It is already late spring, the time of year when I start watching more closely, the sunrise and sunset times each day, because I know that within a few short weeks, our daylight hours will already begin to shrink. Yes, it will be some time before we appreciate how much the minutes add up per day, but by keeping watch, I'm reminded to make as much as I possibly can, of each and every day of spring and summer. (I suspect this is due to the fact that I live where it seems that winter drags on for six long months. In truth, it isn't quite that long, but at times it feels like it ...)
Now, with June upon us, we Quills are gathering once again to bring you a joint post. This time each of us will share with you, five of our favorite antagonists.
Before digging in further, it only seems right to take a closer look at the terms “protagonist” and “antagonist.” “Protagonist” is defined as “the principal character in a work of fiction.” Note that the definition does not say that the protagonist is the hero of the story. “Antagonist” is defined as “someone who offers opposition.” This definition does not say that the antagonist is a villain. So it is conceivable that the principal character of a story is a villain, while the antagonist of the story is actually the hero. Hmmm … I’m trying to think of a story in which that idea plays out in just that manner ... Can you help me out here? Maybe my fellow Quills can do that. Parker? Robin?
Let's first see what P.S. Broaddus, author of A Hero's Curse, has for us.
Here we go! (Don't forget to follow the links to my fellow-Quills' sites for more.)
Bad guys. Villains. Antagonists. That's what we're writing about this month. Each of our trio of writers is forwarding our top five baddies for you to consider. And we challenge you to prove us wrong by submitting your own compilations. Let the listing begin!
Mine is a list of truly evil baddies, fantastic villains, complex antagonists, and lovable toad. In the style of FilmFisher's "Undefended" articles, I'm putting these forward with only minimal comment.
Thank you, Parker!
Now, Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, will share some of her favorite antagonists with us. Take it away, Robin!
Oh, dear, so many villains, so few spaces in the list…! Granted, antagonists are not always villains, per se, but someone or something manifesting opposite actions, thoughts, or motives than the protagonist. Still, I’ve chosen to lean toward the villainous in my list. I enjoy the motivations and thought processes of characters over, say, weather or landscape. Weeks of mulling over various evil qualities and their deployment (Ho! Launch the greed! Commence the revelation of dark secrets!) gave me a list.
And now for my thoughts!
Since the antagonist in a story is frequently a villain, the first antagonist/villain that comes to my mind is … Now, don’t laugh. It’s Cruella deVil. There are goods reasons for this. Well, good reasons to me, anyway. You see, Cruella, as played by Glenn Close (who I had the great pleasure of seeing on Broadway a couple years ago) gets to wear the most amazing things! I’d like to try some of the things she wore—perhaps with a bit less in the shoulder padding department, to be sure—but aside from that, who wouldn’t have fun dressing up like Cruella from time to time? Seriously though, Cruella is deliciously naughty, and thoroughly egocentric. It would be so much fun to play her character. (I’ll have to see if I can get a local theater group to do it. Is that even possible? I suppose it could prove difficult to cast the dalmations, so I’m thinking "no" … Hmmm. Curses.)
I think I have a theme going here, because my next antagonist is from a role I find to be a bit similar to that of Cruela deVil. This is one that Meryl Streep played, in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Call me shallow, but my reasons are similar: Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly got to take advantage of a terrific wardrobe. But the best part about this character is that she is so completely into herself. Are you laughing yet? Yes, well, my reasons may be a bit silly, but I can explain. You see, it wasn’t that long ago that my youngest left the nest after my husband and I had spent three decades raising our children. I am so proud of my three young ones. Each is an amazing person. Still, just now my goal is to put a new theme into play before I’m too old to do so. It goes like this: “It’s my turn now.” So maybe that accounts for my finding such joy in these thoroughly self-absorbed characters. They actually put into action something that I envy at least a little bit, although I don’t think I could under any circumstances, do what they do as completely as they do it.
My fifth and final choice is Javert, also from Les Miserables. Javert is a genuine antagonist—even if not exactly a villain. He is obsessed with pursuing and convicting Jan Valjean. I think that in his deepest heart, Javert wants to do what is “right,” but his mission blinds him. Perhaps this quote best sums up this character:
His mental attitude was compounded of two very simple principles, admirable in themselves but which, by carrying them to extremes, he made almost evil – respect for authority and hatred of revolt against it.
