I'm reading a nifty little book on craft called The Writer's Little Helper. It's sort of like hamburger helper, only different. Instead of hamburger, the user just adds her own voice.
The book is by James V. Smith Jr. I hope Jr. doesn't mind if I share some of his savvy advice here. I'm sure he won't. We're all writers, and he wants to help writers, or he wouldn't have written such a book, right?
Several of us are in the midst of the revision process. And if we aren't at the moment, we probably will be soon. For isn't it true, writing is one part writing, 17 parts revision? It seems that way to me.
So, you're revising along -- you've gotten rid of most of those pesky adjectives, the unprofessional passive voice, and the unnecessary words like very, little, much and even, correct? You've made sure your protagonists are flawed, yet interesting, capable of fear, but not big old whining wienies, and your characters are able to connect with readers in issues of humanity, correct?
Alrighty. Good, good.
So, now let's talk about the antagonist(s) -- those bad, bad guys who tempt us to create them all encompassingly (is that a word? If so, it's a bad one, but I'll leave it as a poor example of wordsmanship) evil, right?
But wait. Back up the train. Hold your horses. Stick a feather in your hat and call it hamburger helper, there's more to it. More to it, you ask? Yessiree, for that's exactly what I asked myself last night, before reading James V. Smith Jr's. checklist, which brings us to the meat of this blog. (Sorry, Karen, for you, this is the garden burger of the blog. Ha!)
THE HERORIC CHARACTER'S WORTHY ADVERSAY:
IS THAT ADVERSARY ...
* Distinctive in voice or attitude?
* Continually in competition with the heroic character?
* Likable or sympathetic to some extent?
* Interesting in career, crimes, or skill?
* Wicked but not entirely demonic?
* Flawed or vulnerable, either physically, mentally, or emotionally?
* Capable or humor or irony?
* Powerful enough to crush the heroic character?
* Physically fascinating, even if repulsive?
* Defeated at the end of the story?
When I read this cheklist last night, I had a light bulb moment. I realized my bad guys are too bad. I don't make them sympathetic or likable. My antagonists tend to be complete, evil, irrational jerks. It's more fun to write them that way, but perhaps, not as fun to read.
So, how do your bad guys measure up to the above list? Do they make the grade?
As for me? I'm back to another round of frickin' frackin', brickin' brackin'(insert real cusswords here) revisions. I'll be at this for days yet. Looks like I better stock up on quick-to-fix dinner items so I don't waste a lot of time in the kitchen. Mmmmm...hamburger helper might do the trick...