Happy Father’s Day

My dad never told me how to live my life, he simply set an example for me to follow. He was always a strong man. I know every kid believes that, but he always proved me right. My dad was a firefighter- he worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known, did everything he could to make our lives better. And then when I was in second grade, something happened that would change our lives forever. He was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

It was devastating. My dad was strong, he could fight off the monsters and keep the darkness at bay. His career consisted of saving lives and running into burning buildings when everyone else was running out. He was also on the K-9 search and rescue team where he responded to major disasters like the Oklahoma City bombing. His life was built around his strength- both mental and physical. And suddenly, he couldn’t walk across our yard without a cane. He would be driving down the road and would suddenly lose his vision. And perhaps worst of all for him- he couldn’t work on the line anymore, he had to move to a desk to support his wife and four children. For such an active man, the reality of losing control over your own body must have been shattering, but he never breathed a word about it. He continued on, pushing through and persevering.

It was a rough year- when we were still learning what the disease meant and what it could do to him. And then there was the game of discovering the right medication- it was like playing Russian roulette, you never knew what to expect from each one. Would this one make him grumpy? Would it make things worse? Or would it help his limp go away? Eventually life settled into a new routine, most days the cane went away, but the limp was still there. We knew we would never be the same again. MS is an invisible disease, no one would ever be able to see the daily struggle, but it was always there, hidden under the surface.

We all have bad things happen in our lives. Some people let those things define them. People will use these moments as an excuse, a crutch. My dad used his moment as a challenge. He never let his disease stand in his way. He couldn’t be on the line at work anymore, so he worked twice as hard at the desk- ensuring safety for his men, occasionally going in for practice burns. He wouldn’t always tell us when a relapse was hitting because he knew we would try to make him slow down. My dad only knows one speed: go. He fought through the pain, the discomfort, the fear. He chose to define his disease, he was not going to let it control him. He stayed active. He was strong in every way possible.

He would never let anything stop him. Even when he fractured both of his legs- they didn’t need casts because of the location of the fractures, and they hurt, but not that bad- so he kept running. Every single day. He would never let anything stop him.

And because of that, I have leaned to do the same. The worst moments in my life do not define me, I decide what matters. I wont let anything stop me, even when it seems impossible. He has always believed in me, so I can believe in myself. He taught me that you have to work hard to accomplish your goals, nothing will ever just be handed to you. You need to be thankful for everything you have- even your health is a precious commodity that might not always be available to you. He taught me to make the best of everything, you only live once and you might as well enjoy it. And when all else fails- take a break, go outside and enjoy nature- because it is the most healing element in the world.

I see a lot of my dad when I look at myself: my work ethic, my stubbornness, my nerdy jokes (I can dad-joke with the best of them), my belief that even the craziest dreams are possible- so many things I got from him. I am proud of him, of everything he has accomplished and all of the things that he has taught me. We shouldn’t appreciate our father’s only one day a year. But sometimes it is good to be reminded of what is important. He is the most influential person in my life. At 27 years, I can still say my dad is my hero. And for that, I thank him. Everything I am can be traced back to him. So for all of the lessons, all of the unconditional love, all of the times you simply shook your head when I brought home another ‘winner’: thank you dad, for everything.

 

World Building Brick by Brick

A truly gifted author will transport you to another realm without you even noticing. You can smell the stench wafting from the gutters, hear the clicking of your boots on the marble floors, feel the droplets of rain pattering against your hood, dripping onto your nose. You will nod your head in agreement, faintly believing in the back of your mind that you have been to this world before, you have run your fingers over the mortar of it’s brickwork, you have listened to the locals bicker about politics by the flickering flames of a campfire or stared in deep concentration at a map trying to figure out how to get back to the main road. A talented writer will gently lie to you, lulling you into the dream of a world that never existed. When you wake from it, you will ache for that place, long for a world you desperately wish you could hop in your car and drive to.

So how do you build castles from thin air? I know I will probably never join the ranks of J.R.R Tolkien, J.K Rowling, or Patrick Rothfuss when it comes to their detailed worlds, but I would like to think I have learned a few things over the years. I love creating an entire society out of nothing but my words. I am an over-planner, I thrive on details. The vast majority of what I plan doesn’t actually make it into my novel, but it does influence the way that I write and helps me give my world a certain feel, painting it in the appropriate shades. It creates authenticity out of something that is essentially a lie.

