article about the writing craft, Book Excerpt from With Music in Their Hearts, Carole Brown, Catherine Castle blog, historical fiction, Villiany in Books, Wednesday Writers, With Music in Their Hearts
What helps Make a Great Book?
I know few books that don’t have some kind of “bad” guy/gal between its pages. If an author specializes in mystery, suspense, thrillers and sometimes even romance, there’s usually a villain in there somewhere. So the question is: what makes a great villain?
Here’s a few ideas I have:
Characterization. A very important item is deciding what type of personality/temperament your villain will have.
- Sanguine: Likeable, runs on feelings, friendly which makes him feel important.
- Choleric: decisive, opinionated, strong-willed, independent
- Melancholy: analytical, gifted, perfectionist, secretive and emotional
- Phlegmatic: easy going, hard to get to the point of rage. Cool to the point of coldness, hides emotions and has a sense of appreciation for the arts.
These don’t mean that “normal” people can’t relate. But to a degree, the villain’s personalities go that extra degree beyond normal to create a personality that bends toward wrong.
Vocation. Why would a career make a difference? In my debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, the bad guy wasn’t a minister and didn’t set himself up as one. But he was the leader and expected total obedience by not only the members but the minister too.
- What kind of vocation makes sense and/or adds flavor to his personality and the story plot?
- How will it affect him and the reader?
- Will it make him more secretive? Be a good cover for his activities?
- Contrast nicely/interestingly with the protagonist’s vocation?
Looks. Should all bad guys/gals be ugly, deformed and/or mean? Of course not. In With Music in Their Hearts, the main bad person is good looking, has a great job and an outwardly pleasant personality. Only by taking a deeper look, do we see the narcissism and self-centeredness in his character. Then there’s also a man who works with him who, although not exactly ugly, is unkempt and slovenly. His pushiness and sneers make him unattractive and hard to like.
Final Notes: There are many avenues and trails to follow as you analyze your character. It’s for you to make sure, as a writer striving for depth, reality and interest in him, to develop these villains in ways that your readers will love to hate. Don’t make them totally loathsome. Again, in my debut novel, Elder Simmons borders so closely to total loathsomeness that the reader will wonder if there can be a redeemable quality. Yes, there is, minute that it is.
He enjoys and cares for roses immensely. Mentioned briefly in the book, but it is there. He also insists that the husbands care for their families materially.
How can studying and writing about the villain’s characterization in your book make it a great book? My opinion is, to have a great protagonist you have to have the contrast and balance of a great (albeit) villain. He provides the necessary problem/trial/test to bring out the best in the protagonist, to prove to the reader that yes, she or he can prevail over the circumstances. Yes, they can grow and improve and repent and love and endure. Their character stretches and grows and expands to greater depths and widths so that we, as a reader, acknowledge that if they can do it, we, in a similar circumstance could do the same. We identify in our own life situations with the characters and while cheering them on are assured the strength we need is there, if we but look.
Write on, author. Enjoy and sympathize, dear reader.
With Music in Their Hearts
Excerpt from Chapter One
. . .
A vehicle’s tires spinning gravel behind him warned him he’d not lost the black car. Slowing. Creeping. Engine purring. Only a few feet separated him from the car and making a sudden decision, he jogged around the corner and hugged the building trying to put distance between it. The car’s tires squealed as the car sped up. The driver took the corner, gravel crunching and spinning into the air.
They must have spotted him for the driver braked, throwing the passenger forward. Tyrell flung himself at the car and grabbed for the door handle.
The window slid down.
Something tugged at his arm.
And the handle tore from his grasp as the car accelerated.
The seemingly belated, reverberating crack of a gun vibrated the air around him.
The car spun around a far corner, and Tyrell reached up to rub his stinging arm. The sticky wetness drew his attention.
Blood. He saw the tear in his coat sleeve, the minute traces of blood oozing.
He’d been shot?
Why would they—whoever they were—want to shoot at him? It was a scratch, and they’d been close enough to kill him if they’d wanted to.
They didn’t want to. What were they after? A scare tactic? To warn him away? From what? Perhaps all this was a coincidence, a figment of his active imagination.
No sign of the car. Satisfied he was rid of them, he entered the hotel. At the reception desk, he filled out the necessary papers, climbed the stairs, and headed down the hallway.
At the far end, a red-haired woman inserted a key into the lock.
Was she the same woman who’d been in the recruitment office? That hat . . . He called out, “Hey, lady.”
She glanced his way, her luxurious hat tilted at just the right angle to hide one side of her face. With a flip of her plaid skirt, she shoved open her door and disappeared inside.
Tyrell hesitated at his own door, next to her’s, but inserted his key and entered. Inside, he switched on a light then as quickly flicked it off. He stepped to the window.
And drew in a breath as if he’d been sucker-punched.
Down below, across from the hotel, the streetlight reflected off a long, black Oldsmobile. Standing beside the car staring up at the hotel, stood Ben Hardy.
His cousin and best friend.
About the Author: Carole Brown not only has her award winning (Laurel Award finalist, Selah finalist; Genesis semi-finalist) debut novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman, available for purchase now, but also a companion book called West Virginia Scrapbook: From the Life of Caralynne Hayman, filled with tidbits of information about West Virginia, quotes, recipes from West Virginia and from Caralynne’s life, pictures and discussion questions for the novel.
November, 2013, the first book in her mystery series, Hog Insane, released. It’s a fun, lighthearted novel introducing the characters, Denton and Alex Davies.
Releasing November, 2014, is the first book in a new WWII romantic suspense series: With Music In Their Hearts. Three red-headed sisters. Three spies. Three stories.
Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?
Connect with her here:
Personal blog: http://sunnebnkwrtr.blogspot.com/
Stitches in Time: http://stitchesthrutime.blogspot.com/
Barn Door Book Loft: http://www.barndoorbookloft.net/