Monday, October 26, 2009

Tests, Allies and Enemies

Once your hero begins his/her adventure, they will naturally encounter new challenges or TESTS. They'll make ALLIES and ENEMIES. And they'll begin to learn all the rules of the quest/special world. This allows for character development as your hero and other characters react to stress, set backs, new friends, facing the enemy, etc. This is also a place to introduce a side-kick, if you already haven't.

The hero can encounter all these things throughout the story.

As we know, in fiction, we want tension and conflict - something to keep the reader on the edge of their seat. Things that will make the reader stay up late to read "just one more chapter." The things we hate in real life, we seem to love in books or movies. I think we like seeing how things resolve.

So, let's talk about tests, allies and enemies. What kind of things does your hero encounter? How much trouble should we throw at our characters? We don't want to beat them to a bloody pulp, right? So, we want to give them times of fun and rest.

It's a balance, and it's our job to make it happen without everything falling apart.


  1. Danielle

    No, beating them to a bloody pulp is definitely not a good idea :)

    Jane's first test is with the troll, and she pretty much fails it. After that, Jane and Bal learn some lessons from Cyclonia and do a little better with the tree encounter.

    I thow in some laughs and good times . . .

    Then come the goblins.

    Anyway, Jane slowly become more and more the heroine, and as our heroes get better, our villains have to get better too. It's like a see-saw. Hero goes up, villain goes down; vice versa. They have to be evenly balanced until they hero discovers something that the enemy does not have (such as love) says "Aha!" and blasts them.

  2. This is the heart of my WIP. For the heroin there is defiantly an up and down. Some of the tests she does great on, which then makes her over confident for the next.

    For my secondary story, the hero keeps passing the tests, but the villains just keep turning up the heat. His problem is he is being held captive and can choose the tests, they just keep coming. He has to perceiver or parish.

    The villains have their own tests as well. It is a race to see you can succeed first.

  3. Danielle mentioned something about villians, which is important to talk about. She said as the hero gets better, the villian should get better.

    To make things really exciting, the villian should be stronger than the hero. The odds need to seem impossible. This ups the tension and causes the hero to have to really step up to the plate. If success is too easy, it's not satisfying to the reader.

    But we also can't have *God* come in and save the day. The hero must be able to fufill the quest (and he can have help from his companions) and overcome the villian. You can have him become strong or use his brains or both. And we can't simply throw something in at the last minute ~ it should be something we've planted that either the reader, or even our characters, have forgotten.

    Tell us little about your villians.

  4. Danielle

    I agree, actually, if I am allowed to revise my former statement. In most times, the villain should be stronger -- at first, at least.

    I have read Christian books where at the climax they raise their hands and cry out to God, and a miracle happens. Nothing is more frustrating. ARRG! It frustrates me to even think about it. I know God will save us if it is His holy will, but you can do that by PREPARING THE HERO BEFORE HAND. Think about it. God knows that the hero will go through this, so He used the said Secondary Characters to prepare the hero.

    Now for the villains.

    My villain in Woody Inn of Al is a Dragon Hunter who is unnamed. I'll just call him Harold for now ;)
    Anyway, Harold (cough, cough) is in the first chapter. Jane serves him in her Inn, which ultimately leads to her meeting Clyde, the dragon.
    After that, Harold's minions go after Jane and Clyde as they flee the scene. The villains keep getting better and better until Harold himself goes.

    That's one way I work up to the climax, I guess. Another note on Villains: They can't just be "yeah, let's blow up the world, because, um, it's what I do." No. They have to be humans, smart, and have a reason. One thing I actually find myself doing is when I watch a movie the first time, I concentrate on the Hero. The second time, or as I play it over in my head, I flip it around and make it the Villain's story.

    What is the villain's reason? Why does he hate the hero? What makes him a villain? Is he a villain or simply an antagonist?

    Yeah . . . sorry for creating my own post, Pam :)

  5. The villain in my WIP is a two bit orc chief. Sure he dreams of ruling the world, but knows that's out of reach. Then one day one of his scouts bring him a magical sword. The swords lets him force other to follow him. He starts to control other local orc leaders and slowly builds himself an army, using both the swords power and his own wit.

    At the beginning of the story he has sent his army to destroy a local human town. It is this "war" that is the central problem in my book. During the corse of the book he looses his sword and tried to hold this army together while he franticly tried to get it back. When he finally does get it back the threat really steps up and the heroin my act and act quickly before all is lost.

  6. Danielle

    The SWORD makes people FOLLOW him?! That's a new twist! I like that. Sort of symbolizes lies. Lies are destructive, and they lead astray. You also have a good point in that the villain knows that taking the world over is out of reach -- before he got the awesome sword, that is.

    The only thing I would suggest is being careful w/ orcs. So many people have read about orcs that they might have pre-conceived ideas of what your villain is going to be like.

  7. I like how you switch up your view, Danielle. That will help you make your stories come alive. We often forget our antagonist or villian are a huge part of the story. They are every bit as important as the hero.

    I have to confess, my antagonist is my favorite character. I love writing her! She's not fully evil and through some writing exercises, I've found layers I didn't know were there. She's quite an interesting character - and I have to work hard not to make her more likeable, fun or interesting than my heroine.

