Category Archives: Tobias Mastgrave
Unfortunately, I had a very long day at work today, and then a pile of other responsibilities demanded attention immediately thereafter. Alas, I wasn’t able to give today’s blog the thought that it is due and you all deserve. So, instead, I thought I might bring you something most of you have probably never heard of and the rest probably don’t remember: The Lantern Hollow Character Blogs. I’d love to hear that you think of it as a concept.
The original plan, laid down by LHP in its infancy, was to run two blogs at once: One of them would be the blog you see before you–dedicated to writing and the Press itself. The other would be simply fun: We would blog as the characters from our books and stories! For instance, I blogged as Meg, the young-adult heroine from my book Waverly Hall: Relois.* Melissa became “Uncle Ian” and Danni, from the novel she is now finally completing. Stephanie had a lot of fun as “Renard Breen”, an insane gangster pixy. We had enough fun with it that it spawned a third blog, where the villains could runamok.
I say it was simple fun, but it also served a useful purpose: it forced us to regularly think and write as our characters. And perhaps more importantly, we ran out of “good” things to talk about, and that made us dive even deeper into into their psyches when we had to put ourselves so far into their lives that even their reactions to mundane things came to light. Have you ever actually tried to envision someone’s life, moment by moment, and not just the fictional highlights? It’s not easy.
In the end, both blogs died slow deaths. We never had enough time to devote to them, and there never seemed to be a readership for blogs written by people pretending to be random characters, ripped out of context, about things no one really cared about. But it was fun while it lasted and definitely useful. Take a look at them (while we cringe in embarrassment) and let us know what you think!
Hopefully I’ll be back next week with the previously promised installment of War in Fiction!
Have a great week,
*And no comments from the peanut gallery about my ability to impersonate a 14 year old girl on-line on a blog. Believe me, every variation of joke you can think of has already been used. Twice. Or three times.
As you know, Tobias Mastgrave has started his own blog after a good run with us here at LHP. In thanks to him and recognition of his work, for the next few week’s we’re running several of his highest rated posts from days past. Check out his blog athttp://tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com
Good luck and Godspeed Tobias in your new endeavors!
Lantern Hollow Press
I want to speak today on one of the most important factors of creating a believable, frightening, impactful villain: motivations.
Ok…I’m going to rant here for just a moment, it won’t be long I promise, if you’d rather get on with things just skip down to the next paragraph. Many villains that we see in media today have no real motivations. The deciding factor behind the majority of their actions seems to be ‘how do I PROVE that I’m evil’. In the entirety of human history, I promise you, no more than a handful of people have gone out of their way to PROVE that they were evil…and the ones that did, NOT THE BEST VILLAINS IN HISTORY! Hitler, Mussolini, and Hirohito did not think of themselves as villains. Nero and Caligula did not think of themselves as villains. Real villains DON’T HAVE TO PROVE THEY ARE EVIL!!!
Anyway, short rant done now on to motivations. Your villains should have reasons for pretty much everything they do, good reasons, believable reasons. However the key to any character, villains included, is to define their central motivations. What factor, or combination of factors, drives your villain to his wickedness? Does he lust after power? Does he want to become a god? Does he want to protect his people or his family? Is he running away from something in his past? Is it as simple as he just doesn’t know how to do anything else?
Let’s look at the motivations of some excellent villains. In my last post I used Star Wars as an example, I love Star Wars…to be honest I’m a little bit obsessed. Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader are two of my favorite villains, they have excellent and CLEAR motivations. Darth Vader falls into the dark side trying to save his wife, to protect his family. However once corrupted, once he has lost everything he loved, he continues to pursue power despite clearly seeing it’s evil. In a poignant moment in ‘Return of the Jedi’ he responds to Luke’s pleas with the statement ‘It is too late for me son, you do not know the power of the dark side. I must obey my master.”
Darth Vader understands his own darkness, his own evil, but he sees no way out. The Emperor, on the other hand, does not see his own evil. He understands that others see him as evil but he sees himself as maintaining order by doing what is necessary. Vader’s desire, his only real desire, is to feed the addictive hunger inside him which the power of the dark side has created. He serves in the hope of destroying the Emperor and stealing all of his power. The Emperor’s central motivation is to create order, secondary to that is his desire to contain non-humans. Both characters had very distinct motivations that lead them to commit evil acts in the pursuit of achieving these goals.
If we look at a couple of the villains, from our group of writers, which I mentioned in my last post we see that Korluus’s primary motivation is self-perfection. His pursuit of self-perfection has led him to the assumption that whatever serves this pursuit is ‘good’. Therefore he commits horrendous acts in the name of raising humanity to perfection, himself first of course, and classifies said acts as ‘good’. On the other hand Loki, from Erik’s fantasy writing, is pursuing Ragnarök (the end of the Norse gods). The question we are confronted with is why? The two possible answers that I have seen so far (I know you all haven’t) are 1) that Loki desires the end, that he believes it is a good thing. Or 2) that his hate is so complete that he prefers destruction, the destruction of all things, to his own continued existence.
