Anti-heroes. They’re pretty awesome, right? They have tons of attitude and don’t afraid of anything! But for those of us who aren’t teenage boys, they can get kind of obnoxious. Their power-tripping can seem over the top and their angst can seem downright whiny. So how do you write troubled characters who your readers don’t want to strangle with their own totally kewl leather jackets?
I find very little about money to be interesting, other than counting my own, but I’ve noted that there’s a rich fund of slang terms for money that can help enliven both casual and more serious content about currency and finance. Here’s a roster of slang synonyms in plural form for words for US currency in particular, many of which are useful for playful references to money or as options for evoking a historical period in fiction by using contemporary idiom:
The TYRANT: the bullying despot, he wants power at any price. He ruthlessly conquers all he surveys, crushing his enemies beneath his feet. People are but pawns to him, and he holds all the power pieces. Hesitate before getting in this man’s way – he’ll think nothing of destroying you.
The BASTARD: the dispossessed son, he burns with resentment. He can’t have what he wants, so he lashes out to hurt those around him. His deeds are often for effect – he wants to provoke action in others. He proudly announces his rebellious dealings. Don’t be fooled by his boyish demeanor – he’s a bundle of hate.
The DEVIL: the charming fiend, he gives people what he thinks they deserve. Charisma allows him to lure his victims to their own destruction. His ability to discover the moral weaknesses in others serves him well. Close your ears to his cajolery – he’ll tempt you to disaster.
The TRAITOR: the double agent, he betrays those who trust him most. No one suspects the evil that lurks in his heart. Despite supportive smiles and sympathetic ears, he plots the destruction of his friends. Never turn your back on him — he means you harm.
The OUTCAST: the lonely outsider, he wants desperately to belong. Tortured and unforgiving, he has been set off from others, and usually for good cause. He craves redemption, but is willing to gain it by sacrificing others. Waste no sympathy on him - he’ll have none for you.
The EVIL GENIUS: the malevolent mastermind, he loves to show off his superior intelligence. Intellectual inferiors are contemptible to him and that includes just about everyone. Elaborate puzzles and experiments are his trademark. Don’t let him pull your strings – the game is always rigged in his favor.
The SADIST: the savage predator, he enjoys cruelty for its own sake. Violence and psychological brutality are games to this man; and he plays those games with daring and skill. Run, don’t walk, away from this man – he’ll tear out your heart, and laugh while doing it.
The TERRORIST: the dark knight, he serves a warped code of honor. Self-righteous, he believes in his own virtue, and judges all around him by a strict set of laws. The end will always justify his nefarious means, and no conventional morality will give him pause. Don’t try to appeal to his sense of justice – his does not resemble yours.
The BITCH: the abusive autocrat, she lies, cheats, and steals her way to the top. Her climb to success has left many a heel mark on the backs of others. She doesn’t care about the peons around her – only the achievement of her dreams matters. Forget expecting a helping hand from her – she doesn’t help anyone but herself.
The BLACK WIDOW: the beguiling siren, she lures victims into her web. She goes after anyone who has something she wants, and she wants a lot. But she does her best to make the victim want to be deceived. An expert at seduction of every variety, she uses her charms to get her way. Don’t be fooled by her claims of love – it’s all a lie.
The BACKSTABBER: the two-faced friend, she delights in duping the unsuspecting. Her sympathetic smiles enable her to learn her victims’ secrets, which she then uses to feather her nest. Her seemingly helpful advice is just the thing to hinder. Put no faith in her – she’ll betray you every time.
The LUNATIC: the unbalanced madwoman, she draws others into her crazy environment. The drum to which she marches misses many a beat, but to her, it is the rest of the world that is out of step. Don’t even try to understand her logic – she is unfathomable.
The PARASITE: the poisonous vine, she collaborates for her own comfort. She goes along with any atrocity, so long as her own security is assured. She sees herself as a victim who had no choice, and blames others for her crimes. Expect no mercy from her – she won’t lift a finger to save anyone but herself.
The SCHEMER: the lethal plotter, she devises the ruin of others. Like a cat with a mouse, she plays with lives. Elaborate plans, intricate schemes; nothing pleases her more than to trap the unwary. Watch out for her complex designs – she means you no good.
The FANATIC: the uncompromising extremist, she does wrong in the name of good. She justifies hers action by her intent, and merely shrugs her shoulders at collateral damage. Anyone not an ally is an enemy, and therefore, fair game. Give up any hope of showing her the error of her ways – she firmly believes you are wrong, wrong, wrong.
