Who Lurks There? Friend or Foe?

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Who Lurks There? Friend or Foe?

In another article, Getting to Know You, I covered the main character, your protagonist. Today I’m  covering the bad guy. He or she is your antagonist. This person is responsible for making life difficult for your main character and the supporting characters.

As you did with your main character, do a write up for the antagonist. Perhaps something in the his background made him what he is today. You need to know this character as well as your main character. Why does he/she hate your main character? Did they have some sort of encounter years before, leaving the antagonist angry or embarrassed? Does the main character have something the antagonist wants? Maybe there was an accident causing the antagonist to go from good to bad. Write a back story, explaining in detail what happened. This doesn’t need to go in the book, but it will help you get inside the mind of the antagonist. The antagonist doesn’t live in a vacuum, they do not spend all their time plotting and planning against the main character. Of course the main character may disagree on this point. Let the reader see some of the villain’s personal side.

Writing a dossier for the antagonist will help you to round them out for the story. Don’t make him or her someone that lurks in the background. They have a life too, and their own concerns. Perhaps they have a child they try to shield from what they do. What happens if the offspring realizes what their parent is doing is wrong? Maybe they try to get word to the protagonist. If the villain is married, he or she may or may not bring them in on their plans. If the spouse finds out and doesn’t approve, the villain has a new problem to worry about.

The antagonist can move against the protagonist in a number of ways. They can send subtle threats, such as a note, email, or phone call. Perhaps they send a body part, or dump a dead body on the main character’s property. The antagonist does everything possible to keep the main character off-balance, maybe sending them to the brink of insanity.

How the main character responds to the actions of the antagonist drives the story, providing conflict, tension, and uncertainty.

It’s possible the antagonist is a group of people the main character has to keep at bay. Say the main character was once a member of the group, but left. Now the group is afraid she will tell all. All groups have a leader, and it’s the leader’s plans they follow, but other members of the group may have a bone to pick with your protagonist. This can add new twists and turns to the plot. Groups can be a religion, a cult, power brokers, sororities, etc. If a group is the antagonist, write out the history of it. Who founded it, why did they, what are their goals, how do they go about achieving those goals. Again, not all of this will end up in the story, but serves as a good reference for you as you write.

In my current work, I have the main antagonist as a group. The leader of this group makes the plans to keep the main character off balance. Within the group is a new member; he has a personal grudge against the main character and is doing his part to get back at her. Another group member has a grudge against a close friend of the main character, causing further difficulties for the main character as well as her wife and friends. Writing dossiers and backgrounds for the various villains allows me to keep track of what is going on and what will happen down the line.

The villainous secondary characters all tie back to the main antagonist in one way or another. They also leave openings for a few short stories I’ve been tinkering with. All based on the dossiers I made for them. Keep track of all the characters in your story, set aside a folder or notebook specifically for the characters in your writing. You can go even further and have a notebook for each character. Villains can be fun to write about, as much fun as your main character.

Every day I learn something new about the craft of writing a novel and am trying to put what I learn to good use.

May the words ever flow!

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The Archivist — Lenara Lenquil Adventures — Chapter 6

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Chapter 6 

Lennie flung open the door of Nickie’s room and flipped on the light. “Let’s go! It’s almost seven-fifteen. The sooner you get up, the sooner we get to the Clinic and get that out of the way!”

Nickie opened her eyes, forgetting for a moment where she was. She flung back the blanket and stood. “Morning, Lennie.” Yawning, she went to her dresser to grab clean clothes.

“Go take your shower. I’ll reheat the leftover pizza for us. Unless you’d rather go to Pete’s Diner for breakfast.”

“Let’s go to the diner, please. I’m in the mood for a real breakfast. How long have you been up?”

“Almost two hours. Sometimes I get up early on my day off.” Lennie left the room.

After a shower and dressing, Nickie she went looking for Lennie and found her in the study.

Lennie dug through the closet tossing various items behind her. “I know it’s in here somewhere,” she muttered.

“What are you looking for?” Nickie eyed the growing pile.

“A spare book bag for you. Something to carry your gear. We need to get you a laptop and a camera today.” She crawled further into the closet and emerged a moment later. “Found it!” She handed the item to Nickie. “I should clean out this closet one day. Didn’t realize how much stuff I tossed in there.”

“Thanks. I’ll put my notebook and pen in here before we leave.” She hurried from the room.

Smiling, Lennie tossed the stuff back in the closet and shut the door. She went to her desk and put several items in her bag. “Let’s get some breakfast, Nickie. After that, a haircut, then the Clinic.”

To Lennie’s relief, Lisa wasn’t working then. She wasn’t in the mood to deal with her. Nickie didn’t notice who served, more concerned with eating. Lennie ate, but kept thinking about what had happened. The appearance of the creature can’t be ignored, but if I report what happened, I won’t be able to do a thorough search of the building for more fragments. A higher ranked Archivist will get the job.

