The Antagonist is a Hero

swearing-294391_1280One of the most helpful things I learned about writing a captivating novel is that the antagonist is a hero in his own story. If I can show that the antagonist in my story truly believes he is justified in what he is doing, it adds depth to that character. I must be careful not to focus more on the antagonist than the main characters of the story, but that villain needs to be interesting, believable, and have a good reason for why he is the way that he is. He must also be absolutely convinced that his way of thinking is correct — no matter how wrong he may be.

As I contemplated this, I realized this is true in real life, too, not just in novels. Even the most difficult person we ever have the misfortune to meet, usually is absolutely convinced he is justified in his incorrect behavior. For example, didn’t Timothy McVeigh see himself as a hero? Didn’t the men who flew the airplanes into the World Trade Center on 9/11 see themselves as heroes? Of course they did.

Think about a story you recently read. Who was the antagonist? Did they see themselves as the hero? Let’s take a moment to look at Pride and Prejudice. One of the antagonists in that story is Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Here is a quote that she said to Elizabeth Bennett:

Screenshot 2018-02-25 22.03.12“Not so hasty, if you please. I have by no means done. To all the objections I have already urged, I have still another to add. I am no stranger to the particulars of your youngest sister’s infamous elopement. I know it all; that the young man’s marrying her was a patched-up business, at the expense of your father and uncles. And is such a girl to be my nephew’s sister? Is her husband, is the son of his late father’s steward, to be his brother? Heaven and earth! —of what are you thinking? Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?”

Lady Catherine de Bourgh definitely saw herself as the hero in her own story. She was saving Darcy from having his lineage polluted by bad blood, namely the Bennett family, and Elizabeth in particular. She felt justified in putting Elizabeth in her place and keeping her there.

Creating a character who sees himself as the hero in a Christian fiction, may cause the reader to hope that somehow or other, the bad guy will recognize his error and become a better person. After all, even the worst of sinners will receive redemption from God if he will only repent and stop sinning. If your antagonist can recognize the error of his ways, he can actually become the hero in your next novel. I’ve seen authors do that very thing in books that are part of  a series. In the one book, you can’t stand the antagonist, but in the next, they have changed to such an extent that you find yourself rooting for them.

Understanding this concept has not only helped me in writing, but it has also caused me to try to look more deeply at the motives of difficult people in real life. How do they see the situation? What motivates them to do what they do? Sometimes, they are only partially wrong. They do have some valid points, but their methods of trying to correct the situation may be all wrong.

Bear with me as I take this one step further. I, too, am the hero in my own story. I have my opinions and, at the end of the day, I think I’m right. I’ve looked at all sides, taking my experiences into consideration as well as the things I’ve read, and I have come to a conclusion. However, my neighbor may be of a different opinion. How should I handle this? We certainly can’t both be right. (Can you feel the tension rising here? Life is complicated, isn’t it?)

This brings to mind the Bible verse in Ephesians 4:2 NLT, “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” I’m certainly not saying we should make allowances for the faults of people like Timothy McVeigh and simply allow them off the hook. No prison sentence for him. Just a slap on his hands. No, that is not what I’m saying. But if you are a believer and his prison guard or a trusted friend, should you still try to reach out to him for the sake of his soul even though he had no compassion on the many people he killed? Should you try to show him Christ’s love? As difficult as it is to say, I have to answer; Yes, you should.

Why? Because Jesus has compassion on even the worst of sinners. In comparison to God, we all fall short. Not one of us was good enough to be welcomed into heaven. But if Jesus was willing to save us, who are we to say He should not save this person or that person. It isn’t our call. It is our responsibility to reach out to all people and to tell them about the love of Christ. The rest is up to God. He will judge each person. Look at Jeremiah 17:10 NASB, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.” God is a just God and will look into every heart before pronouncing judgment. One thing we see clearly in the Word of God: Salvation is for everyone who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, asks Him to forgive them of their sins, and then welcomes Him into their hearts and lives. 

Now, let’s get back to fiction. Think about the antagonist in a novel you’ve read. Have you ever longed for the bad guy to see the error of his ways because you kind of liked him? The writer caused you to see things from the antagonist’s perspective and, although he is wrong, you wish he would change before he goes too far.

Do any of you remember Little House on the Prairie? Nellie was a real stinker. She thought she was better than everyone else because her family was the wealthiest in Walnut Grove. As she grew older, I often wished she would grow up and see herself as equal to everyone else. Interestingly enough, when she finally marries in later episodes, her husband helps her to change, and my wish comes true. Her mother, however, is another story. I don’t think she ever changed. But, really, how fun would Little House on the Prairie have been without that awful Harriet Olson? Which just goes to show that the antagonist is as important to the story as the hero and heroine.