You will be tempted to color your world from the moment the reader opens the first page; this in itself is not necessarily bad, you want your reader to be able to visualize your creation. However, a twenty thousand word explanation of the culture and socio-economic strengths and weaknesses will not draw your reader in, enticing them to turn the page. If you want to teach them about dragons, don’t have a character regurgitate a text book; perhaps create an argument between two of them, maybe one does not believe and the other swears he has seen them. The scene may be longer, but your reader will walk away with more than just a bulleted list of information. They will learn about the culture through the argument, the beliefs of the characters that will fill your pages, and perhaps they’ll start to get a feel for how your characters view one another. Their is an art to the way you present your world; usually less can be so much more. Don’t tell them, show them with subtle hints and clues. Describe your world for them through actions, not through flourishing paragraphs that, though beautiful, do not actually add to your plot.

As I said before, I over-create. I like to make the background of my story as rich as I can, though only a small percentage of it might make it into the final product. I want to understand my world. Over the years I have created a general worksheet to help me plan. It gives me a roadmap, a template that I can base the rest of my work on. With this new map, I can find the foundation that I need for a consistent story; at the end of the day, it is the consistency that will make your novel feel genuine. It’s only a general outline, every story will have different areas that might need more vetting out before I start my actual writing.

If you decide that you might be interested in trying it out yourself, you can find a Word and PDF version, along with other little goodies I like to use, on my resources page right here:

Top Shelf: Writing Resources

That page is continuously updated, so feel free to check back again for new content.

Without further ado, I present to you:

The World Building Worksheet

Physical Traits:

  • World Name:
  • Type:
    • Planetary: Earth? If not, what is the planet like? Mostly rock? Three moons? A purple sun?
    • Style: Is it more medieval, modern or futuristic? Steampunk? Magical?
    • Style: Is it more medieval, modern or futuristic? Steampunk? Magical?
  • Geography:
    • Make a map (surprisingly fun, no artistic talents required)
    • Where are your major resources and settlements: Such as rivers, forests, lakes, agricultural , etc. (keep in mind the people you will have living there and how they will survive, along with any social issues that might cause- for example, fighting over resources)
    • Climate: Keep in mind your general geography, as well as the people living in each area

Settlements and Societies:

  • Settlements: I usually do a separate sheet for each major settlement
    • Type: City, Town, Village
    • Population:
    • Layout/Geography: are the houses close together, far apart? Is it clean, dirty?
    • Security: Gates surrounding, soldiers, form of law enforcement (if any)
    • Allies and enemies:
    • Building types: wood, brick, etc.
    • Technology Level:
    • Transportation:
    • What are the inhabitants: certain type of creatures, magical, race
    • Education system:
    • Type of medicine: doctor, priest, wizard
    • Major professions of the people: Mining community, predominantly agricultural
    • Economy:
      • Rich area/poor area:
      • Monetary system:
        • Type of currency:
        • Trade:
    • What resources do they use:
    • What resources do they need:
    • Political system/Government:
      • Type of government:
      • Local leaders:
      •  cities/people that may rule over them:
    • Religion:
    • Language:
  • Creatures/Types of People: (for this subject, it is good to create a separate page for each creature/type of people)
    • What creatures populate your realm:
    • Where do they live:
    • Clothing styles:
    • Their allies and enemies:
    • Interesting facts/histories:

Magical Elements

  • Magic: (if any)
    • What type of system (ex: arcane, dark, etc.)
    • How does it work:
    • The magic laws:
      • What can be done with the magic and how:
      • What cannot be done:
    • How do people feel about it:
    • Who can use it and who can’t:

World Background

  • History:
    • Major wars or conflicts:
      • Key players:
      • How it started:
      • Major battles/events:
      • Who won and how:
      • The aftermath: (how were the people treated, how did they rebuild themselves, any remaining grudges)
    • Key figures:
      • Why they are important:
    • Current conflicts:
      • How they began:
      • Current status:
      • The ‘sides’:
        • Prejudices between groups:
      • Reasons:
        • Ways to fix them:
    • Important myths/lore:

 

Camp Nano Cabin Quest

The ideas have sizzled and slipped through your mind until you finally decided to reach out and grab one. You have committed by taking that step and creating your story on the Camp Nano website, and you still have the rest of the month to plan and prepare for the coming adventure. But something is missing- you haven’t dared search for that illusive ‘perfect cabin’ to lay your virtual head. The quest for a cabin can be an undertaking all on it’s own.

