I have always been a planner. And I’m not usually over the top–although I can be–but some amount of planning goes into every one of my stories. It’s usually just a rudimentary outline (see 7-point story structure) and a rough idea of setting, conflict, and characters. Most of the time, that’s enough to keep me on track.
However, as I’ve been diving into Book 2 of my series with ACHILLEA, I’m trying to crack down on a lot of what I know my weaknesses are. Chronology and seasons, how much time does my book actually cover, little hints and breadcrumbs, military details, where I put Rauden’s scars, etc. As my books have evolved, I’ve added a lot of minor characters and I have apparently drifted slightly from where my main characters were. For example, I looked back over my notes on Lyda, Sielle, and Naniha, a group of three friends and Achillea’s first recruits. In my mind now, they’re older than I originally intended. Fun thought experiment, I asked my friends at the Dead Pete Society how old they thought my characters were, and I got a range of reactions:
Kathi said 17-20. Jori said 16-18. Frankie said 20-26. I had them written down as 18-22, and in my mind, they’d become somewhere between 20-24.
Then I asked who they thought was oldest, and who was youngest.
Kathi and Jori agreed Naniha was the oldest, Lyda the youngest. Frankie thought Naniha was the youngest, and Lyda the oldest. Originally, Lyda was the youngest, but now my brain thinks she is the oldest. I find it interesting…Kathi and Jori have a closer handle on where I originally placed my characters, but Frankie seems to share my now-brain.
I clearly had some work to do.
I have character sheets for all of my characters in Scrivener, but as each of my books has its own file, this became a bit of a pain. And yeah, I know I can export/import from one book to another, but even that became a pain as I added and subtracted characters because I had to make sure it was consistent across all of my books.
And since I plan to take the series into at least seven books with a set of spin-offs, I knew I had to be more organized this time. You can’t just race off into the sunset and chase a series without being completely, one hundred percent in control of your setting and your characters. If people fall in love with my series as I hope they will, they’re going to catch on. I need to know this world and these people better than anyone.
So I made another book. A physical one. I have a weakness for office supplies, and that most certainly includes blank journals and notebooks. So I repurposed a journal that my friend got me for Christmas into a character reference. Every character gets a page, even if I only put them in the book to kill them off later. If I need to, I’ll start another journal, but so far this one has everyone in it with about half the pages to spare.
I gave each character the following details:
- Name, with pronunciation and applicable nicknames
- Age at the founding of Vaethrre (my city), including birthday (because I might need that) based on what I think their astrological symbol is. (Okay, look…I don’t REALLY ascribe to this belief…but there are people who read this that might). For example, Lyda sounds like a Virgo, so I put her birthday in that range. This will help me keep their ages straight as the books progress, provided I can keep my damned timeline straight (this is the challenge).
- The top of each page has their D&D alignment (Lyda is Lawful Good), their Meyers-Briggs personality type indicator (Lyda is an INFP), and who I think would be a good actor/actress for them (right now Lyda is marked as Natalie Dormer…her inability to properly smile because she always smirks is a shoe in, and Natalie looks badass with short hair)
- Physical appearance, especially important if someone changes theirs later (like Heike does, or when Lyda gets new tattoos).
- Personality; this is their concrete personality, what is less likely to change. PTSD or character shifts are added in later to the Notes section. Sielle hates apologies and refuses to apologize herself. This won’t change. But her extreme bitterness to the point of potential self-destruction is an added change and will go into the Notes section. That’s something that may eventually be undone. I haven’t decided that yet. For her to suddenly appreciate apologies would be out-of-character, however.
- Family connections
- Motivations; What are they trying to achieve? Everyone is motivated by something, even if their ultimate goal is just to be left alone.
- Conflicts; what adverse forces are working against the character? Lyda takes issue with cruelty, and she steps in when she believes those around her are acting unfair or vindictive.
- Love interest(s), including whether or not they have an ‘aya’, the equivalent of a True Love in my stories (in ACHILLEA, ‘true love’ is a very real thing. Kind of.).
- Their opinion of the Warden (more or less ‘God’), if they have one.
