I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Friday, April 22, 2011

Do You Know Your Villain?

You hang around Susan May Warren long enough and you're going to learn about villains. First she'll teach you about basic story crafting--plot and heroes and heroines and the Inciting Incident and the Ds (Disappointments and Devastations) and the Black Moment and creating a satisfying Happily Ever After.

Then, before you know it, she'll talk about word painting and Backstory Breadcrumbs and emotional layering and then--at last!!--she'll teach you how to craft a nasty, nobody-would-want-to-know-this-guy villain.

Here's Susie's take on villains: "I believe a villain is anyone or anything that seeks to destroy another person's confidence, goals--even their hope. A villain chews at a person's competence, raining upon them doubt, stirring up their fears and leaves them helpless."

As writers, we don't just craft villains for our stories--we face villains.

Think about it for a moment.

Who--or what-- destroys your confidence as a writer? Who steals your hope, your dream of becoming a published author? Who stirs up your fears, leaving you feeling helpless--or, worse yet, feeling worthless?

Maybe it's a family member or a friend who says something like, "Give it up. You're wasting your time sitting at that computer writing that story. You're never gonna get an agent. Do something meaningful with your life!"

Maybe you're the one telling yourself to get a real job, to stop wasting your time, to stop pursuing this impossible-for-you-dream.

As writers, we know who our hero's villain is--after all, we created him! And, if we write the story well, we make sure our hero beats the villain.

It's important to take time to identify the real-world villain or villains that we face--the enemies intent on destroying our dreams and dashing our hopes. Are we just as determined to conquer the villains taunting and terrorizing us?

Question: Is someone destroying your confidence as a writer? What do you need to do to protect yourself--to conquer this villain and win the day?

~Beth K. Vogt


  1. Whoa, I loved this post, Beth. It seriously made me pause for a moment and think...and I realized the biggest villain in my writing life, truthfully, is myself. I doubt myself. I compare myself to others. I let frustration (when I lack time, when I'm not happy with my writing, when I just plain need sleep) fizzle my passion. I am surrounded by crazily encouraging people pretty much everywhere - my family, friends, the Ponderers, etc. The only villain? Me. What do I need to protect myself? The truth of God's perfect timing...:)

    On a related note, I've got a villain's POV in my new book. So fun...

  2. It's true, M-Tagg, sometimes we're the villains in our life. We tie ourselves to the train tracks!!
    All joking aside, self-doubt can be one vicious villain that can take the best of writers out of the game. How do we conquer this villain? Prayer--and a healthy dose of knowing who we are in God's eyes.
    And this quote helps me:
    "Fatigue makes cowards of us all."
    When I am tired--when I've spent too much time at the computer and my WIP is overwhelming me--that's when doubt and the "I can'ts" creep in.

  3. I agree that our greatest enemy can be our own doubts and fears. As a newbie just learning the how-to's, I struggle with this a lot. Then I go back to why I'm doing this. God gave me the story, He gave me the ability, He gave me the desire to write.

    I think sometimes family doesn't intend to be discouraging. They just can't comprehend why writers do what they do. It's not that they don't want to understand, they just can't. My family gets excited about the little successes I've had, but they have a difficult time understanding the process behind that success. I am sure every writer faces the same issues with family.

  4. Beth, what powerful post. I really needed to hear that today. For me recently, the villain has been time and responsibilities I get so overwhelmed with the lack of time and the abundance of responsibilities that when I get maybe 30 minutes to write... it just seems so overwhelming!!

  5. Ah, Alena! Such a wise insight! All those "other tings" can certainly become a villain. The question is: How do we conquer them? How do we tell them they aren't the boss of us--that writing is just as important, say, as making dinner or dusting or vacuuming or my "real" job?

  6. I am so impressed--I seriously want your autograph. From the opening perfect villain pic to each clear progressing penetrating statements, I almost have chills at how well and effectively you deliver this valuable subject. Kudos!

  7. Beth, what a great post! I'm thinking about the villain in my story, but even more the "villains" keeping me from writing. Some of those barriers can't be helped--kids schedules, cooking for my family (leftover Mondays is becoming my routine so I have one afternoon for writing, at least).

    Other villains are things that I allow to waste my time--like, dare I say it?--facebook. I am conquering some of my villains by making changes in my thinking and my schedule. I also know that when I haven't spent time with the Lord, my attempts at writing/carving out time to write will be hindered.

    Thanks for your insight and for making me ponder the villains in my writing life. :)

  8. Dee,
    It's funny. I knew exactly what photo I wanted for this post. And while it's a cartoon character, villains who get in the way of our writing dreams aren't a laughing matter!
    Thanks for all your encouraging words. Thanks for being on my team!!

  9. Jeanne,
    Some things are mini-villains. Some things are major-villains and they have to be completely conquered, a la David and Goliath. The mini-villains? Maybe we just tame those guys!!

  10. Villains. The mainstay of the Suspense story. Can be lots of fun to write about, but not fun to contend with. My ADHD is probably my greatest villain quickly followed by my desire to do EVERYTHING! (which is really just another side of adhd lol)

    Thanks Beth for a great post and a reminder that we need not only to identify our villains, but conquer them as well.

  11. Great post.
    My personal villian is possibly my busy life. I know that is so unoriginal. But it is true. Sometimes I don't have the time or the drive to write and being lazy is easier.
    Thanks for helping me realize my villians.

  12. Pat,
    I like writing about my fictional villains too because I know how to handle those. My real life villains--not so easily vanquished.
    Distractions--that's one major villain.
    Sometimes I have to leave my house to avoid a whole lot of lurking villains. (And I don't mean people.)

  13. Faye,
    Being busy is definitely a villain for me too. I've had to say no to lots of things--tings I like to do--to focus on my writing. Sometimes I feel downright antisocial.

  14. Thought provoking post, Beth.
    Most villains are full of fear and insecurity, seeking company in their fear, instead of looking to the True Source of power, grace and peace. Once we realize this, though they may still be difficult to deal with, may still try to discourage us, they lose their power.

  15. I like how you think, Julia!
    Know your fear--and realize what's motivating it (or them). That's an effective way to overpower a villain--with the Truth.

  16. The Enemy is always out to steal my courage and joy, and he uses those around me who are ignorantly not living in the Spirit. I'm learning to be as shrewd as a snake and innocent as a dove. I want to yoked to the Spirit of God!

  17. I love this post. I return to it from time to time for encouragement. Thanks Beth for putting into words what we as writers face all the time.