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Writing-Series Review—Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate | #amwriting

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate | KayeDacus.comOriginally published August 2009

With help from The Power of the Dark Side (Pamela Jaye Smith) and Bullies, Bastards & Bitches (Jessica Page Morrell), we’ll analyze the bad-guy characters in our writing and reading. And for those of you who aren’t writers, we’ll be looking at the antagonists in books and movies for examples.

Bad Guys: The Villains and Antagonists We Love to Hate

    the heart of telling a good story is conflict. And while that conflict doesn’t have to come from an antagonistic character (a bad guy/girl, villain, whatever you want to call it), some of the most iconic characters across storytelling venues have been bad guys: Darth Vader, Professor Moriarty, Voldemort, Sauron & Saruman, the Wicked Witch of the West, Nurse Ratched, all of the evil queens and stepmothers from fairytales, Captain Bligh, and so on.

Bad Guys: Breaking (Down) Bad

    We must first start off with defining what the protagonist/main characters believe is bad—bad behavior, bad beliefs, bad ethics, bad spirituality, bad culture, bad politics, etc. Through this process, we can start to see that a “bad guy” in a story might not necessarily be “bad” (or evil) in and of himself.

Bad Guys: Everything I Need to Know about Bad Guys, I Learned in Childhood

    When we create bad guys, we want to play upon our readers’ fears—we want to tap into that primeval part of the brain and make our readers squirm, make them connect with the characters emotionally because they’re actually experiencing some of the same feelings/sensations the character should be feeling.

Bad Guys: The Allure of the Dark Side

    What is it about the “dark side” that can be so alluring? Actually, what is it about human nature that makes the dark side so alluring?

Bad Guys: Antagonist or Villain?

    Then there’s the role of the antagonist-who-isn’t-the-villain. As I’ve already discussed at length, an antagonist needs to be someone (or something) whose presence is necessary to try to thwart the protagonist from attaining his goal for the story.

Bad Guys: Does a Villain Have to Be Evil?

    Villains are always antagonists, but antagonists aren’t always villains; and the difference is motivation/intent. An antagonist can be in opposition to the hero without meaning to; the villain sets out to be in opposition to the hero. A villain willfully chooses to try to stop the protagonist from achieving his/her goals.

Bad Guys: What Is Evil?

    In many fantasy books/movies, the most evil characters, the worst villains, are usually a non-human entity at which we can take one look and know that they are evil. The Shadow in Inkheart. The Balrog and Sauron in The Lord of the Rings. . . . But what about in those stories in which the characterization is more subtle, in which the lines between good and evil aren’t so clearly drawn? How, then, do we figure out if a character is an antagonist, a bad guy, a villain, or truly evil?

Bad Guys: Is He or Isn’t He? (Dark Heroes)

    A con man stranded on a strange island. A cold-blooded assassin with a memory problem. A vampire in a small Louisiana town. A billionaire playboy wanting vengeance for his parents’ murder. What do these characters all have in common?

Bad Guys—Creepy Cartoon Caricatures (Caricature or Creepily Sympathetic?)

    There’s creating “Bad to the Bone” villains—the creepy cartoon caricatures; and then there’s creating Bad Guys (antagonists, dark heroes, villains) who have just a little something about them that makes them sympathetic to the reader.

Bad Girls: The Scorned Woman

    We’ve talked about our favorite Disney villains, which includes a large number of females. But when it comes to creating believable female villains—Bad Girls, in other words—it takes a totally different skill set than it does to create a male bad guy.

Bad Girls: From Vixens to Villains

    What is it that makes us sympathize with Bad Guys and hate Bad Girls? Is it because men secretly want to be that kind of guy and women want to save him?


Other posts about Bad Guys/Villains:

Writing-Series Review: Becoming a Writer | #amwriting

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Published January/February 2009

Becoming a WriterHow do you become a writer? Where do story ideas come from? How do you cultivate creativity, imagination, and inspiration? These and other questions are explored for those who are thinking about starting a journey in fiction writing—or who just need a reminder of why you started writing in the first place.

