The Antagonist.

“Edward Blake, The Comedian, born 1918, buried in the rain. Murdered. Is that what happens to us? No time for friends? Only our enemies leave roses.”

— Rorschach, Watchmen

You know they are out there, plotting against you, watching your every move and waiting for you to fail. As hard to shake as your shadow on a fine afternoon and as difficult to control.

Antagonists come in all shapes and forms. As literary character types, they are my favourites and also my most frustrating.  Protagonists (often the good guys) are clear cut; they are fighting the good fight. Solving the mystery, going on the hero’s journey, and saving the world. Protags tend to be straightforward, their motivations are defined by the situation they are faced with. The conflict they must resolve. The MacGuffin they must return to the village temple before the demonic curse plague turns them all into melted cheese.

It all sounds so clear cut, right? Brave hero(ine) fights the forces of oppressive evil. Great, write it, edit it, and publish it.

The antagonist is the force they are up against. The dirt floor to their dropped cream bun, the darkness to their light, and the thing puts the conflict into conflict. My personal issue with writing antagonists is that I enjoy them more than the protagonists.

What drives someone (or thing) to oppose and act in a way that is not altruistic, or socially cohesive? It goes against everything that makes us human. To be a true antagonist you have to either suffer something traumatic enough to change your world-view or you have to be inhuman (either alien, or just a monstrous entity).

Rorschach’s comment above is what I like about antagonists. Only our enemies leave roses. They are the ones whom our heroes have given existence to. The protagonist is their raison d’être. There is no reward in being an enemy unopposed. It makes the antagonists really interesting.

Thinking over my books, my antagonists rarely take a personal form. In the Tankbread series the antagonists are the Evols (the intelligent zombies) and time (if you have read the book, you know that there is a deadline for the completion of the quest). Ultimately, it is the evol Adam in the first book. The further three titles also have similar faceless antagonists.

Apocalypse Recon: Outbreak – has a clear antagonist. The biker leader ‘Jesus’ is in direct opposition to Minty, his second in command. Sure a deadly fungus that turns people and animals into zombies is also an antagonist, but the main conflict comes down to Minty’s history and the secrets he has kept for so long.

Hell’s Teeth, it’s sharks.

EAT, the crazed Russian cannibal cult-leader.

The Trench, more zombie creating organisms, and the fight to find the source of the infection is the antagonist.

Not really a lot of well-developed personalities in that list. Some complex ideas and forms, but no Darth Vader, Judas, or Joker.

Is it enough to write these faceless antagonists? I hope so. As long as there is a reason for conflict, a force to fight against (be it faceless or a clearly defined main character) the position of antagonist is well filled.

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We Are Mused.

There’s always been this legend, mythology, or wishful thinking even, around The Muses. Fathered by Zeus and born of the personification of memory, there were nine Muses in the ancient Greek version of pop-culture.

the_nine_muses_by_wegs

The Muses were goddesses and water nymphs. Some ancient Greeks (ancient Geeks?) considered them to be primordial deities – children of Titans (Uranus and Gaea).

The nine Muses delivered inspiration like hot pizza. They covered all the creative bases,  literature, art, music, science, mathematics, geography, and like totally drama.

Poets like Homer invoked them at the beginning of epic poems. Later epic poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge invoked opium.

Homer’s contemporary, Hesiod, said there were nine Muses. Mostly focused on poetry (I wonder why a poet came to that conclusion?) According to the Roman scholar, Varro, there were only three; Melete (Practice), Mneme (memory), and Aoide (song).

Varro sounds like a straight-talking guy, even if he was a miserable sod.

The number of guests at dinner should not be less than the number of the Graces nor exceed that of the Muses, i.e., it should begin with three and stop at nine.

~ Varro.

If nothing else, this quote indicates that Varro didn’t have more than 3 friends and therefore changed the number of Muses to make his soul-destroying dinner parties less awkward.

It is also said that King Pierus of Macedon named his nine daughters after the Muses. Because in ancient stories, kings are known for doing things that piss-gods-off. Seriously, you never hear of an ancient Greek farmer calling his kids Zeus, Apollo, and Uranus (still the funniest word the Greeks ever gave us).

