Saturday, January 10, 2015

What Makes a Hero?

To me, the best villains are convinced they are actually the hero. When writing, remember: Every character is the good guy in the story. When you analyze the point of view of any character, including the villain, you must understand their motivations. Examples:

1) Voldemort wants to rid the world of muggles, an impure race who would wage war in a heartbeat upon wizards and witches if they knew they existed (which, while a little racist, probably isn't far from the truth). This is also the motivation of X-men's Magneto.

2) Darth Vader wishes to keep peace and order in the Universe.

3) Even in Ender's Game (spoiler alert), the formics just didn't know better, and they'd see Ender and his Army as the villain. Ender even recognized the villain in himself by how he handles Stilson, Bonzo, and eventually the formics. In the sequels, the universe regards Ender as the villain.

4) The Joker (Heath Ledger's version) wants to reveal the hypocrisy of people. The world would be better if people just showed their true colors and stop hiding behinds their (metaphorical and literal) masks.

Making sure the villain of your story sees themselves as the good guy is a great way to build complex, interesting, and believable villains. And stories.

Consider this clip from Cracked about Firefly.

It isn't a big revelation that Firefly is a show about the bad guys. Viewers have justified that, sure, the crew of Firefly aren't the nicest people, but the Alliance is worse. Also, Mal is interesting, funny, good looking, and has a soft spot for people on the run from the government. Obviously the good guy, right?

One thing that I liked about the Cracked discussion is the possibility that the Alliance are actually pretty nice dudes with the benevolent motive of educating, feeding, protecting, and taking care of its citizens. Dealing with criminals is something all governments--good and bad--have to deal with. Firefly could have been the story of a government marshal tasked to stop the thieves/pirates causing chaos and trouble from The Serenity.

In the end, Mal and his crew still consider themselves the heroes.

Consider your story. If you could retell it from the point of view of your villain, you are on track to writing something interesting and fun to read. Who knows? Maybe you'll consider the villain's position and decide that the story is better told that point of view.

Don't forget your side characters. They aren't just there to move the plot forward; they also have wants, motivations, desires, and back stories. They see themselves as the hero. Take Luna, Neville, and Snape from the Harry Potter stories. While they don't go toe-to-toe with Voldemort like Harry does, they are all heroes in their own minds (and mine as well). They are all rich, wonderful characters who have to make hard choices to combat wickedness. Just like the hero. That series could easily be re-written from their points of view and be amazing stories. I would pick up Snape's story in a heartbeat, if Rowling wrote it.


Note: I know, I've been neglecting this blog. I need to change that. Also, I still owe you a post on the Duckett Reader Awards. I'll get to it this month, I'm just slammed!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

SwitchPoint Grand Opening, St. George Book Festival Writing Workshop, and Literacy Charity Dinner.

This Friday (October 24th), a lot is happening in St. George, UT! It's the grand opening of SwitchPoint, a writing workshop, and a literacy charity dinner.

SwitchPoint Grand Opening

First, it is the grand opening of The SwitchPoint Community Resource Center, St. George's primary weapon for combating homelessness in the area. It isn't just a homeless shelter and a pantry, they also provide several resources on-site to help those less fortunate get on their feet, obtain employment, and get into a home.
SwitchPoint Community Resource Center (Artist's Rendering)
It's very innovative; I've heard there is only one other center like this in the country. If you are around, the grand opening and ribbon cutting is at noon. There will be prizes (they're giving away a new car), elected politicians (Mayor Pike and Senator Lee will be there), food, and great fun to be had. Information can be found by clicking here.

If you aren't around, you can still help them out, and it will only cost you a minute of your time. That minute can make a huge difference. All you have to do is sign up for Amazon Smiles. It doesn't cost anything to do this, and it doesn't raise your prices on Amazon or anything like that. Just sign up, and whenever you purchase something form Amazon, a small percentage of it will be donated directly to SwitchPoint.

Click here to learn more about he grand opening and Amazon Smiles.

St. George Book Festival Writing Workshop

The St. George Book Festival is going on right now, but (to me) the real highlights of the festival starts on Friday with its writing workshop. They'll have several classes from 9am to 5pm. The best part is that it is FREE! It is at Dixie State University and they do provide lunch for $15, where you can eat and mingle with the authors.

