Sunday, March 11, 2012

This Week's Practice Exercise

Villians Make The Story (v.2)

Prepared by Carter Jefferson
Reposted on March 11, 2012

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Exercise: In 400 words or less, write at least the beginning of a story or memoir in which we see a villain at work and learn something of his or her motivation.

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Villains come in both sexes, in all shapes and sizes. Some know they're doing harm for their own benefit, while others think they're doing the right thing, even though someone will suffer. Every mystery has a villain for the hero to hunt down. They are common in novels of every genre.

Not all villains have curly mustaches. The schoolyard bully might be one; so might a designing woman or a man intent on getting what he wants. Family members have been known to hurt each other physically or emotionally. Some villains are subtle, using their offices in corporations or government to help one group of people at the expense of others. Some villains have redeeming features, and sometimes readers find them engaging.

There's Inspector Javert, who believed in enforcing the law at all costs. Hannibal Lecter liked to eat the census taker's liver with fava beans and Chianti. The Big Bad Wolf ate Grandma, but couldn't keep her down. The evil-doers in Lord of the Flies are children. In Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, revolutionaries are the villains. Read Shakespeare for a veritable gallery of villains, one of whom was an ambitious lady who lived in Scotland.

Most of us will write about villains of some kind at some point. Let us have the beginning of a story in which you let us see the villain at work and give us some idea of what prompts those evil deeds.

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Exercise: In 400 words or less, write at least the beginning of a story or memoir in which we see a villain at work and learn something of his or her motivation.

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In your critiques, let the writer know how well the villain is portrayed. Is the character evil through and through, or simply someone tempted beyond resistance? Is the sin something truly villainous, or just an inadvertent error that causes someone pain? Is the motivation clear? Would you read more to see what happens? And, of course, critique the writing in general.



These exercises were written by IWW members and administrators to provide structured practice opportunities for its members. You are welcome to use them for practice as well. Please mention that you found them at the Internet Writing Workshop.

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