- Killing everyone. The enemy has an evil army and is killing everyone for world domination. But what happens when he wins? They are just killing everyone and taking no slaves, so who will be left to do everything? Will he make his evil goblin bake him cake? Will another one spend his days nurturing a crop of watermelons? Or will he sulk because he clearly didn’t think this plan through?
- Evil Creatures. An easy way to make an enemy is to say they are all evil creatures. Now, I love Lord of the Rings as much as the next nerd, but it gets a little old to believe that “oh, they follow him because they are all evil,” and that is that. You can have a war-hungry enemy, but it would make it seem more real if you give the army a reason to be war-hungry. Are they promised better farmland? Will they get power? Riches? What’s motivating them to listen to the king? Why do they care if they win?
- The faceless army. Too often writers only concern themselves with the heroes of stories and that makes an entire army of boring look-a-likes and the evil leader who we don’t meet until three books later. Give some of your enemies a name; show us that his army is as passionate as he is.
- No clear plan. They are supposed to be a smart enemy, but show us that! Show us them damming up the river upstream to stop water from getting to the good guys. Show us them spying, scouting, and giving false information. There can be more to an enemy army than facing off on in a field.
In a book I read recently, the main character meets a dude, falls madly in love, then the dude dies. We are supposed to be sad, but my thoughts were more along the lines of “oh well.”
It was not that the death itself was badly written, it was that all the relationship building with the main character was done in summary. We are told they trained together every night, but we were not there with them.
People need to remember that when you have relationship building moments between characters, it is also a relationship building moment for the reader. By summarizing all the relationship building moments, the readers never get the chance to build an opinion on the character. That leads to readers not really caring as much as we should when they character dies.
So imagine this; the sun has gone down and there is a lull in the action. So your character goes home, walks into their room, and is all alone. It is still too early for bed, so what do they do next?
Often in novels, the only defining trait of characters is their occupation. A knight fights, trains, and does his other knightly duties…but nothing else. Even in YA books, the teen characters are said to be average teens, but many books have teens that seem to have no personality.
Does your character like to read books? Play video games? Do they play an instrument? Do they love crossword puzzles?
When you add in hobbies to characters, it adds way more depth into personality.
For example, a grim trenchcoat giantly muscled superhero might be more interesting if someone walked into his house and discovered he is a collector of ceramic cats. A stereotypical cheerleader might be more interesting if she is secretly obsessed with video games and even cosplays to conventions.
We all do something when we do not have something to do. So my question to you writers out there is what does your character do when they have nothing else to do? What hobby do they have that is not related to their job?
Last weekend I was able to try archery! My uncle owns an archery shipping supply store, so this year he gave me a bow, but I wasn’t actually able to try it until last weekend. I finally got a target, and practiced shooting. I wasn’t great at it, but I wasn’t horrible. The activity turned out to be really relaxing; and just might be my newest hobby! I also hope it also helps with any archery related writing I do from now on as well.
I haven’t had the time to do a video at home, so I decided to do one on the way to work. I did not really work out as plan(coming out more like rambles then anything), but I tried to talk on my newest theory of creating the plan of the main villain before plotting the story of the main characters.
Featured Writers Resource:
Here is my take on how to do chosen one plot-lines well, and why you should avoid character favoritism.
*Written version coming soon*
The last words of someone dying is a cliche in fiction. In this video, I give some tops on how you might go about this problem a different way, and why you should.
Mentor Characters in novels can be extremely helpful. In this video, I list the most common mentor characters, and also why they can add more to your novel.
You will more than likely know a mentor character. Most commonly, they are really old, sometimes gruff, and are always there to give main characters advice. Is a mentor character what your novel is missing?
Before we talk about why mentor characters are used, I should probably talk about what types there are.
1. In Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, there is Gandolph. In Harry Potter, there is Dumbledore. The wise-old mentor is, without a doubt, the most common mentor character in fantasy; and it is understandable.
2. Another commonly used one is the gruff lost old man. Most commonly, it is a man with a rough past who comes across a kid. This gruff old man sees the kid as a son or daughter, and softens up to them while also helping the kid along. Examples most people would know are Joel and Ellie from the game “The Last of us,” Wolverine and X-23 from the X-men, Brom and Eragon from the book Eragon, and so on.
The major problem with the wise-old-man and the gruff man is that they are most commonly doomed to die. Brom? Dead. Wolverine? Dead. Dumbledore? Dead. Gandalf? Dies and comes back. This happens because their propose was mostly to guide the main characters like a parent, so when the time comes for the main character to “grow up” and adventure off on their own, writers kill off the mentor character to force the main character onward. To me, this is what is what readers now expect to happen.
3. My favorite might just be the best friend. Sam is, without a doubt, a mentor character to Frodo. He always gives advice and keeps Frodo going. This one is not as commonly used because…well..friends in general are pretty rare for main characters. This character does not have to be timid or as emotional as Sam; they can actually be the rude one of the group who is rarely serious but gives great advice when needed.
4. Another one used is the romantic interest, but I don’t like that one as much. I think having a mentor character who is not a romantic interest is a great opportunity to show off what amazing other characters you have.
5. The last one is the dead character. This one happens occasionally in novels. What happens with this one is a character loses someone important to them and is going through a rough time, and the dead character comes back from the grave to give advice. Now, I don’t mean that literally, and I don’t even mean by ghosts what I mean is more of hallucinations. The main character is beat up and is about to give up and stop fighting when they get advice from the dead character in form of hallucination. Sometimes it is never explained on if the dead character was a hallucination or a ghost, but either way they give the main character a push to keep going.
Mentors are extremely important to novels; especially to younger main characters. There are times where people get lost and need a little bit of help to keep going. I think it is a great idea to have a mentor character in your novel. They allow your character to have a really deep moment of weakness, while also knowing exactly how to bring your main character out of it.
My only suggestions? Consider avoiding the wise-old-man because it is the most over done in my opinion. Also consider keeping the mentor alive, or at least keeping them alive past the half-way mark in your book since this happens too often. If you want to do something completely different, consider having the mentor character be a woman. Nearly all mentor character I have read have been male, so this might help separate your mentor character from others.
So thats it for now!
Do you have someone who is always trying to cheer your main character on? Are there any other mentor types I missed? Please let me know in the comments below.
Should you kill off your characters parents like nearly every book on earth? Or should you surprise everyone by keeping the parents around?
In this video, I talk about friends – or rather, the lack of friends- in novels.
Sorry for the low quality! I must have had my camera set up strange.