Heroes and Villains


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Sacha: I can't think of the word, but it's a distraction sometimes thinking about hero, villain, and theme. I think all characters play into theme. And I think it seems this weird concept that loads of writers panic about and worry about. Not everybody knows what their theme is when you first start writing.


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Some people don't know until the final draft. But if you have a character arc, and if you have change, I can guarantee you, you have a theme buried in there somewhere. So I personally like to think about theme in terms of a psychological theory. So there's somebody called Gestalt…I forget the year, something or other. And it's a psychological theory that basically says, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Now, I liken that to a novel and similarly to a spider's web.

I think all novels are spider's webs and I call it something called the web of connectivity. Each thread in a spider's web is its own unique thread. But when you step back and you look at the whole of the threads, it's more than just a series of threads. It's an entire web, or in our case, an entire novel. And that stands for things like plots, plot twists, characters, subplots, and so on and so forth.

So how does that connect to the villain? If you want to strengthen your theme, I put all of my characters on a continuum. So if you have the full embodiment of your theme, that is your hero. If you want the full embodiment of the antithesis, the opposite of your theme, that is your villain.

But to strengthen that, you should look at every single character and how they reflect the theme. President Spow embodies the theme of sacrificing everybody else for his own good. And that plays out by him obviously sacrificing tributes, these kids who have to go and fight each other, and so on, so forth.

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The other characters like Peeta and Rue are all variations on sacrifice. Even Haymitch, who's sort of this antihero mentor character, he is sort of the reluctant sacrificer. But he does, he comes around in the end and he gives medicine and things to Katniss during the games. So as well as looking at the villain as embodying and all of his actions being the anti-side to your theme, look at the other characters too and how you can reflect theme in their actions and what question are they answering about the theme?

How can they embody different variations, different points on the continuum? Joanna: It's a really good point and I'm a bit more of a writing into the dark type of person. But it's interesting when you say that and I think maybe we naturally as we're readers, we construct these things. You can kind of reverse-engineer later or you can work through a workbook like yours, which we're going to come back to in a minute.

Let's talk about heroes because I actually find villains super easy. I really enjoy writing my bad people and I just don't struggle at all to find empathy with my villains. But I do struggle with my heroes. I feel that I struggle much more with that and they're almost me, generally they are almost me, my main characters.

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And so maybe that's why it's a problem. Sacha: So I talk about something called the hero lens, which is essentially the concept that everything your reader experiences should be funneled through your hero. They shouldn't come into contact with anything that isn't relevant to what your hero is directly experiencing. And that is categorized for me into four different things; actions, thoughts, feelings, dialogue. The rest of the story, obviously describing things is really important.

You need to locate your reader, you need to put them in time and space. But so what? Your reader doesn't really care. All that does is create a picture in their head. That's a terrible example. But you know what I mean. When you share that inner psyche and that inner viewpoint with the reader, that's what makes your hero relatable and that's what helps your reader to connect with your hero.

So let me ask you a question. This is a bit random and I always use this question. I've said this so many times, but is turquoise more blue or more green? Sacha: Okay. But I guarantee that half of the people listening to this would have said green. And that's what makes your hero unique. What's unique about your hero and what makes your reader fall in love with your hero is their particular perspective, your hero's rose-tinted glasses. How does your hero's thoughts, feelings, and actions impact how they view their surroundings? I draw that down to saying, if you want to imbue that in your story, think about how your hero's viewpoints affect your sentences at sentence level.

If your hero is angry you have to use shorter, sharper words. If your hero is depressed, make your sentences longer, like flow them more melancholy. So that's one thing. Second thing, layer conflict, really important. To me, there's kind of three different types of conflict. Inner conflict, which is your great example of this, Ned Stark.

Sacha: No. Ned Stark is completely out of context, a character. And George Martin does this quite a lot with his characters, he pits their values against each other and makes them butt against each other and have to make really difficult decisions. A difficult decision very early on for Ned Stark is he values loyalty, but he also is very intelligent and has a lot of foresight.