The people that you choose to embark on this daring adventure with can make the difference between crossing safely through the Misty Mountains or getting trapped in the Shire with nothing to do but repaint your door. There is really nothing worse than being forced to admit to yourself that half of your cabin is dead on arrival after five days of virtual silence. And forcing conversation online is just as awkward as real life- take my word on that. So, how do you find the right group when you don’t have Gandalf marking you each for mutual adventure?

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Truthfully, my methods seem to be hit or miss. Although I must say, I am not a huge fan of being randomly sorted. I had expected that it would be like Hogwarts- but in reality there was much less magic and a lot more voids of awkward silence with cabin mates who couldn’t be bothered to log back in once we hit the first of the month when we were set to embark. I have been a firm ‘custom cabin-er’ since they first started to allow them. The big problem though? Everyone is excited before the first day hits, they are full of a bright enthusiasm for their project. But once you get a few days in, the reality of the mountain you face starts to set in. People don’t want to give up their lives for an entire month. So they disappear into the ether- if they even show up at all.

Going through the message boards to find a new group is like combing through the classifieds looking for a blind date (that’s probably an outdated analogy- umm- tinder, is that what people use now? Swipe left…or is it right?) Most people are pretty specific- age limits, geographical boundaries, genres- I even came across one person who was making every prospective cabin mate fill out an application and copy an oath to participate as a binding cabin contract. Obviously, this is a person who had been burned by the MIA cabin-mates before. Now me, I don’t think I want to be that extreme- I understand the desire to find others as serious as you about their work. But Nano is also meant to be a fun experience. I don’t want to worry about ‘conversation quotas’ in my cabin chat room, or be biting my nails and in fear of a request to leave when I decide to take a weekend off from my writing. I want the balance. I want to enjoy this.

So, after combing tirelessly through the message boards and finding a few that only partially fit, I decided to try delving into other areas of my life first, on the search for the perfect cabin. I have a few writing groups I frequent, all Facebook-centered at this point. One of them was actually created by a group of us who met during Nano a year or so ago- it had been a good season. I posted in my groups and waited. I was surprised to hear that one of them had quite a few people who hadn’t heard of Nano before. I managed to get a couple who were interested. By no means do I have a full cabin, but it’s been fun sharing something that I deeply enjoy with these new people who just might catch the nano bug like I did.

So I would like to extend my invitation here- if anyone feels like joining a cabin for camp nano- leave me a message. All projects are welcome; we have novels, blog projects, possibly some editing work- our doors are open if you care to embark on a daring adventure with a group of humble writer/bloggers. What do you say? Do you feel like being brave this July?

Urban Fantasy

I’ve done it! After hours of internal debates over several days- I have finally decided what my Camp Nano project will be. In the spirit of my goals for this year- I am trying something new. That’s right, I am dropping my security blanket and venturing out onto new literary avenues. This nano, I will be delving into the world that is: Urban Fantasy. I’ve done straight fantasy, futuristic dystopian-style works, regular fiction: I’ve followed down many of the other branches, but the urban style was new to me. In fact, it is actually fairly new to the literary world in general; it did not become an acknowledged sub-genre until the late 80’s to early 90’s.

Urban fantasy is a very specific collection of works in which the piece itself is set primarily in the ‘real world’ with paranormal/fantasy elements. A few examples would be: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grimm, Supernatural, The Belador series, The Mortal Instruments- the list goes on and on. Now, it’s not a necessity that these stories take place in contemporary times; any futuristic or historical setting is also acceptable.

Personally, my biggest question about this genre: how is it different from Paranormal Romance (because to be honest, a lot of what I’ve read looks like it could fit in either category). As it turns out, about 90% of the elements of both genres are fairly intertwined; these are the fraternal twins of the written world. The key difference: if you remove the romantic element, do you still have a story? If your answer is no- you are well within the boundary of paranormal romance, but if you said yes- then you still stand a chance. A paranormal romance focuses on the relationship itself and how the outside forces effect it, whereas urban fantasy can survive even if that relationship is edited to become a platonic one.

