June 2012 - further up and further in

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

villains are people too {by j. grace pennington}

Wednesday, June 27, 2012 11
villains are people too {by j. grace pennington}

Today I'm excited to have my first guest post ever on Further Up and Further In, featuring J. Grace Pennington. It's been a pleasure working with Grace on this and I'm thrilled to be a part of her blog tour announcing her new book release, titled Firmament: Radialloy.

Speaking of Firmament: Radialloy, this sci-fi book is now for sale on Amazon! Click here to find out more about her book, and don't forget to stop by her website to find out more about Grace, her book, and the blog tour going on this month.

And now, may I introduce Grace, who is here to tell us about her personal journey with those dastardly, evil characters often known as villains.

I’ve been told I write good villains.  I’m not entirely sure whether that’s a good thing.  Sure it makes for a compelling story, but there’s something a little unnerving about being good at writing terribly evil antagonists.

Although it’s not terribleness and evilness or even antagonism that makes a good villain.  Evil bad guys who make it their whole business to throw obstacles in the hero’s path are a dime a dozen.

Everyone is born sinful, but no one is born an evil bad guy.  People can have horrible, sinful motives, but they do have motives.  In the words of Pixar director Pete Doctor “Nobody goes to bed thinking ‘I wonder what evil I will do tomorrow!’”  Even Hitler convinced himself he was doing good.

When I wrote the first draft of Firmament: Radialloy, my villain was a stereotypical, unrealistic, evil, power hungry, I’m-going-to-take-over-the-world bad guy.  He cared about no one and nothing, he had a slight motivation of revenge, but was mostly motivated by pure power for no real reason.  When I went to revise, he was one of the things that most needed fixing, and so I went about figuring him out.

When I was finished with him, he had become a much more level-headed, realistically motivated, personable, while still horrible villain.  I learned many things about villain creation during that time that I’ve since applied to other creations.

One thing I learned is villains are people too.  Yes, they must be evil, they must do terrible things to your protagonist and make the story go from bad to worse, but they are people.  The key to making this come through in your writing, I think, is to look beyond your villain’s actions and force yourself to think about their inner thoughts, their hopes, their dreams, their fears.  They are terribly twisted people, most often, but what do they think when in their room alone at night?  In those moments between dastardly plots, what is in their hearts?  What are they afraid of?  Who do they care about, or have they cared about in the past?  Keep that in mind as you write them.

Another thing that I find helpful in writing villains is change and realistic motivation.  Nobody wakes up suddenly evil one day.  Two fictional examples I looked to for inspiration were Denathor of Gondor from Lord of the Rings and Anakin Skywalker from Star Wars.  Both of them were a good example of these ideas.

Denathor was at one time committed to his job, noble, desiring the best for his people.  But two things changed him, from what I understand--first, the enemy’s power grew so great that fear pushed him to use foolish methods to achieve good ends.  He wanted so much to protect his people, that he turned to forbidden and wrong measures.  And when his beloved son died, the grief put him over the edge.  Once he dabbled in the darkness, the downward spiral carried him further until he was almost a stereotypical evil, heartless, twisted bad guy--but he didn’t arrive there overnight.

As for Anakin, he started off as a sweet boy who just wanted to protect the weak and those he loved.  What better motivation could there be?  But again, fear was his downfall.  He became so desperate to save those he cared for that he was eventually willing to do anything for it.  Once again, it wasn’t a sudden change--his motivations were always the same, just his obsession led him on a downward spiral that finally ridded him of everything he had.

One interesting thing to note is that with both of these two villains, their motivations didn’t change once they went wrong.  In both cases, they wanted to protect others, and it was that good motivation that led them to evil.  Often that motivation vanishes at the end, when they finally go so far into darkness that they become insane, but the most compelling villains are those who have or once had a good motivation.

The last thing, and one of the most important things for me in a villain is pity.  I won’t enjoy watching/reading about a villain that I can’t pity.  Personally pity comes easily to me, but even if the reader isn’t the pitying type, I think it’s good enough if you have something in your villain that’s worthy of pity.  To me, being a villain in and of itself is worthy of pity.  Think of the empty life, the scarred heart, the tortured mind behind the evil actions.  That’s something to feel genuine pity for.  But we feel pity for people, not archetypes.  To be pitied, your villain must be human.  He must have suffered.  He must have been wronged.  We’ve all been wronged at some time or other, and even though we don’t always take it to the lengths that our villains do, we understand what it’s like.

Because the truth is, none of our hearts are any better than any villain’s.  We all make wrong choices, we are all human, we all do terrible things to others.  We may not all take it to the length that our villains do, but our hearts are no different aside from the redemption of Christ.

You hear a lot about how your reader needs to see themselves in your hero.  But to me, to make a really top-notch story—they need to see themselves in the villain as well.

