1.17.2017

Expanding Your Evil Empire

A novel has competing dynamics as its plot builds. Most of the story consists of interactions between characters, occurring in one locale or another. Yet the implications of these interactions define the larger realm that an author has staked out. A common example is the struggle of a hero to stop a human devil from taking over the world.

Such wider implications are essential to certain genres such as thrillers, historical/political novels, and science fiction/fantasy. If the stakes are not large enough, the reader may feel that his participation in the elaborate game play involved in such works wasn’t worth the effort. Oh, so she only won the prize of dogcatcher of Idiota, Idaho? After all that?

Crafting a struggle with titanic overtones does not require much work. That’s because so much of the novel is taken up with private interactions. A hero still has to overcome a series of personal-size obstacles on his journey. Expanding the scope of ultimate ambitions can be fashioned via several methods.

One way is to craft a prism whereby the pervasive reach of the evil force is taken for granted by everyone. Readers will accept these reports as proof that the evil empire—that you have constructed out of whole cloth—should be feared. Any steps the protagonist takes need to factor in how it will disturb the evil force. Any military strategies by opposing forces need to include consideration of the evil force’s lethal capabilities. Everyone will go ahead and act in their local sphere—but you have added a looming shadow over the proceedings.

The heroine does not have to oppose this evil directly throughout the book. Yet at a minimum you do need to provide proof of concept occasionally. Merely bruiting the mention of evil goes only so far. Several overt acts, spaced periodically over the course of the book, can demonstrate the empire’s power. If their destruction escalates sequentially, the anticipation of the climax is augmented.

At the end, this building needs to culminate in some major conflagration, involving a large number of the enemy forces. The bigger they are, the harder they fall—but the reader needs to be immersed in the action. That is the payoff for all of his attention.

Exercise: If you have already written a draft, review the manuscript for any places that the evil force can be inserted, even if only in an ominous mention. Is there any one character whose life could be more affected by the evil? Proceed from mentions to incidents, and then have characters discuss the incidents fearfully. Soon the aura of evil will pervade the story.

“But it is the same with man as with the tree. The more he seeks to rise into the height and light, the more vigorously do his roots struggle earthward, downward, into the dark, the deep—into evil.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche

Copyright @2017, John Paine





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