It’s grown momentum rather quickly in the modern era, where we are so quick to welcome any escape from the trials and tribulations of our daily lives. After all, don’t we all secretly wish we could gain some kind of power, transform into our favorite animal and slink off on an adventure? Or perhaps find ourselves entrenched as a key party to a subtly fought war between vampires and werewolves (this is where the paranormal romance aspect starts to look good). I will have no shortage of inspiration as I begin my trek down this winding path. Perhaps this will be a niche I didn’t know I belonged in. There is only one way to find out.

 

Introverted (I’d love to hang out, but…)

It’s a frustrating paradox that the most fulfilling moments in my life happened when my stomach was twisted with nerves, my anxiety was at a fevered pitch, and every synapse in my body was firing off warning signs, begging to understand how I could have possibly been so stupid as to agree to the activity at hand. So many fond memories that I am so proud of now, moments that have been able to enrich my body and soul- what would have happened if I had been too afraid? The white water rafting trip, jumping off that bridge into the river, telling that one special man that I loved him, getting on that plane to Vegas, pushing off on that zip line, going in for that job interview, going out to that one happy hour with the friends that feel more like family now- everything that makes me who I really am happened in these moments. So why do I fight them inside on such a fundamental level?

I am an introvert to a textbook degree, I practically embody that definition. I prefer my solitude- books are my constant companions, I would choose staying at home and watching my newest Netflix obsession in my pajamas with my fiancé over going out with a group of people, without the slightest hint of hesitation. I crave my down time, my moments spent lost in my own thoughts, not having to constantly analyze the social cues of others. I get invited to social occasions- and in the moment that I agree I am so excited, but five minutes after the person leaves, I am plotting the most inconspicuous way of getting out of it. And it’s nothing against them, though I’m sure they wouldn’t understand that if I tried to honestly explain it. That cliché line of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ doesn’t seem to go over very well. A million possible excuses start dancing through my mind- can’t say I’m sick, it’s too transparent, and besides, I used that last Wednesday. How about broken leg? I’ve never broken my leg before- yes, that one could work. But would it be painful or expensive? (For those of you without social anxiety, you are probably wondering why on earth I could ever be considering actual threat of bodily harm to get out of something that you wouldn’t even think twice about doing. Then again, those of you with it will probably be nodded your head in understanding and pointing me to the nearest staircase to throw myself down).

I get anxious in social situations, deeply uncomfortable with small talk. Perhaps its deep-seeded insecurities rising to the surface, perhaps I’m just wired differently. Don’t get me wrong- I can still go out and have fun, I have a group of friends who I adore, I look forward to my happy hours just like everyone else. I’m not like Sheldon, I can read social cues as well as the next person, and 95% of the time you wont even be able to tell that I’m uncomfortable. It’s an internal battle I’ve learned to mask over the years. I have a Batman exterior over my Bruce Wayne inner thoughts. No one will see what I’m really feeling unless I decide to show them. So when I go out, I am fine, I smile, I joke, I laugh, it may seem that I just take a bit longer to test the waters. But inside I am weighing every word I just said, watching your reaction and calculating what every twitch of your nose might mean. And when the night of fraternization is over, I will be exhausted right down to my core. Again- it’s not you, it’s me.

So here is the ultimate dilemma of the introvert, the socially awkward, the one who’s tummy ties itself in knots at the thought of small talk with someone I’m not already intimately familiar with: do you step out of that box and join the rest of the world, in spite of your flat lining comfort levels; or do you stay at home and plan for the ‘next time’ when you will be brave enough? Or perhaps simply plan to tackle that adventure solo. I know which one I would like to be, but I am also painfully aware of which one I really am. For those of you who live for the social scene, I am sure that this will sound strange to you- the way that someone like me can fear and simultaneously crave these moments that you live for.

It gets exhausting, letting those ill-conceived phobias rule you. I am a firm believer that the more you push yourself outside of your own comfortable little box, the easier it will be. So this year I’ve decided to challenge myself to say yes more- and actually follow through, no matter how much the insecure little girl inside wants to throw herself on the ground kicking and screaming until she is allowed to just stay at home. The best parts of life are when you are dangling out on that limb. But today I need a reminder of that, of why I am trying to make myself painfully uncomfortable all of the time.