J. Grace Pennington has been telling stories since she could talk, and writing them down since age five. Now she lives in the Texas Hill Country with her parents, her eight younger siblings, and her horse, Pioneer. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading good books, playing movie soundtracks on the piano, and looking up at the stars. You can find out more about her writing, including the Firmament series, at www.jgracepennington.com.

More about Firmament: Radialloy

The year is 2320. Andi Lloyd is content with her life as the assistant to her adoptive father, a starship doctor, but her secure world turns upside down when she begins uncovering secrets from her past. When her father mysteriously starts losing his mind, she finds that she can no longer count on him to guide or help her. With mutiny breaking out on the ship, and two factions desperate for a valuable secret she holds, she must race to help her father and herself before time runs out.

>> click here to find out more <<

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

heroes & tales untold.

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heroes & tales untold.
This, my friends, is my latest musical inspiration.

No, seriously. Do have a listen. I have a feeling a lot of you will probably like it.

What's not to love about this piece? The strings are glorious. The theme is brave and strong, evoking feelings of courage and longing for other worlds. I feel so inspired when I listen to it; stories, ideas, and characters seem to literally be spilling out of my head, waiting to be written. They pull at my heartstrings with tales of valor and honor and courage, deeds that have remained unsung.

But not for long. I shall be the one to write them. And so could you. After all, the pen IS mightier than the sword.

One of my friends once gave me a notebook with this text on the front:

You have a story, and it needs to be told.


Saturday, June 16, 2012

road trips & dreams

Saturday, June 16, 2012 14
road trips & dreams
Lately, I've been sleeping really heavily. What that means is, my dreams have taken on their own alternate reality. I'm almost always me in the dreams (though I sometimes am not me in my dreams and that is a weird experience). Anyway, I'm almost always me in the dreams, but what circumstances I find myself in are very different.

Last night I had a dream that I went on a road trip with my family, which was *cough* if you'll excuse my bad pun, a dream come true. Because of my chronic pain, travelling in real life isn't a reality for me right now. So, what do I do?

Like always, I experience it through dreams.

The whole let's-go-on-a-road-trip thing in my dream was completely random. But I still enjoyed it.

When we went into the midwest, they had the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

When we got to the areas like Iowa and such, we got to drive through rows and rows of corn. Yes, literally drive through.

And then I made up this whole other place where the skies were blue with pink cotton-candy clouds and a giant bird was flying overhead. It's hard to put into words here, but... I loved it.

And yeah, my dreams are weird.

But once again, I've realized how wonderful dreams are. They allow you to do things you never could do in real life. Experience new things. New worlds. New feelings. New wonder. Whether you're awake or asleep, dreaming opens up the door.

And for me, that's a wonderful thing.

In other news, I'm trying to decide if what I did was awesome or just plain crazy: I changed my blog template. YES. FINALLY.  I'm learning that it's hard to do a complete design overhaul after using the same one for so long. It's still very much in progress, and some things I might change or delete altogether, but in the meantime, this is the general idea. Thoughts? Aaaand never mind. We're back to the drawing board. :P

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

cold showers & hot coffee

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cold showers & hot coffee
- Sometimes, sometimes, if I'm in the right mood, I like cold showers. It only happens once in a while but sometimes I actually appreciate it when the hot water heater sputters out and refuses to do what it should.
- I also like hot coffee.
- For the majority of the time, hot water is preferred when I take a shower.
- Sometimes, on rare occasions, I like cold coffee.
- What these two things have to do with each other, I have no idea.
- Facebook notifications. I love them. Really, who doesn't?
- The other day I had 51 Facebook notifications. O.o
- I love the feeling of dangling a necklace over your hand and then letting the cool chain settle in your palm. (Kudos to Tumblr for reminding me of how much I loved to do that.)
- I just drank a glass of almond milk.
- With every fact I type, it strikes me how ridiculous and random this post is.
- Our cats sharpen their claws on our couches. This is generally Not A Good Thing.
- I've never owned a dog.
- I have a fish though. His name is Finnick. (Yes. Named after the character in The Hunger Games.)
- Before Finnick, I had a fish named Flynn.
- I'm just sitting here typing any absurd nonsense that comes to mind.
- Do you ever wonder if you're the only one in the world who does certain things?
- Do you ever wonder if a stranger you pass on the street might end up being your friend someday? (Kudos to Micah for bringing that up.)
- I've been using "XD" and typing all caps a lot. Mirriam and Keaghan's fault, I think. ;)
- Samarah and I need Rangers in our lives ASAP. Just so you know.
- I love how the internet gives you friends you didn't even know you had.
- I came across a new word today: Sonder. I've felt this way a lot.
- I loved Gale in The Hunger Games books. Maybe even more than Peeta. (Don't kill me, Peeta fans.)
- This weekend I sang out a One Direction lyric while playing Super Mario brawl with my brother and two of his friends. Yes, my friends, I sang a lyric from a boy band while playing a video game. In perfect context. It felt pretty awesome.
- Lest you think I'm a Directioner... I'm really not. I appreciate the band and a couple of their songs, but other than that, my show of fandom for them is pretty lame.
- SUMMER IS HERE. Let us rejoice.
- I hoped you enjoyed reading this conglomeration of randomness. You have just taken a step inside my brain. Congratulations: this is me.

