Crafting The Crafty

Villains. 

We love to hate them, and sometimes we hate to love them.

Either way, whether as readers or writers, we forge a connection to the villains in our novels.  From way back, I discerned that I embrace a certain affection for the villainous, the crafty, the bad-guy, if you will, in many a story and movie.  It perplexed me, and downright troubled my poor parents, I imagine.

It’s no well-kept secret that I harbored a preference for Ramses in the Ten Commandments, his declarations of, ‘So Let It Be Written, So Let It Be Done,’ raising the goose-flesh on my bony arms as I ridiculed the silly Nefretiri for chasing after Moses, who didn’t want her anyway!  Likewise, in the novel and the subsequent movie, The Last Of The Mohicans, Magua fascinated me with his devilish war paint, brutal depiction, and harsh countenance.  And who could not love Doc Holiday, a known drunkard and gunslinger, who taunted those he deemed inferior to himself, holding loose morals but possessing a wit and charm sufficient to curl your toes?  Dare we have this discussion (at a paranormal site, no less!) without mentioning Bram Stoker’s Dracula?  One can not help but be beguiled – even knowing what he is, what he inflicts on his victims.

Now, let me say that there are villains wholly unlikable, utterly irredeemable.  We don’t have to think long to conjure the likes of serial killers and war criminals – which are in a category completely outside the one I speak of.  Those…well, we’ll leave that for another discussion.

So, what is it that creates the villains that I, and many like me, dare to adore?  I’ve pondered the question myself, and have come to an interesting conclusion.  It’s their redeeming factor.  Can we find a redeeming quality that sparks in us the want for them to mend their ways, to turn away from their vile behavior, to succumb to love, faith, or mercy?

The event or emotion that motivates our villain is often the very thing that draws us near; likewise, the lack of these leaves a void, impressing a sense of unrepentant evil.  A man bent on revenge after losing his lover, wife or child in brutal fashion…a woman manipulating men in power to gain her own in a culture that oppresses those of her gender…a lover enraged at a betrayal committing a crime of passion…  Within these, we can forge a connection and empathize, we can share in their sorrow, or cry out with them for an avenging.  Even if we balk at and protest their actions.  Even if we wish them to change course and walk a different path.

Crafting a villain is a careful, thoughtful endeavor if we wish our audience to love to hate them – or hate to love them.  Ha!  In The Third Fate, I decided to craft a variety of villains.  In the character Gwendolyn, I wanted the audience to ‘love to hate her’.  She’s downright malevolent!  Wielding her sexuality much as a gladiator would a sword, she cuts down any in her path, hacking mercilessly at the egos of many.  She harbors no loyalty, no love.  In short, she is completely self-serving, and makes no apologies for it.  In contrast, the three child-like Fates, are likewise bent of self-gratification.  But their innocence tips the scales, sliding them into the category of ‘we hate to love them’ – even though we do.

What traits endear a villain to you?

~ Nadja

For The Love Of Characters

Characters.  A word with multi-faceted meaning if ever there was…

My, but he’s a character!

This is my favorite application of the word.  It says so much, yet leaves a great deal to the imagination.  Ha!  In writing, authors strive to capture the essence of that sentiment, morphing a set of typed characters (Ah!  There’s that word again) into a personality that draws you, excites and amuses, puzzles, leads you forward within the story, attaching you seamlessly to their emotions and deepest desires. Becoming more than two-dimensional names printed on a white background, our favorite and best-loved characters capture our hearts and minds – are as real to our mind’s eye as a friend, an enemy, or a lover.  Well, that’s the goal, anyway.

One fun way to reveal a character’s character (Okay…I’m taking it a bit far with my use of the word, but I cannot help myself.  Really. *snorts with delight at own perceived wit*  Apologies extended.) is through dialogue.  I’ll share a back and forth exchange between sister-like characters in my latest novel, a paranormal romance titled The Third Fate.

Being one of four sisters (and having four brothers) I love including sibling relationships in my novels.  The dynamics between siblings allow for quirky interaction – siblings say to you what no one else would dare! (At least mine do…)

Paige Kinnell, speaking on the phone to her twin cousins after a mysterious, dream-like adventure of the night before….

‘What is it, Brooke?’

The cheery voice on the other end ignored her rude beginning.  ‘You have something to tell us?’ her cousin, Brooke, teased wickedly.

‘What would I have to tell?’ Paige questioned, having no idea what her cousin was about.

‘Don’t you dare play the shy little virgin this morning, Paige Kinnell!  We want details, woman!’

Brooke’s voice carried overly well through the line, and Paige held the phone away from her ear, protecting her eardrum.  ‘What in all of Hades are you about, calling me in the morning asking me silly questions?  Details?  Of what?’