- Secrets; Lyda is a very private person and she keeps a lot of her own desires to herself.
- Fears; Myen is afraid of heights and horses
- Dislikes; Heike hates cheese
- Likes; Kirae has a fondness for conversation and company
- Weaponry; Heike has 54 different bladed weapons. At some point, I intend to list them all, but I don’t want to accidentally end up with 58 in case anyone is counting.
- Notes; I left a big blank space here for most of the characters depending on how long I intend to keep them around. Myen and Heike get several pages each, but cameo characters like Carme (who works at the hospital) only get a page.
Then I put a Table of Contents at the front, and voila! I’m good to go! Now I can use this handy dandy notebook for all of my books. And hopefully, I’ll never get lost again!
S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS (also available in print) and short fantasy A SHINY FOR TRICK (forever free for your entertainment!).
Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!
This is a continuation in a series of posts I’ll be doing about my own writing process. If you’re just coming into the conversation, please read this first. I don’t want anyone to feel daunted by my process. As NaNoWriMo forums are fond of describing, there are Planners and Pantsers. By that, they mean there are writers who prefer to write with a plan, and there are writers who prefer to wing it and fly by the seat of their pants.
I am a planner.
If you’re a pantser, planning can be intimidating. That’s why I would prefer if you read my previous #WriteTip post, which seeks to convince you that your own style is superior to mine because it is your style and you’ll get to know it best. I present my own methodology for two reasons:
- People sometimes ask about it, and
- It might help someone else find their way.
Planners, in General
There are multiple ways a writer can go about planning their work. The first thing you need, obviously, is a kick-ass idea. From there, there are multiple tasks you can do, such as:
- Drawing maps or sketches of characters, settings, clothes, creatures, etc.
- Filling out character sheets that add detail and personality to your characters
- Build a world, like making a character sheet for your setting
- Browse the internet for images, people, maps, etc. that inspire you relative to this story
- Outlining/plot mapping
- Talking with a friend
Any and all ideas are fine. I even change up my method from story to story, but there are similar elements no matter which story I write, so I’ll go into them here.
How I Start: Index!
The very first thing I do is whip up a Google Sheet (Microsoft Excel for Google Drive). I make a skeleton outline for chapter number, chapter name, and chapter description. Sometimes, if I am feeling especially plantastic, I’ll also put a ‘last edit’ date, a timeline marker, estimated percent completion, a section for other notes, and whose perspective I am following if I am writing more than one.
I can do this in Scrivener as well, but I’m still rocking this part of my process old school. In Scrivener, you can make a new page for each chapter, and each chapter has an ‘index card.’ It essentially works the same way, I just don’t love it. I have always been a fan of spreadsheets. They’re simple, easy to use, easy to organize, and easy to modify.
For the chapter description, I just keep it really simple. What am I hoping to accomplish in the chapter? For THE BLOOD OF NERYS (whose master document this is), Chapter one says:
The opening scene is Wex dying of the disease. Berge brings in an ONEG and they bleed him for a transfusion. Wex lives. The donor, who was already close to death, goes into shock and dies, prompting Berge to need to go out and get a new one.
Now see…in the book, ONEGs are called “Primes.” I didn’t want to use modern terminology because I hate that in alternative worlds, so I renamed all of the blood types. For my brain to wrap around it, though, I used the terminology I know best.
From this point, I CAN plan out my entire story. However, that’s not what I do next. I only do the skeleton first…I’m too excited not to plan, but not clear enough on what goes in this document. The next thing I have to do is know my plot.
I then make a very rough outline of the plot. I use a technique I previously described called The Seven Point Story Structure. Basically, it’s just a physical representation of your beginning, middle, end, and the major events that happen along the way to move the story between them. Very, very simple. Piece of cake really. And it looks like actual, in-depth planning, which feels awesome.
That’s my whole book. A 7-point skeleton and an empty index of chapters. Want to guess what comes next?
I also affectionately refer to this as plot mapping. Frankie likes to use her tables and storyboards. This is basically the same thing but I don’t like to put all the time in to make it pretty. I just slap the words down and go.
