Darkness and Starlight – My Eternal Love for Final Fantasy VI

It was the Christmas of 1994 and Wee Little Me was preparing to open his presents, hoping beyond hope that one particular gift was there among all the glittery wrapped packages. It wasn’t that tough to figure out that it was – if you were a nerdy kid in the ’90s you could probably tell the shape of a SNES cartridge, even wrapped up.  I tore into that package, each piece of wrapping paper shed revealed more and more of that treasured box art until it was displayed in all of it’s purple-silhouetted, Moogle-emblazoned, Nintendo-licensed glory. Final_Fantasy_III_(NA)_(SNES) My writing and storytelling is informed by decades of consuming science fiction and fantasy novels, video games and comics, but nothing captured and fueled my imagination quite like Final Fantasy VI did (it was released as III in the US at the time, like the box above says, but it was really the sixth game in the series. Weird distribution issues at the time or something, I guess). The diversity of characters, the intricacy of the plot, the epic scope of it all (the gameplay was excellent too, especially innovative for the times) was beyond anything I had ever seen at that point in my life, and it still remains my favorite game to this day. (Some will say Final Fantasy VII is the best game in the series (or of all time). They’re wrong and they should feel bad for being so wrong). So in today’s post I thought I’d share with you a few reasons why Final Fantasy VI is so important to me as writer and how it’s influenced my stories (and life in general) so much. Spoiler warning for a 20 year old (OMG HAS IT REALLY BEEN THAT LONG) game, I guess?


Final Fantasy VI has enormous cast full of diverse and compelling personalities, fourteen playable characters in all, but the two “main” characters were and still stood out the most to me.

TerraThe game opens with Terra Branford leading squad of Imperial soldier into the town of Narshe, seeking to capture a magical creature known as an Esper. Terra does not do this of her own free will – she is enslaved my the Empire, a magic wielding warrior, brainwashed to serve the Empire’s nefarious ends. Terra has a strange reaction to the Esper, freeing her mind from Imperial programming and setting her on a quest to discover her true nature (she turns out to be half human/half Esper) and save the other Espers from the Empire’s clutches.

What drew me to Terra was not only is she a sword wielding, fire hurling badass, but she’s also a wayward soul, being from both in the human and Esper worlds, but truly belonging to neither. This spoke to me, myself and so many of you I’m sure have had times where you felt astray, unsure of who they are the path they should take.  I like to put this uncertainty into my characters as well, the hero’s journey should not be only to defeat whatever villain is set against them, but it should be a journey of self discovery.


Celes Chere is much like Terra, she works in service to the Empire, but instead of enslaved soldier, she’s an honored general. She becomes disillusioned with the Empire after learning the true depths of depravity it has delved to in making many of its conquests. She battles against her former compatriots, to take down the Empire and expose their vicious crimes.

In the second half of the game, a great cataclysm separates Celes from the rest of the party and for a time, she becomes the main character. She’s alone in a desolate hellscape, but instead of laying down and dying, she takes up the task of gathering the heroes together again and setting the world back the way it was. Again, like Terra, Celes battles not only there enemies in front of her, but her own conflict within. Having spent her entire life being groomed for and in service to the Empire, she’s also astray, trying to find a new purpose. Her strength to battle onward against impossible odds showed me what a true hero could be, and I’ve tried to inject that never-say-die attitude in my most heroic characters too.

What so great is that even though they’re so different, Terra Branford and Celes Chere are two side of the same coin – both were weapons of the Empire, one against her will and one of her own volition. The story of how they fought against forces controlling them, keeping them from becoming who they really are and finally overcoming and them is really quite inspiring.

They were Strong Female Characters before people asked Joss Whedon about them at every single con he attends. Both took hold of their own destinies and carried the weight of the story on their shoulders during different parts of the game. Both eschewed the roles that had been given to them and cut their own paths both together and alone.


KefkaEverybody’s talking about Jared Leto’s Joker right now (I love it, for the record) but let us not forget about another hateful harlequin that inflicted more death and destruction then Mistah Jay could ever hope.

I take a great deal of pride in creating villains that have depth of character, are actually competent in their schemes and a real threat to the the heroes. The main antagonist of FFVI, Kefka Palazzo, informed a great many of those features.

He’s not even the main villain when the game begins, the Emperor is, but over the course of the first half, he manipulates both your characters and the other members of the Empire’s inner circle, eventually grabbing the power the Emperor seeks for himself. He’s equal parts Joker and Iago, an agent of chaos who uses intricate plotting and deception to incite hysteria. He’s smart villain who while sneaking around always feels like a threat and eminently hateable becuase of all his despicable actions (like poisoning the water supply for a whole city). Each move he makes is one step closer to his ultimate goal – absolute power and total global ruin – and guess what?

