Being a Better Writer: Antagonists Are Not Villains

Welcome back once again writers! It’s time for Being a Better Writer, your Monday installment of writing advice and guidance, and today … Well, today is actually a bit of a bump in the queue.

See, I actually had a whole lot of other topics I wanted to explore in the coming weeks, but sometimes something occurs that moves that schedule around a little bit. In this case, the pressure to move this topic up the queue came about due to a very good movie that came out a few months ago.

To be more specific, this post’s position today has come about due to the reactions to that movie found across the internet. I am speaking of one of 2022’s best movies—if not the best—which is Puss in Boots: The Last Wish.

Now, if you’re reading that with a raised eyebrow and statement of “Really?” then let me reassure you: The Last Wish is one of those stunning films, not just because you wouldn’t expect a Dreamworks film that is both a spin-off and a sequel that was trapped in development hell for almost a decade to suddenly be one of the year’s best films. But it was. The team that finally drug it out of its painful development has produced one of the best films I’ve seen in recent memory, with stellar animation and yes, a story that is incredibly well paced, thought-out, and brimming with carefully designed, complex and realized characters that don’t waste a second of their time on screen.

It tells a fantastic story, and does it with superb visuals, pacing as tight as a drum, humor, and quite a bit of aplomb. This is a case of a film that didn’t need at all to try as hard as it did, given its spin-off and sequel status, but instead decided to give it its all and produce something greater than any of the films that gave it existence.

Seriously, if you have slept on this film, go see it now. On the big screen, if you can. It’s a feast for the eyes and a finger-licking good story. And with that story comes a bevy of characters, including one that has led to today’s post.

Now, I will warn you at this point, this post is going to discuss spoilers for The Last Wish. It is an unfortunate requirement of our writing topic today. So, I am going to hold off discussing it until after the jump. Now, you’ve likely already been spoiled by the YouTube algorithm, since the plethora of videos discussing this spoiler are constantly appearing on feeds, but if you haven’t been spoiled about one of The Last Wish‘s good twists (which some of you will see coming, recognizing the symbolism, but some I saw it with were still caught by surprise at the reveal) then either prepare to have it spoiled or come back and check out the post after you’ve seen The Last Wish.

Got that? Okay, we’re bringing up the jump now. Hit it, and let’s talk about our topic at last, plus the context behind it.

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The Captain Marvel Kerfluffle

Or, How Captain Marvel‘s Writing Team Showed They Really Don’t Know Their Craft.

There wasn’t supposed to be a post today. In fact, I am slamming this out in-between a work shift, a very important errand, work on book projects (my email box is FULL of comments, fixes, and changes from the awesome Alpha and Beta Readers I have), and then a big social event tonight. But this warranted a post.

Okay, backstory: This last weekend, with Marvel’s Captain Marvel about to come out on Blu-Ray, the marketing team released an extended version of a scene from the film.

Okay, fine, not worth commenting on so far, right? Well, this came with an additional caveat. It was marketed as “see a hero taking on toxic masculinity.”

Oh. Oh no.

As I pointed out in my thoughts on Captain Marvel, the largest weakness of the film by far was the writing. And … that’s come back to bite folks again. Badly.

As you can imagine, the internet exploded.

Hang on though. We’re still in backstory. The scene in question is an extended version of the scene in the film where—minor spoilers—Vers steals a guy’s bike and some clothes. In this new version, rather than her simply eyeing the bike and stealing it (which is justifiable in character at the moment), we instead get a scene where the biker hits on Vers in a pretty sleazy manner, only to get his conceptions crushed by Vers. She shakes his hand, then crushes it (you can hear bones crack and pop) and tells him to give her his bike and jacket or she’ll remove the hand.

Again … a bit more sinister, sure. Except … then the writers had to step in and explain that this was Captain Marvel being a hero and striking a blow against toxic masculinity. And … well, you can imagine how the internet has taken it. Both sides have, as you can predictably guessed, gone up in arms. Both make some good points, and both make some bad points.

However, the reason I chose to take some time out of my crunched day to post about this was because at its core, the argument Disney’s marketing team and the writers of Captain Marvel have claimed is … well, wrong.

Vers isn’t a hero in that scene. Not by any definition of the term. And to see people so aggressively defending Vers actions as “heroic,” even the writing team? Well … I think that’s in part why the Captain Marvel had the problems it had.

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Being a Better Writer: Writing an Anti-Hero

Well, it’s Wednesday! And here I am with the promised Being a Better Writer post! Plus, as you can likely guess, I survived the MRI of my knee! Now I’m just waiting for the doctor to give me a call and let me know what’s up.

In other, closer to BaBW-related news, however, there are changes coming! I won’t specify anything right now (I’d rather tease), but I will say that the first of them is that Colony finally has advertising! That’s right! Not just word of mouth or what I have here on Unusual ThingsColony is now getting broadcast by Amazon’s Ad service. Which … is actually a lot different from what it was when I first took the time to look at it way back when. It’s changed quite a bit. Anyway, that’s just the tip of the iceberg on some exciting new developments coming. Check back soon, and you’re sure to see some of them!

