Wednesday, February 25, 2015

What's up: developing the antagonist

What's Up Wednesday is for anyone interested in keeping in touch with other writers, a meme hosted by writing sisters Erin Funk and Jaime Morrow

What I'm reading
Seraphina's sequel, ShadowScale, by Rachel Hartman. Seraphina is in my all-time favorites list, and it's wonderful to be back in this richly developed world with dragons and half dragons and a whole host of new characters. What I love most about these books: everyone is odd. It's a celebration of oddness, out-of-placeness, quirkiness, downright LOL uniqueness.
Shadow Scale (Seraphina, #2)

Recently finished When Reason Breaks  by Cindy L. Rodriguez which features Emily Dickinson’s poetry as a guide to two girls struggling with depression and anger. Highly recommend!

What I'm writing
I shared the first six chapters of Refuge, my MG fantasy that I'm re-writing, with my CP of 15 years (she's a champ!) - she read the original version of this story, the one that was so far over 100,000 words that I'm not even going to 'fess up how long it was, and how rambling. But the brave dear soul was not only willing to read my re-write, she was excited to! 

She right away caught a major problem though: I'd totally failed to develop my antagonist. (I have two antogonists: one is a human, one is a unicorn. I concentrated on developing my human antagonist but forgot about the other guy).  The unicorn was a generic mu ha ha ha antagonist without any motivation or depth at all, just basically there to mess up the good guys' lives.  It's been so much evil fun developing him. 

What else I've been up to
We celebrated Valentines with the whole family at the Denver Aquarium, and scored a dinner table right next to the giant tank full of giant fish and stingrays, and a mermaid show.  Writer friends, let it be known, my dream house would be a giant aquarium, with glass tube like rooms. (Even the library would have one wall of watery fish-filled glass. The other three walls would be books). 

What works for me
First thing-in-the morning writing exercise/free write.  I am so NOT a morning person, which is why I think free-writing in the morning actually works for me: my brain is still in  a fog, so my subconcious has more free rein, and it comes up with some unfettered off-the-wall stuff. I used this method to develop my antagonist, using these prompts from this great writing tool (thank you, Emily, for sharing it), the Pyramid Approach to Novel Writing by Jess Loury:

A well-written, believable and sympathetic antagonist spells the difference between a toss-away novel and a cinematic novel. Imagine you are your antagonist’s biographer... ask these questions:
• What’s your name? Nickname? 
• Anyone ever tell you that you look like someone famous? 
• Of all your qualities, which are you most proud of? Where do you think youacquired this quality?
• What do people seem to like the least about you? How does it make you feel? 
• Which habit of yours would you most like to change? 
• If someone looked in your bathroom garbage right now, what would they find? 
• What scent do you enjoy the most, and what does it remind you of? 
• If you could go back in time and change one day of your life, what day would it be, and why? 
• What three goals do you want to accomplish in the next year? What challengesdo you have to overcome to reach them? 
• Whom do you love most in this world and why? 
• What scares you?

Looking forward to seeing what works for everyone else this week...


  1. There's a unicorn in your WIP? :o Immediate must-read!

    I haven't read Seraphina yet, but I've heard great things about it. :) Have a lovely week!

  2. Library fish wall huh? Seems risky...

  3. I enjoyed Seraphina, so I'll have to check out the sequel at some point! Anything with dragons gets a vote from me.

    Those are some fantastic prompt questions! I love developing antagonists with real complexity so readers are more invested in them. My editor prefers the villain in my last book to the main characters. Not sure if I should be worried! :P

    Have a great week!

  4. So awesome you're reading the sequel to Seraphina. I need to as well. And I had a middle grade at over 100,000 words. It took many revisions to cut it down and get rid of the scenes that didn't really advance the plot.

  5. You had me at unicorn antagonist.

    The aquarium sounds like a great place to visit. Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I re-read that--antagonist, not protagonist! Great idea. I started using some character grids for all supporting characters (not minor but who contribute to plot) and it REALLY helps to know their motivations and fears.

  7. The fact that you want to live in an aquarium makes me think you should read my MG Sci-Fi UNDER THE BLUE, which takes place in a domed city under the ocean! LOL

  8. I loved SERAPHINA, so I'm pretty excited about SHADOW SCALE. I'll have to reread Book 1 to refresh my memory before Book 2, though. (Darn. LOL) I know what you mean about underdeveloped antagonists. I've always struggled with that. It's just too easy to go the mwahaha route rather than humanizing the villain, I find. Still, a more 3D villain is just so much better, don't you think? Thanks for sharing those bullet questions. I made snag those for some character development. Have a great week, Margo! :D

  9. There just aren't enough books with unicorn antagonists. I've always suspected there was something other than purity and affinity for virgins with unicorns. All that white and sparkle is somehow suspect.

  10. I've heard such great things about SERAPHINA. I'll have to check my library to see if they have it. Your Valentine's Day celebration sound perfect, and what a cute photo! Have a great week, Margo!

  11. Yes! I'm totally with you on the aquarium dream house! That would be incredibly cool. We're moving close to the ocean soon, which is a close second, and I'm super excited about that.

    Don't feel too embarrassed by the length of your WIP. Mine is gargantuan and I'm not done yet. Trimming during revisions is going to be a nightmare.

    I've had SERAPHINA on my ereader for ages now. Once my books are all packed up, I might have to give it a read, since the timing will be good to dig into my ebooks. Have a super week and good luck fleshing out those villains! :)

  12. As soon as I read your post it became clear that an evil unicorn is the missing ingredient for a happy and fulfilling life! I WANT ONE. Does he have a mustache? Your WIP sounds amazing! Have a lovely week.



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