His decision is, he's been asked to go and help the king, if he goes and helps the king, he's pretty sure he's probably not going to come back. And that creates this inner conflict. Does he go and help the king, which he should because he's his friend and wants to? But if he does, he kind of knows it might be his end. So that creates inner conflict. Second layer of conflict is sort of your micro-conflict, characters fighting against each other, hero-villain, blah, blah, blah. And then your third layer of conflict is macro.

So society, world, war. And you can lay these levels of conflict. And that helps to create barriers and problems for your hero to fight against. And the very last point is the bravery myth. I think lots of writers think that the way you get your readers to connect is to make your hero brave. Well, I would beg to differ.

Not everybody can be brave. So it just takes a bit of balls, can I say that, guts. But it's the hero who sacrifices something that really shines. And usually the sacrifice has to be something that's important. The more important the sacrifice, the more valuable and the more engaged your readers become, especially, typically, it's something about themselves that they have to give up or sacrifice.

So, those are probably the three things that I would say are most beneficial for your hero. But I read the first couple of books, and then I went off the books.

Writing Heroes And Villains With Sacha Black

But the TV series is masterful in conflict. And also I think, as you're saying with heroes and villains, half the time, you don't know who is a hero and who is a villain.

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And that's clever. That's super, super clever. And all these different layers of conflict also. Let's talk about some of your publishing because I'm very interested.

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Obviously I have workbooks from my books, you have these workbook edditions for your hero and your villain books. Sacha: Okay, so completely honest, why should I do them? Because you do. No, okay, that was one of the reasons. The other reason is because I do actually use them. Weiland has some workbooks too and I used hers.

And I actually really enjoyed them. I found them more useful sometimes than the textbook. And lastly, because it makes good business sense. Now, I actually went and checked what my sales were yesterday because I knew this question was coming. I have digital workbooks. I have e-books, I have paperbacks, and I also have box sets. So I digitally box-setted the pair and I will pay for backup, it's just slotted into production schedules. So every 1 in 10 will also buy a workbook or instead they'll buy the box set.


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And the other thing is that it takes the pressure off having to have one book that is this golden egg that earns you all the money. It's a much easier business strategy to have lots and lots of different products. So that was one of the main reasons for doing it. In terms of tips, there are lots of different ways you can make up a workbook. I generally do summaries of my core textbook chapters that give enough information that they're comprehensive without giving all of the information from the textbook for obvious reasons.

And when I am writing the textbook, I actually note down questions at the same time, which is silly, because essentially, I'm writing two books at once. But it also means that when I finish the textbook, it only takes me a day to mock up the workbook. So I would say that that is probably the first thing, write the questions as you go, because the question should hopefully come to mind. Vellum for formatting, it is hard to get Vellum to leave your spaces. So if you can't get Vellum, then pay somebody to format it because obviously, workbooks, you do need space for people to write their answers.

And, do digital versions because I was skeptical of doing them at first because I thought, well, everybody will want a workbook so they can write the answers in it. But actually, that's not the case. I am earning just as much, if not more, from my digital workbooks than I am from the paperbacks. How I use my own workbooks from other authors in that I don't write in them.

I preserve them so that I can use them again and again. So having a digital version is essentially the same. Instead of having a paperback, you reuse the same e-book. So, do digital versions definitely. Joanna: Because as you say, why wouldn't you just get the book? I include all the questions in the main book. So if people want to kind of write them in their journals or whatever, they can do that. But it's interesting. I have been using an iPad a lot more. I'm using an app called iAnnotate on PDFs. So I wonder that's another way, isn't it? You could basically open up the workbook on more of a tablet and kind of fill it in and a lot of people have stylists now, I guess.

So, good tip. Good tip there. That's fantastic. Joanna: Exactly. I also wanted to ask you, because you have two non-fiction books and the workbook editions, obviously, you have two novels, you've got a blog, so you're not newbie, you're not just starting out, you know what you're doing but you're not someone who's super famous for making seven figures a year. Which let's face it, I'm not either.

