist.

I’m putting up the last part of the story tomorrow–the big showdown–but this experiment has made me think more about villains/antagonists. For me, Ilona Andrews’s Kate Daniels series really got interesting when she had Hugh D’Ambray walk onto the pages to play mind games with Kate and to battle her and Curran. For me, she created two of the most intriguing “bad guys” I’ve read for a long time when Hugh and Kate’s father, Roland, became active in the series. Not that she hasn’t had a strong, almost invincible enemy in every book. That’s part of urban fantasy, but Hugh and Roland are unpredictable and do the unexpected, and that’s made them really interesting. She’s made them such a blend of good and bad that the reader has mixed feelings about them. It’s sort of like reading The Silence of the Lambs. I hated Dr. Chilton more than Hannibal Lecter. Odd, right? But a really well-done villain can pull a reader’s emotions in strange directions. For that reason, I’ve decided to spend just as much time on my villains and antagonists as I do on my protagonists from now on. They can really make a story zing.

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Writing: What motivates your character? Does it work?

First off, I have a summer cold, so if ideas don’t always blend together in this blog, my head’s a little fuzzy. But here goes:

I just finished reading a book that I loved, but sometimes, I had to MAKE myself keep turning the pages. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? It was, and I had mixed feelings about it. I loved every scene, every character. The villains were deliciously complicated, and sometimes, I actually felt sympathetic to them–the sign of a good writer. But sometimes, the decisions the main character made felt forced. They worked for the plot and led to tension and battles, but I kept thinking there might have been a better way to handle the situation, and that the character was smart enough to think about something less dangerous. True, the bad guy is forcing her hand, but the story felt like she was reacting to one threat after another without ever saying, “Hey, what if…..?” But then that might be just me. I usually think first, act later. My daughter read the same book and said it was her favorite in the entire series. But then my daughter has no fear. Just goes to show you. But my reaction to the story made me think.

A character’s motivations have to feel REAL. He has to want something enough that he’ll take risks to get it or achieve it. But the risks have to make sense. It’s hard for me to follow a hero who doesn’t care, who’s so blase’, he just goes through the motions to see what happens. I have just as much trouble following a hero who takes risks he doesn’t need to, someone who puts himself and his friends in trouble when there’s a better way to solve the problem. Conflicted motivations are really hard to pull off, and that’s where I ran into trouble in the book I read. People are complicated, and I like that. But when a character is so complicated that I can’t decide what he’s trying to achieve, I waffle.

The other thing that slowed me down in this book was the nonstop action. After three fight scenes back to back, I just got tired. I had to put the book down to take a break. Don’t get me wrong. These were some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. But there were a LOT of them. Books need tension, and that tension has to build and build and build. But sometimes, I need to catch my breath.

Did I love this book? Yes, but not as much as the last one. Will I read the next book in the series? A big yes. Did this book make me think about writing and what works for me and what doesn’t? A resounding yes, because I kept asking myself, How can each scene be so good, and I need to put the book down for a minute?

Reading other writers, really good writers, are such great learning experiences. Hope you find authors who push you to be a better writer.

Writing: being a hero isn’t all it’s cracked up to be

I just finished the final polish for my new Babet & Prosper novella. This story features Babet’s father, Gazaar. He was a warrior angel before Lucifer and his band of rebels were thrown into the pit. Then, someone needed to keep guard over them, and he volunteered. In time, more angels dropped from the heavenly ranks, some turning to evil, and the pits filled with more demons. Gazaar got promoted to gatekeeper to make sure everyone stayed where they were supposed to be. Now, I ask you. Who’d want that job? But when Babet asks her father why he took it, he shrugs and says, “Someone has to do it.”

That’s the way most urban fantasy heroes are. They take on a conflict out of a sense of duty or responsibility. When I’d run, they stay and face the foe. They have the strength or knowledge or skills to, hopefully, survive and defeat the bad guys. Most of the protagonists take on a challenge to protect other people. They aren’t looking for power, but it’s often a by-product of the struggles they undergo.

Defeating villains makes a hero dig deep and changes him. A long, long time ago, I attended a mystery conference where Mary Higgins Clark was the keynote speaker. She explained the elements needed to write a woman in jeopardy story. It’s been too long ago to remember subtle points, but the main ingredients were: a good woman is living an ordinary life; a bad guy is bent on a journey of destruction; the two collide; the woman has to struggle to survive; and she’s forever changed by coming into contact with evil. Even though she didn’t choose her journey, she chose to do everything in her power to survive it.

