September 11, 2013
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 | Posted by Billy Burgess
I’ve been asked to write a biography of one of my characters from The Witch on Twisted Oak. This was harder than you might think. Not because I don’t know their history; I know the deep, dark secrets of all my characters.
The problem is picking only one. I love all my characters. It’s like asking me to pick my favorite child. So I decided to go with the one who gave me the most trouble.
A good story depends on two things: a good plot and strong characters. Many writers spend time and effort developing their hero and heroine, but they forget another character who is just as important. A hero can only be as strong as his opponent. The antagonist doesn’t have to be human. Many excellent novels use animals, or nature as the opposing force. Even human villains don’t have to be inherently evil. They just need to want a different outcome than the hero and try to prevail over him.
About one third of the way through the book, I hit a brick wall. After pulling my hair and pacing the floor it dawned on me: I didn’t know my villain well enough.
First I had to figure him out, then I had to go back and do some major rewriting. After much deliberation, these are some things I learned about my villain.
Like so many people, good and bad and in-between, much of who he is now was shaped by his childhood. Through most of the book he’s called El Jefe, which means boss because that’s the way he likes to be addressed. “Can I get something for you, Boss?” “Where to, Boss?” He felt powerless as a child and now needs to be reassured of his importance by those around him.
His father was abusive and his mother neglectful. As a young kid, he spent long hours locked in a dark closet, resulting in a severe case of claustrophobia.
His family was poor and he was berated for costing them time and money. He never felt loved. As he watched movies or saw photos of wealthy people with fancy homes, he believed that money would solve all this problems. With enough money and power, love would follow.
As a teenager, he wasn’t tall, but powerfully built, with broad shoulders and a thick neck and wrists. He was already a bully by age twelve. In high school, he became a football star and his life started looking up. He loved the physical aspect and the opportunity of unleash his aggression without consequences. For the first time he got respect, from his peers and his parents.
That all ended when he tried to tackle a bigger player after time out had been called. A shattered leg ended his football career and with it, the respect of the other players, his parents, and worst of all, the fans.
His fall from grace was worse for his brief glimpse of glory.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the Witch on Twisted Oak in El Jefe’s point of view. Let me know if you think I caught his personality.
El Jefe sat in his car and watched little kids run up and down the neighborhood. How had he forgotten it was Halloween?
Decorations had been up for so long he hardly noticed them by now. Pumpkins and orange lights and giant spiders crawling up the wall. Made him want to throw up.
Useless holiday. He’d never been allowed to celebrate it as a kid and he didn’t plan to start now. Why encourage those little punks to think they would get anything for free in life?
But it meant he couldn’t go home. He might be seen with this many people out. And he’d gone to a lot of trouble to keep his face hidden.
He couldn’t sit here in his car all night. Not with the bag of treasures he had hidden in his glove compartment.
Going into a restaurant was out of the question. What if someone broke into his car? Even a nice place, with valet parking was dangerous. Those guys searched through the cars they parked for anything valuable. That’s what he did one summer, until he got fired.
That left another fucking drive-thru. All the money he’d made, and what good did it do him? Never anyplace he felt safe. Never anyone he completely trusted.
He looked again at the kids, running and laughing. It took all his willpower not to run over one of them.
Who is your favorite villain from movies or books?
Susan and her husband, Sid, live in Spring, Texas with their rescue dog, Buster, a 120 pound black lab of advanced age. They have two children and four grandchildren. They love to travel and have been fortunate to see much of the world. Her favorite places include Kenya, New Zealand, and the Galapagos Islands. When not writing, she can be found doing volunteer work at a local hospital. She loves to read, travel, snorkel and take long walks.
The Wolverine Blu-Ray
Fast & Furious 6
Frankenstein & The Haunting Of Hill House
Season 16 Blu-Ray
The Complete First Season
Bella Coffee Maker
Designed by Blogovation Design. Powered by Blogger.