 

The Battle of Finding Time

The first draft is just you telling yourself the story. ~Terry Pratchett

    That’s where I’m at right now. I’m telling myself the story. I wanted to finish the first draft by the end of 2017. Alas, it’s taking a bit longer. Finding time to write is an ongoing battle, but one I’m determined to win.
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    What seems to work best for me is to work after everyone living in our house has retired for the night. It’s quiet and I can completely concentrate on my story. Sitting in my recliner in my cosy family room, with my dog sleeping beside me, the words finally fly from my fingertips.
    When do you find uninterrupted time to work on your writing? How do you keep yourself disciplined to get the job done? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Have You Discovered Your Gift?

What’s your gift? A gift isn’t necessarily something you automatically do well. It’s usually something you have worked at, developed, studied, and now you rise above the average because you are gifted and you’ve applied yourself to grow in that area.

My husband taught himself to speak American sign language at the age of 14, eventually working at the New Jersey School for the Deaf as well as interpreting at church and at many events. At 16, he taught himself German. He’s speaks German fluently, writes in German, and even preaches sermons in the German language. Over our thirty-year marriage, I’ve heard many people say, “You’re so gifted in language learning!” He is gifted. There is no doubt about it. But it didn’t just happen. He didn’t wake up one day speaking German. He spent countless hours working on it. While others spent their time doing other things they enjoyed, my husband spent time in a book learning the German language and listening to German speakers. To this day, he continues immersing himself in the German language so he won’t lose what he learned. There are others who have invested the same amount of time, but will never speak German as well as my husband does. It is a gift. But a gift must be developed.

What interests you? What do you enjoy doing? Therein lies your gift. Study it, develop it, and immerse yourself in it. Grow in your area of interest. And then use it to the glory of God.

“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10)

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If your gift is writing, there are countless ways to use your gift, from sending encouraging emails, texts, and letters to publishing articles in magazines or writing books. Use your writing to encourage, teach, as well as for wholesome entertainment. As with any gift, the important thing is that you are faithful with using the gift you’ve been given to bring glory to God.

You may enjoy writing, but feel you will never be as good at it as perhaps John Grisham. Well, you don’t have to be him. All the things that you have experienced have made you the person you are today. You have a unique voice and you have something to offer to others. The important thing is for you to begin writing and keep writing. As you are writing, you will develop your voice and your gift.

Bonnie Friedman said, “Successful writers are not the ones who write the best sentences. They are the ones who keep writing.”

When I start writing, I usually only have a glimmer of an idea. It isn’t until I begin writing that my thoughts begin to form and I find myself going in a direction I could not have seen if I hadn’t sat down and started tapping away at my keyboard. I’ve tried writing out an entire outline first, and then start to write. It’s fine to do it that way, but I found myself rewriting most of my outline once the writing process began. Ideas come to me as I write. Find what works best for you, and then do it.

Anne Rice says, “If you want to be a writer, write. Write and write and write. If you stop, start again. Save everything that you write. If you feel blocked, write through it until you feel your creative juices flowing again. Write. Writing is what makes a writer, nothing more and nothing less.” 

Whatever your gift may be, you must develop it and use it. And as followers of Jesus, we must use our gifts to serve others and to bring glory to God. When my readers reach the end of my novel, I hope they will have enjoyed a clean romance, but I also hope they will find something in the characters of my story that will help them desire to become better people.

In the song, Little Drummer Boy, the writer had it correct when she wrote the lyrics. “Our finest gifts we bring…to lay before the King…” and later it says, “I played my best for Him…” And finally, “Then he smiled at me, pa, rum, pum, pum, pum. Me and my drum.” 

In order to give Him a fine gift, I must develop what He placed within me. In order to lay it before the King, I must use it to serve others, because Jesus said in Matthew 25:40 (NLT) “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

Do you want Him to smile upon you? I do, too. So we must develop our gifts. Yes, I used the plural on purpose, for I’m sure you have more than one. There are many ways to serve others. I will close with this verse in 1 Peter 4:11 NLT that says it best.

“Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”

You Can’t Bask In Yesterday’s Glory

The thing about writing is this, you can’t bask in yesterday’s glory. As soon as you complete one book, you must begin the next. And as a writer, this is not a bad thing, since I lovefullsizeoutput_1bd7 what I do. I’m always writing in my head anyway, I may as well put it down on paper. But lets face it, it’s easier to think up a story than it is to actually write it.

