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Portrait of an Antagonist

September 17, 2020-Today we’re talking about antagonists and what characteristics they tend to have. As writers, it’s essential to know what makes our characters who they are, what makes them tick, and why they do what they do/don’t do. Antagonists, in my opinion, are far more fascinating than Protagonists, becasue I always wonder what pushed them over the edge and caused them to become a villain.

First, let’s start by defining what an antagonist is: An antagonist is a character that stands in the way of the main character getting what they want. The Antagonist is referred to as the villain as mentioned above. Some notable antagonists are:

  • Darth Vader
  • Cruella DeVille
  • Loki
  • Hans Gruber
  • Maleficent
  • The Joker
  • And my personal favourite, Bane.

Antagonists have particular personality traits and can often be described as having personality disorders (narcissists). Some traits include:

  • A sense of superiority and an inflated sense of ego
  • Loyal to their cause and a willingness to do whatever it takes to complete their mission no matter the cost, a risk-taker mentality
  • Intelligent and strong
  • Diabolical, calculated, methodical in some cases
  • Zealots
  • Adapts to changing situations easily
  • A distorted sense of justice, the world, and self

Keep these traits and characteristics in mind when writing your villains. Villains are people too, perhaps just more interesting and complex if you ask me!

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The BS Story You Tell Yourself

September 16, 2020-Tuesday, while on my daily run, I saw a man jogging along the mountain brow, pushing his baby in a stroller at around 6:30 in the morning. I admired his commitment to fitness and also that he brought his kid with him. Then I started to think about all of the excuses he could have had; It’s too cold, I want to sleep in, I’ll just skip today, I’ll leave my son at home with my spouse, I don’t want to wake him up, it’s too early, and the list could go on and on.

The point is, we all tell ourselves BS stories that are just an out for the things we know we should be doing; we give ourselves too many passes and a bunch of reasons as to why we can’t do something. I’m here to tell you that it’s time to stop lying to yourself. Here are the most common excuses that I hear from authors/writers/entrepreneurs:

  1. I don’t have time- I hear this constantly; I don’t have time to finish my manuscript, there aren’t enough hours in a day, it’s taking way too long to finish my first draft, I’m too busy to write. Etc. Etc.
  2. I have writer’s block- I can’t think of a plotline, my story isn’t working, there aren’t any good ideas left, I just stare at my blank computer screen, but nothing comes to mind, I can’t focus. Etc. Etc.
  3. I’ll do it tomorrow-Tomorrow will be a better day; it can wait until tomorrow to finish; I’ll just skip today and do it tomorrow etc. etc.
  4. I can’t afford it- Continuing education is too expensive; I can’t afford to keep my membership to (insert name of author or writing organization here), the course is too much money. Etc. Etc.
  5. My work isn’t good enough- I don’t want to let anyone read this, it’s too personal, I don’t think it’s good enough to send to a publisher, I’ll wait until it’s perfect before letting you read it. Etc. Etc.
  6. It didn’t pay off. The show was slow, so there’s no point in going again this week; I didn’t cover my table cost, I didn’t sell that many books, I was bored the whole time and could be doing something more constructive with my time. Etc. Etc.

So, what’s the BS story you keep telling yourself and what success is it holding you back from?

I don’t have time* Solution-wake up an hour earlier or go to bed an hour later.

I have writer’s block*Solution-change your space, get the words on the page and stop self-editing.

I’ll do it tomorrow* Solution-tomorrow may never come, do it today.

I can’t afford it* Solution-look into grants, stop buying stupid things, start budgeting, contact the organizer to see if they’ll work with you, ask about payment plans, buy a book or borrow one from the library on the subject you’re interested in furthering your education with.

My work isn’t good enough*Solution-send it in anyway, let others read it, do better and improve your skills by asking for feedback and constructive criticism.

It didn’t pay off*Solution-give away literature, up your game with your table display, talk to other vendors, entice people to come to your booth with a free draw, measure the value in other ways-How many connections did you make? How many emails did you get? What opportunities did you drum up? How many people did you talk to about literacy? It may not pay off this second, but it sure could in the future.

Stop making excuses and giving yourself a way out. Do what you need to do day in and day out to be successful. No one said it would be easy, but it will be worth it.