Sacha: Absolutely. I am not writing full time. I definitely have somewhere to go. And I love this question because it made me stop and reflect. Technically, I've only been published for 17 months. I haven't even been published for two years. I can't believe how much I've done. Every day I moan that I haven't done enough. What are the lessons that I've learned?

First of all, everybody's situation is different. I have never come across two authors who have got to full time by doing it the same way. So the first one is to find your own way, find your own method.

Spring Community Day Heroes and Villains | Worcester Art Museum

Second lesson I've learned is to get your finances in order. So, clear off debt, make sure you have a nest egg, that would be number two. Number three would be to negotiate a slow reduction. Have you have you actually asked? Because I bet you they are more flexible than you think they are. So asking and negotiating for flexible working and reducing your hours slowly I think is really positive.

That said, I'm a complete hypocrite because everything that I've reduced up until now is play money, it was just sort of saving money that I would have saved and instead I took the time to write. Recently, I've taken on a lot of freelance work. I've got a lot more projects going and I cannot do the hours that I'm doing in my day job if I want to take this seriously. I stalled and I couldn't reduce my hours anymore. Anyway, I've done it but sometimes you have to be brave and take the risk, otherwise, you're going to stay in the same place and I do not want to stay in the same place.

Network, it's invaluable. And don't be afraid to ask. I have met so many authors who are just so kind and so willing to help. And I was so afraid to talk to anybody at that first London Book Fair and everybody's lovely, and the opportunities that come out of networking are ample. So I would say definitely, network. In terms of marketing, pay to play, unfortunately.

And as much as I find it difficult and grueling to do slow burn ads, I try to do a mixture of daily AMS ads, a few sprinkled with a few CPM ads, as well as trying to do some spike marketing as well. And I think that gives me quite a good mix and is building kind of both my readership and my sales slowly, and I'm happy with that because it makes it stable. Oh, last one, Jack Canfield, who I read because of you, thank you. Oh, my gosh, it was amazing.

I have signed a contract to myself with a leaving date that I publicly tell people a lot because it makes me get accountable for it. And I keep it in my wallet. And I think every single time I go to buy a coffee I see that note and it reminds me to keep fighting every day.

Joanna: That's fantastic. So these things work. And also I went to four days a week, that's what I did. Also, the dialing down and we downsized and sold everything. And so all of this stuff is exactly right. And I'm glad you got a date. Joanna: Let's circle back to blogging because, of course, you mentioned a whole load of marketing stuff then, but you didn't mention blogging.

I'm starting a new blog, a new podcast.


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So I'm still a massive believer in content marketing. Sacha: My blog is very much for my non-fiction audience. I haven't quite worked out how to do the blogging thing for my fantasy stuff. But actually, that's what I'm using Instagram for. My blog has garnered me basically all of my subscribers for my non-fiction. It's how I created an audience. And I feel terrible but I kind of did it by accident.

Of all of the things I've done, that was the least intentional. But it's a great way because non-fiction is about solving problems and I blogged my lessons which were essentially solving fiction writing problems. And I shared them on Pinterest and different social media channels and that's how I gained a non-fiction audience. You 0. See All. Konrad K. Brian O. Deep golden colour. Slightly dank and fruity on nose. Creamy mouthfeel and good bitterness. Dangerously smashable. Tim W.

John F. Some fruity characters but IMO it could probably do with a little bit more flavour punch. But I certainly would drink it again. Jamie L. Joel T.

Who are your Heroes? Who are your Villains?

Hop P. Creamy and green hops but the flavour sat back after a while. Nice drop. Purchased at International Beer Shop. Dave B. Jason T. Luke A. Nick W.

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Heroes and Villains Heroes and Villains
Heroes and Villains Heroes and Villains
Heroes and Villains Heroes and Villains
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