For years, to help myself go to sleep at night, I have made up stories in my head. It would help me not to think about the problems that I was facing or plans for the next day. These things could wait until morning. I would pray about them, leave them with God, and instead of needless worrying, I would distract myself by making up a story, falling to sleep in the middle of it, and then picking up where I left off the next night. Sometimes I’d work on the same story for months because I’d fall asleep before I had gotten very far. Of course, there were times the story was so captivating, I found myself fighting sleep because I wanted to finally finish it. Since I was a pre-teen, I’ve made up these bedtime stories in my head. I wish I could remember them all, but, alas, it isn’t so.

For much of my life, only traditional publishing existed, and it was extremely difficult to find a publishing company that would even want to look at your manuscript. However, self-published books are all around us now, so I decided to take the plunge and finally write out an entire story. I had no idea of all it would entail. I didn’t even read much about writing before I started. I simply started writing in one of my favorite genres and I attempted to write the type of book I enjoy reading. As I was doing so, I realized I had to research to make the story more realistic. So I researched as I continued writing. Each time I encountered a problem, I Googled for a solution and found it. It’s amazing how we have all the answers at our fingertips now. Then I edited and edited and edited before sending it off to be edited by others. I had a few people read it and give me their input before I published my first novel. Thankfully, anyone can publish a book today and there are even free publishers like Kindle and Create Space that make it easy for new writers to get their books out to the public.

Once your book is out there and people like it, they begin to ask you when the next one will be published. The pressure is on and, if you want to make a career of writing, it will always be on your mind. While you are writing one book, you are already deciding which character you might use for the next book in your series. While you’re promoting your last book(s), you are researching, choosing character names, background, personalities, scene, etc., and when you finish with all of that, the writing process begins all over again.

I heard a helpful YouTube this week with Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn as she interviewed Michaelbrent Collings on the topic How To Write Faster And Never Get Writer’s Block. What stood out to me was the fact that Michaelbrent Collings said, “I go in and begin to start typing and I don’t stop for eight or nine hours. And sometimes I write total crap, but that’s what the delete key is for. But even with writing the total crap, I learn how to write better the next day.” He goes on to explain that writing becomes your life. Everything you experience, watch, observe, hear, or read can potentially help you when you sit down to write. BUT…he works on writing EVERY DAY!

And that’s the KEY to writing. And I’m not there yet. I’m doing so much better, but I can do much better still. With my lifestyle, I doubt I’ll ever be able to write 8 to 9 hours a day, but I’ve read other successful writers who disciplined themselves to write one hour each day. They may not publish as many books at Michaelbrent Collings does each year, but they will continue to publish books on a regular basis.

My first novel, Reluctant to Wed, has been published and is getting great reviews. As I’m basking in the glory of this moment, my fingers are on the the keyboard pounding out the next novel in this series. It’s what I must do. It’s what I love. I’m a writer.

Do you write every day? What time of day is your best writing time? Are you an early bird or a night owl? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Finish It!

“Sometimes you have to get your writing done in spare moments here and there.” ~J.K. Rowling

 

I’m working hard at trying to be a consistent writer. That means either an hour of writing each day or 1,000 words. Unfortunately, my schedule this week has not been conducive for writing. My husband and I are at a church family camp where he is the speaker and I have some responsibilities in that direction as well. Since it’s a camp I attended as a youth, there are many people to reconnect with and also many to meet, and it’s hard to find time to write. Constant interruptions and long conversations have kept me from it. Rather than bemoaning the fact, I find myself intrigued by the stories I’m hearing as I sit face-to-face with people from various parts of the country, many whose families immigrated here years ago. There are lots of bits and pieces that might work nicely into future novels. So rather than feeling guilty for not writing, I feel like an investigator gathering information. By the time I one day write the bits and pieces of these stories into a fiction, they will not be recognizable to anyone, but they will have fed my imagination.

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Life can get away from us. There are responsibilities that are quite frankly more important than writing, yet there is nothing that needs to keep me from gathering more information and gaining ideas for future writings. HOWEVER, these times of not setting pen to paper or fingers to keyboards cannot last long — maybe a day or two — and then I must make time to write if I wish to keep improving. So here I sit at my computer between meetings typing a few sentences that I plan to review later and edit. I need to write. I must write. It’s the only way to become better at this craft.

