But, it’s all been done before …

DebE —  February 20, 2012 — Leave a comment

OK, I said I was going to dish a little ‘advice’ so here goes my version of advice regarding:

  • Bad Guys – gettin’ to the good stuff (or, Good vs. Evil)
  • “I’ve just realized my plot’s been done a million times before … should I toss it?”

I have SO many versions of my current WIP. I’ve lost beta readers cos I keep re-starting. But, I’m getting close, I can feel it … my presciousssss … anyway, um, where was I?

I guess I’m saying it is really up to you. How excited are YOU by the idea of your current WIP? Sometimes it’s not the outcome that’s important, but the journey. Sure, we know Luke has to defeat Darth Vader, but getting there, finding out that the evil guy is actually Luke’s father – THAT was a kicker. And, even when you know that already, you can go back and watch the movies (the first ones, anyway) because it’s about the journey.

Spin a good tale. Write what you want to write (with half your mind on what will sell, if you hope to sell it). Has it been done before? Yes? No? Does it matter? There are only meant to be so many plots in the world, or something. It’s how you dress it up that matters. 

On the flip side … When I have had bursts of excitement about my story it hasn’t been through the things protagonists do. Sure, I love them, that’s why I write their scenes. But a protag is only as good as their antag. And when do I get truly excited about my story? When I’ve discovered another layer to my “bad” guy, of course.

I watch a lot of Criminal Minds. I love how the bad guys usually have a backstory, and a “trigger” event that set them off (a divorce, someone they love dying). The “bad” people are … people. They didn’t wake up one day saying “I’m going to do evil stuff …”.

The most exciting thing I did with my antag recently? ***SPOILER ALERT*** Well, I had given him the goal of killing one of my main characters, after kidnapping another one (he needs her blood for his magic to be stronger). But, that goal bothered me for a couple of reasons. 1. The main character he wanted to kill was stronger than him … where is the tension from the reader’s point of view? (I’ve turned up my bad guy’s power now) 2. I just couldn’t come up with a compelling enough REASON for him to want to kill his brother … sure, I had jealousy and all that, but it wasn’t enough. So, I took a step back. Now, my antag’s goal is simply to get the blood for the sense of power it gives him – like a drug (people do pretty bad stuff to get high). And now, I have also made him feel bad for (accidentally) killing his brother’s wife. So, my bad guy isn’t a bad guy as such. He’s made mistakes. And he’s still making them. And, he’s exciting me as a writer more than ever. His motivations leave him a little more unpredictable. What if he saves my antag’s life once? Yeah .. the reader won’t be expecting that. But, an evil guy wouldn’t do it. A guilty man might. Doesn’t mean he won’t turn around and throw down on the antag straight after. ***END SPOILER ALERT***

Watch people.

One of my favourite shows is “Justified”. Why? Sure, Timothy Olyphant as Raylan is funny as hell, but, Boyd Crowder is, too. He’s a funny bad guy. And quite likeable a lot of the time. He’s just on another side of the line to Raylan. And then there’s Dickie, and Dewey, and Raylan’s fellow Deputy Marshall, Tim (now, he’s funny) … My point here is, these people aren’t perfectly good or evil (Raylan’s quick to temper, and he’s just looking for an excuse to get out his gun, sometimes – that’s not a nice person. But, if he’s on your side …)

My husband and I took up watching “True Blood” recently (yeah, we heard it was good, but didn’t get round to it). There was a murderer – and he had his reasons, and a backstory. But, no one knew it was him till the end. He was a nice guy (and for a while there one of the other characters looked like he would turn out to be the murderer). And now there seems to be some witch (we’re up to season two) who is going to be bad. We know it. But, the fun part is finding out how and why and how the good guys will deal with it. And there are good vampires and bad vampires – but even the good vampires are, well, vampires – they could crack at any given moment.

I’m not clever enough to spin a tale that leaves people guessing who’s on what side. But I’m learning to, at least, develop a little sympathy for the devil, so to speak.

A reviewer of my early chapters recently said that he didn’t know whether or not he liked one of my protags … that’s good. I want him to be questionable at the start. Is my MC safe hanging out with him? (well, of course, she’s the MC … but, I’ve got to get the reader asking that question). I’m so glad ONE person has (asked it, that is).




Deb E was born in New Zealand’s North Island, but her parents corrected that within months, moving south to Dunedin and staying there. Childhood nights were spent falling asleep to cover versions of Cliff Richard and the Shadows and other Rock ’n Roll classics played by her father’s band, and days were spent dancing to 45 LPs. Many of her first writing experiences were copying down song lyrics. She graduated to scientific reports when she studied a nematophagus fungus in the Zoology department of the University of Otago, trading all traces of popularity for usefulness… then traded both for fiction. Mum of one human & four fur-babies.

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