    About the orcs: Tolkien kind of ruined fantasy for the rest of us. If we include dwarves, elves, trolls or orcs in our story, we're automatically compared to The Lord of the Rings. Still, I'm thankful for his writings and we need to understand these characters were there before he wrote anything. He simply redefined them. I am using dwarves in my book, but I gave them a twist.

    There's nothing new under the sun, so it's up to us to make old things new and fresh. I like Doug's idea of a sword that makes people bend to the owner's will. A very strong force to fight against, especially in the wrong hands!

  8. Danielle

    In many of my books, the villain is my favorite character too. In your book, Pam, I really like Tzmet as a character. She is very deep; well done. I like the twists she has. Still rooting for Akeela, though, don't worry! :)

    I realized that Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were very well learned in history and mythology. Writers back then had to be EVEN MORE well read. (I found a king named Pippin)

    To your comment that nothing is new under the sun, I'd have to say yes, but that doesn't mean that coming up with something unique and all your own is impossible. Do not give up O thou brave trail-blazers!! The more you read the more learned and inspired you shalt come!

    I love going back to the old version of elves and trolls and such. They are great and have almost been forgotten in the craze of the Tolkien-type elves. Trolls have been replaced completely by Ogres. Brutal, I say.

  9. My WIP is just getting its feet off the ground, so I don't have a fully developed villain yet. I'm one of those writers who likes to jump in and see where the story takes me, but this needs to be remedied - FAST!
    My villain-sketch is an elf of a more Tolkien variety (sorry), cold, strong, and callous, taking revenge on a country who killed her people through disease. I suppose I should brainstorm her, figure out what else is moving under her skin...

    Yes, a bloody pulp isn't particularly attractive. I'm still figuring out exactly what horrors are coming my MC's way.

    Anonymous # 4, your comment about trailblazers against "nothing new under the sun" is VERY encouraging.

  10. I've been struggling with the whole orc and ogre thing. My orcs are somewhere between LOR, D&D and WOW orcs. The choice is: 1) call them orcs and redefine the parts that make them different than the idea that is already in the readers heads, 2) call them something else, spend the pages to build a clear picture of them, and then have the reader say, those are sort of like orcs.

    Is it better to start of saying this is like something your know, or have the read say, that sounds familiar, he just changed orcs a little?

  11. Danielle

    I think you should change the name if they aren't exactly like orcs. In Eragon, if he had called them orcs and then said : But they had horns and snorted a lot -- I would have not been able to picture it. Orcs are so cemented into my head. If you change the name, though, I'm sure you'll be able to describe them pretty easily.

    Rebekah: Thank you! I put my name under the Anonymous sign. I'm Anonymous: Danielle ;)

  12. I agree with Danielle ~ if they aren't the orcs we all think of, give them another name. Make them orc cousins. :)

    One of the creatures I came up with is what I call "Malrats" - meaning "sick rats." But my computer keeps wanting me to type "mallrats." I'll probably have to think of another name. They are men who went through the Dark Lord's transvarient process - combining rats with humans - they have human bodies, rat faces and rat tails. Their saliva is a deadly acid, their tails are prehensile and they can use them as whips. They are almost unbeatable when facing them in hand-to-hand combat.

    In my next novel, the enemies are huge beetle-like creatures I call The Vimgozium. They are truly terrifying, stealing souls and replacing them with their own poisoned ones.

    It's fun coming up with new races of people or creatures. I also have the Kazmura (cave people) and the Acadians (forest people.)

    It's not my quote that there is nothing new under the sun - that's from the Bible - therefore, we need to take what's already here and give it a twist.

  13. Danielle

    Pam: What I found helpful with new names (the ones that the computer just thinks you're spelling wrong) is to right click them and then click "add to dictionary" or "Save as a word" the exact button depends on your computer, I guess :) Anyway, I found it helpful not only as it gets rid up those distasteful red lines ;(, but if I spell it wrong on accident, I can fix it.

    I love getting names from the Bible! Do you know where it is in the Bible that he mentions one of the star's names?

  14. I have done that with almost all my names, since they are fantasy names and not recognized by the computer's dictionary. However, I'm wondering if "malrats" IS too close to "mallrats" and would be confusing to readers.

    I also love getting fantasy names from the Bible. In my next novel, Koda's Quest, the main character's name is Nekoda - I got it from the Old Testament.

    I don't know where one of the star's names is mentioned. Maybe Job?

  15. Danielle

    Hmm. This might be a dumb question -- but what ARE mallrats? Are they rats that live in the mall? A rat cousin? A rat with an unknown disease? Mallrat. Hmm.

    I check Job for the star's name. My mom told me it's in the Bible somewhere . . . .

  16. It's not a dumb question, Danielle. I didn't know what Mallrats were until someone explained it to me.

    Mallrats are kids who hang out at the mall. And it's in my computer's dictionary!

    Go figure.

  17. Danielle

    Kids who hang out in malls = mallrats. Hmm. Talk about a random name. Rude too. Considering that, you just might want to change your awesome monsters' names. Maybe Ratmals, Richeets, or Keerats? :) I just love spounting random names.

  18. Spew all the random names you want, Danielle. That's how we come up with ideas or overcome writer's block.

    I kind of like Keerats. I'll play with it and see.

  19. Danielle

    Glad you like it! Maybe it'll inspire you for a better one, even :) Need any more random names just let me know!