Villainous Writing Advice From Chris Pavesic (Unquiet Dead)- Writing Advice From The Pros

Villainous Writing Advice

I like reading advice on writing from other authors. Many times I find really great ideas that help improve my own writing abilities. For example, in On Writing, Stephen King (2001) recommends listening to music to help a writer block out the world and focus on the work at hand. I have multiple dedicated writing playlists for just this purpose. Certain advice, though, does not resonate with me. For example—certain writers suggest modeling villains after people in your own life that you dislike. I would find that difficult advice to implement in my writing.

First—there is the time factor. Writing a novel generally takes time. Even if a writer aims for a thousand words a day of good, solid prose, the writing stretches into months. Imagine this time actively thinking about people you do not like. This would not be an enjoyable activity in my perspective.

As a writer, I want to like my villains. Not everything that they do—many of their activities to me would be morally objectionable. But I need to understand them—to know why they are doing certain activities so that I can put this down on the page. I need to sympathize with their motivations and to realize that, in most instances, the villains do not see themselves as evil. These characters need the same depth as the heroes or, in my opinion, they will never be more than a caricature.

In Witches Abroad, Terry Pratchett (1991, p. 185) has the villain of the story, Lilith, makes the following comparison: “She wondered whether there was such a thing as the opposite of a fairy godmother. Most things had their opposite, after all. If so, she wouldn’t be a bad fairy godmother, because that’s just a good fairy godmother seen from a different viewpoint.” Later in the story, readers learn that Lilith firmly believes she is the good fairy godmother and is not the villain. It’s a matter of perspective, and in her viewpoint, those working against her are evil. She’s trying to improve people’s lives, and those working against her are trying to impede progress.

This is not the only type of villain in literature, but it is the type that I tend to find the most interesting. It is why I can sympathize with Khan in Star Trek (both in Into Darkness and in Space Seed) and Loki in The Avengers while at the same time being morally appalled by many of their actions.

There are obvious exceptions to this—Sauron in The Lord of the Rings trilogy does not generate sympathy for many readers, (although Tolkien does give him a fascinating history in The Silmarillion that explains his fall into darkness) but the Nazguls always had a touch of sympathy to their story for me because they were tricked by Sauron into becoming the Ring Wraiths. The detail and care that Tolkien invests into the story keeps these characters from being caricatures.




Thank you, Chris, for sharing your writing wisdom with us!


Rules Can Be Good

It’s my first Friday Fictoneer’s entry! You can read the prompt here:

Cricket stumbled into her position on the factory floor. There were piles of bud to seed. It must not go out with seeds in it. The seeds belonged to the factory owners.

Demand was up, up, up. Cricket was down, down, down.

A little wouldn’t hurt.

Cricket smoked to her hearts content. She woke many hours later when it was dark. Everyone was gone.

The ganja had worn off. The sign made sense. No smoking in the factory.

Old Pencils, Old Paper



I’m searching the Bugs Bunny mug sitting on my desk, hoping to find a pencil worth using. I have back-ups. A whole bag of them. Many of the back-ups have a story.

I save pencils and paper. Over the years they take on the position of being “old.” I didn’t think much of it until one of the kids would stare in shock at what I was writing with or on. “Mom,” daughter would gasp, “that’s my pencil from 4th grade.” She has a right to be shocked. 4th grade was twelve years ago. This pencil sticks out for her because it’s one of the brightly colored ones that she begged for when we were school shopping that fall. It was several times more expensive than the plainer pencils. Her image seemed impossibly important to her at the time. I never knew back then how much it did mean to her. Thank goodness I spent those extra dollars.

Saving pencils and papers comes from being a writer. They were my first writing tools. As long as I had them, I could go to the place where the words lined up and came out in an order that felt good. A place where I could create.

Change happens. Maybe I’ll surprise one of the kids when they see me with half of a notebook they thought disappeared into the trash so long ago they barely recall, but I did throw out the crayons. (cough) Last year.

