Friday, September 22, 2017

Villainous Struggles

Writing villains might come easy to some people, but creating a well-rounded, believable, (hopefully charismatic) villain is something I have to put a lot of careful thought and planning into. Protagonists and love interests often jump into my mind fully-formed, like Athena popping from Zeus’ head, but villains evade me. I think it is because for so long, I put my characters into categories such as those I just mentioned: protagonists, love interests, family members, friends and villains. And the reason why my villains just weren’t working was because I was treating them as such.

That’s when I realized…


So, you know that sexist, pig-headed idiot who just hollered at you when you walked past them? In their head, they’re not the villain of that situation. They will go back home to their own story with their own justifications (however misguided) for shouting at people on the street. There are millions of personalities in this world, but most people don’t go around believing they’re evil. No one does evil deeds for evil’s sake. Take Voldemort, for example, who is pretty evil in my opinion… even old Voldy has a tragic past and quite a sad story following him into adulthood. He has reasons for believing the things he does and has been shaped by the events that have befallen him. OK so his twisted personality has meant that those events have turned him into a no-nosed, back-of-Quirrell’s-head weirdo, but the point is that we, the reader, understand to a degree what contributed to Voldemort’s villainy.

Many of the most iconic villains in books and TV have their own stories, which is what makes them so engaging to the reader/watcher. Having someone do ‘bad things’ isn’t enough to make your reader want to see their demise – we want to know their goals so we can rejoice when they’re scuppered, and their reasons for being the way they are so we can understand them in a sense.

Another brilliant example of this is Cersei from Game of Thrones. I won’t give away any spoilers, but we can all agree that Cersei is an awful human being. She has done atrocities that definitely place her in the ‘evil’ category. However, she is so damn interesting! She loves her children and family and puts them above all others, and is completely unapologetic about this fact. Despite her fortunate upbringing in terms of being ‘born well’, she has been discriminated against her whole life because of her gender, being forced to marry someone she despised instead of inheriting anything of her own right. Cersei has suffered hardships in her life, and therefore we understand why she has hardened into the person she is, even if we hate her!

When it comes to writing your villain, I would think of the word ‘antagonist’ instead, which derives from the Greek tragedy Antigone. Antigone is actually the protagonist of her own story, but she is seen to Creon as an antagonist as she doesn’t want to obey his rules and goes against his goals. This shows that your antagonist doesn’t have to be ‘bad’, they just need to want to stop the protaganist from reaching their goals.

Essentially, writing a good baddie is just like writing your goodie – you need to know who they are, what their history is, why they act the way they do and what they want to achieve.

Make us hate them. Make us understand them. Make us love to hate them. And make us rejoice when your protagonist triumphs over them.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Let's Get Real About Villains

Writing villains is a tricky subject for YA writers. Some people might think they should be humanized while others might think they should be shown for what they are. Most people are complex and have layers in real life. But the truth is a villain’s cruelty and misdeeds shouldn’t be diminished while still showing they have some depth.

Let’s tackle the villain’s cruelty and misdeeds aspect first. Not diminishing what a villain does is important. One pop culture example is the villain Klaus from The Vampire Diaries. He has killed multiple people, and generally has no regard for human life (Klaus is a hybrid, which means he’s half vampire and half werewolf). But his character is eventually watered down and shown as less extreme. Doing so is a mistake. Life might not be black and white, yet labels can sometimes be helpful. And that applies to writing. A villain’s treachery shouldn’t be erased just because her or she might be attractive.

Having some depth is still important for villains, though. But that doesn’t mean a villain gets a magical blank slate at some point. For instance, I have the villain care about her sister in one of my YA Fantasy novels. Although that doesn’t erase the villain’s behavior. Her dynamic with her sister exists only to show she isn’t one dimensional.

There’s one last aspect that should be mentioned with villains. They can’t have all the victories. That means a hero needs an occasional victory that just doesn’t happen at the end of the book, episode, or movie. People complain about a hero possibly not having enough conflict and things coming too easily. Well, the same idea applies to villains. Things shouldn’t be too easy for them because they shouldn’t have all the fun.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Book Release Tips

My debut novel, Betrayal of the Band, released in August. Yay! Through the last month, I discovered a few marketing successes that caught me by surprise, and I wanted to share.
First off, marketing is not a strong area of mine, since it requires talking to strangers. Strangers who might reject you. But with the help of family and friends who love me (more than I expected!), I’ve managed to do some successful marketing. 
  1. A Local Press Release. When the book officially released on August 11, a friend wrote a press release for me. Totally unexpected, and not something I’d even considered. She sent the release into the paper and the news stations. The paper printed it the following week, and I was invited to attend an authors’ day at an education conference happening in October and received a congratulations postcard from the Friends of a local library. Also, the press release included two book signing events I had scheduled, and a local bookstore owner attended one to invite me to do a signing or event at his store. So notifying local news agency of a release can generate marketing opportunities!
  2. Book Signings. Bookstores are the obvious ones, but depending on your publisher, Barnes and Noble or other big booksellers may not be an option. But bookstores aren’t the only places to sell books. Local businesses like to be involved in their community, and you, a local author, are a member of the community, a really awesome member of the community because you actually wrote and published a book. Don’t confine book signings or selling to bookstores only. If your community has a First Friday or other regular event where businesses stay open later and/or offer special events to entice customers, ask about doing a signing there. If the book features a tea drinker, talk to a local tea shop. If the book features a musician, talk to music stores. Get creative. Readers don’t only shop at bookstores.
  3. A Party. Throw a party and celebrate your accomplishment! This party can be big or small, real or online. Whatever kind of budget or resources you have, use them to invite everyone who has support you and encouraged you and gotten excited for you to help celebrate. I don’t know if the party I hosted was a big success as far as marketing and sales go, but the event was a boost for me, and a chance to celebrate with people I love while also introducing a few new readers to my book. And any opportunity that involves cupcakes and prizes has to fun for everyone.
What about you? Any book release and marketing successes? Any big plans for a debut release? 

Sarah Tipton is a writer of Christian Young Adult fiction. Her debut novel, Betrayal of the Band, released in August 2017. Visit to connect.