Monday, November 2, 2009

Villians and Magic Arts

I'd like to continue talking about our villians. As Christian writers who love the fantasy genre and understand we can tell great stories in this way, we also know we need a dark character to come against our hero/heroine.

How far do we delve into the dark characters? How much do we reveal in their thoughts or actions? It depends on our audience, of course.

And what about magic? Scripture warns us to stay away from magic arts. Still, in fantasy, magic arts are prominant, especially in the villians. Take The Lord of the Rings; there are good and bad wizards and there is Sauron. All have some kind of magic power, but they are also limited.

How are you handling this in your WIP?
Let's talk!


  1. Danielle

    *Rubs hands* I've been waiting for this!

    Most of my villains are just as deep ( probably deeper, actually . . . have to work on that) as the hero. They are so important I can't even stress it. Without a villain there IS NO PLOT!!! Now, I understand that sometimes the villain is cancer or self or sin or something like that, but in most cases this is a living breathing person/creature/yucky thing. Make it real.

    I love delving deep into my villains, but I think you really have to be REALLY careful. They're villains for a reason, and the more understandable and real they are, the more dangerous for you as the author if you go too deep.
    I'm not saying you shouldn't know them inside out, I just have found that I personally need to draw a very thick line. I want to know their personality, their reason, their history, and many more things. That does not mean I need to look into black magic, torture, and other such things (not that my villains torture)You can know what they are doing without going too deep.

    Another note: Don't make your readers stumble. In other words, don't make the villain desirable. There are people out there just dying to be a vamp or a werewolf or even just cool. If your villain fits any of those descriptions; just be aware that more teens than not are lost and insecure and longing to be something else.

    . . .

    I think I finally ran out of things to say :) One last thing: Make 'em real, make 'em awesome, make 'em whatever you want to make 'em, but I would suggest not making them good. I think that's one of the differences between the ANTAGONIST and the VILLAIN. The antagonist could be someone who just gets in the way, while the villain, in my mind, is the ultimate evil. Maybe. I've had a few that have turned around and surprised me. *Shrugs* I guess it depends :)

    Okay, I need to stop now.

  2. Danielle

    Oh. When I said 'good' I meant in the sense of Santa-loves-you good; not very-well-written good. Sorry about that :) You WANT the villain to be well-written. That's very important. Yup.

  3. In my WIP there are three main bad guys, not counting all of the minions running around. The warchief, his right hand man, and the demon that is summoned.

    The warchief is the the villain, but the story is not really about him. He shows up in a few scenes for drama, but mostly you see his actions through the other two. You also learn a little about him from what the other two say about him. I guess it is sort of like in Star Wars, where the antagonist is the Empire, and at least in the first movie (episode IV) we don't learn much about the empire.

    Latem, the second in charge, is the character the story focuses on. He's the one out in the field getting his feet dirty. He's the one who is caring out the evil plans. I start by just giving glimpse of him, then later he is the main character in scenes.

    The demon shows up about half way through the book to raise the stakes. There should be no question in the readers mind that he is the definition of evil. He enjoys being evil and seeing other suffer.

    In the first two characters I want there to be some redeeming qualities, but not many. The only redeeming quality of the demon is that he is very polite in his speech, which just makes the words behind the politeness seem that much more poignant.

    I'll save my comments on magic for another post this week.

  4. I have a Dark Lord - who is the really bad guy. I don't develop his character much, as he's not the true antagonist. His daughter is. She's the Fairyeater.

    The Dark Lord, Riss'aird, is totally evil, kind of like Sauron. His daughter, Tzmet, is not because her mother is good. It's a little complicated, but I do explain it in the story. But that's why Tzmet's character is developed and her character arc will be complete by the end of the book.

    I agree with Danielle: we should not make our bad guys desirable. Tzmet and Riss'aird do have some magic that is natural to their race. Tzmet also mixes potions.

    Akeela, on the other hand, has a gift called spirit-sight. She can see auras around all living things.

    The other characters who are good have gifts, as well. The Acadians can make things grow. Hawk, who is half-Acadian, can sense emotions and if someone is telling the truth.

    The hard part for me is to remember not to make Tzmet more interesting than Akeela. She's so much more fun to write. I think that's because she doesn't care what anyone thinks.

