Tag Archives: villains

Character Motivations vs Morals

3 Apr

Not going to lie, I recently binge-watched The 100 through Netflix. For those of you who don’t know, The 100 is a TV show based off a young adult series with the same name. The first season follows a group of 100 kids dropped off on earth after a nuclear disaster destroyed the planet 97 years prior. It’s currently airing season 4. (I’m only on season 3.) Granted, I’m not normally a TV person. In fact, I usually have to be extremely ill to watch a bunch of TV, but I made an exception for The 100. Why? Because I fell in love during episode one. What do I love about The 100? The character motivations. They are 100% believable, even when the plot gets crazy, and I feel like that’s pretty rare.

There’s no spoilers in this article for The 100. Don’t worry. But definitely check out a few episodes to see what I mean.

Character motivations are so important, but often dwindled down to right vs. wrong. But motivation can (and should) be more than that. As an example from The 100, Bellamy just wants to save his sister, no matter what it requires (right or wrong) and whether she wants it or not. In fact, he often does horrible things in order to achieve his goal. Therefore, he is driven by his motivation to save his sister, not his morals to be a good person. On top of that, though he believes saving his sister is his responsibility, he doesn’t lie to himself and think he is morally perfect because of it. He doesn’t have a “hero complex.” An older brother complex, sure. But not a heroic one. He is driven by motivation, not morals.

Why do I bring up morals? Because morals is sometimes the opposite of motivation in fiction. Though they can be synonymous, it’s easy to let a character slide one way or the other. Personally, I always prefer believable motivations to morally-driven characters. Why? Because completely morally-driven characters can be hard to relate to. I mean, let’s be real. Sometimes, that self-righteous hero trope gets a little…boring.

I would much rather watch a show or read a book where the characters’ motivations are believable, morals be damned. Let’s take villains, for instance. The most popular writing tip today is that every bad guy believes they are the good guy, and while I love that tip, I disagree. Not all bad guys think they’re good guys. Granted, I like a bad guy who thinks he’s good. I often prefer them that way. But it’s also fun to follow a character who knows they are selfish, who has reasons for their selfishness, and owns it.

Of course, it’s always best to have both worlds, right? Motivations and morals (and sometimes one fueling the other) can be fun and exciting and terrifying and interesting. But I would like to see more books with strong, sometimes twisted motivations that overcome morally-driven characters.

What about you? Do you prefer characters with motivations or morals or a mixture of both?

Discuss away! Just don’t be the evil one and post spoilers about The 100 in the comments below. (Or at least put a warning at the top of your post.)

Thank you,

~SAT

P.S. Bad Bloods: July Thunder releases next Monday! I also received my first review from Babbling Books! “Another fantastic addition to the Bad Bloods series and a marvelous start to a new duology. Wonderful writing, captivating characters and a story that will reel you in until the last page, these Bad Bloods may have a tendency of breaking the rules, but their stories are way too good not to read!”

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#MondayBlogs Writing, Creating, and Loving Villains

7 Nov

Wizard World Comic Con invited me to speak on the panel Villains vs. Villains with authors Genese Davis, Jack Burgos, and RA Jones last month, and I loved it! We had a great time talking about what makes a villain likable, memorable, or just plain evil. Today, since I know so many of you couldn’t make it, I thought I’d share some of the awesome points brought up during the discussion.

Wizard World Comic Con Villain Crew. From left to right, RA Jones, Genese Davis, Shannon A. Thompson, Jack Burgos.

Wizard World Comic Con Villain Crew. From left to right, RA Jones, Genese Davis, Shannon A. Thompson, Jack Burgos.

First, there are so many different ways to tackle a villain. In regards to creating a person as the villain (rather than society or nature), you have the evil villain, the villain we love to hate, the sympathetic villain, the group of villains, and more. But here are my top three rules to keep in mind when creating any type of villain for your novel.

1. The Villain is the Hero in Their Own Book

Much like the sidekicks do not exist just to support the hero—as they say, your friends don’t exist just to support you, right?—the villain follows the same rule. They do not exist just to antagonize the hero. They have their own lives, desires, wishes, and fears. In my opinion, the best villains are the ones who believe they are the hero. If you had to write the story from their side, you could (even if you don’t agree with them). A great example of this is…history. Just look at the years and decades that came before us. Some of the worst, most vile human beings thought they were doing the right thing. A modern example of this is Valentine in The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

2. Avoid Clichés

I hate hate HATE the scorned woman villain trope. In fact, I hate the scorned man villain trope, too. Just because their lover—or their family—dies in the beginning, they become this crazy, evil maniac (generally for WORLD DOMINATION and REVENGE), and it becomes…yawn. Why? I think it’s a little silly. (And I say this as someone who has lost a mother, a friend, and more.) While revenge is A-okay in my villain book, I think we can tone it down from WORLD DOMINATION and get a little more personal, like—I don’t know—ruining one person’s life? Some clichés that were brought up included evil British doctors, (doctors of any sort, actually), and those that are just plain offensive, like people with disabilities who are evil because of their disabilities. (Please. Seriously. Stop.) Like with writing any character, research is key. Make sure you’re writing a genuine person who adds to the market in a unique way.

