How I Fell in Love With My Antagonist

Years ago, when I first set out writing my trilogy, I couldn’t stand my antagonist. Granted, most people don’t tend to like the villainous character in novels, but I really hated this guy. He’s possessive, obsessive, abusive, and just a downright asshole to my protagonist throughout the whole trilogy. With qualities like that, why would I ever like him, right?

That’s the way I felt for a very long time, and it’s only recently when I’ve started to rewrite the whole series that I’ve had a change of heart. See, while editing and fixing up the plot holes I’ve found throughout my novels, I’ve had to learn more about each and every important character that passes through, including Noah, my horrific antagonist. All of a sudden, there’s love and sympathy for him which was never present before. The reason why? I’ve learned about his backstory.

Character backstory is probably one of the most important things to be super familiar with whenever you’re writing any sort of fictional work. Without it, you have no idea where they’ve come from or what they’ve been through. I think that’s what a lot of new authors forget when they begin working on a piece of writing. Your character’s story may have started being told when you start writing your novel, but in no way is that they beginning of them. They’ve lived a life up until the first chapter of your novel. They’ve been through ups and downs that have shaped and moulded them into the person that they are when your readers first meet them. Without knowing that all-important information, your character is going to come across as two-dimensional and wooden.

This is the problem I saw almost immediately when I started rewriting my trilogy. I knew a decent amount about my protagonist’s backstory – it was relevant to the current plot I was telling so the information was a need-to-know kind of thing. But for Noah, it was as if his life had started on page one of my novel. We never discovered anything about his past, so when he goes and does horrible things, it’s impossible to understand why he’s so mean and the way he is.

It’s only after finally sitting down and letting him open up to me that I discovered why my antagonist is such a terrible person. And in that moment when he finally opened up to me and let me into his life prior to the start of my first novel, I finally understood the reasons for why he is the way he is. Let me tell you, it saddened me. Noah had a horrible childhood, something that no person should ever have to go through, and the choices he makes throughout my whole trilogy all stem from it.

Is he excused for the suffering he inflicts upon my protagonist? Of course not. What he does to her is entirely inexcusable. But I get it now. I understand why he operates the way he does. For the longest time, I thought that Noah just liked to be in control and cause my protagonist pain. I know better now. I know that in his own twisted and messed up way, he believed that he was trying to protect her from the harsh ways of the outside world and keep her safe.

Despite the nature of Noah’s character, he is by far the most interesting and intriguing character to write. I think it might be one of those things where they’re so evil and sinister that you just can’t help but to love them. Reading about him, I see why people are turned off – if I hadn’t created him, I’d feel the same way too. But writing him, it’s exhilarating. I spend so much of my time wondering what he’ll do next to throw a wrench in the works. My protagonist is safe and for the most part, fairly predictable in her behaviour, but Noah, he’s such a loose cannon that anything can happen when he shows up.

In the first book of my trilogy, I never get to visit his mind. I see the whole novel through my protagonist’s eyes. In the second book, things change though, and we get to spend the occasional chapter in Noah’s head. I wouldn’t call his points of view a narrative, but rather a stream of consciousness. The reader is privy to his point of view, but only his thoughts. It’s even different than a first person perspective, where traditionally it’s written with quotation marks, followed by he said, she said – all that jazz. Noah, on the other hand, gives us very little dialogue and instead, gives mainly his thoughts and feelings on what’s happening around him. It’s raw and emotional – exactly how his character is throughout the novels.

Getting inside Noah’s head like this – writing from his point of view – brought another level of intensity to the table that I didn’t think was possible. All of a sudden the floodgates to his mind opened and I was really able to get a feel for what was going through his head in those exact moments. At the time I was writing, I had no clue about his past or anything about his life that didn’t pertain to the plot of the stories, so although I knew how Noah would react or think about something, I had no real clue why that was the case. Now, as I continue to forge forward into my rewrites, and now that I have the backstory I hadn’t been privy to upon writing the first draft, I think I’m able to portray Noah in the way that he should have always been shown. Yes, he is still the villainous character. Yes, I am most definitely still rooting against him. But it’s different now. I feel… something for him.

