Chaotic Evil, an alignment most notably characterized by the Joker. But, that is a bit cliche in my eyes, the laughing maniac running around killing everything because they think it would be fun. There is a way to work with a “Chaotic Evil” character in writing and especially in fantasy.
A character can play the long game and appear to everyone around them that they are working for the greater good but in private they are working just for themselves or for something a bit more sinister like a demon or some evil god. All of the good things that they are doing could be for a very nefarious purpose. How can this be written though?
Think of the novel as more a game and work in the biggest picture possible. And, foreshadowing is going to be your friend. In a project I am working on my character does not know that what he is doing is evil. He is mostly doing what he does for the money and personal gain. That is one way to do it or the character can know exactly what they are doing, like Cersei Lannister in early Game of Thrones. This allows the character to be more manipulative than a puppet working for a dark shadowy master.
While I am working on the former my favorite to read and to play as a character. These characters are smart and clever and always know more than they let on in their interactions with other characters. But, my question to all of you: What is your favorite type of secretly evil character to write, read, or even play? I am very curious to know what other writers and readers think so please let me know.
So I want to take a break from fantasy again and talk about something a bit more personal. When I was younger there were a couple times that I was told a phrase that really shaped who I am now and who I was at the time. I think everyone has these phrases whether we think about them or not. It wasn’t until recently that I thought about them in this context that I truly recognized the impact they had on me.
The first one was from an old friend of my dad’s who also happened to be a former school principle of mine. If you live in a small town this happens more than you think. But it must have been around my birthday because of the phrase that came up. He inquired about my birthday and upon learning when it was looked at me and told me that people born in the month I was born in were meant to do great things. Looking back on this as an adult it was probably a way to make me feel good, and it did, but there was another impact on me. This phrase stuck with me and has pushed me to be a better person throughout my life and strive to do great things even if that means that it gave me a perfectionist streak and I slowly finish the things I want to do.
The second one came from a school friend of mine when were hanging out between years in college. We were discussing career paths and how he wanted to be a youth minister and pursue that as a career and what I wanted to do. At the time I wanted to be a famous musician and had strived to do this. As we talked more and more he turned to me and said, “I don’t think you’d ever be happy riding a desk for the rest of your life.” This, unbeknownst to me, would stick with me for the rest of my life, or at least for the next few years. Recently I have strived for that desk job. Romanticizing it and eventually finding out that it was not what I wanted. That can be seen in my Office Suffering Series. I have chased that stability and tried to find it but where I have felt most at home and done some of my best work, according to me so take that as you will, has been when I have been working on my own and now riding a desk for income. Yes, the desk job has more income and if I could find a job willing to let me write and have a desk I would gladly take it, but most of the jobs I have found have not been for anything creative they have been very strict in their guidelines and the management structure has been worse.
I say all of these things to ask a question: What phrases were you told when you were younger that really stuck with you? Which ones molded you into the person you are today without you really ever knowing it or putting too much thought into it. Please let me know so I know I’m not the only one with these moments in their life.
Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Orcs, and even stranger things have become synonymous to fantasy and these races are almost always used for something. It can be to illustrate racial tension in the culture of the writer or it can be used in an allegorical sense equating a race to a group of people who were being killed for just being who they were. The most famous example of the latter is the Dwarves in JRR Tolkein’s “The Lord of the Rings.” He uses the Dwarves to symbolize the jews in Nazi Germany by having them being killed by the Orcs or Uruks who represented the Nazis. But, there is another way to work with other races in fantasy work that I don’t believe has been really explored to much.
Classism. Now, don’t worry this post isn’t going to be my very own communist manifesto. Races can be used to demonstrate classes. Taking a look at Elves, Dwarves, and Humans the picture can be painted that the Elves are at the top of the wealth pyramid and symbolize the illustrious 1% or the .001% of people on the planet in developed countries that control 99% of the wealth of the world. The Humans can be used to symbolize the middle class, they can make as much as the Elves but they don’t have the lifespan to accumulate as much wealth as an Elven family making it impossible for them to overcome the Elves. Finally, Dwarves are the working class and the poor. Why do I say this? Because, if there is a society run by Elves then the Dwarven kingdoms wouldn’t flourish, their society wouldn’t become as great as it could have been or it wouldn’t be seen that way in the eyes of the Humans or the Elves.
