Lessons in Villainy

Some guy doing some talking thing.

Some guy doing some talking thing.

The Somerset Celebration of Literature finished last Friday, though I didn’t get home until Sunday after staying on the Gold Coast to visit family…and if you ever get the chance to check out the Gold Coast Hinterland, I highly recommend it!

I’ve been to writers’ festivals as an author before…well, once before…but this was the first time I’d had multiple sessions over multiple days. And the experienced was incredible. I learnt so much in so short a period of time, and I can’t wait to take all the knowledge I’ve gained and start applying it to my future events.

Something that I found especially interesting was how engaged and switched on all the kids were, with many of them showing a confidence I couldn’t have dreamed of when I was their age. When I asked if there were any writers in the audience, one girl raised her hand and said she was writing a verse novel. A verse novel! I wouldn’t have the guts to try that now, let alone when I was a teenager!

Spurred on by her calm self-assurance, I decided to take a chance and read out a poem I wrote a year or so ago and recently rediscovered in my notebook. Admittedly, I did it mostly to fill time, but the kids in the audience responded really well to it, so I may end up posting it here…in fact, I might even add it to the end of this blog post. Let’s see how I feel by the end…

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One question I was asked during my sessions was  “What makes a good villain?”. I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the guy who asked me that particular question, which is awful of me given that he came to my signing line after the talk and was very sweet. I felt at the time that I gave him a bit of wishy-washy answer, so I thought I’d take a moment to address that critical error.

What makes a good villain?

It’s something I ask myself a lot because, in writing adventure fiction, you want to create an antagonist that is memorable, that is intimidating, that is worthy of your hero, and who maybe even has some shades of sympathy to him/her. I think the best villains are the ones who are a little morally ambiguous – perhaps they have a tragic back story, or a legitimate reason for doing what they do, even if they’ve taken it too far.

But more than that, the best villains are the characters that shed light on your protagonist. In dealing with the quandary of this opponent, facets of your main character’s personality and history are revealed. Villains are dark mirror images of heroes, serving as a warning of what we can all become if we give into the weaker elements of ourselves.

I could write up a whole essay on this subject, but I think I’ll leave it at that for the time being. Don’t be surprised, however, if there ends up being a future blog post that digs down deep on this topic to an almost tedious level!

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In addition to Somerset, I’ve also made a trip in the past week to Channel 9 studios, where I filmed my second appearance for Kids’ WB. I’ll blog more about that in the future, but in the meantime enjoy this behind-the-scenes snapshot;

I'm the one in the middle. Thankfully not in costume.

I’m the one in the middle. Thankfully not in costume.

The segment should be airing at the end of March, though that’s yet to be confirmed. Watch this space for updates!

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Okay, so we’re at the end of the post. Will I put up that poem? Hmmm.

You know what? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So here’s the poem, but before you read it there’s a few things you should know;

1) I have no idea if it’s crap or not.

2) I’m not a poet. See point # 1.

3) It got a good response at the festival, but I think that had mostly to do with how I read it…and the demand I made for applause at the end.

4) It’s about writing and being a writer.

5) I studied poetry at uni but the best I got was a ‘C’.

6) I don’t have a title for it.

7) I’m stalling now.

8) Here’s the poem…

We are dream merchants. And magicians.

We are astronomers, charting the stars,

and astronauts, reaching up to touch them.

We work instruments made of mirrors,

weaving invisible threads.

We stitch together scraps of cloth collected across a lifetime,

to make flying carpets and coats of many colours.

We are explorers. And hermits.

We study the soul and bring it names.

We take names and make them ideas.

We sell inspiration. We sow fancy and bottle stray thoughts.

We do this with ink in our veins and with our hearts beating to the rhythm of a keyboard.

We do this because we have to.

We do this because we can’t imagine anything else.

And that’s it. Hate mail can be sent here.

‘Til next time.

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About Steven Lochran

Steven Lochran is the author of the upcoming Middle Grade Fantasy series PALADERO, as well as the teen superhero series VANGUARD PRIME. He lives in Melbourne with his wife, two cats, and an unreasonably large toy collection.

Posted on March 21, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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