Crafting a credible antagonist

I hope everyone has had a fantastic Christmas with their nearest and dearest, and you’re all looking forward to a fresh start in 2017.

Let’s be honest, 2016 has been a bit rubbish. The EU referendum, no matter which side you were on, has left the country in a lot of uncertainty and turmoil. The American presidential election was just as tense, even for us Brits. And a lot of really awesome people have died so far this year. Bowie, Prince, Carrie Fisher, George Michael, Victoria Wood, Liz Smith, Terry Wogan, to name but a handful of the incredibly talented individuals we lost in 2016.

One of the worst days of the year for me was the day Alan Rickman died. I cried for hours.

Moving forward, here’s hoping the next 12 months are 100% better than the last 12!

For me, 2017 is already looking up. I finally managed to snag tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child for December next year, my husband bought us tickets to Aladdin in February as my Christmas present, I bought my Dad and I tickets to An Inspector Calls, and my best friend has bought us tickets for the tour of London film sets of Harry Potter! So the next year will be mostly spent in London living my best life.

Right then! Back to business.

 

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Let’s take a look at antagonists.

Here’s a bio of the antagonist of my current work in progress, The Fair Queen (serious spoiler warning!):-

Name: Auberon Crux

Species: Celeste (aether)

Occupation: Celeste King

Archetype: Ruler

History: Auberon and his sister, Neviah, were raised in isolation by cold and distant parents, the King and Queen of the Celeste Kingdom. They formed a very strong bond, spending every day together until they were teenagers.

When Neviah fell in love with a boy from another kingdom and ran away, Auberon was left distraught and alone. Neviah was a prophetess, and foresaw the coming of a child who would end the war and return the Fair Realm to peace. Being a gentle and romantic type, she was excited about this possibility. Auberon, being cruel and narcissistic, was not.

When Neviah fell pregnant and consequently died in childbirth, Auberon blamed the child. He had always disagreed with interbreeding between the different lines of Fair, believing each should keep to their own, and now he grew to despise all other Fair, especially half-breeds.

The child’s father, the crown prince of the Salamander Kingdom, had been warned by Neviah before her death that her brother would wish harm upon the child. In order to protect her, he hid the baby in the Human Realm, swapping her for a human baby girl.

Auberon spent years searching, but never managed to find the girl. Until weeks before her eighteenth birthday, when girls from Aria’s village start going missing…

 

That sounds like the premise for a whole book of its own, doesn’t it? Well, when I was doing research on writing convincing and engaging antagonists the advice that I came across said to make the character the protagonist of their own story. To me, that means putting as much thought and effort into creating the antagonist’s backstory, motivations and characteristics as you do the protagonist.

This article by Laura Di Silverio on Writer’s Digest is brilliant for anyone looking for help fleshing out their antagonist.

So, that’s a little introduction to the main antagonist of my duology. What do you think? Is there anything you’d like to know about my big baddie?

If you have any tips for creating credible and terrifying villains in fiction please pop them in the comments! I’d love to get your advice.

 

Lyndsey

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PS. Happy New Year!

 

Current word count: 61,925

Currently reading:

PaperbackThe Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

This is the sequel to The Sin Eater’s Daughter, which I adored. It’s taking a while to get into the story because we have a whole new protagonist this time around, but I can’t wait to see how it fits into the world Salisbury created in book one.

Magical monsters and where you may discover them

The title of this post was my husband’s idea. We went to see Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them the other week – we’re both big Potterheads (well, he thinks he is, but he’s never read the books and in my book that doesn’t count). Afterwards, he said “I think you should write a book called Magical Monsters and Where You May Discover Them,” and then he had a good laugh at his own joke.

So, this week, we’re talking about mythical monsters and legendary creatures.

 

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My WIP, The Fair Queen, contains a fair few fantastic beasts. As with the names of many things in the novel (characters, places, etc.), the creatures are all based on British myths and legends.

I use this pin on Pinterest to help me come up with mythical creatures:

Let’s have a look at said beasties:

Banshee – a banshee is a kind of wraith, a female spirit dressed in white with a ruined face, whose scream kills by rupturing the victim’s blood vessels.

Barghest – an enormous black, dog-like beast with bone-white and razor-sharp teeth and claws. An omen of death.

Drac – a water demon, a cross between a mermaid and a sea dragon. Dracae drag victims down to the bottom of the lake, usually resulting in drowning.

Hag – a shape-shifter that appears to young men as a beautiful young woman, and to girls as a haggard old crone. They use visions to manipulate their victims into going with them, before killing them.

Nat – a twig-like creature in a symbiotic relationship with a tree. Usually harmless and peaceful, but will attack in droves to defend their territory.

