Becoming Bad

There comes a time in my story when I need to bring a character over to the dark-side. Generally if its someone who has been dabbling or leaning over the line for a while I’ll have something give them a nudge. Or I’ll reveal their true nature that was there all along just being hidden.

I like to carefully foreshadow a characters corruption with influential words or actions that betray their true nature or intentions. If I don’t do this it can leave the reader confused as to why they became bad or acted out aggressively.

This I find can be complicated or even hard to do if I become attached to a character or decide to lead them down the dark path even though they started on the light side as the character in my example did.

I personally like to give these flippers a rich story, something to get the reader interested in them but leery at the same time.

Amber wrenched open the door to stop Scott’s incessant pounding before it upset her neighbors.
“Stop it.” Amber scowled. “Come in already.”
Scott dripping from the rain wiped his face and teetered on his feet.
Amber closed the door. “Ugh. You’re drunk. Why are you here?”
Scott grabbed her by the shoulders “First Sasha now you. Why?”
“What?” Amber tried to pull away wincing at his sour breath.
“She turned me down now you are, are you playing some game?”
“Oh my God Scott. I’m with Dale, I’m having his freaking baby. Sasha just didn’t like you. I’m beginning to wonder if she saw something I didn’t.” Amber tried to pull away again. “Until recently that is. Let me go.”
“No! This isn’t how its supposed to be. I get the girl! Me, not Dale, me! If not Sasha then you at least.”
“Charming.” Amber shoved his chest and managed to get out of his grip. “Get out of my apartment. I. Don’t. Want. You.”
“Liar, yes you do. You want to have sex with me.” Scott said with a slur and grabbed for her again forcing his mouth over hers. Amber brought up her knee, wedged her foot against his thigh and pushed Scott away.
“You don’t know squat abou twhat I want. Get the fuck out of my apartment now.” She ran for her cellphone, her hands shaking.
“It’s not too late Amber. Dump Dale, you can get rid of the problem and be with me. You know that’s what you really want.”
Shaking and fighting back tears she eyed the door he now blocked. “I’m calling 911.” She held the phone up to her ear backing up toward the kitchen. Scott advanced too fast,  the phone from her hand and ended the call.
“Don’t be a bitch Amber, I’m just offering you what you want. I know that parasite isn’t Dale’s, I wont let you hurt him. Dale and I’ve been friends since university. Admit that you’re a slut, and I’m all yours.”
Amber turned and ran to the kitchen, grabbed a chef’s knife from the block and spun to face the wild-eyed drunk Scott. “Get out, get out, get out you bastard, get out!”
Scott held up his hands and backed up back down the hall as she advanced. The image of his ex fiancée with a knife in her hand calling him a bastard slammed into his mind hard. The impact, though mental, was like a physical blow. He stopped her then, he would stop her now… His face darkened, he lowered his chin and glared.
“You’re threatening me? First you tease me, then trick my best friend to have unprotected sex with you, fake your pregnancy to trap him and now you’re threatening me?” A crooked smile distorted his face. “I’ll make you pay for this Linda, you’ll regret crossing me again. Dale will see the truth in you just like Andrew did; you slutty little whore!” Scott hurled Amber’s cellphone at her face forcing her to duck as Scott left, slamming the door behind him.
Amber stumbled against the door sliding the dead-bolt in place and scrambled for her phone to call Dale. “Please, please pick up, please.” She wiped her tears as she collapsed to her knees on the floor.
Scott spat on the door and stumbled in his blind fury out to his car. He would take care of her just like he did Linda. “Treacherous bitches. Sleeping with my friends.” He slammed his palms against the steering wheel. “Nobody cheats on me.”

Sooo… Yeah Scott’s gone off the deep end, no surprise there really. Dangerous people become desperate and desperate people are dangerous. When I write someone loosing control I give it back to them quickly. An irrational bad guy isn’t as fun as someone who can regroup, plan  and carry out a dastardly plan. For Scott to tip the scale I gave him alcohol to lower his defenses and mess up big time.

My advice about exposing the bad guy.
Make it sudden, startling and abrupt. However make sure there is enough foreshadow that the reader isn’t scowling at the pages wondering WTF?

-Sheryl

Some other posts you might like

The jerk-face warrior

Two-faced phony-baloney

I swear! Or do I?

