If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


Our reason for creating WWK originated as an outlet for our love of reading and writing mystery fiction. We hope you love it, too, and will enjoy our holiday gifts to our readers with original short stories to celebrate the season. Starting on 11/16 stories by Warren Bull, Margaret S. Hamilton, Paula Gail Benson, Linda Rodriguez, KM Rockwood, Gloria Alden, and E. B. Davis will appear every Thursday into the New Year.


Our November Author Interviews: 11/8--Ellen Byron, and 11/15--Sujata Massey. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


November Saturday Bloggers: 11/4 Margaret S. Hamilton and 11/11 Cheryl Hollon.


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.


In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017 and "Turkey Underfoot," just published, will appear in the anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fifth Course of Chaos.


James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

The Dynamics of Tension

Writing about evil is sort of like making fudge. You can’t cook it too long or it will bind into a solid unmovable and tooth-breaking mass, but kept short and sweet, evil’s texture is irresistible. Writing evil is the beating stage of fudge. You can feel and see the deliciousness of it all and maybe understand why people indulge in evil. It’s as seductive as wanting to taste that fudge, but more, perhaps diving into the bowl and wallowing in its warmth and decadence. It’s a concept that Stephen King understands, and I’m learning.

I wrote a scene twice last month, which isn’t anything new. Sometimes I write a scene ten times until I get it right. The first time I wrote the scene in the POV of one of my perpetrators, inappropriately, since on page 240 I hadn't yet presented her POV. So, I rewrote it again from another villain’s POV. Although I had included this character in many scenes, I realized that he too was a new POV, and I couldn’t use that scene even if it would have been a good read. But— in writing through their POVs—I learned a lot about evil and my villains. They’re despicable and fun to write.

My villains just don’t give a damn. They like being bad. They like messing with moral people. They do what they want, when they want, and they wouldn’t think of considering another’s point of view or feelings. These are truly ruthless and selfish people. Villains like to use people. When they meet other villains who use them, it’s just a matter of time which one destroys the other. At a recent local SinC meeting, a DEA agent spoke confirming this notion. He said when the headlines announce violence in the Mexican drug wars that the drug suppliers were killing each other off.

Innocent people don’t expect to meet villains. It’s something we read about in the newspaper. Evil catches the innocent by surprise. But as a mother, I can easily envision my kids meeting up with evil. Being paranoid doesn’t mean you’re delusional. Duping innocents is a sickening aspect of villains that is true. Innocents are hurt. (My daughter carries pepper spray.) And yet, physical harm is only one aspect of hurting innocents.

Often that hurt shapes your main character’s emotional and mental framework. People react differently to adversity. Adversity makes them stronger or weaker. My heroes are so noble. They struggle—they try—they go beyond themselves, challenging their fears, changing and growing stronger. There is a power struggle between the main character and the villain. It is in the action and reaction between villain and protagonist, between evil and good where tension lies. When the main character acts, instead of reacts, forcing the villain to react can be a novel’s pivotal moment.

In writing from my villains POV, I’ve come to understand better the underlying dynamic of tension from which I can write my main character’s POV. Understanding the source of the tension in my novel, I hope, will sharpen my edge. Try it sometime.  It's fun and a great teacher.

13 comments:

Pauline Alldred said...

A protagonist is as good as her antagonist so the bad guy has to be powerful. I learned to spend more time on developing antagonists. Like Nurse Ratched not only do their actions seriously harm others but the antagonist is also convinced she's right. The reader can see that she has no understanding or empathy for others but she thinks she is all knowing and doing what's best for others. Making the bad guy believable and with his/her set of motives is a challenge.

E. B. Davis said...

Even though my novel is a paranormal mystery, I am hoping that I have created a believable villain. His crime is quite common. He blames the victim, which unfortunately is also quite common. I hope by choosing a common crime, that he is a believable and reprehensible too.

Presenting his POV as an exercise was enlightening. Too bad I can't use it.

morganalyx said...

I'm eager to write a book from the villain's POV, because I, too, find them fascinating. Good on you, EB, for going through the process! :o)

Warren Bull said...

An interesting aspect of evil people, as Pauline said, is that they rarely think of themselves as evil. They twist reality to make themselves into heroes.

E. B. Davis said...

It was actually a mistake, Alyx. I was just trying for a behind the scenes chapter, which I can't do because I've never presented their POVs, and I'm three quarters through my wip. I wondered how a one of the villains would have knowledge of something, which led to two of the villains talking. Yes, the two seemed akin to one another. I'm glad they weren't in cahoots together--but then, that could be a sequel.

Pauline and Warren-I think that's called rationalization--common sport.

Polly said...

I'm going over an older book of mine to put up on Amazon with my others. Even put the horse before the cart and created the cover. In this book, I write from my antagonist's POV, along with my H/h. However, I disagree with you about the extent of evil. Yes, your villain should be bad. Very bad. And I've written some villains that had no redeeming qualities. I didn't like that as much as creating a villain who possesses a thread of something, maybe sympathy, that make readers relate to him. If you constantly keep to a pattern of writing your villains, readers will know what happens before the end.

In rereading this current book, I see opportunities to make my villain more human, therefore giving the reader an extra dimension to the whys and wherefores. We'll see how it works out.

Ellis Vidler said...

Sometimes I like writing from the villain's POV. They're fun in their blithe assessment of the world with themselves as the center. But it can also be scary when you realize they're serious about this twisted view. My villain in my current book blames the heroine for his problems. That's when she understands that neither reason nor sympathy is going to sway him. You're right--it does create tension.

E. B. Davis said...

Polly,
In my second book, I wrote short passages in my antagonist's POV and made him quite human. He had a good reason for killing. But that book was more of a traditional mystery, actually with elements of comedy.

But not so in this book--and I haven't written his POV into the book--this was just a mistake that turned into an exercise. Making the antagonist human can work in some genres, but my villain is a demon--so he can't be human. LOL!

E. B. Davis said...

That's one of the reasons, Ellis, that I can't read Konrath anymore. I started getting nightmares, which is why I'm keeping my villains in another dimension. I don't want too real, or like me, I think I'll lose readers.

Polly said...

Oh, well, Elaine. That explains it. Demonize him.

E. B. Davis said...

Yes, no "in betweens" for me! And in a way, the fact that he obviously didn't make it to heaven backs up the assessment of my main character of the villain. If she had lied, he'd be an angel or at least a benign spirit. No reader sympathy for my creep.

Gloria Alden said...

I love your visual of making fudge, E.B. A very delicious way of portraying evil. Maybe we're all thinking of fudge as evil after all the indulging we did over the holidays. I know I am.

I write a bio of my murderer before I start the book, and none of the three murderers I have written as the villain in my work is a totally bad person, at least in my books if not always in my short stories. In fact, I've rather liked all three of them, especially my latest one. That being said, I don't like their twisted reasoning for why they felt it was okay to kill. Because I write cozy or traditional books, I want to keep the reader in suspense on who the murderer is. By some twisted reasoning on my part, I never kill anyone off who isn't a rather nasty person to begin with except for one poor, old bag lady and an elderly woman with Alzeheimer's. I felt a little bit bad about doing them in, but rationalized it as being not as bad as if it were someone younger and healthier. Sort of like what the murderer does, right????
Evil laugh here. Ah ha ha ha ha.

E. B. Davis said...

As long as killing off characters is congruent to your plot, Gloria, I wouldn't feel bad. In a cozy or traditional mystery, the writer tries to simulate reality in getting police procedure right, having believable characters, etc., so why not include the killing of innocents and bystanders? It happens--no matter how lousy it is. If you didn't, you'd be writing fantasy.