Becoming a Writer: Why I Write

    How does someone “become” a writer? That’s a question I get a lot when people find out I’m published. I’ve heard of people who’ve sat down with the companion workbook of Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel, following all of the steps in it and “writing” a novel. Some have even gotten published that way. I also know a lot of people who didn’t start writing until they were adults, and many of them have had great success as well. But if you talk to these folks and really dig deep, you’re most likely going to find that two things are true . . .
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: My Road to Publication

    Light broke through the darkness of secrecy in my soul. I wasn’t the only weirdo in the world! Other people did this, too, and talked about it! Not only talked about it but were proud of what they were doing.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: So You Want to Be a Writer?

    In my mind, what separates true “writers” from those who “want to write” is the compulsion to actually put words on the page. This goes for every type of writing there is: fiction, nonfiction, poetry, drama, essay, memoir, etc. If you truly are going to be a writer, there must be somewhere within you the drive, the desire, to put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, and actually write.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Where Do Stories Come From?

    Answering the question, “Where do story ideas come from?” is very much like answering the baby question. There’s the stork-like answer we give to non-writing friends and then there’s the full disclosure we discuss among fellow writers.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Imagine That!

    I cannot define where imagination comes from any better than C. S. Lewis did. But I do know that the more I pay attention to those “pictures” that come into my head, the more I allow myself time to think about them and let them ferment and develop, the more frequently and clearly they come.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Creativity & Inspiration

    Well, the biggest difference is that imagination is passive while creativity is active. Just look at the root of the words: image and create. One’s a noun, one’s a verb. With our imaginations, we form images in our minds; with our creativity, we do something with those images, whether it’s painting, acting, composing music, or writing poems or stories.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: How Do I Get Started?

    There’s a huge difference between “getting an idea” for a story and actually beginning to write that story. So there are two issues we need to examine: how to choose the story idea and how to get started writing it.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: Advice from Best-Selling Authors

    Writing tips from Meg Cabot, Catherine Cookson, Garrison Keillor, Roald Dahl, Stephen King, James Herriot, Kurt Vonnegut, Barbara Taylor Bradford, Jeffrey Archer, and Tom Clancy.
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: The Best Advice I Ever Received

    Back at the beginning of this series, I mentioned attending the 2001 Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers’ Conference at Ridgecrest, NC. Up until that time, I’d been writing and writing and writing for years. I’d even majored in creative writing (and hated it) many years before that. At the conference, I took the Fiction 101 track, taught by author T. Davis Bunn. It was pretty early on in the first day’s workshop that I heard the piece of advice that had the most profound influence on my writing career of anything I’ve learned since . . .
    more . . .

Becoming a Writer: How Do I Know When I’m Finished?

    I met a fellow writer for coffee and dessert the other night, and we talked about our experiences with finishing manuscripts. And I realized: there is a certain euphoria, a certain feeling of accomplishment, of fulfillment, that comes from finishing a manuscript.

    But once you’ve written “The End,” does that mean you’re “finished” with that manuscript?
    more . . .

Fun Friday: Five Random Songs

Friday, June 16, 2017

Whether I’m working or playing, it’s rare that I don’t have some kind of music going. Because of that, I have a rather eclectic mix of music on all of my devices, whether my personalized streaming stations on Pandora, my Prime Music playlists on Amazon, or the USB drive I have in my car with a couple of hundred pieces of music on it to listen to.

Now that I’m in my new house (mostly—still going back to Nashville a couple of days each week until the end of the month to finish cleaning out the house I rented for 12.5 years) and I’m working on unpacking and arranging, I’ve been listening to a lot more music recently. (Especially since it’s an hour-long drive from my new house in Clarksville to the old house in Nashville, and I usually have too much on my mind to try listening to an audiobook . . . but that’s another post!).