He actually succeeds.

Manipulating both his enemies and allies, Kefka becomes a god and actually destroys the world halfway through the game. The heroes are soundly defeated and you, the player, are left to pick up the pieces. It was the ultimate cliffhanger – were this the end of a book, I would have begged my parents to bring me to the local Friar Tuck (now that’s a dated reference) to pick up the next volume.

What made Kefka’s villainy so great to me and something that’s been impressed upon my writing, is the fact that his machinations set the heroes up against impossible odds. He destroyed the world and scattered them across its scorched remains. As a kid playing the game back then, it seemed like an impossible task for me and Celes to bascially start all over again. The hopelessness his actions instilled into me and the characters made the journey of gathering the team back together and finally defeating him all the more satisfying.



Just look at that cityscape. Yoshitaka Amano is incredible, isn’t he?

One of the most important things that stuck with me about Final Fantasy VI was the aesthetics of the world. It was a mash-up of old school fantasy settings (which the series had pretty much only been up to this point), but also infused different types of technologies into it. At the very start of the game, Terra and her crew are riding into Narshe in Magitech armor, which are basically huge, plodding magic-powered Iron Man suits. The Empire’s capital of Vector is a sprawling industrial monstorsity of factories and laboratories where the Espers are drained of their magic and made part of the Empire’s engines of  war.

This blew me away as a kid, having never seen this kind of fusion of magic and technology (except of course when I would throw caution to the wind and mix and match my medieval and space LEGO sets, but that was a rare occasion). The amalgamation of classic fantasy & futuristic tech is something I’ve carried with me into my writing too. The capital city of Rooksfell in FATES in designed much like Vector and in RADIANCE OF BLACK, there’s spirit-powered automatons, designed much like the Magitech armors.

The whole magic and machine is probably a bit overused at this point in the genre, but I don’t really care, I still love it and will use it from now until an evil clown destroys Planet Earth.

So there you have it, a few reasons why Final Fantasy VI has been such a huge influence in my writing. What about you guys? What work of fiction had the biggest impact on your writing and why?

Also, Terra’s Theme is the best video game song ever too.

The Wicked & The Divine: Villainy in Supernatural


Eariler this year, myself and fellow Scribe, the inimitable Shauna Granger, wagered on who could watch all of Buffy or all of Supernatural in the least amount of time. I made it to Season 5 of Supernatural by the time she finished Buffy. Tried. Really I did.

I loved Supernatural so much that, even though I lost the bet, I continued on and finished the series. And now. almost a year after I started, I’m happy to say I’m finally caught up.

Um wow.

What an absolutely wonderful ride it was.

There’s so much about Supernatural I’ve come to adore over the course of this year – the humor, the drama, the Cas Eating Stuff, the Racist Ghost Trucks, and so much more.

One thing I was consistently impressed with the during the entire run of Supernatural was the quality of the villains. I’ve always said a compelling antagonist is just as important to a story as compelling protagonist. One you can truly hate, but maybe at times also empathize with. I’ve tried to follow my own advice and have tired to write compelling villains in all of my stories.  So, now that I’ve seen all there is to see, I thought it appropriate to look back on the whole Supernatural series and reflect on some of the great villains the show has crafted.

And it seems only fitting that my final Supernatural vs. Buffy post be me first post on Spellbound Scribes.

SPOILERS below, so if you’re caught up with Supernatural – tread lightly.

So without further adieu, my Top Ten Supernatural Villains:

10. Eve


Eve, to me, was the perfect example of excellent concept, but terrible execution. The idea there was a Mother of All the different monsters the WinBros battled over the years is a really great one, and should have provided formidable foe for the boys in S6. Imagine, if you will, her leading an army of the creatures the Bros had vanquished in previous seasons – Vamps, Werewolves, and Dragons – on the march to extract revenge for there fallen brethren?

Well that’s not really what happened. Instead she killed some truckers, made some people murder each other and then was quickly dispatched by Sam and Dean well before the end of the season. I’m gonna be honest, I thought S6 was the worst on of all (though I did love Homebody Dean). It was a bit of a meandering mess – seemed to me like the new writers weren’t sure what to do after the wrap of the big Lucifer storyline in S5 and were just trying to find their feet.