    I also try not to make the magic Tzmet has something to be desired. In one book I read, there was a price for using magic. It took energy from the user and they had to rest and build back up before they could use it again. If they used too much, they died. I don't do that, but I thought that was an interesting twist.

  5. Danielle

    I'm very interested to see the rest of Tzmet's arc!

    In one of my books there is a which who has discovered a way to take the horns off of unicorns, make dark unicorns, and is working on a 'project'. She is doing this for her older sister, who is the real villain.

    Do you think all villains need character arcs? Most of mine do, but some of them don't. Any thoughts on how much of an arc you should give your villain?

  6. I really liked John Granger's book "Looking for God in Harry Potter." He does an excellent job of explaining the difference between magic and sorcery. I highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in this topic.

    In a nutshell, magic depends on the spoken word causing physical reality, and is not inconsistent (in fiction) with a Christian world view. This is what Harry and his friends practice.

    Sorcery is the summoning of spirits, such as the way that Voldemort is brought back to life in a physical body, and is forbidden in Scripture.

    The important thing is to show the effects of evil without glorifying it.

    Consider all the arguments against Christianity by people who say "The Bible is full of adultery, incest, murder, etc. How can you be such a hypocrite as to want to follow it?" Of course, God isn't promoting that kind of behavior, he is showing us exactly why it is harmful and unacceptable, and what the consequences are.

    I believe that we should do the same with our story-telling.

  7. Danielle

    I agree. If we are using sorcery, make sure it's a villain who uses it, don't get close to the process, and make sure it's a bad thing.

    Magic is very complicated. It can be word-empowered, but I have always found that cliche. I tend to side with the 'talent side'

    One example is with one of my ideas there is an evil man who captures elves and other 'magical' creatures and makes them his slaves. Some of the slaves managed to escape and banded together to form a small village. The prince (and main character of this story) has heard of the village where it is said that vampires, werewolves and ghosts live. In reality, they are elves, wood-guardians, and wind-riders under a spell.

    Anyway, I make it so that while they are under a spell it is a bad thing, and am trying to make sure that the characters are just as cool as an elf then they are under a spell. One way I make the breaking of the spell good is that in order to heal the main character's best friend, the elf has to be returned to his real form.

  8. I agree, Christine. It's a fine line we Christian fantasy authors walk.

    Well, all, I'm heading to Williamsburg tonight for a long weekend. Be back Monday night. And I'll post a new topic on Tuesday morning.

    Feel free to keep talking! I won't be able to get online, so please don't think I'm ignoring you. :)

  9. Danielle

    Have a great trip, Pam!

    Just a question to everyone else: Do you think there should be a different level of evilness depending on the age you're writing for? For example, it might be confusing for younger readers if instead of totally good and totally bad, there is an in-between.

    Don't take me wrong: Evil is evil. I'm just speaking in terms of DIFFERING OPINIONS.
    Example: One side thinks the gem must be destroyed in order to save the world -- one side thinks the gem should be manipulated to heal the world of evil.

    Also, if our heroes are insane or cruel or horrible; should we go in the POV at all? And while I understand that if you have a great hero you need a great villain too, do you think we have to make sure we're creating them this bad for a good reason?

  10. Tough question. The easy answer is yes, you always have to write based on the age of your audience.

    For younger readers I would say you have to watch out for:

    The types of evil acts your evil characters do
    How scary you make your evil character
    The balance between physical and physiological evilness
    How subtle you are - might need to make it clearer that they are doing "bad" things - they might just think what they are doing is cool

    I guess I would sum it up as, less evil, but more obviously evil

  11. Danielle

    Thanks! I agree. Though, Disney didn't seem to have that problem . . . . With books it's different, I suppose. Man! I need to read more kids books!

    Oh right; Peter Pan! Captain Hook is an excellent villain for those who have read it. For those who haven't -- read it; the unabridged. Only problem is that a certain fairy curses when she gets jealous *glares at Tinkerbell* Gladly, I was actually reading it to my little sister and was able to replace the word. Phew!

  12. In my work, I've made "magic", "sorcery", "witchcraft", "wizardry", etc., be technical terms describing various evil ways of doing what I call "applied metaphysics" ("sorcery" uses power from demons, for instance), but there is one form that is permitted (if rare) because its practitioners draw their power from God, and what they can do depends mostly on how closely they are walking with him.

    My villains tend to be the big, obviously evil sort, though their methods get subtler as the world's history wears on.