“Two Brides” – Tipsy Lit Prompted – View from the Fishbowl

Those of you who have had the pleasure of meeting Amelia Mennano from “One Red Flower” should enjoy seeing what happened to the lovely lady Dawn.  The original prompt is here:



Marianna Mennano took one final look at the two bridal showrooms. Her brides would be there soon. They were both getting the full treatment. Both wedding parties would be choosing their gowns and accessories. They would sip champagne, take pictures, and nibble on delectables.

Marianna chose the slightly nicer room for Dawn. Dawn was special to all of them. She had brought a magic to her little Amelia’s life that led to Marianna having her own shop. Marianna’s talents earned reviews and repeat business that put her on the map. Yes, Dawn would get everything Vanessa would today.

Vanessa arrived with her mother, her fiancés mother, and her 15 wedding attendants. Some of them she hardly knew. It was time for her to be married at 28. It was advantageous to her and Reginald Patterson III to marry one another. She liked him enough that she might even spend some of her time with him when she didn’t have to.

Dawn Lassiter arrived 30 minutes after Vanessa’s party. She was with her mother, mother-in-law to be, her maid of honor, three close friends who would be bridesmaids, and her fiancés niece who would be their flower girl.
Seeing the room Marianna had put together for them brought tears to Dawn’s eyes. “Oh, Marianna! It’s lovely.” Dawn walked gracefully to the table holding a centerpiece of stargazer lilies. She lifted the flowers to her face and breathed in their sweet scent.

Dawn’s wedding party hugged and beamed smiles all around while they enjoyed the champagne, cake, cheese, and fruit that Marianna arranged for them.

Marianna’s sister poked her head into the room, looking for her. “A moment, please, Marianna?”

Marianna motioned to the selection of dresses they were starting with so that Dawn’s party could begin looking through them before she went to talk to her sister.

“It’s a disaster in there, Marianna. The bride is rejecting everything we have. We even brought out that fancy designers book that’s in the news and she said it wasn’t good enough for her. She demanded that we bring her a better champagne and a low calorie cake to eat with it. What do I do?”

Marianna soothed her. “I’ll take care of her. You stay here with Dawn and her family.”

“Oh, thank you,” Pamela breathed as though being pardoned from the gallows.

Marianna placed a call to her husband’s pastry chef and asked him to whip up something suitable for the discerning bride and their best champagne. She soothed Vanessa’s ruffled feathers by asking her what she wanted in a gown. They could design it for her. Of course they could place the diamonds by hand. Of course they could locate the finest lace. Marianna assured Vanessa that each of her demands would be met. Vanessa seemed temporarily appeased.

The rest of Vanessa’s party chatted together. Some chose a dress or an accessory. No one thought anything of Vanessa’s demands.

Two exhausting hours later Marianna rejoined Dawn’s family. Vanessa had an appointment with the attorneys that cut her shopping short. The rest of her party left with her.

Marianna gratefully returned to see Dawn standing in front of the mirror with her bridal party, gorgeously resplendent in their wedding clothes. The photographer laughed, as did Pamela, in tearful joy to be part of such a blessed day. These photos would go on the wall.

The Mystery of the Hidden Truth

This is my entry into this week’s Tipsy Lit Prompted. If you’d like to see the original prompt follow this link: care-to-make-a-wager/

As always, I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

The Mystery of the Hidden Truth

“Do you mind if I sit with you?”

Paula nodded, feeling numb. Patisserie Chocolat was her hangout. Strangers didn’t approach you at your table and ask to sit with you even if there weren’t any other tables open.

As they made small talk, Paula realized two things; this was Geneva Bloom, the infamous mystery writer known and loved by millions for the unfathomable diversity of her books; and that she shared too many characteristics with Carla, a new regular that favored sitting at adjacent tables. Paula’s eerie feeling that Carla was listening in on her writing meetings with her coach was turning into a solid lump in her stomach and a fast tattoo for a heartbeat.

