Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Writing Evil...Mwahahahaha!!!

by Megan Oliphant

Darth Vader: You cannot hide forever, Luke.
Luke: I will not fight you.
Darth Vader: Give yourself to the Dark Side. It is the only way you can save your friends. Yes, your thoughts betray you. Your feelings for them are strong. Especially for... sister. So, you have a twin sister. Your feelings have now betrayed her, too. Obi-Wan was wise to hide her from me. Now his failure is complete. If you will not turn to the Dark Side... then perhaps she will...
Luke: [igniting light saber, screams] NO!

(Star Wars, Episode VI, Return of the Jedi)

There was a time when I couldn't write. I tried, oh, I tried. I wrote short stories and novel chapters and picture books. And they all stunk. Why? Because I couldn't give my characters problems.

One of my biggest flaws that I had to overcome as a writer was making everything perfect in my stories. Do you remember when you were little and you played imagination games with your friends? It didn't matter if it was princesses, pirates, or Star Wars, I had to make my person be the strongest, fastest, have the coolest magic that could counteract anything anybody could throw at me. After a while it got boring, because no one could defeat the other, or even kidnap them for very long, because the other person would miraculously develop some other talent or skill or find the critical piece needed to escape sitting on the dungeon floor.

It was the same in my beginning stories. No problems, or problems so easily solved by my perfect characters, it was B-O-R-I-N-G.

I used that quote from Star Wars at the beginning to make a point. We have to, as writers, be seduced by the Dark Side. It doesn't matter if you're writing a picture book for toddlers or the Great American Novel. Our characters have to be real. They have to have real, relatable problems. Those problems have to be impossible stumbling blocks that make our characters do things out of character, to become something different than they were when they started. As readers, we read about other people dealing with insane issues so that our normal challenges don't seem so challenging. "Hey! I'm not getting chased by a dragon into a volcano! I think I can handle the dishes today."

This doesn't mean you have to glorify evil, or make it seem beautiful. But we do have to embrace the Dark Side within, and acknowledge it, and put it in our writing. Because (lean in close, it's a secret): Everyone else has a Dark Side, too. And when they see your character overcoming evil, or just their own internal demons, it brings a little hope that they, too, can overcome their own Darth Vader.


  1. Great example. Great post. I love books/stories about triumph and they are really the best when the characters get to triumph over really believable evil. You said it better. Also wondering, does this mean I can have a little Dark chocolate - you know for balance?

  2. You are always allowed dark chocolate.

    Sometimes it's SO hard to add tension when you don't want there to be any. Like, my poor person! She's dealt with so much already!
    But it's good stuff, and it just makes the ending that much more satisfying. You know, if you write books that are supposed to end well.

  3. I love the Star Wars quote. It's so true that we have to show the dark so the light is that much brighter. Thanks for getting that across so well.

  4. ooh, I love this post! So true. We must embrace every facet of who we are. If we make evil look like a fuzzy kitten with a deep sinister laugh and the worse he can do is spray litter pebbles, readers won't believe he can do more than that.

    I know for sure if anyone had any doubt about what you're writing (even if it does have evil in it). Pray. Pray first and always. Ask for guidance. Don't be afraid to ask for a Priesthood blessing or to fast. Go to the temple and meditate.

    If it's His will, you surely will come out with a full story, one that will be a "light unto this world." ;)

    Thanks for the post! ;)

  5. I am such a pansy! I have a hard time watching the intense parts of movies, you know the chase when you think the good guy might actually get caught by the bad guy. That kind of stuff is almost impossible for me to sit through. If I can't fast forward through it, I leave the room and come back when it's over.

    That being said, I know I need it in my stories. It's just so hard! But I guess maybe I should steal a few pages from my dark side (there's plenty to choose from).

  6. I love the post, Megan.

    Stories with out tension and obstacles are boring. Perfect characters are dull. You are right about the dark side. We have to know the evils our characters face, the evils with in them, and what makes the choose light or darkness.

    And guess what they are like us.... they don't always get it right.



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