Copyright © 2017 All rights reserved
Squat

Who are you again?

Reintroducing characters that haven’t e been mentioned in  a while. It happens, someone fell to the wayside either unintentionally or by design. It’s been a while old friend, perhaps the reader might want a re-introduction.

It doesn’t have to be a full-blown head to toe and detailed recount of who they are and how they fit into things. I also try to keep the reunion casual and not a slap to the readers face. If I set a character on the shelf on purpose I have already decided to bring them back at some point. If I just sort of left them out and need to bring them back I do so carefully.

I have talked about this before, forgetting to include someone present in conversation. It’s awkward but it happens. The story gets going and they just don’t keep up.  This time I’m talking about the ones that I set aside on purpose. Minor players that can come back to cause… mischief.

Valery grabbed Anne’s arm and dragged her off to the side near the bar, but away from the crowd. “Tony’s adorable and hot.”
Anne rolled her eyes in response.
“Still?”
“Not in love enough I guess.”
“Anyway.” Valery grinned. “Jackson and I are heading out. They got along fine.” She looked at the two men head to head scheming most likely. “I’m glad we did this.”
“Me too.” Anne’s smile faltered. It wasn’t the same without Sasha. “So is Jackson a keeper?”
“Yeah.” Valery laughed. “Now I’m taking him home and keeping him up late.” She sauntered over with enthusiasm to an appreciative Jackson, they said goodbye and left with hands roaming each other.
“I like your friends.” Tony kissed her hand and smiled. “We should-“
“Anne.” A man said too loudly with an unhappy frown.
Her eyes widened at the unexpected sight of Valerie’s accountant. “Neil.”
Neil looked from Anne to Tony and sneered. “Dude, she’s just using you. She’ll let you take her home and be gone before the sheets settle.” He laughed. “Unless you’re a schmuck who wants to be used by a whore that will sleep with a guy she just met,” he glared at Anne.
Tony looked from the furious Neil to Anne who looked ready to puke or punch or both.
Neil shook his head. “She’s a no good one night stand slut, run now while you can friend.”
Anne closed her eyes, took a deep breath then opened them and looked at Neil. “You’re insane. I wont apologize for not returning the hundred calls you left in one damned day. It was a mistake, get over it.”
“You could have called to tell me that.”
“I told you before I left.”
Neil looked at Tony. “Like I said man, a no good slut who doesn’t return calls.”
Tony had heard enough. He clenched his fists below the table and met Neil’s eyes. “Well, that is interesting. We’ve been dating for a while now.” Tony smirked. “So it stands to reason that if Anne couldn’t be bothered to call you, I don’t think she was the problem.” Tony held up his hand to stop both Anne and Neil from speaking. “Furthermore if you’re going to accuse a woman of being a slut for sleeping with someone they just met, don’t forget to call yourself one, friend.” He grabbed Anne’s arm and dragged her to the coat-check.

It’s all fun and games until the one night stand from Starches comes back to ruin things. I introduced Neil as a potential love interest for Anne, but he just wasn’t right so I dropped him like a hot potato with no explanation. Yes I did that on purpose. I also didn’t bother to go into great detail about who he was or describe him thoroughly, I didn’t the first time either, that’s because he’s relatively unimportant. Things were going a little too well for Anne, so as the mean writer I felt it necessary to put a frown on her face. Nobodies perfect after all. I wonder if her skeletons will play well with Tony’s? Hmmm….

My advice about bringing a minor or extremely minor character back to stir things up.
Do it. As long as it fits and they can help make the story more interesting that is. The thing is if they are minor and not likely to come back, they can cause all kinds of trouble at no cost to the love for them, because they are… minor.

-Sheryl

The post where Neil appeared for the first of two times. Crazy things

Another fun post I particularly like: That is disgusting

The original post about dropping characters: What happened to that guy?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Enthusiasm

Squeaky Clean

Writing people is a complicated undertaking. Writing their interactions can be daunting… or oodles of fun if you want it to be. I love conversations that test the limits of a character. That broach the outer regions of their comfort zones. Yes they have to have them. I create each character as completely as I can flaws, quirks, mannerisms and all.