I go back to my spreadsheet and I start filling it in. In my mind, I move through the plot quickly as if I am writing the book in less than an hour. My brain sounds a lot like this:
Example story: THE BLOOD OF NERYS
First, Berge carries Wex miles while he’s bleeding all over, dying. Then, he drops Wex on the lab floor, which pisses off Zanje (who’s his hot boss). They get in an argument about why the hell he dropped a dying man in her immaculate laboratory. Wex doesn’t die, but Berge has to go off to regather some supplies, leaving Wex with Zanje. Wex asks for his dog. Zanje hates animals because she thinks they’re dirty. Wex drags his own ass out of bed to go get his dog…
That bit spans about three chapters.
Each section in the outline spreadsheet will get 1-5 sentences maximum with what the chapter is about. It’s just a tiny little bookmark reminder of “Hey, this is what you were going to write here.”
I usually shoot for about 20-40 chapters. My chapters tend to be 1500-5000 words, so that gives me a 30,000-200,000 word range. I would usually aim for about 90,000, which is a moderately sized novel. I don’t limit how long a story will be, but I might try to separate the tale into several books if it grows too big. But word count isn’t a concern yet, so I won’t care until later.
So at this point, I have a plot map, and outline, and a rough sketch of the trajectory of my story.
At this stage in planning, my characters aren’t much. I know their role and their general personality. I don’t really know them as people yet. To give you an idea, at this point in THE BLOOD OF NERYS, I had this:
- Wex is similar to my roommate. He talks a lot, loves machines and gadgets, is socially awkward, and has a dog. He starts the book by almost dying, and is saved by Berge. He is employed by Berge and Zanje. Generally thinks that what they’re doing is excusable because more lives are saved than lost. His job is to deliver products.
- Berge is based on my husband. He’s a nihilistic self-serving scumbag who values nothing he can’t enjoy right now. He works for Zanje because he’s good at it and he occasionally is allowed to sleep with her. He has a pet blind weasel named Ashes who is the only living creature he cares about at all. His job is to acquire blood.
- Zanje is based on me. She’s a sophisticated, cold-hearted, merciless bitch who wants to watch the world burn. She’s also a religious zealot who disdains humanity. She cares about no one at all except for herself. She has a shifty secret agenda that not even Berge knows about. She’s a brilliant mage and blood scientist, and she is the boss. She also has all the money and all the resources, so she’s definitely the boss.
- Nerys is unbreakable and pure. She is placed in a horrible situation that she adapts to, turning what most would see as a death sentence into an opportunity to leave a positive impact on society. Her capture is the catalyst for the events of the book.
At this point, I was impatiently waiting for NaNoWriMo to begin and I wanted to write, so I learned a new trick. I wrote a mini-fic for each character. For Wex, I wrote a scene between him and his dad. For Berge, I wrote this tiny fragment of his past when he was just starting to run errands for Zanje. For Zanje, I wrote an inner monologue of how disgusting humankind is to her and how much she hates everybody. They were only 2000-4000 words each, but in doing so I got a good feel for the characters before I put them through the novel. Of course, these tiny ficlets are not included in the novel. They were just practice for me.
I also need a details page for my characters. In the details page I flesh out the following:
- Height, weight, build
- Hair/eye color, hairstyle if applicable
- Typical dress
- Family connections, friend connections, lover(s)
- Their ‘role’ in the story (ie, major antagonist, voice of reason, comic relief, antihero)
- Brief history/background of the before-plot time
- Personality quirks such as rudeness, being quiet/shy, compulsive liar, paranoia
- Tics, like chewing a lip or biting nails, fidgeting
- Likes/dislikes, hobbies
- Aspirations, goals
- Secrets they may be keeping (and who from)
- Lies they may be telling (and to whom)
- Misconceptions they believe, communication errors, mistakes
- Motivation: what is their major reason for existing?
- Thoughts/feelings regarding specific, major plot points like character death or political shift
- Alignment (ie, Lawful Good, Chaotic Evil)
- Bloodline/culture/ethnicity, if it applies
- Species, if it applies
There are plenty of resources for character creation scattered all across the Internet. One thing I will say…you can never have a character that you know too much about. The more real a character becomes, the easier they are to write. You can fling them at any situation and know exactly how they will react.