This is an idea I am working on in another project I am working on that is a modern fantasy work that really plays off of classism and class warfare where Eves are the 1% and control the wealth and the government of the world. I have not seen this symbolism done but I could be wrong, someone may have beat me to it. But, I am curious as to how you write other races in fantasy works. Do you use them to symbolize systemic racism in society of do you use them for classism or do you have them represent something completely different that I have not even listed? Please let me know. I would love to talk with you about these ideas.
Anxiety is something that a lot of people have in the world and it seems like that number goes up every single day. The world is a stressful place to be, but the question today is how do you use that anxiety in characters and make it work?
If you have an anxiety disorder the answer is pretty simple: write what you know. If you don’t have one the answer gets a tad bit more muddled, how can you write something that you have no experience with it and make sure that it is done properly. Looking at anxiety can affect people in several different ways: panic attacks, body pain, fatigue, and restlessness. Or if you are really unlucky you could have to deal with all of these at the same time. Personally I cycle through these symptoms depending on how anxious I am or how stressful the situation I am anxious about is. How as an author can you put these into your characters? How can you make these things sensations that can’t be explained away? Make it read like a fight scene or battle between your character and this unseen opponent that hits them mentally. Or a tightness in their chest making breathing hard and like someone is standing on it. Or the feeling of tendrils of pain extending from one point in their body and fading away as it get further into the core of their physicality.
Another way to write this especially for train of thought or dialogue is to have them repeat certain phrases over and over and over. The big thing about anxiety is dwelling and overthinking the simplest of situations. That leads to the physical symptoms and the panic attacks.
Why would you do this? To make your characters more relatable and because no one makes it out of life without scars. Especially not the heroes of a fantasy tale. That battle hardened veteran that slaughtered thousands of men with his sword single handed? Yea, he is pretty messed up in the head after words. No one can leave a climate of always being on the look-out and be fine in normal society and going back into that way of life would be hard after acclimating to normality. It puts that simple element of real life into your work that makes the characters more fun to read and allows the reader to place themselves into the story and live as that character that they want to be.
Anxiety while a terrible thing in real life is a great and super helpful tool when writing. I found that writing my personal experiences with anxiety down has been a big relief for me and made a character, that when I created him I was not going to like him, one of my favorite characters because I related with the situation that he was going through on a personal level.
I hoped this helped and if you personally have anxiety please go see a therapist and find some coping mechanisms they can be a great help. And, please let me know if you do anything different when writing anxious characters that I missed.
Escapism and fantasy are very different from the world we live in. The very nature of fantasy is to be an escape and be different. Magical some might say. But, this brings forth a very interesting question about the current fantasy front runner A Song of Ice and Fire(Game of Thrones). Why is it so accurate to real world politics?
Escape and the over powered protagonist are great but they tend to wear thin as the reader ages and matures along with their literary tastes (I am well aware some people never grow out of what they read as a child). Readers still want an escape but don’t want the protagonist to be able to mow down scores of enemy soldiers or navigate a deadly encounter through sheer luck and being a one trick pony. Readers want tension and uncertainty which is a feat not easily done by something that advertises it’s length as much as a book does. It can be done and quite well which brings us to the answer as to why GoT is so popular.
All the really needs to be done is to introduce more realistic combat and removal of supporting characters no matter how major that supporting character may be. Those characters that seem safe throughout the entire novel dying unexpectedly because of a realistic combat injury is something that brings a lot of tension into the novel. There is another way should you be too infatuated with your characters that killing them off feels like killing a little bit of yourself (like when losing a D&D character).