When I read a story and the protagonist and their love interest are too in tune, too perfect and ooy-gooy lovey-dovey constantly it’s gross. Nobody is that perfect, nobody. People have limits to what they will tolerate. Sure when you fall in love those things are often overlooked or tolerated, but they wear off eventually. The little annoying things start to annoy. Conversations should be lively and emotional. Anger, frustration and even dislike need to leak into all relationships.

People argue, they disagree. That doesn’t mean they have to fight outright, but unless they are relinquishing their person in entirety to the other, they should disagree with something at some point. Small or large it doesn’t matter as long as they are individuals in a relationship not a single entity of boring complacency. A strong independent person should not become completely submissive for the love of their partner. A weak and insipid person would not overnight become brazen and forward to please a lover. Change takes time, real change. If they do morph too quickly it’s got to be fake and short lived. The honeymoon wears off, people can’t and don’t change who they basically are for any sudden reason. Sure, they can make one or two modified decisions, but their core must be solid. If they are on a journey of growth and change this should happen slowly.

So every relationship I write I do my very best to make sure someone rubs someone the wrong way. I make sure that they strive to make the other happy, but don’t lose their annoying habits or basic foundation of who they are. A devil simply can’t become an angel overnight, unexplained as if by magic.

Dale spent the morning at his desk thinking and brooding. Lucky for him the workload was light with both Sasha and Clifton missing. The rumors were flying that they had run away together. He had no problem laughing and perpetuating that rumor. It was hilarious to think the glacial Sasha was hitting the creepy useless figurehead idiot boss.

Amber was ignoring him completely, but behaving like her old self otherwise. She ignored all attempts to contact her since the uber incident last night. Every time she laughed or giggled, his mood slipped darker. It took some planning but he knew he could catch her alone. One sneaky email and voila.

Amber tapped her toe waiting for the other staff to show. She glanced down at her watch as the door opened and Dale popped in, turned and closed the door quickly.
“Sit.” He said as she got up to flee the room.
She stopped and remained standing. “Go to hell Dale.”
“Look, you can be mad at me, I deserve it. Just talk to me.”
“Why? So you can call me a slut and suggest everyone other than you.” She stopped and lowered her voiced. “I’ll deal with it, you’re off the hook.”
“What do you mean by deal with it?”
“Not your problem.” She crossed her arms.
“It is half my-” He stopped. “Amber I let Scott put doubt in my mind. I believe you, I’m sorry it’s just a lot to process so quickly.”
She stared at him expressionless.
“What do you mean deal with it?”
She sighed and closed her eyes.
“No, please don’t Amber.”
“Why not? What do you care? Why do you care?”
He stepped closer to her. “I don’t sleep around either.” He put his hand on her arm. “I only have sex with people I like. I hoped you might stop looking at Scott with blinders and see me.”
Her abrupt laugh made him step back and pull his hand away.
“Oh Dale, you’re hilarious. You don’t like me romantically any more than I like you that way. I’ll raise it on my own. I can’t abort you moron. I’m catholic.” She chuckled. “Sort of.”
“Will you let me help? Be the dad I mean?”
She shrugged. “If you want. But if you do, you don’t get to half ass it and quit if you get bored or scared.” She moved past him to the door. “For the record, I only slept with you because Krista and Bria dared me to. They bet me I wouldn’t.”
Dale flinched when the door slammed behind her. She loved her games of betting and daring others. She instigated Scott’s dare to sleep with Sasha. It made sense that she would take a bet or dare from her snotty stuck up no good slutty friends.
“I bet those so called friends dump your ass the second they find out.” Dale spat the words at the closed door. His ego bruised, he did like her, but she only had eyes for Scott. “Fine. Be a bitch.” He opened the door while muttering under his breath. “Two can play that game.”

Stressful moment past, they have had time to adjust. Or so they think. Once the initial shock wore off I needed to have them slip back to their core behaviors. If I’m going to let them change it won’t be overnight. Dale and Amber aren’t nice people, they are bullies by nature. They feel superior, act it, and act on it.

My advice about squeaky-clean interactions.
Nope, nope, nope. People are messy, emotions are messy and people rarely react/act like they are expected to. Perfection is boring, super-duper, bang your head off the wall boring. Make it fun, dirty up the conversation a bit.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Yes… no… maybe?