Stakes have to be high, and body count isn’t enough. The reader has to care about the victims, or a body sprinkled here, and another one there, just feels like a plot ploy. I’ve read books and watched movies where every time the pace slows a bit, I know another person’s going to bite the dust. Sometimes, it works–if I learn something from the death or there’s a ticking clock or the victim was sympathetic. Sometimes, it doesn’t–when I feel like the writer didn’t know what else to do so killed someone. The deaths have to provide some kind of emotional impact.

Not all heroes face fierce enemies. When I wrote the short, romance novellas for The Emerald Hills collection, the heroes’ goals often involved chasing dreams. The hero in the romance I wrote for my agent was chasing a dream, too. I can relate to that. But achieving a story’s goal can never be an easy undertaking. Things go wrong. Nothing’s as simple as it could be. The goal has to be earned. The stakes have to be high, or the book’s tension is low.

In Demon Heart, a demon escapes one of Gazaar’s pits when he’s off-duty. Babet hopes the demon stays far, far away from River City, but Prosper and his fellow detective, Hatchet, hope it comes to them. As Prosper says, “Who else can deal with him like we can?” Babet is every bit as much of a hero as Prosper. She’s just a reluctant one, and when the demon comes, she doesn’t back down from the fight.

May your heroes have plenty of conflicts and survive them all. (I like happy endings). And happy writing!

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Writing: How bad can bad boys be?

I recently read the first books in Ilona Andrews’ and Jeaniene Frost’s new urban fantasy series, and I loved both BURN FOR ME and ONCE BURNED. Both have spunky female protagonists–a must for urban fantasy. And both have love interests who are, of course, stronger and badder than anyone around–another must. On top of that, it seemed to me that both authors ramped up the “heat” index until the chemistry between heroines and heroes sizzled. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Both Vlad and Mad Rogan are sexy as sin. And both break rules to follow their own codes of honor. Which brings me to the question: how bad can bad boys be?

I signed up to read BURN FOR ME as part of Goodreads, but I’m so slow and got so far behind, I ended up reading the comments other readers made and didn’t add any of my own, because by then…what was the point? But it interested me that a few readers agreed with the book’s heroine, that Mad Rogan is a sociopath–a tempting, I’d throw myself at him, gorgeous, smart, intriguing sociopath–but still….
Since I’d read the two books close together, it made me wonder why Vlad didn’t get the same comments, but then, he’s a vampire. And everyone knows that vampires do whatever they please, so being called a sociopath is the least of their worries. Mad Rogan is a mortal with massive amounts of magic, so I’m guessing readers expect him to show more restraint. It got me thinking, and I was surprised by the heroes who have been my favorites lately. Jorg, from Prince of Thorns, is no nice guy. Mad Rogan would gladly eliminate you if you got in his way. And Vlad–well, his magic is fire. You’d probably be a crispy critter. The thing is, to me, they’re NOT sociopaths, because in their worlds, they’re probably better than anyone else who has the same powers they do. It’s all relative. They have a reason–to find and protect usually–for the things they do; whereas, the bad guys only strive to promote self-serving interests.

A true sociopath lacks empathy, but Vlad and Mad Rogan have that. They don’t follow normal social rules because they don’t live in a normal, social world. Their friends and enemies possess lots of power. The bad guys use power to do evil. The good guys use power to battle them. They risk their lives to fight villains. The conflict in the stories is usually good vs. evil. Jorg, he’s a little more ruthless than the norm, but so is his world. In Prince of Thorns, it’s hard to feel sympathy for even the ordinary citizens. They’re not very nice either. And the rulers? They tend to be violent and power-hungry. Jorg just does it better.

I’m shaking my head at myself. It’s hard to believe I went from doting over Mr. Darcy, Deerslayer, and Harry Potter to cheering for Vlad, Mad Rogan, and Jorg. But they’re all heroes, in their own ways, who defy the norm of their social worlds to see beyond it. The one rule a bad boy might get in trouble for breaking? Cheating on the heroine. I’m a fan of Faith Hunter’s, too, and when Rick cheated on Jane Yellowrock–even though, technically, he was a bit coerced–readers weren’t happy with him.

Who are your favorite heroes? And why? Are you hooked on any bad boys?

http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/