- Wex: “Let him be. He’s not hurting anybody.”
- Berge: *STOMPS*
- Zanje: *ignores completely*
Additional Planning Tools
Depending on the length and scope of the story I am working on, I might need to be even more prepared and organized. To give you an example, one of the largest fan fiction projects I ever took on was meant to be more than 500,000 words when it was complete. For that story, my cowriter and I had:
- A map
- A timeline
- An outline of war progression and position
- A character tab
- A chapter index
- An index of ‘plot threads,’ which were plot arcs that would carry throughout the novel, and how long they would last.
- a soundtrack to get inspired
- fan art to get inspired
- Several pages of ‘real-time’ conversation between our two characters to cut pieces from for certain scenes
And that’s it!
Planning usually takes me no more than a day or two. I get really excited and just pour it all out. However, I do tweak the plan and add to it as the story becomes clear. The plan changes, sometimes, too. The characters might evolve differently than I intended, or I might come up with something I like better than what I had originally.
The general idea of having a plan is just so I have a better idea of what I expect of the story as a whole without charging forward blindly.
(Actually, I used to be a total pantser. I HATED outlines. The problem with that method is you write yourself up against a wall with no plan to get out. It can be fun…you might solve the problem in new and interesting ways. However, I’ve ultimately rejected that method because it isn’t very productive. I don’t finish anything.)
I also use the plan as a means of tracking details I might otherwise forget. I write down the names of towns and villages I make up on the fly, or all of the tiny nobody characters that walk in and walk out again. I never used to do that…I got frustrated one too many times trying to remember those names, and now I avoid that.
Let me know if you have any questions, or if this was helpful at all. Anything I can do to help, I am absolutely at your service. Who knows…maybe it will end up as another blog post!
Check out the #WriteTip category for more writing advice and tools from Frankie and Sam!
#SamWIP on Monday, July 25
For starters, I want to apologize for completely forgetting about my #SamWIP on Monday. I think I got home at like…10 p.m.. Monday is the only day that I absolutely compose the post on the day of, to ensure I capture the full picture of a complete week. Several of these other posts I can compose and schedule ahead of time, as they refer to static incidences. Nonetheless, I do want to provide you with a full update of what I have been up to, but I think it will now have to wait until next Monday. Thank you for your patience!
#WriteTip: The Mythical ‘Time to Write’
I want to start this by being frank: ‘time to write’ simply does not exist. Stop looking for it. Stop waiting for it. Stop scheduling it and praying you are ready to write when it gets here.
I think this is the number one complaint I hear from any writer, even some of my more disciplined writing friends. You know who I don’t hear it from, though? People who regularly publish books. Veteran authors will still complain about the words eluding them, but I don’t often hear them bitch about not finding time to hone their craft. They have a stubbornness, one that separates them from people who “want to write a book someday…”
There is no time to write. Most of us are busy adults. We have friends, holidays, birthdays, kids, grandkids, weddings, bridal showers, baby showers, jobs, other hobbies, families, commute times, movies to watch, TV shows to binge watch, trips to take…Do you remember your last video game release? Your last new book release from your favorite author? When that last movie came out and you dropped everything and went? The time has to be made. It has to edge out all of the other supposedly important things in your life that are getting in the way. That extra time does not otherwise exist. There won’t ever be time for you to do that thing you have always wanted to do.
You just have to do it anyway.
There are no exceptions. Only excuses. Writers who have a story they love that simply must be written will find the time. Some days it will be pleasant. The stars will align, the sun will beam through the window and make your words look like God wrote them, the dogs and the kids will be silent and phone will never ring. Some days it will be miserable. You will stare at the page for hours and hate every single word that you write. But you have to put your butt in the chair and stare.
I once heard a story about a man who writes novels on his commute to work each morning. He only has fifteen minutes each way, but he puts down a handful of words at each trip, and eventually it adds up to a book. Parents with young children can write books. Nurses with busy schedules and long hours can write books. I can write books. You can write books.