The jerk-face warrior

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Flee
Clean

Karma. It really is a B*tch

Rumors are a part of life. People gossip, people believe it and others just love to embellish what’s already there out of pure fun. The most powerful kind of rumor are those seeded with truth because they ring true on some level. The more believable the more powerful a rumor can be.

When I write rumors into my stories, I give them a base. A rumor needs something to work from, something that might make them believable. Back story or foreshadowing early on or at least a chapter before the rumors fly. I do this because most rumors start as fact, true or not someone takes that tidbit and runs with it, morphs it and makes it extravagant and tantalizing.

Purposeful rumors are ones set adrift on purpose with a goal in mind. Usually that goal is to hurt someone, tear them down or maybe just make them feel bad in retribution. Sometimes I might write someone telling a rumor with the goal of flushing out the gossipmongers. Since rumors are realistic, they are easy to come up with.

Accidental rumors are the kind that are secrets overheard. They can be the weak-willed telling all with little provocation or someone accidentally blurting it out because they just suck that much.

No matter how you slice it, rumors can cause tension, upset and all kinds of juicy drama. And sometimes, just sometimes rumors are true.

“Karma.” Amber mumbled at the screen. Her frown etched deep on her face. Karma. The word slammed her mind like a battering ram. She deserved this and was only now seeing just how awful she truly is. The words “office slut” kept auto-correcting every time she typed her name. She had no idea how to fix it. She opened her mouth to ask Dale then closed it. Out of curiosity she typed his name and it auto corrected to Baby Daddy. She deleted it, took out her phone and texted Dale asking him to fix it and put a password on her computer.

With shaking hands and a pale face, she opened Scott’s door.
“Did you do it?”
“Do what?” He asked eyes narrowed.
“Did you change my auto-correct?”
He sighed. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. There are rules about messing with other people’s property here and unlike you I abide by them. And honestly, I have better things to do than tease you. I can see how upset you are and you are a friend. I’m not that big a jerk.”
There was enough truth in his eyes for her to believe. “Okay.” She turned to leave.
“But.”
She looked at him sharply.
“Amber the rumors are flying and fast. Who did you tell?”
“I was going to ask you. Only three people know and Dale and I wouldn’t say anything.”
“Like I said, you’re a friend and so is Dale. I respect you two too much to be a total ass. Someone must have overheard us.”

Amber nodded and left his office. He’s petty and selfish but gossip was never his thing. Not really. Snickers and heads turned away a smidge too late. Everywhere. Double glances and covert stares. The office was infested and so fast. Plagues had nothing on this. Her cellphone buzzed and she read the text from Dale. “Fixed. Password is where you told me. WTF? U tell?

She bit her lip and replied. “No. Scott guessed.” She looked at Dale’s response. “He didn’t do this.”
Amber made her way to her desk. Rachael looked at her smugly and Francis barely hid her giggle before turning away. Amber sat at her desk numbly and entered her new password “Russo”. She looked at the ad she was to proof next. It was from Francis on Birth control. Amber looked across the open office as Francis shook her head barely containing her merriment. Karma. It really is a bitch.

Can’t say she didn’t have it coming. Rumors are fun to write and fun to play around with in the wonderful world of my writing. I hate rumors for real they carry too much power and consequence for both ends. This wouldn’t have worked if I hadn’t had Amber picking on Sasha and being horrible in general. To give the rumor credit she needed to be the type of person who a, deserved it and b, is likely to be what they say, the office slut. Even if it’s untrue, she made it likely.

My advice about rumors.
Real world, no. Written world of our make-believe, oh yeah! Get your bully on! Terrorize your characters.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Read, revise and repeat. The shampoo process of editing.

I swear! Or do I?

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Abide

A bit of the opposite

Sometimes I find myself wanting to soften up harsh characters by making them somewhat likable… somewhat. That doesn’t mean they have to stay that way, or turn good, but a fun side story needs ups and downs too.  Like Yin and Yang everyone has a bit of the opposite in them. This should be true of those who are inherently bad. Perhaps they have a reason that will tug the heartstrings, or a soft spot, maybe they volunteer at homeless shelters or cuddle abandoned puppies at the pound. Whatever the deed may be they can’t be pure evil. Or at least I don’t like everyone being purely rotten to the core.

This can be tricky, if constructed callously they might come across as smug or the action is unbelievable. If I want to make an antagonist have a slight soft side or a reason for the reader to either identify or sympathize with them, I need to assure I write their situation  realistically so it can fall within the story.