And so I look back at the past few months, at all of the good things that happened because I chose to be brave instead of comfortable. I applied for a new job within my organization- and I got it. I love it, there is not an ounce of regret when I look back at that decision. I went to a dealership and bought a car that wouldn’t threaten to break down on me every other Thursday (to someone with social anxiety- stepping into the car dealership is like Harry Potter entering a Death Eater nest- you know going in that it will be ugly, and will not be over quickly). I went on a trip to Vegas, something completely new for me. I went zip lining down Freemont street. I put myself out there and started this blog- and people are actually looking at it on occasion (still blows my mind). All of these things have happened in the past few months alone. I have been trying so hard.

I have come to a conclusion in the past year, one that was painful to accept; these feelings that I get- they wont ever go away. No matter how hard I try to overcome them, pushing myself out of my comfort zone over and over again in the hopes that I will learn to stop being afraid of social situations- that will never happen. This is a war that has to be fought one battle at a time. I have to deal with my phobias head on one moment at a time, blow by blow. I have to struggle, I have to fight the inner child constantly reminding me that one trip down the stairs could solve all of my problems. I have to fight to say ‘yes’ and then build myself up until I actually follow through. I will always be awkward, I will always feel stupid at the end of the conversation, I will always feel my heart start pounding in a panic when I agree to do something new. But I have to keep doing it. Not to make it easier in the long run, because the individual decisions will never be easier. I have to do it so that next time I want to say no, I will have one more reason backing up my decision to say yes. I will have one more memory of a time I decided to be brave and had an adventure. After all, what is life worth if you are too afraid to experience it? I cannot let my fear dictate my actions anymore. I will be brave- awkward, yes- but brave.

 

 

Things I Learned from my Dog

In honor of best friends day, I have a confession to make. You were bound to find out sooner or later, I would much rather be up front about it. I am one of ‘those’ pet people. There, it’s out! Wow, does it feel like a weight has been lifted or what? I will admit, I like putting Easter bunny ears or Santa hats on the dog when the correct season arrives. And there is a slight possibility that I have a picture of him sporting a human jersey for my favorite football team (I’ll leave the specific team anonymous for now- I think it’s best that I only throw one bombshell on you at a time). And really, he doesn’t seem to mind; after all, I do occasionally make him his very own cake (Okay- I’ve only done it once, and it was when he turned a year old- that doesn’t seem all that unreasonable to me, I think I’m quite tame for a pet person). Now the cat- he’s the smart one, he’s managed to escape all of my photo sessions simply because, well, he has discovered how to use his claws. That’s a battle I only fought once- I learned my lesson. The cat rules our roost. But really, I’m not that bad. I just love my critters. In my mind, pets are a part of the family. A large part of the family.

When we brought home the little ball of fur that has since morphed into a 75 lbs mass of muscle and sloppy kisses, I had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. I had expected that I would be teaching him; how to come, stay, roll over, don’t bark, eat the burglar, do not eat the mailman (no matter how tasty he looks). I never expected that I would be learning so many lessons from him. Here are just a few of them:

  • Always be excited to see your people. ALWAYS. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had a rough day, or they didn’t change the toilet paper roll (or they moved the bone that you finally managed to hide in the perfect spot under the covers)- be excited to see them and you will brighten their day.
  • A walk will fix everything. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind. Link is always quick to give me a little yip when the sun is shining and I have spent too long working on my laptop. Sometimes all you need to push that reset button is a breath of fresh air and some sunshine.

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  • Don’t judge a book by it’s cover, because looks are often deceiving. Link is a German Shepherd- he is supposed to be tough and scary. But, as I’ve learned- sometimes it is the ‘toughest’ ones that actually have the biggest hearts. And sometimes those who give the appearace of being unusually serious are the biggest goofballs of all.
  • Respect the ‘little guy’: treat everyone equally, whether they are a Grate Dane or a little Chiuaua, treat them well. You’ll be much happier making friends than enemies.