It won’t be easy at first. This takes practice, discipline, training. Maybe start with a small exercise. Pick 10 new vocabulary words and write a sentence for each after you get home from work. Try some writing prompts. Set an alarm on your phone at the same time every day. Don’t make plans for that time. Scribble it on a post-it at work when the idea hits. Take a lunch break and free write. Swap out your news time with writing time. Get out if bed when that idea strikes (this, you will never regret). Stay up late. Get up early. Get in the habit of doing this every day. It will get easier.
And when it gets easier, your writing will improve, and it will accumulate. You’ll have a book in no time. And, if you keep at it, maybe someday it will be a good one.
So today, I’m going to present a basic starter course on character building. Here, I’m sharing 32 character ‘archetypes,’ as presented by Tami D. Cowden. They were separated by male/female (which really isn’t necessary, but it’s whatever). There were 8 ‘Hero’ and 8 ‘Villain’ archetypes, with a male/female version of each. A ‘Villain’ archetype is pretty much the dark mirror of a ‘Hero’ archetype. For example, the TYRANT is the dark mirror of the CHIEF. The BLACK WIDOW is the dark mirror of the SEDUCTRESS. I learned all of this from a panel I attended at ACEN (Anime Central, an anime convention near Chicago). I figured it’d be good basic information for any writer. After all, we need our characters!
Some important notes–
- Characters can fit more than one archetype. I tried to select what I thought were the best examples of a pure form of an archetype.
- I tried to choose characters I hope many of you have heard of.
- Characters are complex, so they don’t HAVE to perfectly fit any archetype.
- When I build a character, I typically start with a basic form of a character but evolve the character outward. Don’t worry about ‘following the rules.’ This isn’t something I like to do, either.
- There are other examples of ‘character archetypes’ not shown here. This is just one rendition, as outlined by Tami D. Cowden.
And now, onwards!
Here are the HEROES:
The CHIEF: a dynamic leader, he has time for nothing but work. He might have been born to lead, or perhaps he conquered his way to the top, but either way, he’s tough, decisive, goal-oriented. That means he is also a bit overbearing and inflexible. Julius Caesar from Rome is one example.
The BAD BOY: dangerous to know, he walks on the wild side. This is the rebel, or the boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s bitter and volatile, a crushed idealist, but he’s also charismatic and street smart. Wolverine from X-Men, for example.
The BEST FRIEND: sweet and safe, he never lets anyone down. He’s kind, responsible, decent, a regular Mr. Nice Guy. This man doesn’t enjoy confrontation and can sometimes be unassertive because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But he’ll always be there. Samwise Gamgee from Lord of the Rings is a good example.
The CHARMER: more than a gigolo, he creates fantasies. He’s fun, irresistible, a smooth operator, yet not too responsible or dependable. He might be a playboy or a rogue, but he’s doesn’t commit to a woman easily. I really think James Bond is the perfect example of a Charmer.
The LOST SOUL: a sensitive being, he understands. Tortured, secretive, brooding, and unforgiving. That’s this man. But he’s also vulnerable. He might be a wanderer or an outcast. In work he’s creative, but probably also a loner. Angel from Angel is the one that comes to mind.
The PROFESSOR: coolly analytical, he knows every answer. He’s logical, introverted, and inflexible, but genuine about his feelings. At work, he likes cold, hard facts, thank you very much, but he’s also honest and faithful, and won’t let you down. Izzy from Digimon is a perfect example of this.
The SWASHBUCKLER: Mr. Excitement, he’s an adventure. This guy is action, action, and more action. He’s physical and daring. Fearless, he’s a daredevil, or an explorer. He needs thrills and chills to keep him happy. There are plenty of Swashbucklers to choose from, but I chose Wesley from the Princess Bride.
The WARRIOR: a noble champion, he acts with honor. This man is the reluctant rescuer or the knight in shining armor. He’s noble, tenacious, relentless, and he always sticks up for the underdog. If you need a protector, he’s your guy. He doesn’t buckle under to rules, or and he doesn’t go along just to get along. Merlin from the BBC TV show Merlin probably isn’t the first Warrior to come to mind, but I chose him because he’s more of an unorthodox warrior, as he’s not the stereotypical sword wielding champion many would think of.
