Monday, October 27, 2014

Villains, Sex Fiends and Zombies, Oh My!

Writing is a difficult thing.  Sometimes one must step back to see the whole picture because all the focus is on one aspect.  Let me explain.  As writers, we have a difficult time with characters, scenes and sentence structures.  Villains are characters.  Sex Fiends are scenes.  Zombies will address a sentence structure issue.

Villains.  They're the bad guys in a story.  I read a novel which described the character in this manner:

She was the vilest creature to ever walk the earth. She oozed evil, walked in darkness and only thought of the bad things she could do.

Now think about that. Can you visualize a character that is so vile that she would ooze evil, slink about in the dark and spend her waking hours thinking of bad things to do?  Suddenly, the Grinch looks like a saint.

Bad people don't exist.  People who do what others consider bad things, do exist.  Let me explain.  I'm a church-going, upstanding citizen of the community, family man and a successful businessman.  I decide to beat the stray dog which has been getting into my garbage can and strewing it over all the yard.  I get caught in the act.  I'm an terrible (aka bad) person because, in the eyes of those around me, I am hurting an innocent creature.  I don't see my act as wrong.  I'm trying to remedy a situation.  There were other options open to me -- such as putting out poison, shooting the dog, or possibly using a trap.  Okay, the last one might be considered more humane if it didn't involve a leg-hold trap.

The bottom line is simple.  I'm considered evil.  But, wait a minute, I don't consider myself evil.  I see myself as really a very nice guy.

In reality, what villain considers himself evil?  Only in a campy movie does the villain walk about the room, squinting their eyes in slyness, tittering or laughing evilly and rubbing their hands together in glee at the prospect of doing something dastardly.

Villains are regular people.

Sex Fiends.  You have a character who is involved in bed to bed to bed sex acts.  How can you write those scenes without blushing or ignoring the incident?  Trust me, the "he swept her off her feet, holding her in his arms, kissing in a deep embrace while kicking the bedroom door open with his right foot. The next morning..." days are long gone.  There are savvy readers and a savvy writer can create the mood for the sex scene and not write it... unless it is porn which demands details. A good writer can avoid the awkward details.

Enter a helpful skill set: Afterglow. Let the characters get hot and heavy and move to the bedroom THEN break.  Enter Afterglow.  By using the sequence after the sex, you can allow the reader to fill in the blanks.  Consider this:  He pushed the stray lock of hair behind her ear. Her eyes flickered open and he smiled. "Good morning, beautiful. Did you sleep well?" She smiled and traced her index finger down the side of his face. "Last night was incredible." They kissed. "Just you wait," he whispered and jumped out of bed. "I'll be back in a couple of minutes with an incredible breakfast." He stopped at the door and smiled wickedly. "And then..." He disappeared.

The above allows us to see them in the morning after an evening of what apparently seems to have been a good night of sex.  Of course, written another way, it could have been different...

He lay there, panting. "Was it good for you?" He took a deep breath. She pulled the sheet closer and moved to the edge of the bed. "Yeah, I guess," she whispered. He cast a glance in her direction. "You probably got to get home. How about I give you $20 for cab fare." He grabbed the opened beer, guzzled and then wiped his mouth with his bare arm. "Being a stud tonight has worn me down." He laughed, reached over and slapped her butt. "Maybe we'll meet up again next Friday night - interested?"

Obviously, a totally different result of an interlude.  Afterglow can be the vehicle to move beyond the act and allow you to describe how the scene was played.  In the first example, it is easy to see that they have a mutual respect for one another and there is a tenderness involved.  The second example reveals a more brutal, casual meeting with the male being a complete jerk.

Zombies.  No I"m not going to discuss horror or even the creature.  What I am going to discuss is what most writers find very difficult.  Active versus passive sentence structure.  Zombies will help us in the cause.  How?  These "writing" zombies, just like the horror zombies, want action.  They want active sentences, not passive ones.  It is an easy thing to do... add "by zombies" to the sentence to see if it is passive.  If the sentence makes sense with "by zombies" added, then more than likely, the sentence is passive.

Mary was given the award.
Mary was given the award by zombies.  <-- this sentence is passive!
Mary was given by zombies the award.  <-- still passive sentence!

Mary gave the award to John.
Mary gave the award to John by zombies. <-- doesn't make sense, sentence is active!
Mary gave by zombies the award to John. <-- still doesn't make sense, sentence is active!

Zombies may be the living dead but they know their sentence structure and want it to be active!

Writers will meet up with all types of strange creatures on the path to finalize the manuscript whether it be an article, a short story, a poem or even a full length novel.  Villains, Sex Fiends and Zombies are just 3 that can make the path an easier road to follow.

Until next I ramble on...


  1. LOL - I love the "by Zombies" tip - I'm going to use that! I have a tendency to write passive at times and never even realize it! Thanks!

  2. Great villain article, Bob. I especially like the "sex fiend" example.

  3. Zombies as grammar aids - I love it! Great advice as always, Bob.

  4. Hmmm... I don't get the Zombie grammar aids... lol --- I love the tips on sex fiends and villains though. Trying to see your villain as an ordinary person - PRICELESS>>>

    1. The zombie grammar aid is simple. If you can add "by zombies" to the sentence and it makes sense, more than likely, the sentence is considered "passive." Read the original sentences above, then the two following sentences and you'll understand (I hope) the concept of how "by zombies" work when trying to figure out active/passive sentences.

  5. Very insightful post here Bob - lots to ponder on here, thanks.