It is one of my favorite things to do when I am writing a character and that is to give them some big flaw. In one of my projects it is crippling mental disorders and in the rest of the projects I am working on it is a foul mouth and a terrible nicotine addiction that dictates how they spend their day. Flaws add a layer of relatability to characters and makes them stop seeming like this god like being in the story using their over whelming powers to get through the challenge. But, it is best not to over do the flaw so that it seems that the character is skating by on luck through the entire work or series if you make it that far as a writer.
What I am doing in my main project is a bit of both. Not to spoil anything but the main characters have mental disorders that will grow to cripple them as people over time and I make sure that if they are in a situation that is overwhelming then they will not make it out alive unless by some crazy magical means. But, as an author I am curious as to what others do in their stories.
Do you give characters terrible flaws but let them live? Do you go the George RR Martin approach and drop them like flies? Or do you write a mixture of both. Please let me know as I am very curious.
The words Lawful Goid conjure distinct images in everyone’s mind. Some think of the white knight paladin while others gravitate towards a certain red and blue spandex covered alien. That’s right Martian Man Hunter! Despite his name he is still lawful good. But are people lawful good and deeper than that are believable characters solely lawful good? Does the Chaotic Evil character never do anything good? I believe people and characters are messier than one alignment will allow them to be.
Other than D&D characters the best example of complicated alignment in a character come from Dr. Octopus in “Spiderman 2”. Through out the movie Doc Ock is portrayed generally as CE. He is blinded by rage and only wants to do what he wants no matter the cost to others. That is until he *SPOILERS* sacrifices himself and his experiment to save NY. It shows that he is still human deep down. So while he may have been CE on paper he saw through that and did a LG act.
Alignment is heavily debated at D&D tables and in some fantasy circles. But, if you think about the characters as humans and not just figments of your imagination you’ll see they too can be a bit complicated and have a complicated alignment.
The title is absolutely a bold claim but let me explain what I mean. Modern day writers spend a lot of their time sitting behind a computer screen having sometimes 1000 imaginary conversations with people that will never exist. In the outside world most writers are introverted. There is always that one exception to the rule and there will be some extroverted writers. But mostly writers are on the quieter side and contribute to conversation with planned responses or when they feel that their response will make the most impact, or I’m projecting.
That brings me to flesh out the “imaginary extrovert” claim. Sitting behind a computer screen I have way more conversations that I do in person. Right now you and I are having a very one sided conversation about writers and their personalities. In the real word I would probably never approach you about this idea, but here I am imagining myself as an extrovert and talking at length about this subject.
It is crazy to think about blog posts or really any article as a one sided conversation where an introvert(not always but mostly) tells you what they think about a certain subject. But, I want to know what you the reader thinks about this idea. Are you an introvert in person but when you write you are extroverted or are you an extrovert that likes to write. Do you agree with me or disagree. Please let me know, I would love to have conversations about this subject.
Writing while working on a more than 40 hour work week can be hard, trust me it has impacted my blog more than it has anything else. I went from blogging once a week to maybe once every two weeks. Nothing has made more upset about the job I currently work more than the fact that it is impacting my ability to write.
While I could go on and on about how much I dislike what I do that is not writing that is not what this blog post is about. I am here to talk about what I do to combat the impact on my writing. The real question is: how do you write on a severe time constraint? That answer is not a simple one. What I do personally is I write a lot by hand to work on the projects that I have going. Transcribing those to electronic copies still takes me a long time but I get there eventually.
I have found that making “To-Do” lists get me going and help me get things done that need to be done. Crazy how writing things down on a piece of paper and physically checking them off really motivate you to get them done. Hopefully this advice has helped you or given you the inspiration needed to make a to-do list or something else that will help get the motivation juices flowing and that project that you are working on done.
Hope and dream
You’ll make it out of here
Your personality doesn’t fit here
You’ll find a way
It’s not all gloom and doom
There is a light
At the end of this terrible tunnel
Sales isn’t as bad as it seems
But this place is
This place is worse
Your talents will work for you
They’ll be your tools
Make them a shovel or pick
And you’ll escape
Escape to where you belong
Escape to a place that is better
You can run away from it
And tell this place to kiss your ass