Javert is unable to appreciate how Jean Valjean could be guilty of an offense (minor though it may be and notwithstanding that it causes no genuine harm to others), while Valjean can also be a good man on a day-to-day basis, and one who makes the lives of others, better.
Victor Hugo provided the rationale for Javert’s conduct. Having been born in a prison to criminal parents, Javert became an officer of the law because of his hatred for the very group from which he came. Hugo tells us that Javert’s life is/was one of “privations, isolation, self-denial, and chastity—never any amusement.” Perhaps Javert is one of my favorites because Hugo made him so understandable. So once again I say—and I say it every chance I get: if you have not yet read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. Your introduction to the antagonist, Javert, is just one of the many, many reasons to check out this great, great classic.
May has arrived and we Quills are at it again, writing flash fiction tales. This time, Parker (that is, P.S. Broaddus) chose a picture to inspire us. He also threw in an added challenge, namely, that we would use the pic as the background for writing something new to one of our prior tales. Here it is:
The picture is from the game, The League of Light, by Mariaglorum. It conjures all sorts of ideas, doesn't it? (Perhaps if you are inspired, you will write a tale that you can share with us.)
Before getting to my story, I'll share those of my fellow Quills.
Parker took our challenge to new heights, in that he has provided various alternate beginnings to his prior work, Nightrage Rising. If you've not read it yet, here's your chance to jump in. If you have, you're sure to enjoy the beginning from these various new perspectives.
by P.S. Broaddus
Copyright, P.S. Broaddus 2019
Wow, Parker, you were really busy. Thank you so much!
Now, we move on to see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has for us. Robin?
A Thief Worth His Salt
by Robin Lythgoe
Copyright, Robin Lythgoe 2019
I have come to the conclusion that all great people have their rivals. Qahan Nijamar, the mythic hero of yore, had his Ashlock; the pirate Maid Mihriban had her Princess Pakize; I have Raza Qimeh. Or at least he likes to think so. Most of his success stems from the fact that no one would believe someone as tall or broad or loud as he could ever be a quiet, agile, wily thief. Typically, he’s a mere thorn in my side. Like now, for instance ...
Find more on Robin's site.
And now, it's my turn!
Fantasy authors often create their worlds in a first volume, and then use those creations in a number of volumes in a series. Occasionally, an author might write spin-offs, providing a whole new series around a lesser character from the original. These tales might precede the original, run parallel with it, or come later in time.
I’ve decided to use our inspirational picture—and Parker’s challenge—to tell a parallel story. In essence, I'm “adding a scene,” if you will, to Oathtaker. That said, I didn’t want to give anything away for anyone who has not yet read that story. Thus, you’ll find a blank space in my new scene. Also, I’m not giving you a full-fledged, stand alone story, as I prefer to do with flash fiction (and as I’ve done with my prior flash fiction tales), because I am unable to do so with a “parallel” scene. Even so, I hope you enjoy it …
To set the stage, in Oathtaker, Volume One of The Oathtaker Series, Mara travels with a group of friends, seeking safety for the infant twins, Reigna and Eden. The group makes its way to the City of Light. There, they can easily visit sanctuary and spend time studying. Mara knows their ultimate destination is the camp that Lucy created and then shielded with magic. Still, while reports from Ezra’s spy network tell Mara that Lilith is still some distance away, she wants to learn all that she can. Eventually, she sends everyone in her group, except for Dixon and Nina (who is wet nurse to the twins), ahead to Lucy’s. They take the great scepter with them so as to get it to safety as soon as possible. Later, Mara, the infant twins, Dixon, and Nina, will join them.
In the original Oathtaker, just as Jules, Samuel, Basha, Therese, and Adele, are leaving The Clandest Inn, someone new shows up there. The portion of the story reads:
Excerpt from Oathtaker
With this passage as background, I offer the follow coming in at just under 900 words. For those unaware, Adele had been a servant at the palace of the Select in Shimeron. She’d managed to catch an unexpected magic ride from Mara when Mara went to the palace to save Dixon from Lilith’s grasp, and she has been traveling with Mara and company since.
Arriving in Aventown
I admit that while I appreciated this challenge, my personal view of flash fiction is to tell a full tale in only a few words. Unfortunately, this time around, I cannot say that I fully met my usual goal. Even so, it was fun to revisit Adele back at a time that I know was a difficult one for her.
So, what do you think of our latest flash fiction efforts? We’d love to hear your thoughts.
I've had such fun of late creating flash fiction tales inspired by pics, that I thought I'd do it again. Here's the one I chose this time around. What do you think of it?