The princesses were turned into magpies. No I don’t know why magpies as opposed to say, swallows. Gods move in mysterious ways.

In true visual movie style – we now cut to Present Day.

Goddesses are harder to come by these days (unlike opiates). So, finding someone to fill in the role of Muse can be challenging. Unless you are living the tortured artist trope, you probably have at least one person who loves your poetry, your Twilight fan-fiction, your finger-paintings, and that song you wrote about how your love is like a tea-towel.

If you have a Muse in your life. Treasure that person. I hit the jackpot, because I married my muse. Damaris is hard to explain. I mean, she’s a perfectly normal and wonderful human being – obviously. The hard to explain bit is a bit…. hard to explain.

Damaris generates whimsy. She has a sense of humour that often leaves me gasping for air having laughed so hard I almost collapse.

She also has a sharp mind. She is good at puzzles, and at their core, most stories are puzzles. You are presented with a situation where questions are asked. Conflict arises and drives the plot – questions are resolved by the end and everyone feels smug for having worked it out by page 120 (that’s position 2347 of 4693 for you Kindle users who have never read an actual book with page numbers).

Sometimes I find myself with an idea, that has a blockage. It’s an obstacle that is locking a story down. I can’t write it because it’s just not hanging right. It’s the creative equivalent of being OCD and trying to hang a picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa straight on the wall.

At times like that, I go to Damaris and I say, “Hon, this is the scenario. This is the problem.”

She immediately tells me the solution. It can be as simple as two words. Like, “He’s married.” Or, “Corn chips.” Sometimes she asks the right questions, like; “Why is the secret agent wearing lingerie to the PTA meeting?”

I love Damaris. She’s as close as an atheist like me can come to worshiping anything and as a Muse, she is the best.

Meanwhile across town…

In an experiment to reduce speeding in a town, a consultant put up signs that advised motorists that each month, a random driver recorded as driving at the speed limit would receive a $500 cash prize. The average speed of the road users dropped to the posted speed limit overnight.

The message there is that we respond better to positive reinforcement and incentives.

So while things are irritating in one aspect, other things are far more positive.

Paper Road Press – the publisher of Engines of Empathy, is having a giveaway of the book later this week on Goodreads.

They are also keen to support the new graphic novel project I am working on in conjunction with KC Bailey – artist extraordinaire. Given the workload for Paper Road right now, publishing a graphic novel is not within their capacity.

The other exciting news around the graphic novel project is that we may have a publisher who will take on the publishing side of things (as publishers do). That will mean book store distribution, full colour copies of the graphic novel and other delightful things.

No guarantees on that yet of course. But it’s looking like it might possibly could happen.

Severed Press have contracted me to write two marine thriller novellas.

I’m working on a kid’s book project with another company.

I’ve got some short stories out now, or coming out this year.

My new job is good.

Mad Max: Fury Road starts on Thursday. I shall see it. Several times.

How You Do It

There was a guy I used to know, a fellow nursing student, who wore a T-shirt that said:

Nookie; Just Did It.

I think he graduated.

I’ve been working with an established Australian publisher to formulate a deal for writing some books. Severed Press expressed interest in hearing proposals, so I wrote a bunch of ideas based on current, unpublished original WIP’s I have.

They rejected all of them except one that they wanted to change quite a bit. Further discussion gave more clarity around what for them would be a sweet spot in my creative contributions to their publishing empire.

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Writing for a LAF

“However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.” ~ Winston Churchill

I learned some new management-speak today. In a culture that thrives on keywords, catch-phrases and some really incomprehensible assaults on the English language, this one stood out in a good way.

Lead. Align. Follow.

I immediately thought of how this applies to writers. We are a constantly moving organism with a million individual writers and artists, each of us working in isolation for the most part. We read widely, we write furiously.

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The Tattooed Baby Kickstarter Castle Whale

If you call yourself Save the Whales, every once in a while you have to save a whale.

~ Tom Ahern

 Once upon a time… if you wanted to go into business you worked a day job, saved up some money. Wrote a business plan and went to the bank and seriously considered giving oral pleasure to the loan officer behind the desk in order to get the funds you needed to maybe get your business off the ground.

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