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Make Up Your Mind

September 15, 2020– The other day, while I was walking to the mailbox, I saw a squirrel trying to decide whether or not to cross the road. It went left, then right, then back left again, then right, then onto the road and boom…hit by a car. It was awful, and I felt so bad for the little critter. Perhaps we can learn something from the squirrel’s indecision and that not being able to decide quickly can be fatal for our business and our writing careers.

It reminds me of a time a couple of years ago. I was a guest speaker at a writer’s group and after the session I had a few students hang around to chat. We talked about all kinds of things, but something that stood out to me was the lack of decisiveness among one person in the group. We talked about a number of subjects and got on the topic of future goals. I asked the group what they would like to accomplish with their writing and what steps were they actively taking to meet those accomplishments.

One woman said that she had a goal of being a published author, but couldn’t decide which story to send in, which contest to submit to, which publisher to pitch to, or if she should sign up for a writing seminar. So, I asked her what she was going to do and she looked at me and said, “I waited too long…the contest is over, the publisher that was accepting my genre of writing has closed their submissions window, and the writing seminar was last week.”

Moral of the story? If you wait too long and are indecisive, you’ll miss your opportunity.  It’s important to make decisions with confidence and speed. Quick descision making skills are linked with success and it’s possible to overthink things to the point of destruction and in the squirrel’s case, death. So, why do people hesitate? Because they’re afraid of being wrong.

I don’t work with people who can’t decide; it costs time and money to hum and haw and think about things for too long. I prefer to work with those who take action.

Sheryl Sandberg said it best, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.”

Five minutes of action is worth more than a hundred hours of indescision. Don’t miss your chance!

 

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Raise Your Standards

September 4, 2020– It’s time to raise your standards in all areas of your writing life and business. What have you been putting up with for too long, and why? Standards are the behaviours that you hold yourself to, and as they improve, so do your health, your relationships, your career, and your writing. I think Mandy Hale said it best, “Refuse to lower your standards to accommodate those who refuse to raise theirs.”

So, what should your standards include for your writing business? Here are mine:

  1. We refuse to work with people who have a problem for every solution.  I don’t do negativity. Not for one minute. It’s a disease and spreads like an out of control infection that will eventually kill everything in its path. That’s why we work with optimists, glass half full type of people; people who see the best in others and themselves.
  2. We don’t do drama. At Pandamonium Publishing House, we are a team, and there is no competition between authors. Each person is unique, and so is their writing style, so everyone brings their voice to the table. One of my favourite quotes that is hanging in my office is, “If you’re not willing to put your team first, turn around” which was initially posted in a sports team’s dressing room before they went through the doors and down the tunnel. If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. We’re in this for the long haul.
  3. We work hard. No one works harder than my team. I’m willing to bet my life on it, and every single day, I bet my business on it. If my authors and illustrators aren’t writing/drawing, they’re teaching, if they’re not teaching, they’re speaking, if they’re not speaking, they’re at events, if they’re not at events, they’re learning. They are always striving to do more, to be more, and to create more.
  4. We refuse to give up-Giving up, and quitting isn’t in our vocabulary. I’ve personally had enough rejection letters to wallpaper the side of my house, and so have a lot of my authors. We don’t give up when things get difficult because we remember who is watching. We want to make ourselves and eachother proud.
  5. We meet deadlines or people die. Just kidding, that’s a misquote from the movie  A Few Good Men. But we don’t miss deadlines because that would crush our credibility and lower our standard of business. Our books come out on time or ahead of schedule because time is of the essence, and we hate to keep our readers waiting.
  6. We won’t publish boring books. We have a standard around here, and that is that we don’t do boring. Our name is Pandamonium for a reason-we bring chaos and mayhem and energy and fun in all of our books. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
  7. We continue our education. The authors and illustrators at Pandamonium are some of the most educated people you will ever meet. Teachers, health care professionals, professors, curators, educators, BA’s, Ph.D.’s, MBA’s and more make up our team. But we also have authors/illustrators who have been educated at the school of hard knocks (yours truly included although I do have an education in Marketing/Advertising, Children’s Literature, Publishing, and Consumer Neuroscience and Neuromarketing, they’re all just pieces of paper to me) that have life experience that could never be taught in a classroom. I read up to 60 books per year on business, personal development, publishing, and what’s trending in the industry, and my authors and illustrators are voracious readers as well.
  8. We represent ourselves and this company with class and passion. Every author and illustrator in this company represents us well. We are a passionate team that believes in championing Canadian arts, artists, illustrators, authors, and storytellers. We build relationships with other artists and offer our continuing support to individuals and businesses whose values mirror ours.
  9. Our number 1 mission is literacy. First and foremost, we care about literacy. We want kids to read books that are exciting, fun, educational, and unputdownable. We know that literacy matters and that reading/writing/comprehension bridges the gap between poverty and self-reliance, health, financial wellness, and self-esteem.
  10. We write the books we want to read. We care about the books we publish and write things that appeal to us. If we like it and want to read it, chances are our readers will too!