Geneva smiled like the proverbial canary. “You’ve figured me out, haven’t you, Paula.”

Paula swallowed the boulder that was now lodged in her throat. “You’re Geneva Bloom.” Her idol. The one that had inspired her to write the story that was staring at her from her screen at that very moment. The one she had slaved and polished for years now.


Something wasn’t right with her idol. Paula knew it with gut twisting certainty.

“I have a proposition for you. It’s superbly simple. You see, I like to give chances to hopeful talents like yourself. Here’s yours. I’ll work on that tome of yours with you. If after one month I like what we’ve done and I feel that it’s worthy of my name, I’ll endorse it and put you in touch with all the right people.”

A fantasy? But still, there was something off about Geneva/Carla. Paula took a deep breath and looked her in the eyes. “That’s an incredible offer.” Then, tentatively, “Is there more to it?”

“You’re clever. That’s why I chose you.” She paused, watching her worm dangle on the hook. She was certain she had the right prey. You did have to be careful about these things, after all. A well-buried law suit or two could resurface.

Paula nodded, motioning that she was ready to hear the rest.

“Paula, if I don’t like what we’ve put together in a month, you must give me the manuscript and never make mention of any of this to anyone. The work will be mine to do with as I please. You and I will never speak again. Of course, you’ll have your talent and can start something completely new. But I warn you, it must not resemble this manuscript in any way.”

Paula would have asked if she’d done this before, but clearly she had. Sadly, she now knew what motivated her favorite author to write such a wide variety of stories in so many different voices. She also knew that Geneva Bloom was known for endorsing unknown authors. Some had won the wager. It tempted her. Fame. They had all risen to a level of fame that she craved for herself. Years of work sat in front of her. She knew it was her best. She knew it would take years to get there again. Years of scrounging any block of time she could to work on her dream. Or in a short time she could be living her utopia.

The next day Paula met her coach at J&B’s. She was filled with new confidence. Her book was good enough to steal.

A link to vote for your favorite response to this weeks prompt will be posted tomorrow.  Happy voting!

Tipsy Lit Prompted – Backing It Up

If you would like to see the original prompt, take a look at it here:

Rose struggled to breathe in her too tight wedding dress. So tight it cut off her air. She glanced down at herself to see what the problem was. The dress was a creamy white lace and satin confection. Strapless to accentuate her full breasts which looked huge from her vantage point because of how small the dress was. She was standing in an alley. How odd. Not knowing what compelled her, she ran to the first baby carriage she saw. It was white with dark blue trim. It was the style of carriage you use for a new baby that doesn’t move around much. She reached the carriage, almost hyperventilating from the effort to move, forget about getting anywhere quickly.

It was empty.

Compelled again, she ran to the next carriage she saw and found that it, too, was empty. Looking down the long alley she saw several more carriages.

Right. She was in The Dreaming. How long had it taken her to catch on this time? There were some truly lucky individuals who woke straight into The Dreaming, like Joe Jacobs, the man she could easily call her uncle though there were no blood ties.

Remembering the steps that she had practiced, Rose wiggled her toes, wanting to stay here and see why she was wearing this dress and looking in empty baby carriages. As if she didn’t know.

She was frustrated with Zach.

Zach. Her remarkably frustrating soul mate. He was everything a soul mate should be. Except for one crucial quality. He wasn’t ready to have a relationship with her. He avoided her as much as he possibly could. And that did take a little doing since both of their families were crowded with psychics. They were too kind to laugh in any mean way about his reluctance. After all, exactly how was someone supposed to handle knowing who their soul mate was from the age of eight?

Eight is how old Zach was when he sat in a canoe with his dad, Jake, mom Dara, and five-year-old sister Rachel, and pondered out loud about what his future wife would be like. Jake and Dara had looked at one another and come to the conclusion that they were going to have to tell him someday, but not today. Eight was too young for that kind of news.

Rachel didn’t think a thing about blurting out, “It’s Rose, Zach. You know how Rose is,” in her sweet little girl voice, dark curls bouncing on her soft, pudgy cheeks.