One of my favorite playlists that I’ve built for myself is the one that I labeled “Manic Mix”—it’s a mish-mash of all of the different types of music I listen to, from classical to soundtracks to classic rock to Disney to showtunes. It’s what I have saved on that USB I listen to in the car all the time. So I thought it would be fun to pull up that playlist and share the first five songs that come up.

Manic Mix: Five Random Songs
Random Song #1: “Cello Wars” by The Piano Guys

Random Song #2: “Footloose” by Kenny Loggins

Random Song #3: “The Raiders March” by John Williams

Random Song #4: “That Thing You Do” by The Wonders

Random Song #5: “My Shot” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anthony Ramos, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onaodowan, Leslie Odom, Jr., and the cast of Hamilton<

YouTube Bonus: “Broadway Carpool Karaoke” by James Corden et al.
(Because it is the next video that comes up after the one above and I just can’t resist—because this is totally me in the car!)

What are YOU listening to?

#Library Haul for the Week of 06/12/17 | #amreading

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

I don’t know about you, but when it’s time to check books out from the library, it’s kind of like a Lay’s potato chip thing—I can never “eat” just one. And since I never know for sure exactly what I’m going to feel like reading at any given moment, I always check out multiple options at a time.

These days, this entails hours spent on the part of my local library’s website where all of the digital items are cataloged, as I’m going to be checking out ebooks and/or audiobooks. Not only is it easier to carry around ten library books/audiobooks when they’re digital, but since they return themselves automatically when the due-date arrives, I never have to worry about overdue books anymore!

Since I just returned a bunch of books and checked out another group this weekend, I thought it might be fun to share my haul. And I’d love to see yours, too!

My Library Haul for the week of 6/12/17


The Lewis and Clark Journals: An American Epic of Discovery by Gary E. Moulton, Narrated by Patrick Cullen
Currently Listening

      Following orders from President Thomas Jefferson, Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out from their wintering camp in Illinois in 1804 to search for a river passage to the Pacific Ocean. This is the riveting account of their journey. In their own words, recorded in the famous journals of Lewis and Clark, the members of the Corps of Discovery tell their story with an immediacy and power missing from secondhand accounts. All of their triumphs and terrors are here: the thrill of seeing the vast herds of bison, the fear the captains felt when Sacagawea fell ill, the ordeal of crossing the Continental Divide. The natural wonders of an unspoiled America are here, and the lives and customs of its native peoples also vividly come to life, making for a living drama that is humorous, poignant and, at least once, tragic. Editor Gary E. Moulton blends the narrative highlights of his definitive Nebraska edition of the Lewis and Clark journals to bring forth the voices of the enlisted men and of the Native Americans, heard for the first time alongside the words of the captains.

The Art of the English Murder: From Jack the Ripper and Sherlock Holmes to Agatha Christie and Alfred Hitchcock by Lucy Worsley, Narrated by Anne Flosnik

      Murder—a dark, shameful deed, the last resort of the desperate or a vile tool of the greedy. And a very strange, very English obsession. But where did this fixation develop? And what does it tell us about ourselves? In The Art of the English Murder, Lucy Worsley explores this phenomenon in forensic detail, revisiting notorious crimes like the Ratcliff Highway Murders, which caused a nationwide panic in the early nineteenth century, and the case of Frederick and Maria Manning, the suburban couple who were hanged after killing Maria’s lover and burying him under their kitchen floor. Our fascination with crimes like these became a form of national entertainment, inspiring novels and plays, prose and paintings, poetry and true-crime journalism. At a point during the birth of modern England, murder entered our national psyche, and it’s been a part of us ever since. The Art of the English Murder is a unique exploration of the art of crime and a riveting investigation into the English criminal soul by one of our finest historians.