Most of you know my involvement with The Authors' Think Tank. Two other administrators of the ATT, Mikey Brooks and Jaclyn Weist, will be presenting. Glancing at the list, it looks like it is going to be a full day with some excellent instruction.

For more information, click here.

Literacy Charity Dinner

Dean Hughes
Friday night ends with a charity dinner to benefit literacy. The dinner is $40 with proceeds benefiting the Washington County School District Foundation and The St. George Children's Museum. In attendance will be all the special guests for the book festival; my boss, Mayor Jon Pike, and his family; and the Keynote Speaker, Best-Selling Author Dean Hughes, who will speak on the topic, "What do we need books for anyway?"

Oh, I'll be there too, so please say hello if you go.

It sounds like an excellent opportunity to fill our stomaches with grub, our minds with knowledge, and our hearts through charity.

For more information, click here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Time Travel Series: Introduction and a Doctor Who Giveaway!!

So, I heard this hilarious time travel joke tomorrow...

Time travel is one of my favorite story premises and I’ve always wanted to write a series around it. Welcome to the start of that series! To celebrate, there’s also a Dr. Who Giveaway (a lot of people’s favorite time traveler) at the end of this article.

On Time Travel

Imagine the implications if time travel was possible! What would you do if you could travel through time? Find Hitler or other serial killers and kill them off? See the future? Stop the JFK assassination? Take the selfish route and use it for personal gain, or the altruistic route and use it to right wrongs, solve crimes, or explore truths?

Plus, how would you get there? How would you get back? What would you learn? What can you change?  How will you deal with paradoxes?

One thing I love about storytelling is exploring the “what if?” questions. Almost every story can be summed up by a “what-if?” question. What if a kid finds out he is a wizard and is accepted into a magical school? (Harry Potter) What if some maniac puts a bomb on a bus that will explode if the bus drops below a certain speed? (Speed) What if a couple of highly trained military troops didn’t catch the droids they were looking for? (Star Wars) What if certain people could gain powers by ingesting metal? (The Mistborn Series)

My favorite "what if"s deals with time travel. What if a teenager went back in time and met his parents in high school? (Back to the Future) What if somebody found a portal to 1958 and the knowledge to stop the JFK Assassination? (Stephen King's 11-22-63) What if a robot from the future is sent back in time to stop the human resistance? (Terminator 1 & 2) What if the peace-preaching-and-producing singers of the future might not form a band because they're about to fail an oral history exam? (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure)

I'm intrigued because there is no way to find the answers to these questions. Sure, we can probably guess what will happen if we stick a bomb on a bus, but what will happen if I travel back in time and kill my grandfather? Maybe nothing. Maybe the world explodes. Who knows? Without time travel, we could never find out! However, we can still ask... what if?

I just love time travel in general. I love being on the lookout for paradoxes. I love watching the fish-out-of-water storylines of people experiencing culture shock between time periods. If there was any story line from Science Fiction that fascinated me the most, it is time travel.

So, let’s explore! We can explore the methods of time travel, the different time periods to travel from and to, paradox resolution, casual loops, and the different side effects (not just paradoxes) of time travel. I might even try to keep it real and explore why time travel can’t work or the ramifications if it did. There is so much to cover and a single blog post just won't accomplish it.

BUT FIRST!!!! Let’s have a contest themes around many people’s favorite time traveler: Doctor Who.

Doctor Who Giveaway

There are two prizes for two different winners. You can win these awesome Dr. Who soap bars, a Tardis and a Dalek (the color of soap may vary) or a Tardis ring* created specifically for your finger by renowned 3D printer-er Joseph Larson, so you can travel through time wherever and whenever you are (it's bigger on the inside).


I'm teaming up with the Kami McArthur the Magnificent for this one. Kami was awesome enough to let me tag along with this giveaway. If you don't follow her, do it now to get more entries. You might win a nifty prize, and even if you don't, you'll be following Kami's content which is even better!!! Follow us, like us, and whatever else the rafflecopter requires for more chances to win.

Also, Kami has an Attack on Titan giveaway as well. See, I told you she was magnificent! To enter, visit here before October 10th.

Enter the Dr. Who giveaway by using this rafflecopter. Enter now! Tell all your friends!! Climb in your time machine, go back five minutes, and enter again***!!

*The winner of the ring will need to send us your ring size before we can process this.

** No doctors or bowties included.

***Multiple submissions will require proof of ability to time travel, which you can email to us a year ago today… just so you know, we already know who is eligible.