This image, entitled Steam Punk Assassin, from Giby-Joseph is also posted on Pinterest. Notwithstanding its title, it summons a wide range of possible storylines.
I try my best to keep my flash fiction stories within 1000 words. This time, I just hit the mark, after honing the story down, down, down. (It is more difficult than you might think!)
Please take a minute, enjoy, then share your thoughts.
A Minor Magician
My next quote comes from someone likely considered less of an author and more of a philosopher, although certainly he wrote, and that is John Locke (1632-1704). Locke wrote on topics including the consent of the governed, the labor theory of property, and the concept of separating church and state. His works influenced others, including some of the founders of the U.S., namely Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson. Perhaps my favorite John Locke quote is:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse ... A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself . . .
I’ve one more quote here (sometimes attributed to John Locke, other times to other sources), before I move on because it is another I’ve repeated many, many times over the years. It is: “Your liberty to swing your fist ends just where my nose begins.” Or as I like to say it: “Your rights stop where my nose starts.” The idea here is that “rights” are something a person possesses innately, by reason of existence, through no doing of that person’s own, and having required nothing from anyone else. Thus, “rights” include, for example, the right to speak your mind, to practice your religion of choice, and to defend yourself. When you exercise those things, you take nothing from anyone else. It costs your neighbor nothing to allow you to speak; it costs your community nothing for you to worship in your chosen way; it costs your fellow citizens nothing to allow you to defend your life. By contrast, something is not a right and cannot be a “right,” if it requires anything from anyone else. To demand that another provide something to you would be, essentially, for you to make a slave of your neighbor. And so, “your right stops where my nose starts” means that you do not have the “right” to demand anything from me, including my labor or the fruits of it, for your benefit, nor may I demand the like from you. That doesn't mean that we should not help one another. Rather, it means that we cannot force others using the power of the state (which really means, at the threat of the loss of liberty or life), to give from the fruits of our labor to others ... So in the end it seems that this simple quote evokes deep meaning ...
Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and under a just God, cannot long retain it.
The philosophy of the school room in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next.
If you were going to be stranded on a desert island for an undetermined period of time, what three books would you want to have with you?
All that said, getting stranded on a distant island sometimes sounds like a holiday. I wonder how long I would procrastinate starting a signal fire ...
Choosing a mere three books is serious business. I think I’ll go with something old, something new, and…
Here goes ...
The 1000 pages or so of Les Miserables are filled with personalities and descriptions that pull in the past, thread in the present, and foreshadow the future. Altogether it reads like poetry, as follows:
If you have not read Les Miserables, I cannot recommend it highly enough. If you are not generally a reader of classics and find the challenge a bit daunting, give yourself permission to skip the parts that don’t speak to you or that are hard to follow. For example, skip over the complicated historical and political issues if you like. Concentrate on the people, and on Hugo’s spellbinding descriptions of their past and present lives. If you rise to the challenge, I am confident you will not regret it.
While it’s hard to pick just one great Dickens work, perhaps there is nowhere he is more amusing than in the opening pages of Great Expectations, first published in 1861. I know. I know. It is intended to be a serious work—and it is, and the opening sets the stage for all the seriousness to come. Still, there is also great humor to be found there.
Once, years ago, when my two youngest were about eight and ten or so, I started reading Great Expectations out loud to them. (I love to read out loud and I do so with a great deal of, shall we say . . . flair, or perhaps, drama would be the correct word here.) Through the first chapter or so, as I read (and this was not my first reading of this work!), I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my face and my stomach hurt. Yes, I know that the story opens with poor Pip staring at his parents’ tombstones. But consider the way Dickens sets forth those facts from Pip’s point of view. Not only do we see with the eyes of a naïve child (who has nevertheless already suffered greatly), but the images we see are, in a word, hilarious. Sad—and hilarious. For example, consider Pip’s contemplation of his father’s tombstone:
Then of his brothers, Pip thinks:
To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle …
Imagine one the age of young Pip already concerned about making a living … Yes, this passage is sad because in that day, making a living was such a struggle. Even little ones felt it. But there is also something humorously intriguing about the way Pip ponders those things.