Nickie shoved her empty plate away. “You’ve been quiet since we left the apartment. Did I do something wrong?”

“Trying to decide something, so it doesn’t get me in trouble.” She finished her scrambled eggs and sausage.

“Does it have to do with what happened yesterday?”

Better for the two of us to keep quiet. I don’t want to lose the chance of exploring that building. Lennie shoved her empty plate away. “Nickie, if anyone asks, nothing happened at the building. In fact, the two of us are going to start separate journals for that. So don’t let anyone see what you wrote in the first journal.”

“Why don’t you want to report what happened?”

“Because if I do, I won’t be able to search for more of those metal fragments. Only a First Class Archivist would have precedence over the people in Artifacts. If I tell anyone what happened, someone else will get the assignment.” Lennie brought out some money and set it on the bill. “Let’s get out of here. We’ll get your haircut now.”

Nickie stood, “Do I have to go to the Clinic?”

“Yep. One of the requirements. We need to make sure you’re in good health.” A dark blue sedan with tinted windows caught Lennie’s attention. That looks like an unmarked police car. She started walking. “We’ll walk to the salon. It’s not far.”

“You sure that’s a good idea?”

“Yep. I know this city well and all the shortcuts for avoiding people,” Lennie said. The car pulled out and followed them.

“How much further do we have to go?”

“Two more storefronts, and then we cut down an alley that’s too narrow for a vehicle. As soon as we turn into the alley, we run to the end and turn left. Then we’ll stop and see if anyone follows on foot.”

“Okay.” There was a slight quaver in Nickie’s voice.

Lennie patted her shoulder, “Don’t worry, Nickie. I won’t let anyone hurt you.”

When they reached the alley, they turned and kicked into a run. Lennie peeked around the corner. A man in a three-piece suit hurried down the alley. It took her a moment to recognize him. “Ah hell! Why is he following me?”

“You know him?” Nickie whispered.

“Yeah. Detective Scott Olson.” The footsteps came closer, echoing through the alley. “Might as well find out what he wants.” She stepped into the mouth of the alley, arms crossed. “If you wanted to talk to me, you could have called The Archive.”

He stopped. “Lennie! I, um, I was going to call, but when I saw you leave the diner, I thought it would be easier to catch up with you.”

“You’ve caught up with me. What do you want?” She hid a smile at his discomfort.

“Need help with something, but I don’t want it to go on the record. You have time to talk?” Scott stared at Nickie. “Who’s the youngster?”

“I’m not a youngster! Damn it, I’m eighteen.”

“Calm down, Nickie.” Lennie smiled at the detective. “This is Nickie, and I’m her Keeper.” She showed him the bracelet.

“Do you have time talk? It’s important, Lennie.” He loosened his tie.

“Not right now. Have a lot to do today.” She tapped her chin. “Come by my place around dinner time. I’ll get pizza and beer and then you can tell me what’s up.”

“All right. Still the same address?”

“Yep. Come over around six. We should be finished with our errands by then.” I wonder what’s going on? I haven’t read anything in the news that’s out of the ordinary.

“See you then, Lennie.” He gave them a nod and walked away.

“Normally the police contact The Archive when they need an Archivist’s help.”

Forty-five minutes later, Nickie and Lennie left the salon. “This is so much better! I’m definitely going to keep it this short.”

Lennie grinned. “Looks good on you. All right, back to the car and to the Clinic. I’m hoping it won’t take too long.”

“Do all the Archivists go to this Clinic?”

“Yes. Sometimes we run into things and it can affect us physically and psychologically. The Clinic is where we go for treatment. Since I’m your Keeper, you’ll go there too if you get sick or hurt. It’s a hell of a lot better than the other Clinics in the city.” Lennie waited for the traffic to clear.

“Could I have a female doctor? I don’t like male ones.” Nickie lit a cigarette.

“Sure. If you want, you can see my doctor, Elizabeth Mays.”

“Okay. Do you want me to keep out of the way this evening?”

“No. If you are going to be an Archivist, this is something you’ll need to know.”

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Writing Quotes — Stephen King

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Daily Talk

Daily Talk

Charlie Williams wiped the sweat from his face and leaned the rake against the shed. The sun stood overhead in a cloudless sky. He grabbed a small cooler and headed for the bench near the pond. A sharp pain shot through his leg, and a grimace crossed his face. The trees surrounding the pond provided welcome shade. With one hand, he opened the cooler containing his lunch. His other hand massaged his thigh. Charlie followed the same routine every day; the only things that changed were the sandwich and dessert. Today he ate roast beef on rye with chocolate chip cookies.

