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Posts Tagged ‘antagonists’

Does our success as writers have more to do with luck than talent? Or do you think talent prevails over luck every time?

Well, speaking on behalf of my own experiences, I know it has a little to do with both; talent cannot function without luck and vice versa.

Recently, I co-wrote a Supernatural TV pilot, called ‘The Legend’. I had never written a script before, knew nothing about layout and formatting, but dug in, worked hard, and voila, a pilot was born.

At the end of February, my co-writer friend and I were attending the DFW Writer’s Conference in Texas. Now, I class myself as a thrill seeker, but my co-writer went a step further and thought it would be an excellent opportunity to stop by L.A. and ‘pitch’ the TV idea to some Hollywood bodies. Laughingly, and if not just to humour her, I agreed.

We queried everyone we could think of and arranged some meetings. One meeting in particular surprised me. It was with an entertainment lawyer. I asked my friend why she had contacted an entertainment lawyer, to which she simply replied, “why not?”

That entertainment lawyer read our script and loved it. At around the same time a manager contacted this lawyer, and at the end of their telephone conversation asked if he knew of any ‘new’ writers. He looked at our script and emailed it over to her. She read it, loved it, and promptly contacted us.

Two new script-writers left her office a week later with several projects and ideas to write; she wanted to see anything and everything we wrote.

In essence – we had a manager.

All that came from querying a lawyer. Now I’m not telling you email every lawyer you can think of; we also met with an actor and a producer – both of which have attached to the project. But with each person we met, we were recommended to someone else, and each contact is now a person we have met with personally and can email ideas and projects without the need of a query letter. Hence we have a VIP backdoor where only solicited work is allowed to enter.

So yes, I believe your career is made with a mixture of luck and talent:

Luck – Maybe we didn’t go about querying in the correct manner, but we did it politely and professionally…..and we got the face to face meetings we wanted.

Luck – We happened to be liked, and first impressions seem to be everything in this business.

Talent – That all important synopsis were our hook, and led our readers into wanting the script.

Talent – The script is why wanted people to meet us.

Without these key ingredients, I would not be sitting here now, blogging about my experiences. I walked away from L.A. a very busy girl, but having my writing described as very well written and with strong voice was a boost to an area of writing I am very new at, and being praised as audacious was fun – I mean, me, audacious? Honestly 😀

So, tell me if a mixture of luck and talent has led to any of your successes.

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The UK has had an amazing amount of snow this winter. I frequently found myself standing in the kitchen and just looking out the window at the white covered fields that surround my house – hey, I’ll use any excuse not to do the washing up and snow seemed to be the excuse everyone was using for not working. 😀

One thing is for sure. Snow is beautiful. It can transform even the most horrid of places into a serene and peaceful area befitting any Christmas card.

But then it struck me. Snow is extremely cunning and deceitful. It lures you in with the promise of fun but in reality, it has claimed the lives of so many people. In fact, snow is a real killer and its sister, the wicked Ice Queen, is worse. She is just pure evil and will stop at nothing to make our lives a misery, particularly the ones who don’t take up arms and prepare for her arrival. Frozen pipes, black ice, and have you ever been hit with an iced snow ball? That will draw blood, guaranteed.

So, then I started thinking of other items that lure us in with their perfect beauty, only to attack when we least expect it.

Roses are classed as one of the most elegant and beautiful flowers. Their aroma is intoxicating and they are arguably the most stunning flower created. They draw you in. You have to smell that rose, to touch its silky petals….and then, BAM! Either a thorn stabs you through the thumb or a big, fat bee flies out from the hidden depths of the flower and stings you on the nose. I mean, these flowers are given on Valentines Day as a sign of love for crying out loud. What you’re really getting is a box of thorns hidden by silk petals. If you love me, send me daisies. They won’t draw blood and there’s nowhere for any killer bugs to hide.

So I guess what I am really saying is this. If it happens to snow on Valentines Day, and you have to walk the length of your pathway to collect a box of roses from your post box, just stop and think of the senders real intentions.

Okay, so this was just a fun post, but can you think of any other perfections that have flaws?

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How would you kill someone?

For the last month or so I have been plotting my second novel and I have struggled a little in one particular area. Let me explain. My antagonist is a professional killer hired to kill an amnesic victim. I reached his first kill and suddenly it hit me. Just how would he kill? Now, I unashamedly admit to having an over zealous imagination in the killing department. Because of this, I needed to strip bare my ideas, go back to the beginning, and list the basic ways one could kill a person.

So my list began.

Shooting
Stabbing
Strangulation
Poisoning
Torture
Asphyxiation
Explosives/Bombing
Snapping Necks
Bludgeon to the head
A Wand – well it worked for Harry Potter.

All of these are killing techniques we have seen a thousand times in various movies such as Die Hard, Scream, Basic Instinct, Friday the 13th ……I could go on and on. However, each of the above, when applied to a certain character, would be executed in a different way. For example, Die Hard’s John McClain would perform a magnificent display of acrobatics while catapulting his vest top covered torso through the air to shoot his enemies. Whereas in Fatal Attraction it takes Anne Archer just one determined shot to kill Glenn Close. Another example is stabbings. In Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone seduced her victim before unleashing a frenzied attack by way of an ice pick. However, Romancing the Stone (can you see a Michael Douglas pattern forming here?), sees Kathleen Turner merely flicking the knife at her antagonist who, unfortunately, blocks it with a plank of wood.

