Plot & Structure Exercise 14: Strengthen the Opposition

Dear Writer,


Please make your villain more badass.




Every reader


. . .


Dude, even I have to admit, I like me a strong evil character. I’m thinking Ganon in the Legend of Zelda games. All the Disney queens. Or even the literary villains like Vronsky or Inspector Javert. These guys get stuck in my head! It’s like I develop a minor Tourette’s, where I mutter their names as I step from the bedroom into the kitchen, replaying their deeds in my mind’s eye, wishing they had never existed, but deeper still happy they do.


Of course (of course!) I prefer to be Link, or The Blue Prince, or Jean Valjean . . . but what good is a hero without a cool, seducing, dark, strong, evil character.


When I think about what I want for the opposition in Awake & Asleep, I am very tempted to let the opposition be a force majeure, some evil that lurks around, is unseen. But dang, even I have to admit my favorite villains need to be incarnate.


Remember Venom from the third Spiderman movie? Not the villain, but that alien goop that turns the villain into the villain? I think that’s a really cool way of making an abstract concept like Conceited Evil into a “real” thing. What I love about it is how it takes the worst parts of Peter Parker and magnifies them. The great battle is then with this infection, but we see how it takes over the other guy, almost causes Peter to leave Mary Jane, and gets his homeboy killed at the end. Well.


. . .


If I’m going to write a story about two men in their late thirties who won’t grow up, then I need to personify the spirit of immaturity. This is the greater force that stilts Juan’s growth and that convinces Sam that all hope is lost. What could it be? Let’s think it through.


What are five things that keep us immature? Laziness. Overprotective parents. Fear of responsibility. Craftiness in passing the buck. And misguided objectives. Oh, and a sixth: nostalgia.


These boys are not lazy, because I need them to be likable somehow. So they are hard working. I don’t want Juan’s wife to be overprotective, but near abandoning, so there goes that. Maybe Sam’s dead wife was overprotective, and now that she’s gone he must fend for himself, find an agent, but overall cannot deal (so the absence of protection is the fuel to his transformation?) . . . Still what can personify the fear of responsibility?


What does Responsibility look like? A man in a tie. Credit Card payment options. Employees asking for favors. A mother taking care of a sick child.


What does Irresponsibility look like? A drunk driver. A boss who passes work downstream. A skateboarder, lol.


Oh, maybe we introduce a third friend who comes in the middle, and he can represent irresponsibility. A jack who always asks for money, steals from convenient stores, doesn’t have a job, but you keep around because he is extravagant and supports you. I know a guy like that! Yes. So a sort of Uncle Oblonsky type guy.


. . .


So if we’re going to encapsulate evil immaturity in this guy, he’s going to have to be enviably cool, and get away with everything like a spoiled younger sibling. Also instead of making the slap stick mafia of the middle section into the true personification of evil, let’s have a sly trinket salesman represent the leechy, creepy-crawly-like slime of irresponsibility (stay with me, I know this all sounds crazy, but it’s clear in my head). Also, in a backpacker story, I’m sure we can craft a couple of evil no-gooders, who distract and pull away and mess up our heroes.


Just gotta remember: no matter what, PERSONIFY the story’s evil, and then VILLIFY them, meaning, make them irresistible.


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