Selkie – a water creature that appears as a seal-like animal under the water, but on land takes on human form. They are very seductive and manipulative, and are known to entice humans into joining them in their underwater kingdom forever.

Troll – a large, simple beast that usually keeps to itself, but when angered will attack. Not very intelligent, or skilled, but they have brute-strength on their side.

So, those are the magical creatures that appear in book one of the duology, we will probably (read: definitely) meet a few more in the sequel, The Solitary King. They all keep to the original myths quite closely, with a few small tweaks here and there. They may change slightly over the course of editing and revising, but that’s all part of the writing process!

Do you like your fantasy novels to tie into existing myths and legends, or do you prefer exciting new creations?

I hope you’re excited to see how these fantastic beasts fit into my novel and what kinds of trouble my characters get into!

What would you like to know about my WIP in my next blog? Let me know in the comments – I’m thinking ‘get to know my antagonist’, or if you have any questions you’d like answered based on what I’ve already shared.

I can’t wait to hear from you!

 

Lyndsey

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Current word count: 59,661

Magic, myth and mystery

In my current work in progress, The Fair Queen, I have created a system of magic based on the elements.

As always, spoilers abound, so if you want to read my book (when it’s finished) without any hints then don’t read on.

 

Magic, myth & mystery

 

In the Fair Queen, there is another world within our own, called the Fair Realm, where magic exists and mythical creatures are real.

The Fair Realm and everything in it is based on British – mainly English – mythology and legends. The names of characters, towns, the creatures and their abilities – they’re all rooted in our history.

I read a few articles about creating magic systems, and there seem to be two distinct schools of thought. One prefers a very strict, rule-based magic system, and the other favours a looser, more ambiguous style. I have opted for the second one, as I think it lets the reader use their imagination more and allows a lot more flexibility for the writer.

I also think it gives the whole book a more mysterious feel, which is what I hope to do in The Fair Queen. Whilst some fantasy authors are looking to create a very fixed type of magic that readers can learn and understand, I think that fits in well in a book where the entire story takes place in a mythical land, so the two balance each other.

The Fair Queen is ultimately set in a rural town in England, and even though there is another realm within that, the majority of the elements in the story are very realistic. The only fantastical elements to the story are the magic and the mythical creatures that have come to exist as a result of it, so I felt that a loosely explained, mysterious magic system would be well anchored by the rest of the story world.

Does that make sense? I hope so!

Now that’s (somewhat) explained, I’ll tell you a bit about the actual magic…

The Fair are split into five kinds, each with a different elemental magic:

Gnome (Earth)

Sylph (Air)

Ondine (Water)

Salamander (Fire)

Celeste (Aether)

I won’t give too much away, but after a century of war, poverty and oppression, magic is actually very rare. That’s part of the mystery surrounding magic in the story, not many people even possess it. It’s become a sort of myth within itself.

There, now you know a little something about the magical people in The Fair Queen! Next time, I’ll introduce you to some of the mythical creatures that prowl the Fair Realm.

In the meantime, let me know what you think about magic systems in fantasy novels. Do you prefer your magic to have clear rules and restrictions, or do you like ambiguity so you can imagine your own limitations, if any?

Let’s chat in the comments.

Lyndsey

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Magic, myth and mystery Lyndsey's Book Blog

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Current word count: 57,364

Currently reading:

PaperbackFlawed by Cecelia Ahern

I’m really enjoying Cecelia Ahern’s first foray into YA. I have read almost everything she has written and loved most of it, so I knew I had to read this as soon as I heard she was publishing a YA novel. It took a while to get into at first, but after the first hundred pages the intensity really ramps up and the story picks up pace.

I see it as a combination of 1984 by George Orwell and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It’s about a dystopian society where a secondary justice system has been set up to punish flawed citizens who are not quite criminals, but have committed some kind of immoral or flawed act. It’s quite scary to think about how realistic this premise is, and in some ways I think the punishment served to the Flawed is worse than that received by actual criminals.

Check it out if you like dystopian YA. I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel, Perfect, when it comes out next year.

AudiobookThe Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

I liked the first book in this series, but it was the second book that really got me hooked on this series and now I can’t wait to see how it concludes with The Fate of the Tearling. I won’t give too much away for those of you who haven’t read The Queen of the Tearling yet (go read it!), but basically it’s set in a sort of medieval fantasy world and centres around a young girl who was brought up in seclusion in a remote cottage, and finds out that she is the future queen of the Tearling.

The book charts her journey to the castle where she will reign, and her development from young girl to reigning monarch. It’s absolutely fascinating, and there is a host of fantastic characters as well as an intriguing magic element to the story.

Read it if you love historical fiction with a fantasy twist, but don’t expect much romance!