Rachel was one of Rose Spencer’s biggest fans. They played for hours every time their families got together.

“What do you mean it’s Rose?” Zach snapped at his little sister. He didn’t usually snap at her. She didn’t usually make such outrageous statements.

“Zach,” his father put a comforting hand on his son’s shoulder. When Jake used that soft tone everybody listened. They didn’t really have a choice. Jake had a way with sounds. “Son, this may be a hard thing for you to hear right now. It was hard for me when I first heard about your mom and I. It was hard for me when Carter told us that you and Rose were going to be together. But it happens to be the truth. What I don’t know,” Jake turned an eagle eye on Rachel, “is how your sister knew.”

She turned her big chocolatey brown eyes to her dad and claimed, so innocently they knew it couldn’t be true, that she didn’t know how she knew.

Rose had been a bit luckier when she found out. She had only known since she was a dreamy-eyed fifteen-year-old. Rowan, the go-to guy for all things paranormal in their lives, had been telling the story of how he had come to meet his Jenny. It was the sweetest story she thought she’d ever heard. When she sighed and said she’d like to have a soul mate, and to know who it was, Rowan had told her in his Irish lilt to just come on for a little walk with him when she wanted to know the answer to that. They had that walk in the warm summer breeze that very evening
Now here she was in The Dreaming, thirteen long years later, wondering when Zach was going to be ready for anything with her.

Rose finally moved from New York to Los Angeles to head up the Ivy Rose plant there in the hopes that being in the same city with Zach might help him along. Nope. In six months she had seen plenty of everyone else, but not one solitary sign of Zach.

Standing in the sparkling clean alley, Rose looked for more clues as to why she might be there.
Movement caught her attention. Something over there, in an alcove on her left. It looked like Zach. Rose charged down the alley to get a better look at who Zach was with.

It was…her?

Zach waved his hand, making his dream Rose disappear. There stood the real thing. She didn’t look very happy to see him. He couldn’t blame her.


You can vote for Rose & Zach in this weeks’ prompted poll here:    Thank you!

Prompted – TipsyLit “Through the Eyes of the Elderly”

I settled myself into my favorite cozy chair to watch my evening programs. My youngest grandchild was safely ensconced in the old bedroom I put her in. With a book. That should hold her there for a while. I put her in the front bedroom so I could hear if she snuck out to watch the shows back there in the dark. Or if she snuck out the other door to the hall cupboard where I keep the extra food.

I smiled to myself, thinking about what a thrill she got out of being in the same room that her dad used to sleep in. It was even the same bed. With him being the youngest of my own six children, I didn’t see any point in replacing it. Who knew that my frugal decision would make her so happy?

Lawrence Welk came on the screen in the dark front room with the big window that looked out onto the street. I shut off all the lamps to cut on the light bill. My glass of soda sat next to me on a little pie-edged, two-tiered table. On top of a lace doily. My young granddaughter got a kick out of that, too. What was it about all this old furniture that made her so happy?

I watched the beautiful people on the screen and had the strangest thought float through my head. I had told my son not to marry that woman. That she wasn’t suitable for our family. He never had been very good at listening to me. Was I glad about that now? Oh, yes, I was. Just that one girl in there that was thrilled by every little thing we did for her made my life so wonderful when she came to visit. And there were three older grandchildren at home. I can’t take them all at once. One of them is a real rascal, just like his dad.

I don’t think I ever tell my son how much I love his kids. Maybe if I said something to his wife she wouldn’t look at me so sideways. Sheesh, woman, that was more than 15 years ago. Nah, I comforted myself. My son knows that I love these kids. Didn’t I buy this little one papaya every time she came to visit? As for the wife, well, I give her a birthday gift and a Christmas gift every year. I don’t need to apologize for saying that she wasn’t fit to marry my son because she was a divorced single mother.

Do you have a suggestion about how I can improve? Please do share.