All I want for Christmas…

…is an internet connection. It seems that the rain causes our phone lines to act up, which in turn prevent me from connecting to the internet long enough or well enough to load even a single site. Dial-up internet is my only real complaint about living in a semi-remote location. I would give anything for a nice, fast, stable connection. Anything. Possibly my soul. Or my first-born.

I am considering moving the working reviews to a monthly schedule. I like doing them and I think they are useful, for me at the very least, but it’s hard to come up with things to do every other week. It seems I don’t have nearly as many writing books with usable prompts as I imagined. Then again, I could always mine a book I’ve used for more material. It might just be that the holidays are sapping my will to work. There are so many distractions, many of them actually pleasant, that make it easy to say I’ll think about it tomorrow.

I am going through my preferred character development routine right now and I am running into an issue that plagues me on a regular basis: villains. I have this problem with them. I don’t believe in them. Oh, I believe people, real people, are capable of amazing quantities of shit. And I can believe in properly despicable villains, black hat and horns included, in fiction I read. But in my own, they turn to mush. I cannot comprehend their motivation. I say they are evil, I might make them do evil things, but they are not frightening. They could not convince a puppy to drop a toy, let alone strike fear in the hearts of brave men. I can believe in people who do things that are greedy and selfish in an everyday sort of way. People who are merely unpleasant.

But what I need for Portable Homeland is a murderer. Someone who is willing to take lives to satisfy his own whims. And I have no idea how to make that work on the page. I don’t know how to make a reader feel like they need to bar the doors and close the curtains. I want to create creeping terror. I want the heroes to know that if they are not very clever and more than a little lucky, they will absolutely end up dead or worse. At the same time, I want to create a person, a deeply human villain, not a cheap Hollywood rubber suit monster. I want him to be so reasonable, so normal, so hello, Sir who lives down the street, that the reader will look at her neighbors and random strangers funny for days after reading about him.

I have to tap into the things I hate most in myself, the things that make me feel like a monster, and give them to him. Then I need to tap into the things I like most about myself and wrap him up in a shell of charm and intelligence. Poison with a candy coating. I have abandoned three major projects in the past over just this problem, because I could not make a villain that I cared to show on the page, that could stand up to scrutiny, that seemed to stare back from the page with malice aforethought. And I’m afraid that I’m going to do it again and Portable Homeland will be doomed before it starts because it needed to be a murder mystery.

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About Joyce

Joyce Sully lives in Southern California. She graduated from UC Irvine. She likes to knit and cook and play video games. But mostly she writes. Joyce writes short stories and novels, songs and poems, scripts and instructions to feed the cat if she stays out late. She has been spotted as far afield as Seattle, but travel makes her nervous. She believes in magic and dragons and ghosts, but is not convinced her next-door neighbors are real.
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