3. Overall Storyline

The villain doesn’t always have to lose. They could also tell the story or become good by the end. I’m dying for a book where the villain and hero become best friends (whether or not that’s a good thing or not), and I love it when the relationships between a hero and villain blurs. One of my favorite examples of this that I’m currently watching is The K2, a KDrama where the hero and villain have quite the interesting dynamic. Which brings me to my next point.

Challenge Yourself

Read books outside your favorite genre. Try reading the original comic books of those movies you’ve seen. Watch shows you wouldn’t normally try. Personally, I love KDramas and anime, and I think they have some awesome examples of villains that I don’t see as much of in Western shows. By expanding your palate on genres, mediums, and cultures, you will expand your understanding on creating villains, destroying villains, and more. If you read and watch the same types of stories over and over, you will most likely write the same types of villains.

So who wants a writing prompt?

Let’s take the villains we love to hate. How do you create one? One brought up by our crowd was Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. Honestly, she’s always reminded me that super strict substitute teacher everyone hated in middle school. So, here’s your prompt. Take an average everyday role and exaggerate it to villain status. In Umbridge’s case, she could’ve started off as that substitute teacher. Figure out what annoys you at the core (in this case, “by the book” rules, even when those rules can be destructive or harmful or hurtful). Try someone who is nosy. Try someone who is stuck-up or cruel. Play with “good” roles, too. If you have a great coach for instance, you can also have a terrible one. Any role can be a good one to play with when it comes to creating a villain. It’s all about their personality…and how evil they can get.

Now go take over the world.

Just kidding.

~SAT

Wizard World Comic Con: Shannon A Thompson

Wizard World Comic Con: Shannon A Thompson

P.S. Thanks for having me, Wizard World Comic Con! I had an absolute blast! If anyone is curious about their 2017 schedule, check it out by clicking here. I’m excited to announce that I’m working with the convention to return next year. We will see! Keep your fingers crossed for me. I am working hard to travel more and speak at different events around the country. If you’re a reader and want me at an event near you, be sure to e-mail their staff and let them know! Your input helps! (And I will love you forever.)

Also, I’ll be at YALLFest in Charleston, South Carolina THIS Saturday! If you want to meet up, just shoot me an e-mail at shannonathompson@aol.com. I would love to see you!

#SATurdate: MWG Conference, The Crown, Allergies, and Silicon Valley

7 May

Since last Saturday was a Ketchup post, this Saturdate post covers two weeks of information. TWO WEEKS?! Yes. Two weeks.

What I’m Writing:

13177904_1037600996287081_998105092686369145_nOkay! This is CRAZY, but I finished writing D, clocking in at 92,722 words! I’m officially in the editing stages, which is perfect, because this past week, I actually received some AWESOME feedback at the 101st Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference about this particular work, so I’m more excited than ever to keep fine-tuning this project. I mean, it has been in the works for nearly 5 years. That being said, I finally feel like it’s DEFINITELY headed in the right direction, so special thanks goes out to all the panelists behind all the workshops who helped me make a couple major decisions regarding this work. (Then, I can start working on The Tomo Trilogy again, right? Right?) For the record, D is a YA fantasy project I’d like to get off the ground AFTER The Tomo Trilogy, so trust me, I haven’t forgotten you tomo fans. I will get back to it. I will. But for now, I have a few things I’ll be adjusting in D for the coming weeks, so expect to hear more about that novel this month.

What I’m Publishing:

You can officially sign up for Bad Bloods Book Blitz through Xpresso Book Tours! I hope you’ll sign up to support this little author out. (You might also win some awesome prizes while you’re at it!)

BadBloodBlitzBanner-1

As many of you saw, the Bad Bloods book trailer released via YouTube, but in case you missed it, I am posting the video below. (Isn’t it beautiful and dramatic?)

Clean Teen Publishing’s lovely designer Marya also created Bad Bloods business cards and a banner for Penned Con. The first teaser released, too! Along with the next short story in the Bad Bloods Prequel. If you didn’t get a chance to read it, check out Michele’s story today. Who is Michele? Well, in Bad Bloods, she’s the “mother” figure of the Northern Flock, but in the prequel, she’s just a kid. A kid with a gift. And her prequel story actually shows up in November Snow, so reading her story will give you more details when you read the novels this July. Now…for more previews.

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All those lovely goodies discussed above

The #1lineWed preview one week was “pull,” so here is your preview: He pulled me against his chest, and either his, mine, or both of our hearts pounded between us.