Oh, and Shadow of an Empire is close to beta. That is all I’ll give away for now, but if you’d like to get a sneak-peek, keep your eyes posted on this site in the coming weeks. Or you can support over on Patreon for an early look at the first seven chapters of the Alpha Reader copy!

Right, enough news! Let’s talk business. Specifically the business of the last topic from Topic List Ten! And a request topic:

How to write an anti-hero.

Now, we’ve talked about anti-heroes on here before, and in fact if you have not read that post I’m going to stop you right here and make a very strongly worded “request” that you go read it. Sands, even read it before writing this post, not only to refresh my memory on anti-heroes but to check up against what I’ve written before on the topic. And this post will be written with the full assumption that you have read said post immediately before reading this one, because it provides a lot of background context on anti-heroes that I’m going to be assuming you’re already aware of in order to tackle today’s topic without spending several thousand extra words on it that I’ve already written.

So, let’s get down to business. You’re going to write an anti-hero. Or, at least, you want to. How do you go about this?

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Being a Better Writer: Inspiration

This post was originally written and posted May 21st, 2014, and has been touched up and reposted here for archival purposes.

A few weeks ago, I made the rare, conscious decision to stop reading a book. This wasn’t a case of “I don’t find this interesting,” where I set the book down one day and then don’t pick it back up because it wasn’t holding my interest. No, this was something different. This was a conscious choice, a distinct mental observation that I no longer wanted to read it. It wasn’t because the writing was poor. It was actually pretty good. And it wasn’t because the story was dull, because it certainly wasn’t.

It was because of what the book inspired.

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Being a Better Writer: The Antihero

Before I get into today’s post, I just have something else I want to say first. To all those who turned out this last to help support me by buying my books for the first time or tell others about them: Thank you. It was a big help, and even that little influx of cash is going to go a long way. Again, thank you for buying and sharing, and I hope you guys get as much enjoyment out of Dead Silver and One Drink as you do out of all the other stuff I’ve written. And if you can, when you’re done, please leave a review—an honest one. Even if you hated the book, reviews play an important part in other people picking up the book and taking a look at it.

Now, one other announcement before I get into today’s Better Writer post: Patreon.

For a while now, I’ve received both private messages and the occasional comment on my other site asking after the ability to donate money to me. Which I have turned down. In light of an announcement last week about my financial troubles on my other blog, the question was raised again. And again, I had to say that I wouldn’t take donations. However, Patreon seems to be a little different, and I started looking into it. The biggest difference is that it’s not just a blind donation. While it does have the ability to just straight out do by default what many donation tracks end up being (fill this bar and I release something new) it also has a monthly mode, which I like. How that works is that people pledge to support a certain amount each month to you, and then each month they get a “bonus” as a reward. In my instance, that bonus would be preview chapters or advance looks at other stuff.

Anyway, that’s what I’m looking at doing, so expect more on that as I work out more details. And just for those of you who were really looking for writing news, Beyond the Borderlands is looking like it’ll drop in May sometime. I’m close enough to the end now that I feel giving it a loose release date that isn’t too hard to hit is feasible.

Now, onto the usual stuff!

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Being a Better Writer: The Building Blocks of a Hero

Hello again, everyone, and welcome back after that wonderful Easter weekend. I hope you enjoyed it. I know I certainly did!

Now, you may remember a few weeks ago when I wrote a post about whether or not our main character was a hero or a protagonist, and what the difference was. Well, today we’re going to continue in that vein of thought with one of the auxiliary questions that the post raised. We’ve discussed the differences between a protagonist and a hero, but what about setting out to build a hero? How do we do that? What steps must we take to give our readers—and ourselves—the hero we desire? Are there certain traits that our character must hold, or can we declare any protagonist with the right checklist a hero?

Today, we’ll talk about all these. We’re going to look into an almost Frankenstein level of creation, with one end-goal in mind: to build a hero for our stories. Continue reading

Being a Better Writer: Hero?

I’ve noticed something, in my time here on the internet. Actually, when I think about it, this goes back to before the internet. Maybe it’s just that being online and spending time looking at writing forums has made this certain misuse all the more apparent to me. But regardless of whether I’ve noticed it now or it’s been a recent rise, I want to talk about a certain word.


It isn’t hard to find this word being used on a day to day basis. In fact, nowadays it seems I see it being used more than ever. People want to talk about what they’re writing? They talk about the “hero.” They mention their character, or their place in the story. It doesn’t matter what they’re talking about with regards to the story, at some point it’s “hero this” and “hero that.” And ordinarily I wouldn’t mind … except there’s just one problem here.

They’re not talking about a hero. They’re talking about a protagonist.
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