Then, there is Dickens' masterful way of summing up the entirety of a person or thing through a few short words. Try the following. Keep the flow going so that the first two sentences move at a normal, almost slow, pace, while from there, it gradually moves more quickly, quickly, quickly, then ends with the last clause slowly ... Ready? Read:
by Patricia Reding
Copyright Patricia Reding 2019
Aiden Piper journeyed from the Burara Wilds, back home, where six years earlier, Fenella’s father, Nigel Duke, had forced Finn Mock to put a spell on him. It happened the day before he and Fenella were to exchange their vows in the cobblestone-paved Dorberg village square. As a consequence, Aiden and his love would remain divided until they broke Finn’s spell. But Nigel, taking no chances, had paid crimpers to trick Aiden, drug him, and then set him aboard a ship that hauled him away.
Soon after awakening in chains, trapped into sea service to the cruel pirate, Wyn More, Aiden fell victim to jungle fever. For months he knew only the mercy of forgetfulness that unconsciousness granted him. But eventually his illness passed and his memories returned. They harassed him unceasingly. He longed for Fenella and the revenge he would have when he returned home where he knew she waited for him.
When the opportunity arose, Aiden jumped at his chance to escape. The cliff from which he dove was higher than the three tallest trees imaginable standing one atop the next. Still, he’d have taken the risk even if that distance had been doubled. Fortunately he resurfaced alive from the water below.
Aiden didn’t have a single copper buckle to his name. Nevertheless, he headed for Dorberg, rendering his services along the way in exchange for food. Occasionally, he picked a pocket, but only after confirming that his mark was truly wealthy, and even then, only when in dire straights. He’d never forget that gelid morning when he awakened, shivering, to find his boots missing. Then there was the time he went for almost a week with naught to eat but a half loaf of stale bread ...
Back in Dorberg, Aiden’s first stop was The Tipsy Dove Inn. Entering, he jingled the buckles in his pocket that he’d won at dice. He was proud to have played without cheating—well, mostly so, anyway.
Sitting in a corner, a hood obscuring his face, he watched his old friend, Payton, tending bar. He surmised that Payton had wed Bronwyn Glynn, daughter of the previous barkeep, as she was waiting tables. Sadly, the intervening years had not treated the now-buxom lass kindly.
No one recognized Aiden, but then he’d yet to cut his scraggly locks or to trim his beard. Also, he remained underweight following his recent adventures. Still, he kept his hood up. Nigel mustn’t hear of his return too soon.
The evening grew late when, unexpectedly, a waitress shuffled to his table. Glancing up, Aiden went speechless. There stood Fenella, so close he could smell her sweet breath.
“Shift change,” she said, setting down a mug of bock roughly. Some sloshed out. A towel in hand, she wiped the table clean. “I’m waitin’ your table now. Need anything ’fore the kitchen closes?”
Aiden struggled to contain his delight in seeing her, but caution won out.
“Bread ... please,” he whispered, eyes downcast.
She set off, then seconds later, delivered his order.
The sight of Fenella encouraged Aiden. He knew how to break the magician’s spell, as Finn Mock had included that information when he’d cast it. Such was required of any mage who didn’t want to risk his life operating contrary to the rules. So to reunite, Aiden and Fenella would have to face Nigel together—since he was the party responsible for the spell—and confirm their undying love for one another.
At closing, Fenella removed her threadbare apron, then tossed it over the bar. “To home!” she exclaimed as she departed.
After leaving payment, Aiden rushed to the Duke estate, grateful for his familiarity with it. At least something good had come of his having served as secretary to Nigel in years past!
He made his way to the man’s study through secret passageways he’d created for his former employer. There, he went about his task, pilfering no small fortune from a lockbox he knew of. Then he absconded—like the thief in the night that he was.
The next morning, his pockets full of coin, Aiden set out for the public baths, then to the barbershop for a grooming. Lastly, he visited the tailor, grateful to find some premade clothing available for purchase. Now he could meet his love!
Throughout the day, Aiden listened for news of Nigel or Fenella. He rejoiced when he discovered the two would dine at The Tipsy Dove Inn that evening.
Handing a street urchin a short unsigned missive along with the last of the buckles he’d stolen from Nigel’s lockbox, Aiden instructed the lad to deliver the note to father and daughter while they dined. It read, “Awaiting you in Nigel’s study. Hurry home! Grievous news.”
At evenfall, sporting striped trousers, a wool cape, and the finest boots available in Dorberg, Aiden returned to Nigel’s study. He poured himself a glass of his former employer’s finest claret. It’s color, bordering on purple, glistened in the firelight. Gazing into its depths, Aiden anticipated the moment he’d reunite with Fenella.