A full season narravtive focused on Eve and the monsters of Purgatory, instead of muddling it up with Souless Sam and Crowley & Castiel fighting over whatever and the Raphael stuff, would have been much better, in my opinion.

9. Gordon Walker

Gordon Supernatural Crazy Gif

Gordon is another Hunter who appears throughout S2, most as a rival to the WinBros, but with methods much more severe than Dean and Sam, even killing humans . He even shows up in S3 as a vampire to further menace the Bros.

Admittedly he’s a fairly minor villain in the grand scheme of the Supernatural mythos. The reason he’s on the list is because I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hero’s Evil Mirror trope. Gordon might not have been the most threatening villain they faced, but he did provide a glimpse of what Sam and Dean might become if they became so obsessed with Hunting and lost sight of their own humanity. The episode in S2 where he challenges Sam to kill him, did well to show they would never cross that line, even so early in the series.

8. Dean Winchester

Supernatural Demon Dean gif

Okay, hear me out. I know there was only like three or four episodes in S10 with Demon Dean (though I’m not convinced, based on the last episode, that we’ve seen the last if him), but what we have seen is awesome.

I’ve been firmly #TeamDean since the beginning, but he’s always had this dudebro vibe about hie. Deanmon is that vibe turned up to eleven – he’s the ultimate arrogant douchebro villain. Drinking, carousing, just being an overall jerk to everyone around him. The way he dismantled Cole, taunting him about devoting his entire life killing Dean, only to have all of his dreams of vengeance crushed so definitively was just brutal.

Deanmon just does not give a single eff about anyone but himself. Not even Sam, who he abandoned, sold out to Cole and mocked mercilessly for lamenting their lost brotherly love. Some of it cut really deep too – like blaming Sam for the death of their mother – and even though it was the demon speaking and not Dean himself, you can tell it really hurt Sam in away that much of the physical injuries he suffered over the years did.

And how can you not love that Deanmon x Crowley Bromance?

7. Abaddon

Supernatural Abbadon GifThe would-be King of Hell in S8 and 9 after Crowley is incapacitated by Sam and Dean. Chosen by Lucifer himself to be one of the fabled Knights of Hell – who according to legend slew the other Archangels – she is much more than just another demon for the boys to slay.

What I liked so much about Abaddon was the dichotomy between her and Crowley as rulers of Hell. Crowley abided by the traditional ways of soul collecting – contracts, coercion – still evil and deceitful stuff to be sure – but in a classy old school demonic way. Abaddon was all about gaining devotion through intimidation and violence. She had no repsect for the old ways and sought to take the Throne of Hell by any means possible. Anyone so power hungry they would break even Hell’s code of honor is truly a foe to be reckoned with. As vicious as Crowley is sly, even besting him in combat at the end of S8, Abaddon would have been been higher up on this list, were she not overshadowed by the other Big Bad in S9.

But we’ll get to him later.

6. Meg Masters

Supernatural Meg Shhhh GifSupernatural’s first Big Bad holds a special place in my heart. Even though she was the henchman of Ol’ Yellow Eyes, I thought Meg was a much more effective foil to the Winbros in S1. Mostly because he lingered in the background, while Meg did his dirty work. Plus she acutally had some personality, where I found Yellow Eyes to be a much more one-dimensional baddie. With a combination of cunning and cruelty, Meg provided a plapable and sustained threat to Sam and Dean beyond the Monster of the Week creatures that were so prevalent in the early seasons.

Supernatural Meg2Meg returns in S7 to be more of an ally to the WinBros than a foe – helping them out against Crowley, who she did not take too kindly to as the new King of Hell. I liked Meg Two, more then Meg One. Even though she wasn’t so much of a villain anymore, but more just a demon looking out for her own self interest. She was funny and snarky, and had some great chemistry with Dean. Meg is also one of the few villains in Supernatural that actual had some sort of redemption, sacficing herself so that the WinBros and Cas could escape with Angel Tablet.

She actually got a full character arch over the course of nine seasons, which in and of itself is pretty impressive.

5. Ruby

Supernatural_Ruby_One_gifAnother Mid-Boss type villain like Meg, Ruby was one of the main antagonists in S3 and 4. Also like Meg, we were treated to a Ruby One and a Ruby Two.

Supernatural_Ruby_Two_gifShe was very effective in fomenting distrust between the WinBros, Dean thinking that she was manipulating them for her own ends, and Sam convinced that she was going to help them destroy Lilith and keep Lucifer from being unleashed.

