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Sunday, December 3, 2023

Let's talk villains and heroes

cj Sez: Let’s talk about how to write a “real” villain. The antagonist, like the protagonist, needs a yen and a yang to be a whole person—i.e., a personality where seemingly opposite forces may be complementary, where, together, the dual personalities make the whole.

The yin yang symbol is often referred to as "taijitu"
 —a Chinese symbol that represents the interconnection of two opposites

  Captivating stories require that both protagonist and antagonist need some kind of flaw to make the characters interesting. Perhaps the villain’s flaw is that s/he is not thoroughly evil but hides some spark of sympathetic “good” inside. Maybe s/he sends money to an animal rescue shelter because of the memory of a cherished childhood pet. Or the antagonist supports an invalid mother with the money earned from doing evil deeds. 

Like the protagonist, the antagonist needs motivation, a goal, and some psychological reason for that motivation. A perfect villain is the same thing as a perfect hero, a cartoon of a character. You have to ask the same questions of the antagonist that you do of the protagonist; the questions that lead to the plot and theme: What does s/he want, why, and what will s/he do to reach the goal?

  Maybe s/he wants to do something as benign as to cause a little family ruckus in order to get attention. Or maybe s/he wants to kill someone. But why? The answer to that is what helps to give the character dimension as s/he pushes toward their goal.

  Depending on how involved they are in the story, it follows that tertiary characters require a bit of similar development.

  Authors really have to know their characters. I write little bios for all my characters, including the villain. When I’ve created their background worlds, I know what makes them tick, how they will react, and what they will say in the situation I create. Their backgrounds are never inserted as an info dump, though pieces and bits may surface during their dialogues. Knowing my characters inside and out also helps me develop deep point of view scenes.

  As readers, what do you expect from the characters? As writers, how do you get to know your characters?


  In last week’s post, LP wrote about author brands. Mobile author Carrie Dalby has such a signature brand. She writes Southern Gothic stories, incorporating the historic architecture of Mobile, Alabama, in her settings. Her latest effort is ALLIANCE: WASHINGTON SQUARE SECRETS 2, which launches on Tuesday, December 5…it’s available for pre-order through your favorite bookstore/app.

  Carrie says: ALLIANCE is a fast-paced paranormal Southern Gothic as opposed to the slower pace of my family sagas. There is a new cast of diverse characters, as well as a few familiar faces and locations. I hope you'll find time during this holiday season to read. The main section of the book is set December 1912-January 1913 with Christmas and New Year's scenes.”


  A book signing is in your future should you choose to stop by The Haunted Book Shop on Dec. 8, from 6 8 p.m. during Mobile’s LoDa Art Walk. Local authors, Rebecca Barrett and Carrie Dalby are being featured, so if you’re in the Mobile, AL, area, you are cordially invited to stop by and say “hey!”


  Okay, that’s it for today. You-all guys keep on keeping on, and I’ll try to do the same. Raising prayers for a happy and safe you and yours.

Now some words from my sponsors:

  Christmas is THE gift-giving holiday of the year, and books are always great suggestions for gifts—they don’t require daily watering, they’re not fattening, and they are very easy to wrap, even two or three at a time. 

  I have stories in several anthologies with Christmas as the theme. Here are two to put on your shopping list:

  This anthology has 70 stories written by adults recounting their extraordinary childhood Christmas memories. 

  Written under my maiden name of Marilyn Olsein, my short story is titled “Dancing with Daddy,” and relates how, after a major upheaval in our lives, six-year-old me reconnected with the Swedish father I could no longer understand.  The anthology is free on Kindle.  Buy Now   


FINALLY HOME brings you eight Christmas stories all about our four-legged friends and the special people who rescue them. From funny, to sad, to romantic, there’s something here to tug at everyone’s heart strings. 

  My short story, "Puppy Love," is included.

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* Price Increase Alert:  My novels, THE DAWGSTAR and DEATH ON THE YAMPA will be going up in price on Jan 1, 2024. Right now, they are priced at only $2.99.

  The novels are fast-paced, thriller/suspense stories with sassy banter and a smidgen of romance. The books are available on Amazon or through your favorite eTailer and bookstore. Got a library card? You can read the ebooks free from Hoopla.

  Little note: Angela Trigg, the RITA Award-winning author and owner of The Haunted Book Shop has a few signed copies of my paperback books in stock. TO ORDER, contact:  

  If she happens to be sold out, shoot me an email. I have a small stash (with a discounted price plus shipping).
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