Now that I’ve published my first novel, I’ve had several people come up to me and tell me how much they long to write a book. Some have a partially finished book lying in a desk drawer at home — still unfinished after several years of working on it. Let me encourage you to get it done. Complete it. Finish it. You have a story to tell, a gift to share, and information to impart. If it’s a dream, then make it come true. Commit to writing each day for one hour or write 1,000 words per day. You decide what’s doable, but be consistent and it will get done.

Are you that person who has an incomplete book at your house? Perhaps you haven’t even begun writing yet and it’s still just a dream in your head without one word written on paper? What’s keeping you from finishing? On the other hand, you may be a writer who already has a consistent routine of writing. I’d love to hear from you. How did you get to this place of consistency?

New Release

Reluctant-to-Wed---Book-Cover-V4Reluctant to Wed

will be released on Kindle within the next couple of days!!! The hard copy will be ready in a couple of weeks. I will share the link with you as soon as it is ready for purchase.

This has been one of the most exciting endeavors I’ve ever undertaken and this has been one of the most frustrating endeavors I’ve ever undertaken. BUT…I am willing to do it all over again as I’m starting to work on the second book in this series.

After you finish reading this novel, let me know who you think the second book should be about. I’ve already made my choice, but it might give me ideas for my third book.

Click on my Home button (above) to see a brief description of Reluctant to Wed.

What I Learned From Writing My First Novel

Every writer blogs about writing, sharing all sorts of information pertaining to the entire process. Since I’m a newbie in the world of writers, I wondered what I could possibly say that hasn’t already been written at least a thousand times by authors who are more eloquent than I could ever hope to be. So I decided to share my personal experience in the process of writing my first novel.

When I started fullsizeoutput_19bbmy first draft, I only knew I wanted to tell a story. In reading blogs and books about writing, I discovered that most authors encourage writers to create an outline before starting the first draft. Did I heed that advice? No.

The other advice I had read was that the first draft should simply be written off the top of your head and don’t worry about editing any part of it. Just write it. It will be awful, but just keep writing. Get the story down on paper or on your computer screen. Did I do that? Yes. I wrote furiously
for months and months…and months. However, after over a year of writing, I dearly wished I had created an outline. It was hard to remember what I had written at the beginning of my draft. I think an outline would have kept me organized and on track. When I realized my mistake, I tried writing an outline over half-way through my first draft, but it was too little, too late. I still felt confused. I think this may have made my writing process a lot longer than it needed to be.

Once I finally completed my first draft, I began to fine tune it. This part was fun. The story began to take shape, and it looked and sounded like a real novel. The thesaurus became my second-best friend. It helped me find words to develop vivid imagery. My first-best friend was Google. It helped me with researching character names, scenery, history, locations, and any question that arose in the process of novel writing. (I’m currently learning how to use Pinterest to help with the research of my next book. Perhaps I’ll share about that in another post.)

While working on the third draft of my book, I read that most authors will read through their work at least eight times before publishing it. I was shocked! Eight times, really? After reading through my work for the fourth time, I sent it off to my editor and proofreaders. I gave it to them with excitement and trepidation. Would they like my work? Did I even have potential as a writer or was I just a dreamer? I tried to prepare myself not to be defensive and unwilling to accept constructive criticism, but I also hoped they wouldn’t find much to criticize in my work. Ha!

I have to say that the critique and revisions from my editor and proofreaders, as well as the words of encouragement, helped immensely. They were good suggestions. Their fresh eyes helped me see things in a new light. After that entire process, I re-read my work again…for the fifth time, or was it the sixth? It was hard to keep count at this point. You just do what you have to do until it feels right. I sent it to my proofreaders for a final look and received those revisions back. After, I corrected a few typographical errors, etc., I was ready to read through my book for the sixth or seventh time.

Looking ahead, I  realize that once I have my book formatted for printing and ebook publishing, I will need to read through the work again to make sure it formatted correctly. I believe that will bring me up to the eighth read-through of my novel. It seems these experienced writers — who are way ahead of me — really do know what they’re talking about.

I’m truly grateful for all the bloggers who are giving advice and sharing their personal experiences about writing, editing, publishing, and promoting. I’ve gained greater knowledge and understanding about the craft of writing from these experts, as well as from those who, like me, are starting out and simply sharing thoughts about their journey. The adventure of writing has stretched me further than I ever imagined and broadened my scope of knowledge of history, geography, vocabulary, etc. It’s been a great journey so far and I’m looking forward to starting the process all over again with my next novel, but this time I’ll start with an outline before beginning my first draft.