The second #1lineWed preview was “pretty,” so here is that preview: Tessa was always there, growing flowers when we needed tomatoes more than pretty things.

Pre-Order Bad Bloods

November Rain, Part One, releases July 18, 2016

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November Snow, Part Two, releases July 25, 2016

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Visit the Pinterest and Facebook Pages.

What I’m Reading:

I finished The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, and of course, I loved it as much as I loved it the first time. I recommended The Raven Cycle to paranormal YA fans and readers who love sass and class. Light romance (with great tension) and beautifully poetic prose. Favorite quote? Solutions were easy, once you knew what was in your way. A magical and frightening tale of secrets and sarcastic heroines. You can read my five-star review by clicking here.

I also finished The Young Elites by Marie Lu. It was a gorgeous, dark, and stunning story of betrayal and magic. Recommended to young adult fantasy readers who enjoy darker elements, Italian Renaissance type settings, and anti-heroes or villains as the protagonist. Also to those of you who love first-person, present tense. Favorite Quote? Beauty and pain go hand in hand. You can read my four-star review by clicking here.

saturdate

And while attending MWG, I got my hands on two Month9Books: Emerge by Tobie Easton and Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley. I’m currently reading Emerge. Granted, I had to put it aside to read The Crown by Kiera Cass, because I’ve been waiting on this finale FOREVER. And yes, I finished The Crown in one night, and you can read my four-star review here.

Despite some pacing issues, I thought The Crown was a lovely ending to The Selection Series. I recommend it to YA readers of romance. Despite being labeled a dystopian, The Selection Series has little to no emphasis on the dystopian elements, especially by the time you get to Eadlyn’s story. Still, I enjoyed it as a fairy tale-princess-prince-finding-a-soul-mate story. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it’s definitely swoon worthy. My favorite quote? Maybe it’s not the first kisses that are supposed to be special. Maybe it’s the last ones.

On top of that, I received a LOVELY gift of 1800’s books directly from Scotland, along with a Thompson crest bookmark. I’m definitely in love.

What I’m Listening To:

What I’m Watching:

Season 3 of Penny Dreadful began, and so did Season 3 of Silicon Valley—two of my favorite TV shows (among the only ones that I watch), so I definitely started those seasons. I also watched the documentary Bridegroom and bawled my little writer eyes out.

What I’m Baking, Making, and Drinking:

I attempted to bake a rustic peach tart this week, but it came out more like a peach pie than a tart. I also burnt my thumb. Both of my thumbs. But not every baking experience can be perfect…and at least this mistake turned into a pie. I’m not sure mistakes get any better than that.

What I’m Wearing:

I have new sandals! Whew. Now to fight my cats from eating them…

What I’m Wanting:

13062327_1033327780047736_6389651930362409756_nMore time to smell the spring flowers. Despite my allergies… Wait. That just occurred to me. Can’t you tell this is my first time ever dealing with allergies?

What I’m Dreaming Of:

Lowes? I have no idea what I dreamt about, but all I remember is waking up thinking my dreams were sponsored by Lowes. I’m assuming this is because I get all of my paint palettes from there…so in a weird way, my dreams are sponsored by Lowes.

What Else Is Going On:

Allergies. I hate them. I’ve never had them before, but my older brother has, and I’ve constantly given him a hard time about them. I will never give him a hard time ever again. I can barely breathe. It’s terrible.

On a side note though, I managed to control my allergies enough to go to the 101st Annual Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference, and I had a great time! I met some wonderful people, I received some wonderful feedback, and I am marching into the future more hopeful than ever. Attend those conferences, folks! They will make your day.

~SAT

#WW Writing Tips for Book 2 in the Trilogy

23 Mar

I’ve written a few trilogies and a couple of series. I’ve stumbled and struggled and made mistakes and learned from them. During book one, I’ve worried how to create the world AND focus on a smooth storyline, and during book two, I’ve stood in front of my planning board and worried about how to overcome that bad sequel rep. You know the reputation I’m talking about. Book two must be better than book one, but it cannot outshine book three. In fact, book three is supposed to outshine book one and book two combined. I have bitten my nails over this…and then I realized how silly that was.

Here’s the deal: Book two gets a BAD rep. It is often the most hated book in any trilogy—by writers and readers—because it’s seen as a transitional book, a book that takes the readers from the brand-new world in book one to the mighty explosive ending in book three.

Book two is boring. But it doesn’t have to be.

I honestly believe we are looking at book two in all the wrong ways, so here are some writing tips to consider.