A skittish squirrel approached the bench, nose twitching and tail flicking.
“I make a damn fine sandwich. One of the few useful things Mom taught me.” He broke off a corner and tossed it to the critter. The squirrel leapt away and then crept back to snatch up the morsel. It took a tiny nibble of the bread and dropped it.

“I see you don’t have the same appreciation for sandwiches I do. Tomorrow I’ll bring a bag of nuts for you.” He bit into his sandwich.

The air shimmered beside him, a faint shadow appeared. “Good day to you, Charlie.”

“Hi Rosie. I was wondering if you would show up.” He sipped his beer; the refreshing liquid slid down his throat.

“You were late arriving this morning. We worried something happened to you.”

“Car wouldn’t start so I had to walk. A nice day for it, too.”

“You should get a new one.”

“Maybe. But I’ve put a lot of work into the old girl. Doesn’t seem right to cast her aside for a new model.” He glanced at the shadow beside him. “Saw Billy last night at Pete’s Place.”

Rosie sighed. “Knowing Billy, he stayed until closing and staggered home.”

“Yep. Mark walked with him so he made it home ok.” Finished with dessert, Charlie concentrated on his beer. “After lunch, I’ll be planting a flat of snapdragons along the path leading from the pond to the crypt.”

“That will brighten things up around here. Many people come and visit, but you are the only one who takes care of the place. We appreciate it.”

“Since you spend every moment here, it’s the least I can do. It’s wrong to forget about the ones that died, sticking them in the ground, and giving no more thought to them.” He sighed. “I also promised my mom before she died that I would visit my sister’s grave and take care of it.”

“Your mother and I spent a lot of time together. She helped me around the house when I couldn’t get out of bed any more. We often discussed the arguments the two of you had after you came back and were discharged from the army. She thought you were wasting your life away, sitting in your room, and staring out the window.” Rosie sighed.

“Mom didn’t understand why I enlisted after Sue died. I had to get back at the bastards that killed her and the others.” From his pocket, he pulled out a cigarette and a lighter. The flint wheel shot sparks several times before the flame caught. A cloud of smoke enveloped his head and drifted away on the breeze.

“What scared her most was the possibility of you dying like her brother Jimmy in Vietnam.”

Charlie stood, walking to the edge of the pond. Fish swam, fins waving them along. “I know, but what else could I do?” He flicked the ashes from the tip. “Almost did end up like him, if the medic hadn’t been close by.” Charlie locked away his own feelings on the matter, something his counselor said he shouldn’t do. Maybe I should deal with nearly dying, but what’s the point? I’ll still have the nightmares. Those kids died because they ran across the field of fire. We couldn’t stop the bullets after we fired them and the captain ordered us to keep the insurgents pinned down no matter what. His heart pounded, and a cold sweat broke out on his face and neck. He inhaled from the cigarette and exhaled the smoke in tiny wisps. He calmed as he shoved the memory back into the depths.

“Have you found the man who saved your life? Last time we spoke, you said you had a lead on his location.”

“Yeah. In a cemetery three towns over. He killed himself because he couldn’t deal with what he saw in Iraq. Too take that way out. But I understand why they do. The pain builds up until you can’t take it anymore. It’s hard talking to others about the way you feel.” He closed his eyes for a moment. “Last night the nightmares were bad, and I thought about ending it all.”

“What made you change your mind?” The shadow joined him at the edge of the pond.

“No one else would take care of this place, or tell you and the others what’s going on in town. Wouldn’t be right.” Staring at the water, Charlie finished his cigarette.

“We appreciate your coming here every day and talking to us. Most of our families have moved away or visit on special days to pay their respects. You give us a connection to the lives we once lived.” She paused. “Does it bother you?”

“It did at first, but after two years it feels normal.” Charlie field stripped the cigarette, placing the butt in his pocket. He returned to the bench and grabbed the cooler. “Time to get back to work.”

“Remember to take plenty of breaks. The sun is brutal today. Mabel will talk with you tomorrow. She wants to know how her great granddaughter is doing.”

“Thanks for the heads up, Rosie.” At the shed, Charlie filled the wheelbarrow with what he needed for the afternoon, setting the rake across the handles. Whistling, he limped down the path, passing the tidy grave sites.

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Writing Tips — 1

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When starting your story, do not obsess about the opening. Yes, I know hooking the reader is very important, but getting the story written first should be your top priority. Once the first draft is complete, then go back and rework the opening.  You may end up rewriting it twenty times, but the blood, sweat, and tears will be worth it to hook the reader and have them stick around for the whole book.

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Writing Quotes — Stephen King

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10 Tips For Formatting Your Book

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Originally posted on Don Massenzio's Blog:
This blog post is designed to help fellow independently published authors improve the quality of their work, but most of the tips here apply to the formatting of any book. I’m speaking of the…

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