Committing the ideas to paper

Every writer has heard some variation on the following:

“Oh! I had this idea about a story once. It’s about blah blah. You should write about that.”

In my experience, most writers are not lacking in ideas. Today I’ve had sixteen. One of them pretty good. But mostly, that brilliant idea about a robot designed to love who loves too much is followed by the following thought: “I really need to finish the story I’m working on already.”

Plus, that story has already been perfected (I don't know who to credit this picture to. It's amazing)

Plus, that story has already been perfected
(I don’t know who to credit this picture to, but it’s amazing)

The hard part of writing isn’t the idea, it’s the follow-through. Doing the actual writing, the actual editing, the actual telling of your friends and family about how difficult those previous steps are… it’s exhausting.

But why do we do it? Is it that yearning, deep inside, to tell a story? Is it, perhaps, that we want to explore the idea as much as the reader? Is it the hope that, one day, we’ll be published and famous?

These aren’t rhetorical questions. Seriously, why do I do this to myself?

Oh, right. The groupies.

Oh, right. The groupies.

I suppose I don’t mind people telling me their ideas. Just don’t suggest I write it for you, or imply that you may write that story if you have time some weekend.

It takes at least two weekends.

Villains done right (and wrong)

Villains are the best. I spend so much time thinking about them, writing them, wanting to be them, etc.

Recently, the Fantastic Four movie has tried to re-re-reintroduce one of my favorite villains, Dr. Doom. And screwed it up again, but that’s not important.

Writers and agents tend to agree that the important part of creating a good villain is thinking through the character and fleshing them out as their own character. If your antagonist just kills aimlessly, you might not have needed a villain. You might have just needed a disease.

Further, you can sympathize with the best villains. Or even root for them. Take Dr. Doom:

Plus, Mr. Fantastic is a tool.

Plus, Mr. Fantastic is a tool.

I’d argue that his primary characteristic is his genius. Sure, he has that iconic armor. And in the comics he’s kind of a wizard. But when it comes down to it, he actually is pretty much smarter than everyone else.

He has his own country, Latveria. It’s a technological utopia, where the people are well provided for and generally happy. Sure, it’s run by a tyrant. But he’s really good at it.

In one comic, Doom claims to have used his science/magic to look into thousands of possible futures. In all of them, humanity has been destroyed – or just likely – has destroyed itself. Except the one future where he takes over the planet.

For another brilliant take on The Tyrant Who’s Always Right, read any of Terry Pratchet’s books that include the side character Lord Vetinari. Or the badguy from The Watchmen.

My other favorite villain is Mr. Freeze from batman. Specifically, I’m referring to the version in which his wife was killed/frozen. Now he steals diamonds necessary to forward his experiments to preserve her or bring her back to life. Yes, he steals and even kills in his burglaries, but to him, it’s all worth it to bring her back. Nothing is more important.

Unlike most doctors, he doesn't correct you when you call him

Unlike most doctors, he doesn’t correct you when you call him “Mr.”

In this version, he doesn’t kill for the fun of it. His motivations are clear. And in a way, you can root for him. Other villains to check out that have REASON: Magneto, the god-emperor of the Mistborn books.

This is why it’s so disappointing to see a villain whose soul characteristic is to be a dumbass or jerk. The villain who is simply there to be an obstacle for the hero.

So your villain doesn’t have to win. Just make me WISH they did.

Dunning–Kruger effect: not knowing you suck

The Dunning-Kruger effect has been on my mind lately.

A quick refresher: People who aren’t good at things struggle to do something simple. And when they accomplish it, they brag, assuming everyone else has trouble doing that task, too.

People who are good at difficult things assume that everyone is good at them, so they don’t brag.

So dummies are loud about their piddling accomplishments, and geniuses keep quiet about sometimes amazing things. Dunning-Kruger.

I am also very good at expectorating

I am also very good at expectorating

The scary part is that D-K is defined by not knowing that you’re a victim. The internet is FULL of loud monkeys. Every teenager shares their sense of accomplishment when they realize they can be terrible.

The obvious solution is “Don’t be a prideful git. Set aside the braggadocio.”

But I’m a navel-gazer, and constantly second guess everything I think I am. So knowing about D-K makes me doubt my accomplishments. For example, is my vocabulary really above average like I think, or does everyone use the word “braggadocio?”

Does everyone else have to double-check spelling of expectorate?

And does everyone else have to double-check spelling of expectorate?

Anyway, tune in to my next post when I tell you about how I set up my very own twitter account. Hang on, I think I hear Mensa calling.

Getting my sheets together

I’m in the process of putting together materials for agents and editors and well-wishers and not-so-well-wishers.

I read, re-read, do some illicit substances, then re-read again my first 10, 20, and 30 pages.

How do you bribe in an email? And is it too forward to send their loved ones' fingers with the query?

How do you bribe in an email? And is it too forward to send their loved ones’ fingers with the query?

Then I think, “Maybe my YA comedy adventure would work better as a gothic romance. Is there time to retool?”

Then I hit send.

Then I remember that I left the “To:” space blank just to stop myself from accidently sending without the necessary/requested attachments.

Then I repeat all of the above steps before ACTUALLY sending.

Fingers crossed, everyone