I started off using Cal and Sasha primarily as my blog examples, but Amber, Dale and Scott stepped in to be mighty fine side-story antagonists. Just how bad are they?

Lunch couldn’t come fast enough and it came too fast at the same time. Amber solemnly walked to the restaurant with Dale. He prattled on the entire way even as they were seated in a booth. Like a robot, she ordered what she always did. Penne Primavera with chicken.

“Earth to Amber. What’s gotten into you today?”
“Nothing.” She stuffed her mouth with the savory pasta.
“BS. Either you’re in love or you’ve gotten some seriously rotten news.”
She sneered at him. “Really?”
“Ooh did Scott finally give in to your shameless advances and take a dip in the muddied waters?”
She kicked him hard under the table.
“Ow.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer. “What the hell is your problem?”
“You Dale. God I hate you, what the hell was I thinking.”
Dale scowled. “Shut up you love me and it’s just lunch.”
“I’m not talking about lunch Dale.” She stared hard at him.
“What that drunk one-night stand a month or so ago?” He laughed. “Oh I see you’re hung up on me. Got a little taste and you want more?” He grimaced at the second, much harder kick. “Knock it off Amber or you’re stuck with my bill.”
“I’m stuck with more than just your bill Dale.”
He shook his head. “You’re crazy, what the hell are you on about?”
“I’m pregnant.”
“So who’s the chump?” His laugh died as her eyes widened and lips pursed. “No. No way. You hop from bed to bed like a rabbit in heat.”
“I act like a slut Dale, I’m not actually one. You’re the only possibility.”

He threw his napkin down. “Like hell I am. You’ll have to prove it. Wait.” He frowned. “What are you going to do?”

She looked at her plate. “I don’t know.”

He stared in silence a moment then inhaled loudly. “Do I get a say?”
She looked up with her chin lowered. “Do you want a say?”
“You’re sure it’s mine?”
She nodded maintaining eye contact.
“Shit.” He rubbed his chin. “I don’t…” He sighed and tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want you to get rid of it.”
“What?” She wiped her eyes.
“We get along mostly. I’m sure we can figure this out. Why tell me now? Why here?”
“I didn’t plan to. I just.” Amber sniffled. “I have no one else to talk to.”

Dale sat back and looked at her. She looked tired and terrified. She set herself up for the lack of real friends. The ones she has are just as shallow and mean as she is. Or is she? Her raw honesty and willingness to play spiteful games was why he liked her. Did she play along because she was deep down rotten or because she just wanted to play with the cool kids?
“How far?”
She rolled her eyes. “A month and a half duh.”
“You found out today?” Dale picked up his fork and continued eating.
“Yes.”
“Um.” He swallowed his bite. “How does that work exactly? Why not sooner?”
She sighed and closed her eyes. “I missed my last. I didn’t think anything about it sometimes I skip, but.”
“But?” He filled his mouth again.
“I forgot to count and I-” She shrugged.
“You’ve been drinking a lot lately.”
“Not as much as I let on. Just the night I fell and hit my head and the two with Scott after that.” She looked down at her full plate.“I haven’t been feeling well.”
He huffed. “Great. Our kid will be mathematically challenged as well as a compulsive liar.” He reached over and touched her cold hand. “Let’s go for a walk before we head back and after work we can sit and figure this out.”
“I thought you’d be a total jerk about this.”
“Me too.” He dropped enough cash to cover both tabs and tip and led her from the restaurant.

Hmm. Well I guess people aren’t always as we expect. Since none of these people are main characters I don’t need them to shine too brightly one way or another. They have parts in the story, they are the garnish or side dish that makes the rest even better. I wanted Dale who is a nasty, rude all around jerk to have a surprising reaction. Originally I thought to keep him on path and be a jerk to Amber, but this I think was better.

On a smaller scale perhaps I would have them do something kind and random.

My advice about putting a little good in the bad.
I personally think it needs to be there. All good bad guys have a reason, something that drives them to be bad. A good bad guy has a small tender spot for something. If you humanize them, it makes it all that much more conflicting for the readers emotions. They love to hate what they hate to love.

-Sheryl

Other posts

Eyes that carry worlds

Hahaha oops.

Copyright © 2016 All rights reserved
Construct