Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Creating a villain with empathy

Today I have a guest post from Laura Pauling, introducing her new book! I absolutely adored her first book, A Spy Like Me, and am eager to read its sequel and this new "How To Survive" book!

   
Published by Pugalicious Press
When Bianca and Melvin brave the jungle to rescue their grandfather, they stumble upon the ancient Maya city of Etza, where the people haven’t aged in 2,000 years. They must learn to work together as they face loincloth-wearing skeletons from the underworld, a backstabbing princess, and an ancient prophecy that says in three days the city will be destroyed. No problem. They’ll find Zeb and zip right out of there. The fact that a crazy king wants to serve Bianca up to the gods as an appetizer is just a minor technicality. But this ancient evil dude has finally met his match.


Creating a villain with empathy.


Before I started writing How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings, I knew the antagonist or the villain would be an Ancient Maya king. Of course, he’s not the only antagonistic force. Bianca, the main character, struggles against her dad’s disbelief in her theories when it comes to her missing grandfather. She also has a tendency to make impulsive decisions based on the emotion of the moment. She’s loyal to a fault and will sacrifice anything for those she loves. Sometimes our greatest strengths are also our flaws.

But this Crazy King, this all-powerful kind of villain, especially one with the tag of Crazy, came with its own built-in flaws. It was too easy to focus on the big, bad king and the threat he poses to Bianca. I never wanted to forget that he also has a heart.

As the pages turned and the story developed, I wanted readers to have that aha moment where they understood him. Where if they were to see the story from his point of view, if only for a second, they would struggle with what to do. I needed that for this story. I worked extra hard at it because I didn’t want a stereotypical cliché Maya king that rips hearts out due to his blood lust and the demands of the gods. Of course, he’s that too because it was part of the culture.

But the biggest thing I learned through all the research is that the Ancient Maya weren’t too different from us. We might not sacrifice live people by chopping off their heads and watching it roll down steps, we might not filet the skin off of our enemies and wear it over our shoulders in a victory dance, but there are definitely things we sacrifice to the gods/idols in our own lives as a nation/world and as an individual. Have you ever been so passionate about something that you take it a step too far? That you don’t know when to stop? That’s when a character steps over into the role of villain. And for the best villains, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Thanks, Margo, for hosting me on the tour! 

How To Survive Ancient Spells and Crazy Kings released in November. Pugalicious Press did a fantastic job, and I’m extremely happy with the results. This book would make a fantastic gift for boys or girls who enjoy adventure stories with lots of excitement! You can purchase it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. You can read the first chapter here. Check out the teacher's guide. Thankfully, my journey is just beginning and I’m excited to see where it leads. Click here for the list of blog tour stops! Enter to win these prize packages!

Prize Package One (signed paperbacks)


Prize Package Two (signed paperbacks)


Prize Package Three

Refresh the page if you can't see the Rafflecopter form! a Rafflecopter giveaway

29 comments:

  1. Nice piece on villains. Hard to get the balance right, especially for kid's books (always easier to make the baddy really bad).

    mood
    Moody Writing

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  2. Thanks for hosting me, Margo! :)

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  3. Great post on villains! Even when they're irredeemable, they should still be understandable, so I like seeing this focus on empathy...

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  4. This sounds like a book I might enjoy. I might have to consider buying it.

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  5. Sounds like such a great story! And Laura, I love how you get us to think about a villain -- it's just taking that step too far and then the next step is that much easier to take.

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  6. Good point--- even Lord Voldemort loved his pet snake. And that other fictional supervillain liked dogs--- what was his name? Hitler something?

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  7. I love a villain with more than 1 side to his personality!

    There are so many places I'd love to visit in this world - Alaska, the Serengeti, New Zealand, Ayres Rock - so many!

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  8. I'm sure there are a few serial killers who liken themselves to Mayan kings. And if not, there's an idea for an episode of Criminal Minds.



    Hmmm. I'm not sure if I have pursued a passion and gone a step too far. Hopefully not.

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  9. It's important to write villains with layers just as we would write the protagonist. Great guest post, Laura!

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  10. So true!


    It's so easy to see the bad guy as only a bad guy, but they actually have to be as fleshed out as the protagonist, even more so, since he/she gets so little screen time.

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  11. GREAT post. The villains I remember are the ones who have heart. It's too easy to write a bad guy who sits in a swivelly chair and strokes a cat... we need to see his motivation and that he is a person in order to understand him. (Or her)

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  12. Sounds like such a fun book! And I love what you said about the villain. The best villians are always sympathetic in some way (just look at Darth Vader!). :)

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