So, which would my professional killer use? And how would he carry it out?

Well, firstly, what kind of professional killer was he? I did not want a character like Richard Kuklinski, who froze his victims to disguise their time of death and even filmed victims being eaten alive. So, after watching timothy Olyphant in HITMAN once or twice (oh alright, maybe it was a lot more), I decided my hitman would be military trained and disciplined in planning his attacks. Explosives, sniper shootings and the odd hand to hand combat would suffice nicely. The places he choose to kill, however, are another blog.

Now it’s your turn. Can you think of a similar outcome where two characters use the same tools but apply different methods?

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When I look back at the first book I wrote, I feel a twinge of guilt for my characters; all five of them to be precise, if I want to be picky and count the minions.

Why do I feel guilty? Because, unforgivably, I neglected to give them a life. I just dumped them on the wintery London streets of Shad Thames and said “Right, off you go and do this.”

To their credit, they did what I asked, but not to the best of their ability, and that is solely down to me, because I did not spend the time in getting to know them. A year ago, I would have sworn different. I would have told you my heroine was an independent woman, owned a bar and lived a relatively normal life with only her handsome neighbour next door for support. The hero, and her love interest, was an actor who was quiet and thoughtful and ……. Oh my God, so boring!!!

Then I met Kristen Lamb. She told me to write a back story for my antagonist, so I did. I proudly wrote four pages and emailed them over to her. Her reply? “Crap, do it again.” I was mortified. How could it be rubbish? (Yeah, ok, you can stop laughing.) But she was right. It was absolute tosh. Oh, how naïve I was back then.

The reason it was rubbish, and it’s so clear now that I cringe every time I think about letting Kristen read it, was this. My first antagonist was a nice, wholesome, little rich girl who went nuts because the guy she liked was in love with someone else. There was no venom about her. She was kind to others, well liked, popular at school – you get the picture. But my reasoning for creating this totally unrealistic girl, who went off the deep end, was because Glenn Close had done it in Fatal Attraction. If a block busting movie could do it, why couldn’t I? The problem was, Glenn Close was not the normal, hard working, successful woman she appeared to be before Michael Douglas slept with her. If you look closely, she was actually a borderline psychotic and her back story would have backed this up with actions, events and certainly haunting issues.

I was guilty of analysing the plot of a story too much and just letting the characters roll along for the ride. Now, however, and much to my husbands annoyance, I analyse and pick holes in everything on TV. Still, men are there for us women to annoy so I think it is a win-win situation. 😀

So, this is what I have been taught, and would strongly recommend to anyone creating a character:

It starts with their creation. They need a look, a height, and a style. Personally, I look for a picture of an actor or actress and go from there. Then give them a home, a childhood, parents, siblings, pets, school proms, jobs, friends, enemies, lovers, fears, stressors.…. you get the picture. What they do with them after that is then up to you. They can use them, annoy them, play with them or kill them. They can go to jail or become President, but their back story must lead them to the moment you start your book. You cannot have, like I did, a nice antagonist who turns in to a crazy, killing machine, because it is convenient to the plot.

If you are stuck, then I would suggest writing your own biography first. Start with where you were born, who your parents were, if you have any siblings. Remember your childhood memories, relationships, good and bad. Jobs you’ve liked and jobs you’ve hated. Gravesides you have stood at. Tragedies you’ve had the misfortune to bear. All these things define who you are now.

Oh, and one really important thing I have learnt is this. Your protagonist does not have to be perfect. Perfect is BORING! Give her a flaw. Make her human. I guarantee your reader will not dislike them for it.

Look at Mel Gibson in the first Lethal Weapon – he was a suicidal drunk. And Frasier, from the TV show of the same name, has serious commitment issues, but do we hate either of these characters? Do we ‘eck. In fact we become more compassionate towards them.

Now, as always, I want to know something. I want to know who your favourite protagonist is and what flaw they have. Hmmmm….. has that got you thinking?

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I want to play a game.

I’m going to say a word and I want to know the first image that comes to mind. Ready?

Sociopath.

What was the first thing you thought of? No cheating. Can I hazard a guess and say you probably thought of a deranged psychopathic killer, probably from one of your favourite horror films?

Now, what if I said you probably already knew a sociopath. Would you believe me? No? Okay, what if I said there was a high probability you may already work with one, live next door to one or even be friends with one. (God forbid you live with one.) Does that scare you?

Academics calculate that sociopaths account for around 5% of the population. So what exactly is a sociopath?

Forget for a moment that you are a nice person and imagine this: You have two friends who, for some unknown reason, have stopped talking to each other. They both confide to you of their sadness at the situation and that each is going to contact the other to make amends. Now, being the nice person you really are, you would eagerly share this information – after all, it’s the morally right thing to do and you want your friends back as, well, friends. But I want you to imagine deceiving and lying to them, convincing them that each is still expressing their dislike for the other. Then I want you to feel very smug and happy in the knowledge that you have singlehandedly kept them from being the good friends they once were.

