Villains

What makes a good villain? I am far from the first person to pose such a question. Maybe Darth Vader comes to mind when you hear that word, or maybe a power-hungry wizard. Villains are a huge part of fantasy. Some are the that demons heroes face internally, while others may be opposing factions. The real question may be who is really evil?  In fantasy there is a wide range of villainy, as there should be.

I prefer a villain to have depth, to struggle with things internally that he/she would never reveal outwardly. Hate and anger may be a driving force behind some of his actions, but he never sees it that way. I see a good villain that is someone as good at deceiving herself as she is at deceiving others. However, these traits just scratch the surface because to make an antagonist worthy of a story, he should be someone with whom the reader can identify if placed in a similar situation. I believe the scariest villains are not mindless monsters or those who are evil just to be evil, but they are the ones we can see ourselves becoming.

In the real-world, people often do evil things while believing they are doing good. This happens for a variety of reasons: perhaps the person’s worldview has changed, or maybe that person’s worldview does not line up with the status quo. It could also be that the person was persecuted in some way, and the pain he/she endured manifested after a long period of time. One does not have to go very far to find evil, and most of them did not suddenly wake up and say, “Hey, today I’m going to do something only an evil monster would.” Instead, they rationalize it to themselves. That is the villain that resonates with the reader. That is the type of villain I strive to create in Goandria.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Avoiding Clichés

Clichés in fantasy are many, and in previous blog posts, I have addressed a few that I try to avoid.  As an author it can be dangerous to make the claim that I am avoiding clichés when they can be hard to avoid.  I would imagine that many times when authors use clichés in their works it is unintentional, or perhaps I would just like to give my fellow writers the benefit of the doubt.  Especially if the writer has a traditional publishing contract, I would guess if the author included clichés it is intentional.  What cliché have I not addressed before that is replete in fantasy books, TV shows, and films?  The one magical weapon that can destroy the dark lord.

I have seen this cliché repeated in various fantasy stories.  There is the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings, the Sword of Shannara in the Shannara series, and Harry Potter is the only one in the whole world who can defeat Voldemort.  In that sense, Harry Potter is the magical object that can destroy the villain.  It is a neat concept and is believable within the context of a nearly all-powerful villain.  If a writer sets up an immortal, super-powerful antagonist, it is very difficult to defeat him or her in a believable way.  However, does this have to be the case for so many villains in fantasy?  This cliché is also one of the many common complaints I have found with post-Tolkien fantasy.  What if fantasy started to regularly employ other means of defeating the main villain?  What if modern fantasy could rise above the common problems that make it look a lot like clones of the Middle-Earth Legendarium?  What if the antagonist destroyed himself?  What if the protagonist found an unconventional chink in the villain’s metaphorical armor?

What I want to see is new life breathed into the fantasy genre.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Goandria: The Genesis and Evolution of My World Part II

In the beginning, Goandria was about a ragtag group of rebels who fought against an evil ruler. Sound familiar? I thought so too once I got into my early teens. It was around the age of fourteen that I strove to make my storyline something unique, yet there are common elements in fantasy that make the genre, so the balance of creating something fresh, and not rehashed, is more than challenging.

I was inspired by the immortal elves of Tolkien’s world and the elves in the Inheritance Cycle. Both are immortal beings that represent what humanity could have been. Elves in fantasy are powerful and wise, but also haughty and often arrogant. Elves and dwarfs are both cornerstones of the fantasy genre, but I wanted something different. As I have mentioned before, in Goandria I strive for familiarity and uniqueness, so how could I incorporate these central races to fantasy? This was the birth of the englif race. These people are immortal like elves, but they are shape shifters. I made them to be rather reclusive and shut off in their own island (Caldaria). I have attempted to make them less haughty then elves by showing their lack of involvement in the outside world. This is largely due to them being so absorbed in what they are doing.

As far as dwarfs are concerned, I once more tried to distinguish my works from fantasy’s overt Norse roots. The dwarves in Tolkein’s world and The Dwarves series by Markus Heitz have very strong Scottish traits, and they are typically miners and craftsman. However, the race I chose to implement were pale-skinned, diminutive creatures standing a foot tall and having large blue eyes. These people are called the ferrorians. They are often scatter-brained and silly, and they represent a more innocent side to humanity – the part of us brought out by Christmas and Halloween. Of course, in any quality fantasy, not all members of a single race are the same. It is for the reader to discover these people, their differences, and the rich world in which they live.

To be honest, there is another group in Tolkien’s Arda that inspired me. One that has inspired other kinds like them in literature, television, and movies: the Nazgul. Where elves may symbolize a pure humanity, the Nazgul show the other end of the spectrum. I fell in love with their concept from the first time I saw The Fellowship of the Ring on the big screen. There are only nine of them, yet they command fear and respect of all their foes. They are evil incarnate, an evil so pure and blind that it is hard to imagine them as the kings they once were. What sort of people were they originally? Were they evil kings before they encountered the Rings of Power? I wanted evil wraiths of my own, but how? Again, that is something I want the reader to discover for him or herself.

Sign up for my newsletter!

Goandria: The Evolution and Genesis of My World Part I

What drives a 12-year-old to hammer away at the keyboard instead of going outside or playing sports? That is something I do not understand, but I was that 12-year-old. The world of Goandria has gone through many versions and morphed so many times, but at the same time, it remains familiar. Much like an old friend, writing in this world has offered comfort and has become so integrated into my life that if I am parted from it for too long, I feel as if there is a hole in my soul.

Before age 12, if someone had told me I was going to aspire to become a writer, I wouldn’t have believed it. I wanted to sing. As a child, I felt I had my life figured out, like many children do. In my early years, I was not particularly good at reading, and I could not write well either. I struggled through all my English classes, and often barely passed, but there were two worlds that filled me with awe: Star Wars and Lord of the Rings. These stories left me wanting more, taught me about love, life and friendships, and transported me to a world where the impossible was possible. This was the beginning of my love for fantasy.

While sitting in church one day, the idea came to me to start writing and create my own world. It wasn’t particularly original or good at first. At that time, it was called “The Land of Golah.” As time went on and I grew and learned more, the desire grew within me to create a world that was my own, original and not just a copy of the stories that inspired me. Yes, I know, that is the goal of every writer, and it is up to my readers to decide if I succeeded, but what I wanted was to break away from the clichés that plague Fantasy. For example, a Dark Lord/Lady who is evil just for the sake of evil is too prevalent in fantasy worlds. In my first full-length novel that I plan to release in early 2015, there is a dark lord (so to speak), but I wanted to show things from his perspective. I wanted the reader to get inside his head and understand why he does what he does. This is something that does not happen with Sauron in Lord of the Rings. The reader knows Sauron is evil, but we really don’t know why or what drives him other than his wish to dominate all people and their wills.

My goal with the Goandria series is to offer a story that is familiar yet fresh for fantasy readers. There are thousands of Lord of the Rings clones out there, and while I love Tolkien’s work, let us leave Middle-Earth in Middle-Earth.

Sign up for my newsletter!