Ultimately there are many things that go into writing a good villain, as many as go into any other character, however there are some that are more often ignored or handled badly than others. I was intending for this to be my last post on this subject, however (in an effort to make my posts more manageable) I am going to split this in two. So, next time, On Villains Part Four: On Humanity, That Poor Little Psychopath.
Among the Neshelim
Understanding. One little word, and yet it means so much. We spend our lives pursuing it in one form or another. We long for it, seek it out, and break ourselves trying to find it. But it is always a rare commodity.
Chin Cao Yu, priest and scholar, has sacrificed all he held dear in its pursuit. Now he undertakes the journey of a lifetime, a journey among the mysterious Neshilim, a people of power unlike any he has seen before – all for the hope of understanding. This journey will turn upside down the world he thought he knew and challenge all of his dearly held beliefs. Has he found the ultimate truth or the ultimate lie? And what will he do with it when he learns?
Last Post: Before I start into the subject of werewolves in medieval Europe, I want to let everyone know that this will be my last regular post on While We’re Paused. I have started a new blog of my own, and I’m afraid that posting daily there leaves little time for these posts. I will be continuing this series on my new blog, The Art of Writing, and the first post of that continuation is already up. If you don’t want to follow links, the url for the new blog is tobiasmastgrave.wordpress.com, and I will be posting there under the name tmastgrave.
Now, on to werewolves. As I mentioned last time, werewolves are really just a popular subset of a broader category of werecreatures (shape shifters limited to a human form and an animal form) that inhabit ancient mythology worldwide. However, werewolves themselves are predominantly European. While a few other cultures have a canine shapeshifter, usually foxes or dogs, there are only a couple that have actual werewolves. So, I want to restrict my comments in this post to the establishment of werewolf mythology in Europe. I am not going to go into the etymology of the terms for two reasons: 1) werewolf is a generic term, and these creatures have been known by a multitude of names across Europe (one list I looked at was 15+ names long and it still wasn’t complete), and 2) the etymology is not difficult to find as many people have already discussed it.
With vampires we saw that the mythology changed drastically from the ancient period to the medieval period, and then again between the medieval period and the modern period. However, the same is not true with werewolves. While there are some significant changes in mythology, the specifics generally remain the same. We also see the terminology appear earlier. You might remember that the term ‘vampire’ did not appear until the modern period, and terminology resembling it dates back only to the Medieval period (10th century). On the other hand, with werewolves, the term ‘lycanthropy’ dates back to ancient Greece, and has been linked (though not conclusively) with the myth of Lycaon in the first book of Ovid’s Metomorphoses. This myth is considered by many to be the birth of the modern werewolf legend (something that could not be specifically identified with vampire legends).
We also see even earlier evidence of werewolves in early historical writings. Herodotus, a 5th century Greek historian, wrote that a people called the Nueri, who lived in Scythia, became wolves for several days of every year, and then returned to their human forms. While the work of Ovid may mark the birth of the modern werewolf legend, this historical account lends evidence that the idea of werewolves is much older. Trying to follow the spread of the legend throughout Europe from this point forward would be impossible in a post of this kind (and with the level of research that I am willing to do for these posts), however we can say that the basics of the werewolf myth did not change much as it spread through European cultures.
In fact the greatest variation appears in the area of how one becomes a werewolf. According to some legends, lycanthropy is a generational curse, in others it is passed by bite (as rabies might be). Some legends tell of people who voluntarily become werewolves by donning a magical, wolfskin belt, while others change form by drinking from an enchanted stream, or performing a magical ritual. However, once the transformation is accomplished the legends reconverge describing the resulting creature as violent, wicked, powerful, and uncontrollable. Many legends also note that werewolves do not have tails, a trait that they supposedly had in common with metamorphosed witches.
Though silver has made its way into modern mythology as the great bane of the werewolf, this does not appear in either ancient, or medieval lore. In fact the earliest mention of silver in connection to werewolves appears to be in the 18th century story of the Beast of Gevaudan, where the creature is killed by a silver bullet. Before this common methods of repelling werewolves were rye, mistletoe, and mountain ash. The aconitum, or wolfsbane, plant has also been historically connected to werewolves, though not always as a repellent, and so the relationship is not clear.
There is some evidence in the mythology that lycanthropy was believed to be a reversible condition. Though early cures were often more likely to kill the afflicted than to cure him, some of the later legends refer to conversion to Christianity, exorcism, or simply calling the werewolf three times by his Christian name as potential cures. How efficacious these may have been (assuming they were ever actually attempted) has been lost to history. We also see, with the rise of Christianity, that lycanthropy takes on a demonic aspect that it did not originally possess. However, I will save this for later consideration on my new blog.