He added a log to the fire. Its crackling flames flickered. Satisfied, he emptied his glass in one swallow and then refilled it again before settling into Nigel’s favorite chair, a tentative smile on his face.
Loud voices soon sounded out from down the hall, interrupting his thoughts. Initially unintelligible, they quickly grew nearer and clearer.
As Aiden stood in anticipation, Fenella’s voice rose out above the shouting, clicking of heels, and clanging of weapons.
“Duncan!” she cried. “Father got a message! Was it from you? Oh, what is happening? Hurry, my beloved husband! Hurry! Hurry to Father’s study!”
Aiden’s grip on his wineglass loosened as he grasped the facts. Fenella loved another. No longer could he face Nigel together with her for the two to swear their undying devotion to one another. No longer could they break Finn Mock’s spell.
With that, Aiden’s glass slipped to the floor where, like his dreams, it shattered.
The Sword of Seysan
by Robin Lythgoe
Copyright Robin Lythgoe 2019
The Trickster Guardian
by P.S. Broaddus
Copyright P.S. Broaddus 2019
It happened like this.
From time to time I read something that doesn’t seem to fit (for me, at any rate) into any traditional genre classification. Such was the case with The Junk Yard Solution: Adventures Among the Boxcars and Other Lost Causes, by Peter Kelton. The story opens with the discovery of Loretta’s body hanging from a cell phone tower in the middle of a village made up of abandoned railroad boxcars populated by a cast of characters one might classify as “misfits.” The boxcars are as uniquely finished and decorated as the personalities that inhabit them. Each of those personalities exhibits its own unusual idiosyncrasies, as does the Federal Marshal, Rick Senate, who investigates Loretta’s death. Throughout the journey to discover Loretta’s killer, the reader is taken along on a series of adventures as parts of the villagers’ past stories are presented.
For me, the most notable part of The Junk Yard Solution, by Peter Kelton, was the cast of characters. There is Loretta herself, who is described as having been “a health nut, a cleanliness freak, [and] a Yogini of the first order.” Loretta had a passion for learning. Then come the actors, Arthur, and his “friend” Oswald (who makes a fine plumber); Cicero who is also known as Don Quixote (and as CVR), who sometimes wears a monk’s robe and is the one to whom the others go with their problems; and Helena, the Chocolate Lady, whose life goal (at age 70) is to travel to India to spread her late husband’s ashes there; to name a few. My personal favorite is the widow, Ellen McDougal, who “converses mostly with her deceased husband, the historian.” I especially enjoy Miss Ellen because she “wanders among the boxcars at night, kind of like an itinerant fundamentalist of a proselytizing faith, quoting The Elements of Style.” Meanwhile, a couple of her neighbors, Jefferson Davis McClandish and Justine, don’t unsettle her in the least when they take up nudism, but they annoy her no end with their incessant use of the word “like.” (Seriously, that is a person I’d like to meet!) The various characters’ lives generally include some details as to how each has been in touch with—or has come within only a couple degrees of separation from—some famous person or event. Those in this odd and entertaining group share two things in common: their dislike of digital life, and their desire to discover who is responsible for Loretta’s murder. Together, these factors make for an interesting afternoon of reading.
The Best and Worst Things About Being an Author
Let's see what Robin Lythgoe, author of As the Crow Flies, has to say.
Follow the link for more!
In fact, I’ve found that the time of day is far less critical for me than is the prospect of being interrupted. If I know that interruptions are likely to come to me, it is almost impossible for me to get in the correct frame of mind to write. (This explains a lot in terms of my writing over the past months, as my husband was in the hospital a few times this past fall, and when not in, he was home almost continuously. Thus, interruption-less time has been pretty much nonexistent.)
In short, I find that the hardest thing about being an author is getting enough solitude to be productive.
Now for the good news!
So, what is the best thing about being a writer? For me there are two "best things." (Yes, I know that only one thing can really be "the best," but you're following, I'm sure...) Each of these two things is so good that I think it is the best until I consider the other. Thus, I must address them both.
I'd say I speak the English language with a Midwestern dialect. I use legal jargon from time to time, as well as a "faith based" lingo when among particular friends, and sometimes, I use slang. Finally, my writing encompasses specialized terms, which might be identified as the use of an argot (although not for an underworld group or group of thieves) for specific people in my stories.
How about you? What do you speak?
Check out Patricia's blog articles, interviews of other authors and book reviews here.