The BOSS: a real go-getter, she climbs the ladder of success. This is a “take charge” female, who accepts nothing but respect. Reaching her goal post the most important thing in life to her, and she isn’t bothered by a few ruffled feathers along the way. Integra from Hellsing is one example.
The SEDUCTRESS: an enchantress, she gets her way. This is a lady who is long accustomed to sizing up everyone in a room the minute she enters. Mysterious and manipulative, she hides a streak of distrust a mile wide and ten miles deep. Cynicism guides her every action, and her tough sense of survival gives her the means to do whatever is necessary to come out ahead. Jessica Rabbit from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, for example.
The SPUNKY KID: gutsy and true, she is loyal to the end. She is a favorite of many writers, and for good reason. You can’t help but root for her. She’s the girl with moxie. She’s not looking to be at the top of the heap; she just wants to be in her own little niche. She’s the team player, the one who is always ready to lend a hand. Arya Stark from Game of Thrones is THE definition of a Spunky Kid.
The FREE SPIRIT: eternal optimist, she dances to unheard tunes. Playful and fun-loving, she travels through life with a hop, skip and a jump, always stopping to smell the flowers and admire the pretty colors. She acts on a whim and follows her heart, not her head. Radical Edward from Cowboy Bebop is a fantastic example (and yes, ‘Edward’ is a girl).
The WAIF: a distressed damsel, she bends with the wind. She’s the original damsel in distress. Her child-like innocence evokes a protective urge in the beastliest of heroes. But don’t be fooled, because the WAIF has tremendous strength of will. She won’t fight back; she’ll endure. Sansa Stark is a wonderful example of this, though she finds out pretty quick she messed up, badly, by following her fantasies.
The LIBRARIAN: controlled and clever, she holds back. She’s prim and proper, but underneath that tight bun lurks a passionate woman. Dressed to repress, she might be the know-it-all whose hand is always up in class, or maybe she is the shy mouse hiding in the library. Hermione Granger from Harry Potter is definitely a Librarian.
The CRUSADER: a dedicated fighter, she meets her commitments. No shrinking violet, no distressed damsel, here. This lady is on a mission, and she marches right over anyone in her way. Tenacious and headstrong, she brushes off any opposition to her goal. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games is a Crusader.
The NURTURER: serene and capable, she nourishes the spirit. Not always Suzy Homemaker, this lady takes care of everyone. She is a wonderful listener, and a joy to have around, this heroine takes care of everyone. She’s serene, capable and optimistic. Winry Rockbell from Fullmetal Alchemist is a great example.
And now for the VILLAINS:
The TYRANT: the bullying despot, he wants power at any price. He ruthlessly conquers all he surveys, crushing his enemies beneath his feet. People are but pawns to him, and he holds all the power pieces. Hesitate before getting in this man’s way – he’ll think nothing of destroying you. Frank Underwood from House of Cards is a fabulous example.
The BASTARD: the dispossessed son, he burns with resentment. He can’t have what he wants, so he lashes out to hurt those around him. His deeds are often for effect – he wants to provoke action in others. He proudly announces his rebellious dealings. Don’t be fooled by his boyish demeanor – he’s a bundle of hate. Seifer from Final Fantasy is a pretty good example.
The DEVIL: the charming fiend, he gives people what he thinks they deserve. Charisma allows him to lure his victims to their own destruction. His ability to discover the moral weaknesses in others serves him well. Close your ears to his cajolery – he’ll tempt you to disaster. Light Yagami from Death Note is an excellent representation of this archetype.
The TRAITOR: the double agent, he betrays those who trust him most. No one suspects the evil that lurks in his heart. Despite supportive smiles and sympathetic ears, he plots the destruction of his friends. Never turn your back on him — he means you harm. Grima Wormtongue from Lord of the Rings is a lovely example of a Traitor.
The OUTCAST: the lonely outsider, he wants desperately to belong. Tortured and unforgiving, he has been set off from others, and usually for good cause. He craves redemption, but is willing to gain it by sacrificing others. Waste no sympathy on him – he’ll have none for you. Sylar from Heroes is a good example of an Outcast.