Silk and Shadows (Silk Trilogy #1) by Mary Jo Putney
Currently Reading

      He called himself Peregrine, and like the falcon he was wild and free. He was superbly handsome, fabulously wealthy, overwhelmingly seductive. He cut a dazzling swath through Victorian society—and wove a web of desire around beautiful and proud Lady Sara St. James, pledged to wed another man.

      In Peregrine’s arms Sara learned the meaning of forbidden passion—and forbidding mystery. Only the turning power of love could pierce Peregrine’s chilling silence about his secret past and hidden purpose…as Sara plunged into a whirlpool of yearning and uncertainty with a man who was everything a woman could want and fear…

’Til Death Do Us Part by Amanda Quick

      Calista Langley operates an exclusive “introduction” agency in Victorian London, catering to respectable ladies and gentlemen who find themselves alone in the world. But now, a dangerously obsessed individual has begun sending her trinkets and gifts suitable only for those in deepest mourning—a black mirror, a funeral wreath, a ring set with black jet stone. Each is engraved with her initials.

      Desperate for help and fearing that the police will be of no assistance, Calista turns to Trent Hastings, a reclusive author of popular crime novels. Believing that Calista may be taking advantage of his lonely sister, who has become one of her clients, Trent doesn’t trust her. Scarred by his past, he’s learned to keep his emotions at bay, even as an instant attraction threatens his resolve.

      But as Trent and Calista comb through files of rejected clients in hopes of identifying her tormentor, it becomes clear that the danger may be coming from Calista’s own secret past—and that only her death will satisfy the stalker…

The Marriage Contract (The O’Malleys #1) by Katee Robert

      Teague O’Malley hates pretty much everything associated with his family’s name. And when his father orders him to marry Callista Sheridan to create a “business” alliance, Teague’s ready to tell his dad exactly where he can stuff his millions. But then Teague actually meets his new fiancée, sees the bruises on her neck and the fight still left in her big blue eyes, and vows he will do everything in his power to protect her.

      Everyone knows the O’Malleys have a dangerous reputation. But Callie wasn’t aware just what that meant until she saw Teague, the embodiment of lethal grace and coiled power. His slightest touch sizzles through her. But the closer they get, the more trouble they’re in. Because Callie’s keeping a dark secret—and what Teague doesn’t know could get him killed.

Heir to the Empire (Star Wars: The Thrawn Trilogy #1) by Timothy Zahn

      Five years after the Death Star was destroyed and Darth Vader and the Emperor were defeated, the galaxy is struggling to heal the wounds of war, Princess Leia and Han Solo are married and expecting twins, and Luke Skywalker has become the first in a long-awaited line of new Jedi Knights.

      But thousands of light-years away, the last of the Emperor’s warlords—the brilliant and deadly Grand Admiral Thrawn—has taken command of the shattered Imperial fleet, readied it for war, and pointed it at the fragile heart of the New Republic. For this dark warrior has made two vital discoveries that could destroy everything the courageous men and women of the Rebel Alliance fought so hard to create.

      The explosive confrontation that results is a towering epic of action, invention, mystery, and spectacle on a galactic scale—in short, a story worthy of the name Star Wars.

The Yard (Scotland Yard’s Murder Squad #1) by Alex Grecian

      Victorian London is a cesspool of crime, and Scotland Yard has only twelve detectives—known as “The Murder Squad”—to investigate countless murders every month. Created after the Metropolitan Police’s spectacular failure to capture Jack the Ripper, The Murder Squad suffers rampant public contempt. They have failed their citizens. But no one can anticipate the brutal murder of one of their own . . . one of the twelve . . .When Walter Day, the squad’s newest hire, is assigned the case of the murdered detective, he finds a strange ally in the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley. Together they track the killer, who clearly is not finished with The Murder Squad . . . but why?

Mad About the Marquess (Highland Brides #1) by Elizabeth Essex


      Lady Quince Winthrop has been robbing from society’s rich and giving to Edinburgh’s poor for years. But everything changes the day she can’t resist the temptation to steal from the Marquess of Cairn.


