Saturday, March 22, 2014


In fantasy and scifi stories, wizards and aliens who seemed all-powerful were de rigueur for a long time. While these types of characters are scary, there is a problem. No character, either villain or hero, can be all-powerful. If characters are truly all-powerful, it means nothing and no one can overcome them, and this power then preordains the ending; therefore, each character has to have a weakness or fatal flaw. Even in 2001: A Space Odyssey, whose time has come and gone, HAL, the seemingly omniscient computer, had fatal flaws including paranoia.

Lately, villains have become genius ne’er-do-wells, serial killers whose evil it takes a whole team to overcome. This is another form of the all-powerful character: the one seemingly too smart to get caught. Some of these character’s perversions scare me silly, but is this type of character realistic or just a fad that comes and goes? Seriously, how many genius murders have been arrested? If we had actually developed the brain-implanted computer, it might be reasonable, but that hasn’t happened yet. Where they lose me is why would there be so many evil geniuses and so few good? It doesn’t make sense. Usually, such intelligence makes the person more perceptive, not less human.

Still, what I learned from this is that in a powerful story, the heroic character must find the villain’s flaw and play on this weakness while overcoming his or her own defects. This also seems to prove true in all other genres of fiction.

Despite fiction trends, the villains I find most scary and horrifying are those who seem a direct threat to me personally from the horror stories I hear every night on the news. These are the unrelenting variety of normal and not-so-normal humans: rage enveloped individuals; those who carry out unreasonable vendettas, or have antithetical beliefs or misunderstandings with those around them; those who have psychological problems, and those who do something stupid or illegal and try to hide it without worrying about consequences. I read recently where sociopaths make up 1 to 3% of our population, not that all sociopaths are bent to evil endeavors, but the the statistic gives the writer a believable base to develop their malevolent character, and the reader a reasonable excuse to suspend their disbelief and fall into the story. These include manipulating, mesmerizing cult, religious, or governmental leaders, enemies disguised as friends, scoundrels who only care about their own advancement, suicidal egos willing to take anyone and everyone in their personal Armageddon, and profiteers who gain from others’ suffering – the world is full of them. Since everyone has heard stories about such miscreants and knows this evil exists, characters based on this reality can easily instill terror, especially when dressed in the persona of neighbor, friend, or family.

For other views on villains, visit the round-robin topic starting with author Anne Stenhouse. Be sure to visit all those listed!
A.J. Maguire
Marci Baun
Diane Bator
Fiona McGier
Ginger Simpson
Geeta Kakade
Connie Vines
Beverley Bateman

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Alphabet in Reading and Writing

Reposted from Writer's Vineyard blog.

5th Century Latin in Roman lettering
Folio 14r of the Vergilius Romanus.
Did you know Roman Latin didn’t include spaces between words or any punctuation? And of course, the scribes wrote in all capitals, because that is where our capital letters come from. This style lasted well into the fifth century AD. Reading must have been difficult. 
In most formal writing, like the pictographs of Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Roman letters, the written languages were painted or carved into stone. The words were meant to expose the immortal deeds of pharaohs and Caesars in everlasting monuments.  Except for daily business and correspondence, both Egyptian and Roman scribes used a faster, far less formal script on paper-like surfaces. The Egyptian Hieratic script may have developed side by side with the grander Hieroglyphics.
Egyptian Hieratic Script
Over the centuries, other scripts, like the that of the Merovingian's and other tribes and groups, developed, each different in letter style and still very limited in the use of spaces or punctuation. Those mechanics did not come until Charlemagne asked Alcuin of York to come to teach at his palace at Aachen. Although barely literate himself, Charlemagne felt learning important. Alcuin began the development of the Carolingian minuscule with clearly defined spaces between words and sentences ending with periods. An empire needed a standardized system of writing. 
Carolingian script -- still in Latin, but recognizable letters.
So in some respects, whenever you write you use the letters of Julius Caesar and Charlemagne to express yourself.
All images from Wikipedia Commons.
Reprinted from my 2/23/2014 post on Writer's Vineyard. Images from Wikipedia Commons and public domain.