Are you horrified? Could you ever see yourself acting in this way? Of course not, but that is probably because you have a little thing called a conscious. You cannot act in a bad way because you would feel appalled and guilty. A sociopath does not have this luxury. They feel nothing. They are crafty and deceitful, selfish, and manipulative. They will take what they want and do as they please and not experience the slightest ounce of remorse or regret for any of their actions. They will hurt a ‘friend’ just as easily as they would hurt a stranger and they will do it with a smile on their face and a song in their heart.

A staggering 1 in 20 people are sociopathic which means that 5% of the population lacks any shred of a conscious, and worse still, these people can be very difficult to spot. Contrary to the belief that all sociopaths look like the Yorkshire Ripper, they do in fact, look just like you and me. They will charm you on first introduction and the majority of people will be blinded by their manipulation. But these people are cold. Maybe they are rapists, or domestic abusers. Maybe they are not violet at all but will think nothing of scamming or stealing from you. Unfortunately, the majority of people find out when it’s too late. Sociopaths are excellent at spotting your vulnerability and will use it against you to get what they want, using every trick in the book to succeed. But sociopaths are very jealous people and if you dare disagree or go against one then watch out; they will happily bring down upon you a reign of misery.

The only way to deal with a sociopath is to dissolve all contact and remove them from your life. Do not try to argue with them, or attempt to out smart them. Remember, they are sociopaths and do not ‘feel’ like the other 95% of the population. You have to protect yourself and you are not doing this if your time is consumed with making them pay.

Protect yourself and live your life. As Dr Martha Stout says, “Living well is the best revenge.”

So, now I will ask…..Do you know a sociopath?

For more on this I recommend reading ‘The Sociopath Next Door’ by Clinical psychologist Dr Martha Stout, Ph.D.

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I thought it would be fun to see if it was possible to write a story in no more than six sentences. This is what I come up with…

The Wrong Path :

He stood at the crossroads at the tender age of seventeen where, as predicted, he had received his first criminal record. He could have walked to the left and stayed on its disastrous path, ending up just another statistical drain on today’s society. But he chose the path to the right, working hard to reclaim his dignity and self respect. He cherished this path, gaining a rewarding job, loving girlfriend and loyal friends. He awoke on the day of his 22nd birthday not knowing that today he would be honoured a hero. Today he would rescue the life of a young child from a burning building, sacrificing his own life in the process.

NOW, it’s your turn. I want to read your 6 sentence stories. Good luck!

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Being as it was Halloween ‘an all, I had planned to write a blog last week about the creepy village I live in, but I changed my mind when I watched Halloween Resurrection on Saturday night. Now it is no secret that Michael Myers rates number 2 on my list of things I fear the most, right after spiders, which I find totally alien (there is absolutely no justification why they need eight horrible, hairy legs). Anyway, I snuggled under my duvet and, with hubby snoring next to me, I watched the whole movie. Anyone who has seen ‘Resurrection’ will no doubt agree with me when I say it doesn’t hold a torch to the original Halloween film. In fact I have no idea what number in the franchise this one is and, to be honest, I don’t care enough to spend the two minutes needed to Google it, but my god, does Michael Myers scare the crap out of me.

 A little piece of information you should know about me before I continue. Not much will frighten me. If I hear a noise during the night, I will go and investigate. Yeah sure, I thought I was going to have a heart attack while I walked alone (walked you hear, and I rebuke all rumours that say I nervously edged my screaming self round) the House of Horrors in LA’s Universal Studios, but the adrenaline rush was amazing!

Well, after the film finished I wanted to go to the loo (that means ‘toilet’ to my American friends) and, as always after I watch Michael Myers for 90 minutes, I was scared to leave my bedroom.

This got me thinking. What was it about his character that scared me so much? I’ve watched all kinds of horror films and none of them have this effect on me, Vacancy, Wrong Turn, Friday 13th, The Crazies, and Tremors. Ok, I am kidding with the last one, although will admit to loving it. I thought it could be because there are many Michael Myers out there for real. No? How many stories do we read in newspapers of people being butchered in their own homes or knife wielding maniacs dragging women off to their death? Way too many to mention on my small and mere blog, I can tell you. Then I watched another film called ‘The Strangers’. For the entire film my heart beat so hard against my chest I actually questioned whether this is what it felt like before someone died of fright – I kid you not! But why had this film also scared me to such a point that I would think this?

I’ve pondered over this for a while now and this is what I’ve finally come up with. In both Halloween and The Strangers, all the killers are wearing masks. You cannot see their faces, only the blacks of their eyes. These masks stop me from seeing any emotion shown on their faces, hence I have absolutely no idea what they are thinking or planning to do next. This to me is utterly frightening.

My husband cannot watch paranormal/ghost films, heck he struggles to get through an episode of Supernatural, and yet these films do not scare me. Why is that? Why does one film scare me and another scare someone else?

So, as an experiment, I want to know who or what scares you and more specifically, why.

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