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Heroes and Villains

In my last Inspiration Sunday post I mentioned that in the process of working out some things for the third book in my series, I’ve been thinking about the very different motives and actions of my heroes and villains. Where my story goes from here largely depends on their inner battles, and how those translate into actions that have world-wide consequences. What is each side trying to ultimately achieve, and in what ways are they trying to get there? Are they staying one step ahead of their enemies, or are they simply reacting as each new thing gets thrown at them, never really gaining any ground?

But even beyond that, what makes heroes and villains who they are is not just their inner conflict, but their inner character. The best heroes aren’t perfect people—they are just as flawed as the rest of us; sometimes more so. And yet what makes them different? Sure they might have special abilities—those can be squandered. They might be more desperate than most. Desperation can also turn to bitterness that produces nothing good. And we’ve seen time and time again how the same set of circumstances can turn one person to darkness and another to the light.

I found the answer in a quote from C.S. Lewis. “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable.” 

Our heroes have to accept their flaws, allow themselves be deeply wounded by them, yet still have the strength rise to action…even when that action is self-sacrificial. They have to care about something larger than themselves, and to care, a heart capable of love is required. So where does that leave our darkest villains? By contrast, they are cold and selfish. Their flaws do not make them vulnerable to heartache—they won’t allow it. And while they might also care about something larger than themselves, it is only to the extent that they will greatly benefit in the process…and they have no problem sacrificing someone else to get their prize. They worship none but themselves. Over time, our villains’ hearts grow increasingly incapable of love until, to use Lewis’ words, they become unbreakable, impenetrable, and irredeemable. Those are the true villains that our heroes must rise against—the ones worth risking everything to defeat, because if they win, there will be nothing left worthy of living for.

For those of you who are writers, forget for a bit the mechanics of the plot you’re building, and look deep into the eyes of your heroes and villains. What lies hidden deep down in their hearts and souls? What, and who, do they really, honestly care about? How do their vulnerabilities impact their character, and what are they willing to do to achieve their goals? For all you who are readers, which heroes and villains stand out as the most memorable to you? What made them real?

Tired of the same old fantasy creatures? Medieval legend is full of bizarre beasts that can make for great inspiration for your fantasy story.
The cerastes is even more flexible than an ordinary serpent, and has horns protruding from the top of its head. There might be two, like those of a ram, or four small horns. 

A cerastes will hide itself under the sand, with only the ends of its horns sticking up as a lure. When other animals come close thinking they've found food, the serpent quickly kills and eats them.

Now imagine the possible fantasy adaptations for such a creature. Animals are lured by food...what might lure larger prey, including human beings? Perhaps water in a desert environment...or glittering treasure. Maybe such a serpent would see us as an easy meal. Or with some intelligence it might have a more sinister motive. What do you think?
Did you know there is a Weekly Fantasy Fix blog? Find back issues of the newsletter, highlights from each of our author blogs, information on our books, and more all in one place. Check it out!
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is now only days away. The camps in April and July are a fun, no pressure way to get writing, but November is the big month--50,000 words or bust. That means writing about 1700 words per day. For some that's not an intimidating number--for others it seems absolutely crazy.

Even though I've got two novels and a novella under my belt, I'm not sure that I'm ready to tackle that much in a month. Even so, for the first time I'm feeling motivated to try. In the end I may not make it to the 50K goal, but is that really the end of the world? The real point is that I set aside time to write and do it. So who's with me this November? Let's jump right in, encourage each other, and see what happens!`
Who vs That

This tip may seem overly simple, but I see this mistake all the time when editing. We're used to using who and that interchangeably when we speak, but the rules of writing are less forgiving.

Always use who (or whom) when a sentence refers back to a person. Use that when talking about an object. For example, "Mrs. Smith is the librarian who helped me find my research books." Or, "His blog is the one that I read every morning before work."
"Long ago I yearned to be a hero without knowing, in truth, what a hero was. Now, perhaps, I understand it a little better. A grower of turnips or a shaper of clay, a Commot farmer or a king--every man is a hero if he strives more for others than for himself alone.
Once you told me that the seeking counts more than the finding. So, too, must the striving count more than the gain.” 

- Lloyd Alexander,
The High King
Get inspired by Fantasy Art Wednesday, where fun fantasy artwork is combined with a writing prompt to get your creative juices flowing!

Where is this place? It almost has a catacomb feel, like it has been buried underground. Silent. Dark. We seem to be in a large chamber, but I can imagine that there are a maze of black tunnels twisting off of it. Light breaks through from above this bent tree, the earth beneath it overgrown with tall grass and weeds, twists of vine, and even a spider web. Its roots are breaking through its stone confinement, tearing up the floor.

Wherever this place is, no one has been here for a long time. Perhaps that skull belonged to the last visitor who braved its tunnels. What is in the mysterious chalice next to it? Could be poison. Could be something else. I’m not all that eager to sip from it, are you? Not without knowing more. The title itself intrigues me, “The Last Light.” Have we entered a completely darkened world, and this is the last light anywhere? Captured, preserved, and maybe even protected in this chamber from those who would snuff it out?

Artwork: “The Last Light” by Deanne Cherie

Learn More About the Weekly Fantasy Fix Authors!
Joshua Robertson is a dark fantasy author who enjoys challenging the concept of good and evil.

His bestselling novel, Melkorka, is one of three books currently available in the Thrice Nine Legends saga. 

Click to learn more about Joshua...
Allison D. Reid is a Christian Fantasy author with a fondness for Medieval history.  Her first published series, the Wind Rider Chronicles, embraces traditional fantasy elements but is also infused with deeper spiritual themes. The first book, Journey to Aviad, is now free in ebook format everywhere.

Listen to a live interview with Allison!
Renee Scattergood writes Dark fantasy and is currently publishing a serial called, Shadow Stalker. She is also working on the first novel in her series, A God's Deception. The first novel in the series is due out late 2016 or early 2017.

Read more about Renee.
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