June 30, 2020

Villain Motivation and the Banality of Evil

Motivation in Fact and Fiction

As you know by now, I am a huge true crime fan. I've read books by FBI profilers and crime historians, am addicted to the Investigation Discovery channel, and have even attended a semester of my local police departments "citizens police academy". This is a professional as well as a personal interest, given that I am currently outlining a mystery WIP set in an alternate version of our world. Thus, I want to understand crime investigation, different types of evidence, and, of course, motive. It's this last one—the motivation behind a villain's acts—that many authors, not just those who write mystery—concern themselves with. And, after examining hundreds of real-life crimes, I'm here to tell you that it's not that important.

Ok, it's a little important, in that a villain needs a motive, but it's not important that it be extremely groundbreaking, or extremely relatable, or extremely anything. Motives tend to be common place, not extreme, no matter how shocking the other aspects of a crime.

June 13, 2020

Writing Inside the Lines

There is a certain type of poem called a sestina. I've written two of them, and let me tell you, they are tough. Rather than relying on rhyme and meter, they employ a pattern of six words that end each line in the first six stanzas, and then end or are contained in the final three lines. The six words also change which line they appear in in each stanza. If that sounds complicated, that's because it is. However, sestinas are a great form because they force you to write a good poem. You have to end the lines on those words, which means you must construct your sentences carefully. Also, if you don't want it to sound repetitive, you had better play with the meaning and connotation of those six words. You can't noodle around. You can't slack off. If you're going to write a sestina, you really have to care about it.

I think this idea of writing with certain rules can improve most stories. Especially in a world oversaturated with shock-value, twist endings, and an anyone-can-die mentality, writing inside the lines, so to speak, forces writers to be careful. When writers must practice restraint, their stories are prevented from going over the top, flying off the rails, and all that other awful stuff that our media is so glutted with recently. They have to care, and their stories will be better for it.