Monday, June 11, 2012

in which Corruption’s plot becomes corrupted.

Monday, June 11, 2012 28
in which Corruption’s plot becomes corrupted.
The faces that make up Corruption, one of my latest projects.
Someday, they'll become brave enough to let me introduce them to you.

A lot has been up in the air with regards to my writing as of late.

In short, I'm not doing Camp NaNo. Yet.

August is the lucky charm, baby. 

No, in all seriousness, I've been struggling with writing. The words won't come. I'm struggling with self-doubt. And wondering big, BIG questions such as, "What is it that I am called to write?"

I've always been very versatile with genres. I've written stuff that can only be defined as "chick-lit." I've written something that was some kind of weird suspense-novel-thing. I've written fantasy, which I love. But I have all these plots inside my head that don't fit inside these genres. Dystopic plots, plots about superheroes, plots about where the world has gone all wrong. Plots with guns and spaceships and hovercrafts. Plots with time travel and sunflowers and distant memories.

The problem is, I stink at writing sci-fi. More aptly, I don't know how to write sci-fi. When it comes to shows, I love it. I love watching things like Star Trek. I was practically raised on Star Trek. And more recently, I've been working my way through Doctor Who. I love the stars, the ships, the star captains, the intrigue. I do love it.

But I don't know how to write it.

This recently came to my attention when Corruption's plot completely fell apart. Two days before June's edition of Camp NaNo was supposed to begin.

It. Was. Insane.

I don't even know how to describe the emotions that went through me. I had a plot. I had thirteen beautiful chapters of semi-outlined material and then it... just... vanished.

Well, not exactly. I will admit that there were some events leading up to the sudden Vanishing of My Plot. I'd been struggling with a scene that involved a hovercraft chase and then fighting on foot. I personally think I stink at writing contemporary or futuristic combat scenes. Swords, I like. I don't know much about them, but I can muddle through writing a duel well enough. As for guns... well, it's not that I don't like them. I just don't know anything about them. And I had no idea how to get my main characters out of the situation they were currently in. Outnumbered. In a desert with three guys on their trail. With a broken down hovercraft. Oh, and did I mention that one of the characters was in a wheelchair?

So there was a bit of foreshadowing leading up to the sudden Vanishing of My Plot. It's just that when it did vanish, it was abrupt, unexpected, and well... sudden. Not to mention untimely. Thirteen chapters of my outline were now scrapped because I took the time to poke a stick at my plot.
As the Doctor says, "There is something here that doesn't make sense… Let's go poke it with a stick!" I didn't expect my plot to completely collapse when I did so. Whatever sense my plot did have soon escaped like air oozing out of a deflated balloon. Normally I'd try to work around it, but I'd made it several choices that completely changed the flavor of the book and the way I wanted this novel to be. I need time to get it back to the way it was, and two days wasn't nearly enough.

There are a plethora of other reasons why I won't be attempting June NaNo. I've been struggling with inspiration for a while now, and I guess that the only thing I can do is take a break. If I tried to write now, it would just create more frustration.

Not only that, but I prayed about it, and I felt God telling me to aim for August. Add to that some relational and emotional stress, and I wasn't sure I could write at all. It's a good thing too because when June began, the aforementioned emotional stress intensified. These emotions, ironically enough, are similar to ones that Elleri experiences in Corruption's plot, though I didn't plan it at the time.  My plot collapsing was just the icing on the cake. As I've been thinking all week, Corruption's plot is now corrupted. :P

So I'm taking some time off. To think... pray... recover... heal. I've actually been getting inspiration for other projects like Silver Tears (which still needs a good ending) and Souvenirs (which I've deemed my two-year-trouble-child). I was surprised when inspiration for Souvenirs started to appear, as it's been a difficult project for nearly all of its existence.

My inspiration is returning. It's just taking its own sweet time.

I may end up finishing Silver Tears in July. Or I may need to wait and let my inspiration return. Hopefully by August, I'll feel up to writing this story. Or maybe another. After all, August may just be the lucky charm. (I certainly hope so!)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

and now, for a word from the Hiddles.

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and now, for a word from the Hiddles.
Never, ever, let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Prove the cynics wrong. Pity them for they have no imagination. The sky’s the limit. Your sky. Your limit. Now. Let’s dance.

- Tom Hiddleston

dance like a boss, we shall.

(p.s. - i still haven't seen Thor. or The Avengers. but i reallyreallyreally want to. EHEHEHE. EHE.)

credit to those who took the Hiddles photo and made the Yoda gif, respectively.