So maybe it isn’t quite love like I suggested earlier, but rather understanding. I feel sorry for Noah. I wish he could have gotten the help he needed back when he was a child. Maybe things would have turned out differently for him if he had. Maybe things would have been alright for him. Though I guess I should be thankful things happened they way they did. If they hadn’t, I wouldn’t have a story to tell.

Please feel free to comment if you’ve ever experienced something like with with one of your antagonist characters – I’d love to hear about others and how they feel about it all. And as always, keep writing!

Until next time.

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Writing the Male Point of View

Writing is difficult. The carefully crafted plot, the perfect climactic moment, the creation of three-dimensional characters. All of these and more are required to make a believable and plausible novel. And then there’s the point of view (P.O.V.). I’ve already written here about the different points of views out there for authors, along with their benefits and drawbacks, but then the gender of the character speaking plays a role as well.

In my current novel, I’m writing a split-P.O.V. between a 21-year old girl and a 25-year old boy. Now, you might say, But you’re a girl, how can you write as a guy? My response? To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if I’m any good at it. I guess we’ll all find out in due time.

All joking aside though, I do believe it is possible to write in the opposite sex’s viewpoint – it just requires a little more dedication. My biggest tip? Research. Research is key.

Start off by having conversations with a guy. Find out the way they talk, the way they think – in particular how they react to certain situations. Perhaps you may know a particular scene your male character is facing, so ask them what they would do if faced with that issue. I know it’s not necessarily the same, since most likely the person you’re talking to isn’t identical to your character, but at least it’s a start.

Another suggestion? Don’t just talk to one guy and call it quits after that. Like any other kind of research, you’re going to need to do some thorough digging before you come up with something concrete. So get out there and talk to lots of guys. Guys of all types, too. The more variety, the more realistic your male character is going to sound. You want to know all the options out there before you pick one which will work for you.

I’m sure that by now you’ve realized that there are some major differences between how a guy thinks and a girl thinks. To just throw some out there (and keep in mind these are just generalizations – so in no way do I believe all men are like this):

  1. Men talk less. WAY less. So if you find your male lead is out-talking his counterpart then you might want to re-visit his characterization.
  2. Guys don’t tend to notice details in the same way girls do.
  3. Men try to act like they don’t have “feelings” – even though we all know they really do so keep that in mind while you’re crafting your emotional scenes.
  4. A male character is going to notice more visually than his female counterpart, which means you’ll probably spend more time describing things than monologuing about thoughts.
  5. Guys DO NOT always think about sex. Yes, it does cross their thoughts, but most men are not sex-driven. They will, however, always notice a girl, regardless of whether or not they think they’re hot.
  6. On that note, the first look is one of instinct; it’s the second look, the double-take if you will, which really matters. This is the look which means they’re interested.

So there you have it. A short and quick guide to writing from the male point of view. Hit me up with a message or comment if you have anything to add!

As per usual, happy writing everyone!

Until next time.

Point of View: 1st or 3rd?

I’ve been writing since I was a little kid. My first story was about two pre-teen spies, the youngest members of a top secret spy organization in Canada. They fought big baddies with cool gadgets, all while attending regular public school. Yes, Ali and Jay were my first dabble into the world of writing and creating stories, but when it came time for me to start the process of putting the words down onto the page, I had a crucial decision to make.

Why am talking about some unfinished kids story I wrote years ago, you ask? Well, it’s because that crucial decision I had to make was which point of view (referred to here on out as POV) I was going to use. At the time, it was an easy decision. It had to be third person. Every book I’d read up until then was written that way. It was all I knew.

Recently, I’ve been struggling with a POV decision in my latest manuscript project, so I thought I’d share my conflicting struggles here and do what I usually do to work out an issue: write it out. Currently, my story is being written in third person POV, but everything I’ve worked on over the past four years has been first person POV. Here lies my problem. Which one works best? What are the pros and cons of each?

So, we begin.