The EVIL GENIUS: the malevolent mastermind, he loves to show off his superior intelligence. Intellectual inferiors are contemptible to him and that includes just about everyone. Elaborate puzzles and experiments are his trademark. Don’t let him pull your strings – the game is always rigged in his favor. Lex Luthor, Superman’s nemesis, is one of many great choices for an Evil Genius character.
The SADIST: the savage predator, he enjoys cruelty for its own sake. Violence and psychological brutality are games to this man; and he plays those games with daring and skill. Run, don’t walk, away from this man – he’ll tear out your heart, and laugh while doing it. Joffrey Baratheon (and Ramsay Bolton) from Game of Thrones are great examples of sadists. Pretty much everyone hates this little fucker.
The TERRORIST: the dark knight, he serves a warped code of honor. Self-righteous, he believes in his own virtue, and judges all around him by a strict set of laws. The end will always justify his nefarious means, and no conventional morality will give him pause. Don’t try to appeal to his sense of justice – his does not resemble yours. Tyler Durden from Fight Club encompasses this perfectly.
The BITCH: the abusive autocrat, she lies, cheats, and steals her way to the top. Her climb to success has left many a heel mark on the backs of others. She doesn’t care about the peons around her – only the achievement of her dreams matters. Forget expecting a helping hand from her – she doesn’t help anyone but herself. Bitch and Cersei Lannister are synonymous.
The BLACK WIDOW: the beguiling siren, she lures victims into her web. She goes after anyone who has something she wants, and she wants a lot. But she does her best to make the victim want to be deceived. An expert at seduction of every variety, she uses her charms to get her way. Don’t be fooled by her claims of love – it’s all a lie. Lust from Fullmetal Alchemist was created to embody this archetype.
The BACKSTABBER: the two-faced friend, she delights in duping the unsuspecting. Her sympathetic smiles enable her to learn her victims’ secrets, which she then uses to feather her nest. Her seemingly helpful advice is just the thing to hinder. Put no faith in her – she’ll betray you every time. Regina George from Mean Girls fully embraces the Backstabber archetype.
The LUNATIC: the unbalanced madwoman, she draws others into her crazy environment. The drum to which she marches misses many a beat, but to her, it is the rest of the world that is out of step. Don’t even try to understand her logic – she is unfathomable. There are few lady villains crazier than Bellatrix Lestrange from Harry Potter. For that matter, most of Helena Bonham Carter’s characters are pretty bizarre and often macabre.
The PARASITE: the poisonous vine, she collaborates for her own comfort. She goes along with any atrocity, so long as her own security is assured. She sees herself as a victim who had no choice, and blames others for her crimes. Expect no mercy from her – she won’t lift a finger to save anyone but herself. Mystique from X-Men is a good choice for this. She believes there is no place for her in society, and if she is to survive, she must join the side most capable of ensuring her future.
The SCHEMER: the lethal plotter, she devises the ruin of others. Like a cat with a mouse, she plays with lives. Elaborate plans, intricate schemes; nothing pleases her more than to trap the unwary. Watch out for her complex designs – she means you no good. Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter is a Schemer.
The FANATIC: the uncompromising extremist, she does wrong in the name of good. She justifies hers action by her intent, and merely shrugs her shoulders at collateral damage. Anyone not an ally is an enemy, and therefore, fair game. Give up any hope of showing her the error of her ways – she firmly believes you are wrong, wrong, wrong. Poison Ivy from Batman is a good example of this, as she will do whatever it takes to restore nature to its former glory.
The MATRIARCH: the motherly oppressor, she smothers her loved ones. She knows what’s best and will do all in her power to controls the lives of those who surround her – all for their own good. A classic enabler, she sees no fault with her darlings, unless they don’t follow her dictates. Don’t be lured into her family nest – you’ll never get out alive. Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is a great example of the smothering Matriarch.
Well, I hope that helps all of you with your writing endeavors! Leave me a comment, and tell me what you think of this. 🙂
S.K. Balk lives in the frozen wasteland of Northern Michigan. She is the author of the dystopian medical sci-fi THE BLOOD OF NERYS.