Pulling out my Evil Manual. Studying Hard.

Monster with fangs plots evil deeps as it holds a cane topped with a skullWhen I went to ConTemporal this summer, I quickly discovered that I was overdressed for the con.  I was in a tank top and shorts, but evidently I looked more like a tourist because con security stopped me.  So I visited the dealer’s room in search of a T-shirt and found one that said:

Knowledge is Power.

Power Corrupts.

Study Hard.  Be Evil.

Of course,  I had to buy it.  Sometimes evil can be fun, and sometimes it needs to be a little fun.

I’ve been working on my antagonist’s subplot, so it’s got me thinking about villains.  An antagonist isn’t always a villain — sometimes it’s just a person or thing opposing the heroine — but mine’s definitely a villain.  He’s wanting to do evil things.

Evil’s hard to do.  The first things I always think of are the books that didn’t do it right.  A lot of writers just slap a villain sign on the character and have him do terrible things.  Maybe somewhere along the storyline, the writer realizes the villain isn’t evil enough, so they add a dog or a cat to the story and have the villain kill it to tell us:

This villain is evil!  He kills puppies and kittens!

Eew!  This is enough to make me instantly put down the book.  I ain’t going to hate the villain, but I am going to wonder if the author hates animals.

So what does make a good villain?  I hunted around villain territory and found Tess Collins’ post The Sympathetic Villain:

What makes a good villain? Philosophy. Vision. Humanity. A sense of history. The same qualities that make a good hero.

Hmm.  Sympathetic is a deceptive word, since it easy to think about feeling sorry for the guy.  But in a story, it’s about making him into a human being and not a cardboard cutout of evil badness.  Maybe even understanding why he’s gone off into the evil zone, even if we don’t agree with it.

I think I like my villains to be a little the over the top and extreme in some ways.  Remember the mayor from Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

“Raise your hand if you’re invulnerable.”

It helps keep the villain fun, still dangerous, and yet provides a way to escape from the real world.  Creating a serial killer stalking women in Los Angeles … well, not so much.

What do you think?  What makes for a good villain? What are you favorite villains?  If you had an evil manual, what would be in it?

Wander on by and check out my flash fiction story Sand Dollar Wishes on Writer Unboxed.  No evil villains in it, and no sand dollars were harmed in the making of it.  Some words did lose their lives to the editing scissors, since it’s reallllyyy short.

Convention Review: ConTemporal

Sometimes getting to a science fiction con is enough to drive a girl crazy.  This con was part of a two leg trip for me: First to Norfolk for a conference, and then to Chapel Hill for ConTemporal.  By the time I got there, I was glad I was transported to another dimension!

I picked ConTemporal because I hadn’t been to Chapel Hill before.  I’m glad I did because I got a different con experience.  They have a sword fighting school in North Carolina, so I got to watch people whack each with swords!

Two women fighers armed with epees attack a man with a sword in a demo.

Mmm.  Action.

First up for me on the action side was a demonstration of how fights are done in the movies and how they’re really done.  The movie fight scenes are choreographed so the viewer can see the action.  In a five against one fight, the stunt people will attack about 1 1/2 seconds behind the last one.  It looks like it’s happening all at once, but it’s not.  We had a demonstration where everyone went at the same time, and the ‘one’ lost the fight in two seconds.  Also broke his nose.  Even demonstrations can be dangerous!

We also got a discussion on women and fighting.  We can’t fight like guys, but that’s how we’re taught.  The differences:

  • A woman’s fist is more angular than a man’s.  This will affect how she will swing a sword.
  • Women have a lower center of gravity and are better at groundwork.
  • Women’s power comes from their hips.  With men, it’s the shoulders.

On the writing side, there were a few writing workshops.  I wasn’t much in the mood for how-to write workshops this time, but ‘Writers and Finances’ caught my eye.  Here are some facts:

  • A typical first novel in hard back will sell 1,600 copies or less.
  • Your book gets 3 weeks on the shelf.
  • Royalties for hard backs:  10% for the first 5,000 books.  12 1/2% for the next 5,000 books.  15% after that.

This workshop made me change one of my goals.  I used to do short stories, but the paying markets were limited, and I didn’t fit in with them.  I was also trying to work on a novel at the same time as the stories, but the stories became procrastination when I got stuck on the novel.  I decided to focus on writing novels, but the revisions have taken so that long that I haven’t been published in years.  The industry has changed a lot since I made that decision, too.

Since I’ve been sick of revisions, I’m taking time off from the novel and work on getting short stories and articles on there.  As shocking as it is, I’ll submit to non-paying markets if my stories fit.  With some of the flexible rights, I can republish the stories as indie.  One’s already out to an anthology now.

How’s your week been?  Did you have problems with that major storm that went through a lot of states? 

Convention Photos: ConTemporal

I just got back from a busy week, which included at trip to sweltering Chapel Hill, NC, for a steampunk convention, ConTemporal.  This time I actually remembered my camera, so I got some great photos.  A sampling is below, and more are located on Facebook.  This was an action-adventure junkie’s con!  I watched a demo of movie fights versus real fights and medieval sword fighting. I also attended workshops on “Disabilities and Steampunk,” “Finances for Writers,” and High Tea.  Enjoy!