Third person POV is the most commonly found POV in novels, though some will argue first person is making a compelling surge into the marketplace. The immediately obvious reason why third person works well for writing is the freedom it gives you. Having your narrator separate from the story allows for them to jump from character to character, providing the reader with a wide lens of the story’s universe. This can be very helpful if you have a multi-plot novel, where you constantly need to jump around covering different events that are happening. This freedom also works in a different way though, as it allows the author to write important scenes without the protagonist present. Out of all the pros third person presents, this is the one I always wish I have when working in first person.

Some people argue that third person allows for easier transition between characters if you have a multi-character POV story – and I understand why this is the case. It’s much simpler to keep straight who the story is following if the reader is constantly being reminded of the character’s name. In first person, it’s more difficult to garner than separation.

One of the biggest things I think third person POV novels are good for happens to be genre-specific. If you’re writing a thriller or mystery – or just something that has a lot of suspense – third person is a very enticing option. Why? Well, the reader doesn’t ever know if the protagonist is going to die or not. Because third person isn’t inside of the character’s head in the same way first person allows, the reader can’t confirm if they survive or not. For example, if the narrator sounds like “I went to the store”, the reader can assume the character survives their excursion to the store since they are now commenting on it. In third person, however, where the narrator sounds more like “She went to the store”, the reader has no idea what happens afterwards.

Other pros:

  • Protagonist character descriptions are much easier, since the narrator is easily able to view everyone
  • The narrator is USUALLY more objective and reliable than first person POV since they aren’t an actual character involved in the plot of the story

In the other corner is first person POV. This is the POV that I write most frequently in, so I would say it comes most naturally to me, though it definitely has its flaws. Here, I’m going to focus on the benefits of first person.

Personally, I believe that the best part of first person POV is the personal connection the reader gets to the narrator (which most of the time ends up being the protagonist). Being able to get inside the mind of the character means most of the time it’s easier to relate to them, since the reader experiences everything the narrator is thinking and feeling. Naturally, it feels more intimate to have a narrator as a first person POV. Not only do you get to understand how they think, but you feel as if they’re telling you some sort of an oral story and to some extent feel like you may be along for the ride.

Character development falls somewhat into my previous point about intimacy with the narrator. Due to the nature of first person POV, the reader gets to discover things about the narrator-character that normally couldn’t be show or told if done so through a different narrative structure. You can discover hidden traits of the character through their word choices, sentence structures, speech patterns, thought processes… just to name a few.

First person POV also allows for an easy blend between real life and the fictional world a reader explores. Since we experience our day-to-day lives in first person, experiencing everything first hand, it’s a good fit to have a story told in the same manner. This mirroring of real life adds to that intimate bond a reader forms with a first person POV narrator.

Other pros:

  • First person POV can create a narrative filter if an author wishes to lead their readers down a particular path – an unreliable narrator can cause confusion, or even plot twists
  • Works well for specific genres – especially Y.A., due to the nature of the genre

In closing:

I’m not going to say whether first or third person POV are the better option; I believe that both can be effective if used in the right way. As I’ve already mentioned earlier, I prefer to write in first person POV, though I think that’s mainly because I feel I can get inside the head of the characters I’m working with if I write from them.

Both choices present challenges, though I think using a few tricks these problems can be solved. For example, third person has issues with character intimacy. I believe that isn’t necessarily a bad thing all the time – some distance and space from the characters can sometimes keep things from getting muddled up. Another solution to that problem? Write in character-focused third person POV, where the narrator follows one character at a time and is allowed inside the head of that particular person when following them.

First person has issues with creating scenes where the protagonist isn’t present. There’s an easy fix to this problem, I believe, and it’s writing a piece with multi-character POVs. By including other perspectives, not only does it keep the story fresh and interesting, it allows for parts of the story which happen when the protagonist isn’t around to exist in the narrative.

Overall, I think determining what point of view to write in depends on what you as an author want to present to your reader. There are positives and negatives to both options, though with enough creative thinking, the negatives can be turned into something better.

So I’ll leave you with that for this time. If you have anything you’d like to add to this discussion, please leave a comment. It’s always appreciated.

Until next time, and keep writing!