Sometimes Thinking is Work, and Antagonists

Northcoast Shakedown

My latest book cover design!

I don’t feel like I did a lot this week, but when I look back, I actually did. I knocked out my book cover goal quickly–on Sunday, in fact–to make sure it didn’t slip this week. My friend Jim Winter loved it, approved it, and is now in the process of updating his retail listings!

But what really doesn’t feel like I did much was the rest of the week. The plan was to continue working on my outline. I did get some more done on this, but my ideas seemed to stall out midway through the week. I guess this is what happens to non-plotting writers (aka “pantsers”) when they are writing the draft and hit the sagging middle. But I couldn’t figure out why it was happening to me, and why now. Then I read this blog post by Kristen Lamb on Friday, and it hit me. The post was appropriately called “The Single Largest Cause of Writer’s Block–Might Not Be What You Believe.”

So true! And it was exactly what she said: I hadn’t figured out my story’s antagonist. Oh, I had minions – secondary bad guys left over from the previous books in the series, but who was (to use Kristen’s term) the “Big Boss Troublemaker?” I had no idea. So I had to figure out who he or she is, what s/he is doing, and perhaps most importantly, why.

I’ve done a lot of sitting and thinking these past couple of days, and have figured out a lot. But I still have more work to do in that area, so on to the goals.

ROW80Logo175Last week’s goals went well:

  • Continue brainstorming/outlining for SS Book 3 – Not as much as I wanted, but I’ll count this as a yes!
  • Initial cover art for friend who’s going to beta read – yes!

For this week, I want to:

  • Do the Character Pre-plan Exercise from Holly Lisle’s How to Think Sideways workshop. This walks the writer through some basic questions and helps us to figure out who the character is, his/her goals, motivations, background, etc., and can be used for any major characters.
  • Work on outline–create 25 cards to add to my virtual bulletin board. It sounds easy, but I have a feeling it won’t be–or maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised!

So, let’s talk about antagonists, books, TV, movies, whatever. Probably the best bad guy I’ve read is the Del-a-Shar from Sheri McGathy’s epic fantasy Elfen Gold. He destroyed his entire race, yet when we find out why, he’s chillingly relateable and understandable! Antagonists need not be villains, but this one certainly is. Who are some of your favorites, villainous or not? Please share – I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

12 Responses to \

  1. That’s a very cool cover. Well done. 🙂 Big Boss Troublemaker <- I love Kristen. The relateable antagonist is my favorite. It adds a richness to the story that I love.
    You're at an important part of your story building process. Good luck this week and have fun with it.

  2. Lovely cover, bit of Charlie’s Angels and potentially a body outline–very nice. Having trained under both Kristen and Bob Mayer, the primary antagonist (BBT) is the best place to start planning. After all, who needs a hero BEFORE someone starts to cause trouble or chaos arrives at the door? Lisa Cron also discusses the symbiotic connection between the antagonist and the protagonist in “Wired for Story”–great read if you haven’t checked it out yet.

    Great work on your goals, Jennette. Have a fantastic week and good luck with the outlining!

  3. Thanks, SJ, both on the cover and my goals!

    Thanks, Gene! The book I’m working on is the unplanned third in a series, so I already have my hero–that’s probably why it was a challenge in this regard. This is the third recommendation I’ve heard for Wired for Story in the past week, so I really need to get that!

  4. Ooooh, what a fantastic cover! And thanks for linking to Kristen’s post. I heard her talk on antagonists at the WANACon that happened a few months back and it was really helpful, but it’s great to see all this down in writing.

    Have a great week!

  5. I read that blog, too. Thinking about my antagonist – that’s probably what I should be doing this week (because I’m a pantser, just like you). Knowing him better will certainly help move things along, no doubt about it!

    FYI – I submitted Bite Me, I’m Yours to my editor. She’s excited about reading it, but is on vacation right now, so I have to wait! Figures, huh?

  6. The cover is very Charlie’s Angels like…cool.

    I always try to remember the Antagonist is the Hero of his own story and that usually helps get me started. Good luck figuring your Big Boss Troublemaker out!

  7. That’s a great cover, Jennette! I really like how the city is in the outline. I missed that post by Kristen, I need to go back through my emails. I like what Raeyln says above, that the antagonist is the hero of his own story. That little flip seems to help my brain figure it out better!

  8. Oh the creepy guy from Silence of the Lambs is the worst. Those mental genius kind of crazies give me the creeps. Psychological thrillers are really good about having scary bad guys.

    I don’t write about those guys though. My antagonists are just your average schmucks who beat up women and bully nerdy guys.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  9. Lena, thanks! It was a really helpful post. Even when we’ve heard it before, sometimes we need to hear it again!

    LOL Stacy – I’m a plotter with pantser problems! Good luck with Bite Me, and with getting to know your antagonist for the new book!

    Raelyn, thanks! And good to keep in mind – so far so good on what I have already.

    Thanks, Coleen! It does help, doesn’t it? Especially when they’re doing all manner of horrible things for what they think is a good reason!

    Patricia, Hannibal was certainly up there on the creepy scale! IMO the scariest stories are those about what people are capable of doing to each other.

  10. That’s a super cool cover, Jennette. Kristen’s advice re the antagonist is some of the best advice I’ve ever heard. So glad you’re plotting out Book 3 for Saturn Society. Go, Jennette, go! I think you’re making great progress.

  11. That cover is great! Wonderful advice from Kristin Lamb, btw. I’ll need to read her post. Sometimes the antagonist can be societal or a force of nature. The Civil War in Gone With the Wind drove Scarlett to do a lot of the not so nice things she did:(.

    Good luck plotting volume 3 of Saturn Society!

  12. “Chillingly relateable”…I love it!

    Favourite antagonists, huh? That’s a toughy. I do remember the antagonist in Francine Rivers’ “Redeeming Love.” He was the first I’d ever wanted to climb inside a book and shake. Definitely memorable…because I could see in him the culmination of many realistic traits and attitudes I bristled at in living, breathing human beings.

    All the best with this week’s goals. (So glad for an online writing community that recognizes we have a life – and sometimes that life means we have to tweak or change our goals.)