1. Give Book 2 CREDIT

You’ve built a world in book one. You’ve created characters and described a setting and started a story and set up the tension. Book one is the adventure…and then there is book three, the explosive ending. It’s the climax of the series. It’s the ultimate tension and resolution. Book one gets credit for being creative, and book three gets credit for being explosive, so where is book two’s credit? It’s called a transitional book like that’s a bad thing, but I see it as a great opportunity. This is the book where you can focus on the story without worry. You have already built your world and your characters, and while everything is still going to grow, you have much more room to focus on the storyline. Give book two credit for all the wonderful, crazy, and brave elements you’ll finally get to explore in-depth. Let it be important. For me, book two is where my characters are often the bravest, because book two is where my characters DECIDE book three will happen. For me, this is the book I love writing the most. In fact, book three is the hardest for me, because I have to let everyone go. So enjoy book two while you’re there.

2. Consider Your Subgenre

This is completely different scenario, but I’ve spoken with a lot of writers who were absolutely enamored with book one but simply don’t feel the same spark going into book two. Well, maybe it isn’t a trilogy or series. That’s always a possibility. But if you’re sure this is a trilogy and you’re unsure how to continue your trilogy, consider sub-genres. What is a subgenre? Exactly how it sounds. It is a genre that pushes your main genre forward. Think of it like a subplot. In a story, we have a main plot, but then we have subplots or character arcs that push the entire plot forward. In a genre’s case, this subgenre could help tone the novel. Example? So you have a sci-fi book. Analyze your book by stripping out the sci-fi and consider what the plot would be without it. Maybe it’s a thriller. Now look at book two and consider changing it up. Maybe book two will be a sci-fi mystery instead of a sci-fi thriller. It will force your characters into a new situation and mindset, and it might just be the element you are missing to have each book stand on its own. The podcast Writing Excuses is covering the elemental genre right now, so they dance on the topic of subgenres a lot. Definitely recommended!

3. NEVER Hold Back

I'm writing a sequel right now, and I had to change gears 45,000 words in. Embrace it. Pull out those Sticky Notes and map out that madness.

I’m writing a sequel right now, and I had to change gears 45,000 words in. Embrace it. Pull out those Sticky Notes and map out that madness.

Since there’s this expectation that book three MUST be better than book two, I’m terrified when I read articles suggesting authors hold themselves back during the sequel, so that book three will be the most exciting. Bullshit. Absolute bullshit. As I tweeted out during my research of this topic, NEVER hold yourself back. Always write the best book that you can, and worry about “overcoming” book three later. Even if you’re writing book two and it seems extremely explosive, write it. Even if you have no idea what you’ll do in book three, write it. I am an author who believes in trusting your characters. If your story is asking for it, listen to it. Let book two be great. Let book two break the stigma. Let it be the best book in the series as you’re writing it. Write it in the best way that you can. That is the only thing you should be worried about. Everything else can happen later. As an example, I worked with a client who kept worrying about their protagonist. He insisted on killing the villain in the second book. But what will I do in book three? I couldn’t answer that, but I could advise them to try it. They did, and it turned out book three gained a new villain. The protagonist himself. Trust your characters. Trust your work. Give book two its dues. I played with this concept myself in The Timely Death Trilogy. The trilogy revolves around the idea of a “prophecy” and everyone automatically assumed it would happen in book three. Of course readers were quite thrown off when it happened in book two. I wish I could say I planned that from the beginning, but I didn’t. I did, however, listen to my gut. I listened to book two’s heart, and I let it live.

Now, go write book two with confidence and excitement.

If you’re interested, I wrote another article revolving around this topic: Writing Tips: Sequel, Trilogy, Series, Etc. 

~SAT

11987_1007269949320186_6557017595173577508_nThe content disclosure for November Snow released yesterday! Read the details by clicking here.

Bad Bloods in 35 words or less: 17-year-old Serena is the only bad blood to escape execution. Now symbolized for an election, she must prove her people are human despite hindering abilities before everyone is killed and a city is destroyed.

Add Bad Bloods to Goodreads:

November Rain and November Snow

Visit the FacebookPinterest, and the Extras page.

#AuthorinaCoffeeShop Episode 12 starts this Thursday at 7 PM (CDT) via Twitter’s @AuthorSAT. What is Author in a Coffee Shop? Just as it sounds. I sit in a coffee shop, people watch, and tweet out my writer thoughts while hanging out with you. I hope to see you there!

SBScoverSince today’s post was about book 2 in a trilogy, here’s an excerpt from Seconds Before Sunrise, book 2 in The Timely Death Trilogy:

The lights were a collection of creatures I couldn’t have imagined on my own. Some had three arms. Others had weapons that looked impossible to carry. Their fingernails outstretched like blades, and their flushed faces suggested they were waiting longer than I thought.

“They aren’t human,” Pierce muttered, tensing.

I smirked, fighting the urge to correct him. None of us were.

Read Minutes Before Sunset, book 1, for FREE

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Seconds Before Sunrise: book 2:

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Death Before Daylight: book 3:

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