If you’re not setting standards and sticking to them, you’re letting yourself down.

 

 

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Prepared or Not Prepared (that is the question)

September 2,2020-I was at the nail salon the other day getting my manicurist, Brian, to work his magic on my tattered, overused nails. Thanks to my profession, it’s hard to keep my fingernails long and beautiful, thank you keyboard, but I do what I can to make them look nice yet functional.

So, I’m sitting there and Brian and I are chatting when I overhear a conversation at the table next to me; two women strike up a conversation and the one asks the other for a business card. The woman rummages through her purse and comes up empty-no business card to give to a prospective client, how terrible and what a wasted opportunity. She turns back to the woman and says with a flush of embarrassment, “Sorry, I don’t have any with me.”

Don’t let this happen to you! Be prepared to do business!

Here’s what’s in my bag/truck that I never leave the house without and you shouldn’t either as a writer!

1) Business Cards-This is the easiest way to make an impression and the simplest thing to hand out. Invest in a high quality business card made of premium material. There’s no quicker way to squash a potential deal than to have a crappy business card. The worst offenders are the print at home kind because they never look professional. Be sure to include your name, phone number, website and email on your card as well as your company name.

2) Brochures-These are great when you want to show off your available services or product collection. Get a high quality brochure made from a professional printer and stick with a glossy finish for maximum punch. You can showcase your book titles beautifully with this approach.

3) Product Samples-I keep a few books in the truck at all times so that I’m always ready should they opportunity present itself for me to give one away or sell one. Your products are your most effective form of communication! Do not leave the house without your books.

Don’t miss any opportunity to talk about your books or your business! Be prepared because you never know what can happen.

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Narcissists It’s Not Me, It’s YOU

August 31, 2020- Let’s talk about writing characters with certain behavioural disorders.  I’ve chosen to touch on Narcissism, which is defined as selfishness, involving a sense of entitlement, a lack of empathy, and a need for admiration as characterizing a personality type. Self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as of feature of mental disorder.

I’m not suggesting that all villains are characters with behavioural disorders, and I’m certainly not minimizing that for those who battle with this in real life. What I’m saying is that some characters are given these traits when we write them because they exist in the people around us, and that’s where our inspiration comes from. I’m also not suggesting that anyone with a behavioural disorder is a villain, either.

I’d like to focus on one character in particular who exhibits all of the traits below to give you a point of reference; Gaston from Beauty and the Beast is the ultimate Narcissist.

Narcissistic traits: 

  1. Lack Empathy: Gaston doesn’t care about anyone but himself and getting what he wants. He doesn’t care that Belle’s father has been taken by the beast and locked up and considered a crazy old man.
  2. Conversation Hogger: Gaston never lets Le Fou, or anyone else, get a word in edgewise. He always controls the conversation, talks over others, shouts, interrupts, and dominates the conversation to suit himself.
  3. Self-Importance: Remember this song? “Who’s the man among men? Who’s the super success? Don’t you know? Can’t you guess? Ask his fans and his five hangers-on. There’s just one man in town who’s got all of it down and his name’s G-A-S-T-O-N!”  No additional information is needed about what Gaston thinks of himself.
  4. False Image Projection: “Gaston is the best, and the rest is all drips”… “I’m roughly the size of a barge!” Enough said.
  5. Rule Breaking: Gaston feels as though he’s above the rules. He goes to Belle’s house uninvited and unwelcomed, muscles his way in, and expects her to oblige to his every whim. He stands on the table in the bar, wrecks the place, and doesn’t think the rules apply to him.
  6. Blame: “Who does that girl think she is?” speaking about Belle when she “rejects, humiliates” him.

When writing your characters, be sure to do your research on specific traits that you want them to have so that you can build your author credibility and write your characters the way they need to be written to move your story forward.

Gaston-Beauty-and-the-BEast