      Alasdair, Marquess of Cairn, has come back to Scotland to stop a thief, never thinking that the lass he’s trying to woo is about to give a lesson in larceny he won’t be able to forget. From the twisted streets of Auld Reeky, to the hills of the highlands, Quince leads Alasdair on a merry chase, and finds the one man she shouldn’t fall for, is the one man she can’t resist.


Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess

      When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

      But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

What do you have checked out from the library to try?

Sounds Interesting: Oldest Books on my #Goodreads List | #amreading #books

Monday, May 29, 2017

A little more than a week ago, I shared a list of books I’ve recently added to my “Sounds Interesting” list on Goodreads. While I’ll do that monthly, I thought it would be fun to go through that (long and growing) list to share some other things at random.

So here are the ten titles that have been on my Sounds Interesting list the longest.

If you’ve read any of these, leave a comment and let me know what you thought of it (or link to your review).

(Click the title to open the book’s Goodreads page in a new tab.)

Master of My Dreams (Heroes of the Sea #1) by Danelle Harmon
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-romance, 18th-centuries

Candle in the Window (Medieval, #1) by Christina Dodd
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-romance, 10th-15th-centuries

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard #1) by Scott Lynch
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: fantasy

Anne of Cleves: Henry VIII’s Discarded Bride by Elizabeth Norton
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: nonfiction-biography, 16th-17th-centuries

The Pirate Next Door (Regency Pirates #1) by Jennifer Ashley
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-romance, 19th-C-1800-1820s

The Dark Queen (The Dark Queen Saga #1) by Susan Carroll
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-fiction, paranormal, 16th-17th-centuries

What Angels Fear (Sebastian St. Cyr #1) by C.S. Harris
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-fiction, mystery, 19th-C-1800-1820s

My Dearest Enemy by Connie Brockway
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-romance, 19th-C-1800-1820s

The Pirate Prince by Connie Mason
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-romance, 16th-17th-centuries

Sonata for a Scoundrel (Music of the Heart #1) by Anthea Lawson
. . . .Date Added: January 16, 2014
. . . .Shelves: historical-romance, 19th-C-1830s-1899

Stand-In Groom: My “Baby” Book

Sunday, May 28, 2017

As I’m cleaning out and packing up getting ready to move, I’m unearthing all kinds of fun stuff that I’d forgotten about or put out of my mind, as it’s been stored in a closet or on a high shelf for a decade or so. I’ve been sharing some on Instagram and my Facebook page, and I thought I’d share some here, too.

When I learned that Stand-In Groom was going to be published, I started a “baby book” for it—collecting all of the correspondence between me and my agent (prior to and after signing), as well as contracts, a copy of my first advance check, and the initial reviews. If I hadn’t had four or five more books come out within the next twelve to eighteen months, I might have had time to do this for all of them. But those of us who are younger siblings know—the oldest always gets all the attention when it comes to things like baby books!

Here are some images from the book (click to view on Facebook):

Posted by Kaye Dacus, Author on Sunday, May 28, 2017

Exciting News!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

I just sat down to take a break from packing and realized that I’ve been sharing this privately on social media, but haven’t really shared much, if anything, publicly. So, without further ado . . .

I Bought a House!
I’m Moving!

After 21+ years of being a renter, I’m becoming a first-time homeowner. My closing is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 31 . . . which also happens to be my birthday! How’s that for timing? 😀

I’m planning to get back to regular blogging (including a Blogging Through series of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, most likely in July/August) after I get settled in and (mostly) unpacked—and get back from a work trip to Phoenix at the beginning of July. I’ll be taking the book with me to read on the plane/in my downtime on that trip so I can start making notes for the series.

But now, because I’d be curious if I were you, here are the photos of the house—MY house!

Click the photo to open a PDF of interior/exterior photos!

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