What made Ruby so great is that there was some real doubt as to whether she was on the same side as the WinBros or just pulling their strings for her demonic masters. Her character had depth, because while there was always a lingering doubt over her true intentions, for most of her time on the show she seemed to have a real kinship with Sam.

Of course, she did end up betraying Sam and Dean, but the fact she and Sam had such a close relationship made that betrayal all the more painful.

4. Lucifer

Supernatutal_lucifer_point_headtiltThe first four seasons of Supernatural built up to this, the Biggest of the Big Bads, Morningstar himself – Lucifer!

Played with a simmering, tempered evil by Mark Pelligrino, Lucifer was the Big Bad I had been hoping to see since episode one. Unfortunately, I thought he was a bit underused in Season 5, appearing only for what seemed like a quarter of the episodes. But when he was there, he was commanding and threatening presence.

So why then is he at #4, if his was actually in the show so little? The parts he was in were truly magnificent. When faced with a villain as powerfully as him, there was a real doubt as to how the WinBros could emerge victorious. He was supposed to be the endgame for the series and he carried the presence of a truly unstoppable force. He was also a well rounded character, sympathetic for the fact he was cast out of heaven for not revering mankind, no truly great sin as we were led to believe, but became wicked and embittered after so many years of imprisonment.

Also, each season required Sam and Dean to acquire some sort of McGuffin to beat the Big Bad, and having to defeat each of the Four Horsemen (Death, most notably) was easily the best of these fetch quests in the series.

3. Metatron

Supernatural Metatron Stupid Angels

It was a close call between the Number Two and Three slot.

If you told me Booger from Revenge of the Nerds would be cast perfectly as a vile, conniving and manipulative Angelic Scribe, I would have called you a crazy person. His resume is pretty solid – manipulated Cas and the WinBros the get the angels kicked out of Heaven, killed Kevin (by proxy, but still), convinced the world that he was a messianic figure. Not bad. But what puts Metaron over the top is how he’s played with such perfect, sniveling creepiness by Curtis Armstrong.

He has the self-righteous smugness of a powerless man given finally the power he always desired, but gained through the most deceitful ways. He’s like a Super Angel Internet troll. But here’s the thing – he’s not entirely wrong. Heaven was a mess, abandoned by God, consumed by civil war – all good reason for someone to step up in a void of leadership to take control. His intentions would not be so bad were it not for his methods being so despicable.

Some of my love for him also come from being a writer and of course, one of my favorite episodes of the series was ‘Meta Fiction’. The way Metatron talks about the nature of stories, how he believed he was the hero of this story, not the WinBros and Co, showed a real depth to the character and he was not just another one note villain. And this one quote is just perfect:

What writer doesn’t love a good twist? My job is to set up interesting characters and see where they lead me. The byproduct of having well-drawn characters is they may surprise you. But I know something they don’t know – the ending. How I get there doesn’t matter as long as everybody plays their part.

2. Dick Roman

Supernatural Dick RomanWhen I first started watching, everyone warned me about S7. Everyone said S7 was the worst, that the show went off the rails before getting back on track for S8.


I thought the Leviathan storyline was a nice breather from all of the Angel/Demon stuff in the previous six seasons before delving back into it for S8. It wasn’t earth-shatteringly great or anything, but I enjoyed it. Much more than I thought I would based on the dire warnings I got about it.

The highlight was, of course, the main villain for the season – Mister Richard Roman. The personification of the evils of capitalism, Dick Roman was a ruthless businessman possessed by an ancient malevolence. Much more subtle in his wickedness than many of the other WinFoes, Roman plotted to take over the world by subjugating the populace through his company’s products and making mankind a renewable food source for the Leviathans.

Smart. Subtle. Sinister.

The meta-commentary associated with his character about the nature of business in America and the slavish devotion to consumer products people been trained to trust was just excellent,too. Roman had the perfect combination of arrogance and intelligence to be the figurehead for this particular brand of evil.

And he killed Bobby, so yeah.

1. Crowley

Supernatural Crowley King gifThe gif says it all.

Snarky. Clever. British.

As much an adversary as he is an ally to the WinBros, Crowley is one of the most complex and well crafted characters in the entire show. Malicious and deceptive when he needs to be, but also flawed and surprisingly human when you least expect it.

He’s everything a good villain should be.

He’s a legitimate threat to the heroes, still an empathetic figure at times.

He’s hateable as he is lovable.

He’s just a great character, and end of the day, hero, villain, whatever, being a great character, one that the reader or viewer actually cares about, it what’s most important.

Crafting The Crafty


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