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  • Just because someone barks at you, does not mean you have to bark back.
  • Down time is important. When you feel overwhelmed, sometimes the best thing you can do is find a quiet corner and chew on a bone
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive: It’s okay if the cat thinks its funny to bop your nose and run away when you want to nap. And if he gets you with his claws on accident, why not answer him with a big sloppy kiss instead of a nip. After all, he does let you chase him sometimes. He can’t be all bad.
  • Work time is for work, and play time is for play. You need both to feel happy and fulfilled.
  • When you are in a bad mood, sometimes all you need is a snack. And if a snack doesn’t work- a nap is usually the perfect trick.
  • When someone is sick or sad- cuddles are always the best medicine.
  • Never be embarrassed: who cares if you ran into the wall? You were busy staring at that suspicious squirrel on the fence.
  • It isn’t whether you win the game that counts, as long as you play. Missing the ball just means you get the added adventure of sniffing it out.
  • If it seems like the cat is doing something naughty- he is. Whine and alert the humans immediately.
  • Always be willing to make new friends, but be wary who you allow close to you (anything with shooting quills is usually a bad idea)
  • Always trust your intuition, it is usually right.
  • Be ambitious- why settle for a stick when you can take the whole log?

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  • Be curious about the world- there are so many new things to learn, taste, see, smell. You will never learn unless you try.
  • Be passionate- always. The world is an exciting place, if you are willing to embrace it.

 

 

 

A Villain is a Victim…

A villain is just a victim whos story hasn’t been told.”

I seem to have a knack for finding (and liking) what winds up being fairly controversial quotes in the writing world. I must admit, I didn’t expect some of the vehemence I have come across when touting a few of my favorite lines- these are words that I have plastered all over my writing desk to give myself inspiration. I should have known better- writers are generally passionate people (how could they be anything else, you don’t do this work for the glamor it provides), so why was I surprised that their passion extended as far as inspirational writing quotes about the craft itself?

Viewing a villain as a possible victim: there are people out there who get so enraged with writers who follow this piece of advice that they feel the sudden urge to catapult their book at the nearest wall. It seems like a strong reaction, I know- but that was exactly what I was told the last time I tried to post it to a writing website I used to frequent. In fact, the person in question was really unhappy with anything I could have said on the subject, and was rather angry that I brought it up at all (I obviously ruined her otherwise perfect day). Her stance was that real villains exist in the world and that no amount of coddling will change that, and ‘acting in a vile manner’ was a choice. She was a firm believer that evil is evil, and that claiming victimhood was merely an excuse. She despised writers who attempted to make their villains as anything but what the stereotype suggests- evil for evil’s sake.

Now, I have a very different interpretation of the quote- I guess that is the beauty of the written word- you can have a million people read the same words, and they will walk away with a million different viewpoints on it. In a literary sense, I view the ‘villain as a victim’ quote in a less literal way. My intent with my writing is never to coddle them or turn them into the ‘good guys’ in some fashion. For me, this quote was always a reminder that my characters- especially my villains- are three dimension creations. I like to remind myself that my characters need a motivation, a purpose- even the ‘evil’ ones still need a story to explain their actions. I want all of my characters to have a purpose, a reason for acting the way that they do- not just out running amok doing random evil deeds just so they can twiddle their mustache and laugh maniacally about it later. I don’t want to insinuate that they are necessarily innocent in any way, but I do believe that adding an edge of gray to a standard cookie-cutter character would add a new prism to view your writing in.

Let’s take a famous piece of literature for example- one I hope most people would know is Harry Potter. The villain- Lord Voldemort- there is no question that he is a truly evil villain. But, at the same time, he doesn’t do his evil deeds for the sake of evil- he does them because his belief system (as faulty as it is) tells him that the magical world is being tainted by impure blood, and he wants a superior race of pure bloods to be in charge. He goes about this personal mission in a variety of very dark and, yes, evil, ways. Now, they don’t delve too deeply into why his views go this direction- most likely it was his muggle father whom he hates, or the orphanage where he grew up- but no one reads that and says ‘aw poor little Vordey, we forgive you for all you’ve done’. It’s simply a fact- a piece of his backstory that motivates his later evil deeds. I don’t think villains should be coddled, but perhaps a bit of understanding is in order to make a truly realistic character. No one will look at the actions of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and forgive them because of his past- they simply provide the motivation for why he is doing the heinous things that he does.

It is all about perspective, after all. I love the concept that most villains don’t view themselves as villains. I like to add shades of gray to my stories, I have never been a fan of straight black and white. I want to invoke deeper feelings and thoughts about my characters apart from plain love and hate. I want my readers to feel something, to be forced to think and really look at characters I have created. And yes, I want my villains to be victims who haven’t told their stories- because that means they still have a story to tell, another dimension to color them. That is what makes a realistic piece of work- the colors that shade it.