The MATRIARCH: the motherly oppressor, she smothers her loved ones. She knows what’s best and will do all in her power to controls the lives of those who surround her – all for their own good. A classic enabler, she sees no fault with her darlings, unless they don’t follow her dictates. Don’t be lured into her family nest – you’ll never get out alive.
As internet folks we have all run into the problem at some time or another when we’re talking to someone and the tone just doesn’t get across right. Capslock, bold, underlining and italicizing can help to an extent in conversation, but if you’re trying to pull off an excited tone to your story you aren’t going to want to put the whole thing in caps. So what can you do to get the tone right? How does tone even work? To answer these questions let’s start by dissecting what tone is and how it’s used.
So how can we define tone? It’s essentially the attitude you’re talking about the subject you’re writing. So touching on a previous week’s prompt where I asked you to write describing the scenery around your PoV character as they visited a place they used to frequent with a friend (who just died). The whole piece hinged on the tone you took with it. Maybe the character felt at peace with their friend’s death and looking at this scenery exemplified this feeling, maybe looking at this place they used to play in brought back a barrage of melancholy feelings which would have come through in the way they viewed the area around them.
That all has to do with tone, the tone you took in writing that piece should have jived with what you were trying to convey. If you were writing in an upbeat tone and trying to evoke sad emotions within your reader—that can take a fair bit of craft to pull off a tone dissonant with the response you wish to create.
How related is tone of voice to story tone? Well let’s put it this way, if we’re talking face-to-face and I’m using a flat tone of voice to convey something to you, but I mean to be sarcastic you might not get that sarcasm and take the information seriously. Similarly with tone in a story. If you’re writing about a dramatic point in your character’s life, maybe it’s the climax of the action in the story and their best friend just got shot—if you’re writing in a comedic tone your readers will likely not feel hit as hard emotionally and sympathize as well with your protagonist’s loss if your tone falls flat.This doesn’t just apply to the high-drama scenes this is for your entire piece of work. If you want to write a high-anxiety impact story you’re not really going to want to go for a slow, meandering type of narrative.
Which leads me nicely into talking about pacing. Pacing is pretty much just what it sounds like, I’m sure many of you heard at some point in your life “pace yourself” and this is kinda the same thing. Every scene is important to the story, or well, every scene that lives through your final edits should be important to the story. And equally important is the pacing within each scene.
Let’s say you’re right in the climax of your story, the high point of the action right there when Harry is facing off with the basilisk. if Harry were to suddenly, instead of continuing to run from and chase the basilisk through the piping/dungeon down there, take a sit and think about how the giant snake could even go through the pipes; well you’d be breaking up the build up of anxiety the action of the scene was heading toward and then you’d have you reader wondering just how much danger Ginny and everyone must really be in if Harry has time to futz around instead of defeating Tom Riddle’s spectra.
You need to pace yourself; you need to pace your scenes. So if you have a high intensity scene don’t break up your pacing to unload a block of text giving background for why your character has this knife in their boot and the history of their mother giving it to them before she died. This is not the time for that infodump, that time was likely way before this action scene—back when things were more calm and you could just insert that bit of information off the cuff then. And then in the fight scene maybe the character takes the knife out and feels a little stronger because of it, and we know why already because of the history.
But don’t break up the pacing of a scene to inundate us with information, weave it in so it flows with the pacing and tone of your story.
Further reading for you:
(You can also read this tutorial in the Harry Potter Version. Brilliant!)
Ah, the dreaded dialogue formatting—something that many people get right, but many more get wrong. Where do you use a comma and where a period? What should be capitalized and what shouldn’t? And why? Dialogue formatting isn’t easy to get right, and it’s easy to forget the rules, especially when published authors do it too. But, just as in the rest of the rules of grammar, dialogue formatting has its own reasons for what’s correct and what’s not, and hopefully once you know why commas go here and periods go there, and this is capitalized and that isn’t, you can keep this in mind when you write people talking to each other. Note that most of my examples are canon pieces of dialogue, but some are off the top of my head.
Let’s start with something simple. Here is a piece of correctly formatted dialogue:
"No, I am your father," Darth Vader said.
Look at the word “said”. That is what’s known as a dialogue tag; tags are verbs that connect the dialogue itself to the rest of the sentence. Other tags include “asked”, “exclaimed”, “replied”, and all those variations. Dialogue tags are ways of describing the dialogue, if it’s being said, or asked, or screamed, etc.