Brooke screamed in exasperation.  ‘Of that beautiful man you went on about last night on the phone!  You know, the one with the black hair?  The icy blue eyes?  The body built to make a saint sin?  That’s who!’

Oddly, Paige did not remember that; however, she did remember the man.  The man from her dream.

Oh Bother!  How can I explain this?

‘I must have been dreaming or something.  Sorry, but there’s really nothing to tell, girls.’

‘Paige, honey…if those are your dreams, I need to know what you were drinking before you went to sleep!’  Brooke laughed, relating the conversation to Lara, who guffawed in the background.

Paige smiled, her first of the morning.  They made her crazy, but she couldn’t imagine life without them.  ‘All right, you two.  I’ve got to get ready for work.  Call me later.  Maybe I’ll get out of there on time for once.’

‘You should come out with us tonight,’ Brooke invited.  ‘We’re going to Jinty McGinty’s…It’ll be fun.’

‘I don’t know,’ Paige hesitated.  ‘You know I don’t drink much, and sitting around while everyone else does is not all that fun.’

‘Oh, come on!  It’s been an age since you let your hair down.  All work and no play make Paige a dull girl.  You’re too timid, Paige.  How are you ever going to land a man if you…’

Someone or something interrupted Brooke’s sage-like lecture, saving Paige the trouble of begging off the line.

‘Sorry, Paige!  Gotta run!  I’ll call you at seven sharp.  And for the love of Henry wear something more risqué than a turtleneck.’

The line went dead, and Paige heaved a sigh of relief, muttering as she readied for work.  ‘What’s the matter with my turtleneck sweaters, anyway?’

The Third Fate © Nadja Notariani, 2011

 ~ Nadja

Writing Rituals: A Creature Of Habit

Daily routines give me a sense of right-ness, I admit with unabashed glee.  From the moment I wake, ritual reigns supreme.  Quiet time with a cup of coffee or hot tea, reciting Sh’ma, speaking aloud a blessing, preparing my boys for school, computer time.  The repetitive nature of ritual comforts me, offers structure to measure my days.  Writing is no different.

I’ve a writing nook, well, more like an overstuffed chair in the far end of my L-shaped living room.  It’s slanted away from television, offering me a view of my side yard.  Comfy chair and ottoman, check.  Basket-o-notebooks beside, check.  Side-table laden with #7 mechanical pencils and Black Pearl erasers, check.  Glasses, check.  Steaming cup of tea, check.  Ahhh!  Sweet mysteries of life.  Ha!  This is my favorite space to sit and conjure words.  The sounds of chirping birds, the cool breeze wafting through triple hung windows, the solitude of my mind – these allow for the creative spark to unfurl, for my pencil to scrape across the white pages in steady strokes.

But at times, ritual becomes stifling – gasp!  Yes, I’ve said it aloud!  When the words will not come, when my muse stamps her foot and refuses to play nicely, sulking in the corner and scowling at me with her pinched face, I deploy counter-measures (sorry, daughter, wife, and now mother to military persons somehow infects one with military speak…lol).  I’ll likely never be a ‘free-spirit’, revamping my entire set of habitual routines – I’d probably expire, explode, or freak-out without my structured way of life.  But change can be good.  For a confessed creature of habit such as myself, those changes come in the form of ‘alternate-habits’.  It’s the best way to describe my ridiculous control issues…ha!

Adding soft background music is a favorite ‘alternate-habit’.  I can only listen to instrumental music, as catchy lyrics distract me – and believe me; no one wants to hear my singing anyway!  At other times, I migrate to my bedroom, spreading my notebooks on the bed and propping myself up with scads of pillows.  About once a month, I travel to one of two coffee shops and allow the conversational hum of fellow patrons to envelop me, to lull me into that nirvana of focus I need to become a part of the story.

There are other aspects of writing rituals.  For example, I read over the last scene I’ve written, often the last chapter.  It pulls me into the mood of the story, reminds me where exactly I was headed, evokes the emotions of my characters.  Equally important is reviewing my character profile from time to time.  It’s amazing how easy it is to stray from the original vision you set down for a particular character, to absently forget a quirk or theme you’d catalogued for adding character depth and continuity.  I write a summary for each chapter, briefly detailing the scenes I want to write and the emotions I want to highlight.  At the beginning of each writing session, I review.  This helps me with scene transition and foreshadowing.  Delish!

While I am an eager advocate for ritual, it’s best to remember that nothing is written in stone!  Deviate from your regular same-old-same-old once in a while.  You just may discover a new ritual, a new habit that will loose your creativity in unexpected ways and add a little something special to your butt-in-chair-writing-sessions.

~ Nadja