Delving Into My Villain

Well, after all my eagerness to start this blog, I haven't done much in the way of posting updates lately. There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, I haven't been able to devote as much time to novel revisions as I would have liked to of late, having an assortment of other obligations and tasks to attend to that severely curtailed my normal writing hours. And then secondly, on the few occasions that I have been doing some revision work and intended to post a brief summary description thereof on this site at the conclusion of my work time, my computer has been acting up and taking a million years to do anything on the internet, preventing me from posting the desired updates.

(Unfortunately, poor Habakkuk (my laptop--I have found, in the course of my experience with a variety of finicky computers, that the machines tend to respond well to personal attention, especially in the form of being given a name, preferably Biblical) is suffering from a malfunctioning fan, causing him to overheat when I am too demanding of his capacities. It's difficult getting this issue addressed, since I rely on having my laptop to pursue my writing, but I will need to do so sometime soon, lest I risk losing all the work I have completed thus far.)

In any event, I have spent the vast majority of the maybe five or six hours I have found time to devote to my revision in the past week working on a single project, which is not directly manifesting itself within the body of the novel, but will nevertheless prove quite valuable in the process of developing the story. That project, as the title of this post indicates, has been to delve deep into the inner workings of my villain, exploring her history and motivations in order to better understand why she is doing all the villainous things she is currently doing.

Because while I have long had at least a general idea of the kind of conspiracies she is at the head of, and while details about the nature of those conspiracies have developed a great deal during the process of writing my first draft, I still have, or had, until several days ago, a rather fuzzy picture of the circumstances that had driven her to take those conspiratorial steps, or the desires she hoped to satisfy in doing so. Which made for a rather flat characterization, and hazy details of how the various circumstances were tied together and what the situation within her dominion truly was.

I've also been struggling with making her at the same time truly evil, and truly sympathetic. Truly sympathetic is actually a bit easier for me--it just requires developing enough about her history, and building it all off of a warped enough foundation, to make everything she is doing understandable, if not forgivable. The harder part for me has been to really push her into the realm of unconscionable evildoing, because I have a mental tendency to shy away from the unpleasant which makes me a generally optimistic person but not the most well-rounded fiction writer, since it means my protagonists tend to lack realistic flaws and my antagonists tend to be unnecessarily subdued.

So, I've been writing her history, starting with her early infancy (which is where, naturally, it all began) and following the logical progression from her environment and personality to each subsequent action she takes, in order to arrive at the place we find her at the beginning of the novel. In the process, I have tried to push myself to my limits with respect to the destructive depravity of her outlook and behaviors. I am on a pretty good track towards what serves as the novel's present, and have written about 1600 words on the subject, few to none of which will probably actually go in the novel. But it will give me a much clearer picture of the forces my protagonist has to fight against, and will thus make the struggle much more specific and hopefully compelling and entertaining.

It's also given me a chance to develop the details of some of the social commentary that seems to be emerging within the contrast between the home city of the hero and the home city of the villain, which in certain ways and for specific reasons embody the character traits that make these people who they are. So, that has been interesting, and will also be helpful in the revision process.

I considered including the background I have been working on, or at least excerpts from it, onto this blog or my Public Consumption one, but in the end I think I've decided that it would spoil too much of the plot for anyone who is planning to read the story, so I'll refrain from doing so at this point. Maybe at some future time I'll post it, or publish it as a short story prequel, or something...

I have to admit I've been a little antsy to actually start changing words in the manuscript itself, but I want to make sure I have a good foundation of planning and understanding before I do so, so that the changes that I make are well-thought-out and meaningful. The one thing I did do, to my great delight, is excise the frightful butchery story (sorry, Robby...), leaving a note to myself to replace it with something more suitable when I have the chance.

For those of you awaiting the chance to actually read a draft, thank you for your patience. My hope is to have one ready for you by March 10th, but at my current rate of progress (time elapsed: two weeks; tangible progress: none) I'm not sure whether that's going to happen. If not, surely the ten days I've been graciously bestowed with at a writing residency in Oregon in mid-March will allow me the chance to push through to a position of readiness, and I will hopefully at the very latest have something to send you by March 28th.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose I can live without the Butcher Story in the novel. I do intend to keep it in my own collection though. Maybe I can get you to expand on it someday if I ever compile an anthology of short stories...


11:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, I'm looking forward to seeing the context that the story was supposed to be in.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't like the phrase "lest I lose the work"... You should be backing up to a CD every day. Overheated fans do kill laptops. I have lost mine to that. Bad laptops wreck disk directories as well. BACK UP your Work!!! Love you and am proud of you, Nervous gram.

1:12 PM  

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