BonusParts A to Z: Baddies

Baddies

 

BonusParts from A to Z

B: BADDIES

For this entry into the BonusParts A to Z, I’m looking at the Baddies: types, ones I’ve enjoyed, and a few specific examples to hopefully tease some interest.

What’s a Baddie?

Generally speaking, baddies are the bad guys (or gals, or nonbinary individuals) who create conflict within my stories. Not every baddie is evil, though. Sure, some are nefarious villains, but others are simply rivals or foils. They are characters of their own, meaning they can have their own backstory, their own moral code, even their own objective within the story.

The Baddie’s purpose is to offer a point of contrast to the Hero. They are an obstacle to a goal. This can range from a charming challenger for a love interest’s affections to a sadistic crazy person out to destroy all of humanity. It all depends on the story.

 

She recalled the mysterious stranger in the grimy duster. “Is he a bad guy?”

“‘Bad’ is relative,” the man told her.

“Well, what’s he like?”

“Traitorous, sadistic, egocentric.” He sniffed. “Atrocious table manners.”

A Baddie’s badness level often relates to the overall stakes of the story. Your average Romance probably won’t have a baddie who is a serial killer. By the same token, you wouldn’t expect a Thriller to have a baddie whose primary role was as a romantic rival. I’m not saying you can’t have a serial killer who isn’t also a romantic rival, but the stakes need to add up appropriately for the primary genre you’re writing in.

 

My Baddies and Me

 

For a long time, I argued against the necessity of baddies. I thought non-corporeal sources of conflict – societal discrimination, accidents, familial responsibilities – could be enough to propel a story forward. The problem is that conflict against something intangible like social mores or a car accident can only go so far. Instead, these kinds of intangibles initiate reactions in characters that then manifest as more personalized conflicts: the potential lovebirds facing prejudice due to their racial differences. The hero battling his demons of self-doubt. The heroine trying to reconcile her relationships with her traditional family and her nouveau riche boyfriend.

It wasn’t until I looked back on these stories (Sixes and Sevens, Fearless, and 1 More Chance!, respectively) that I realized that a story’s baddies could reside within my goodies. Totally valid, and lots of fun to write. But not as much fun as an actual Baddie.

A Rundown of Recent Baddies

I’m going to highlight some examples of baddies in my novella, Number Seven and the Life Left Behind, which anyone can read if they so choose. [Purchase link; opens in a new tab.] The story’s main protagonist, Number Seven, encounters a few different types of antagonists throughout his adventure:

  • Number Fourteen is an adversary to Seven. She does her job, but she does it with cruelty, and she’s got a pretty mean streak. She’s designed to be unlikable.
  • Number Twelve is a counterpoint to Seven. He’s a jaded professional who doesn’t really care about anything anymore. I created him to show that Seven’s working world is full of a lot of different people, and not everyone who disagrees with him has been corrupted. Some of them are just tired.
  • Number Nine is Seven’s rival, of sorts. She’s as good if not better an agent as he is, though she is portrayed as being more severe. She’s a foil to his endeavors. I wanted her to be a competent but frustrated woman fighting for respect in a predominantly man’s world. Seven doesn’t see her as an enemy except for the situation they’re in, and that’s what really makes her dangerous.
  • Number Two is the story’s straight-up villain. He’s Seven’s opposite in nearly every way. He’s vindictive, malicious, manipulative, and pompous, a man who will allow or do anything for sake of the grand plan, no matter who it hurts or how.

Not only did these characters serve separate purposes, they also offered diverse perspectives on the world in which the hero lives. And they were all a sheer delight to write. They are still baddies, though, and do not take the place of the hero. I’m not saying antagonists can’t have their own stories or their own motivations; some of the best are those whose points of view we can understand. But your story’s baddie is not the same as your story’s hero. Otherwise, it would be a different story.

Do you like writing Baddies? What kinds of Baddies do you prefer to write or to read? Let me know in the comments!

BonusParts A to Z: Alliteration

ALLITERATION

BonusParts from A to Z

A: Alliteration

Welcome to the first post in my BonusParts A to Z theme year! Every 2 weeks or so, I’ll take a letter from the alphabet and choose a word or phrase that begins with that letter and write about what that word or phrase means to me and my writing. This being the first post, I’m starting with the letter A.

When I initially sat down to write this post, I thought I’d look at character names that start with A, since I have so many of them. Just off the top of my head, there’s Aksel, Alana, Amber, Anan, and Aral. But each one of those characters means something uniquely special to me, and I couldn’t put my finger down on just one to write about. So, I turned to my style. One technique I use a lot is Alliteration.

What’s Alliteration?

Alliteration, for anyone out of the know, is when the same sound occurs at the beginning of adjacent or closely connected words. Many tongue twisters employ alliteration, such as the popular Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. That repetitive hard P sound is alliterative.

People in the past have accused me of being a bit too in love with words. I don’t deny that. Words can create sadness or horror just as easily as they can beauty and joy. One reason I love stories is for their malleable structure. Of course, too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing. That said, every edit requires a concentrated effort to rein in the more whimsical flourishes that flitter off in my first drafts. Here’s one from my current work in progress….

He lay like a pale, dreaming doll, blindfolded, ball-gagged, and bound by long sashes of shimmering satin to the four corners of the bed. He was shirtless, and his trousers had been pulled open to the very last teeth of his zip. Crouched atop him was a petite woman who was mostly naked herself, save for a set of scarlet lingerie cut daringly from silk and lace. She turned at the interruption of their entrance, flame-red hair tumbling around her shoulders. While beautiful, she moved with a coordination that could more accurately be described as ruthlessness rather than grace.

That opening alliterative phrase – blindfolded, ball-gagged, and bound – came to me as many phrases do, as I was on the edge of wakefulness (a topic for another time). Using that basic phrase as a core, I built it out into a more complete description of the moment. I added more embellishments because they’re fun, and I ended up with the paragraph above.

When to use alliteration

Alliteration, like other stylistic devices, can be tricky to use. Too much, and it becomes messy and distracting. Not enough, though, and prose runs the risk of being boring. An editor or beta reader may read this and tell me to pull it back a bit. I myself might even go back in a later revision and decide that it goes too far. But for right now, I like it. And isn’t that what really matters?

How do you fashion phrases? Do you like alliteration? What would you tell me about the example paragraph above? Let me know in the comments section below!

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