Beautiful People Part II (August): Introducing Phaidra Callas-Yu (Red as Blood)

10928109_595959117172101_1450331761_nWhen I saw August’s theme, and Cait’s awesome gifs to go with it, I just knew that I had to drop the Seven Sisters in favor of another extremely important character in Red as Blood: Sull’s stepmother, the formidable model, dancer, and actress “Calla Fay.”

No Snow White retelling would be complete without it’s “evil queen,” and since this BP was all about appearances, it’s too perfect.

But first, a little bio:
Name: Phaidra Yu, nee Callas          Nickname: Calla Fay

Age: 25     Height: 1.82 meters       Weight: Really?

Phaidra Callas burst onto the modelling scene at the young age of fourteen. From the beginning, her startling beauty, poise, and charming sweetness made her a star, and agencies were practically fighting to sign her. Nevertheless, she kept her current manager (her mother) until her mother's tragic passing in a freak accident when Phaidra was sixteen. 
Phaidra disappeared (presumably in mourning) for a month, and then came back as "Calla Fay" the female face of SnøFall - the groundbreaking fashion line by young designer Yu Hayato  (유 하야토). This was the first time she met Yu, and his motherless son, who was the other face of SnøFall. Phaidra's star continued to rise, and she made further news by marrying Yu four years later. The "King and Queen of Galactic Fashion" were unstoppable - or so everyone thought.
  1. Give a brief overview of their looks. (Include a photo if you want!)

I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
I imagine that Phaidra looks quite a bit like this photo of classic actress and beauty, Gene Tierney
Hair: Natural black      Eyes: Lavender-grey
Skin: Flawless ivory

2. Share a snippet that involves description of their appearance.

Well – I don’t actually have a snipped that describes Phaidra right now (since I’m playing around with first person), but I will share one of the random snippets I wrote about her as a practice exercise/character development tool. Note that it probably won’t be part of the book and it’s completely unedited, but it gives you a little taste –

The woman was undeniably beautiful, with her doe-eyed expression and milky white limbs curving through the swaths of silver and gold, but it was the child who stole your breath away. It was hard to look at the woman with him there, this creature of nearly indeterminate gender, whose dark eyes held more sorrow than any child’s should. It was then, after looking close, that you might notice the woman again. You might see how her hand rested on the child’s shoulder, a little too heavy for comfort. You might note how her long, silky black hair draped onto the child, mixing with his own locks in a tangle of confusion. Then you would notice how even the extra fabric from her dress somehow shrouded the child, framing his small body and miring his feet in a swamp of exquisite silk. Last of all, you would look back into her eyes, so clear and crystalline that they might have been liquid, and you might feel uncomfortable when you saw how empty they were. And you would turn away, and try to forget their expressions – but you couldn’t get their frozen stares out of your mind. It’s just an ad, you would think to yourself, it doesn’t mean anything.

3. What is the first thing people might notice about them?

Phaidra’s eyes. They are piercing, crystalline lavender grey, with extra long lashes and an extraordinary sparkle to them. Though she has been (quietly) accused of enhancing them, no records exist to prove it.

4. What are their unique features? (Ex: freckles, big ears, birthmark, scars, etc.)

Phaidra’s only “imperfection” is a tiny, heart-shaped mole under her left eye. Otherwise, her skin seems poreless, and her features are suspiciously symmetrical.

5. How tall are they? What is their build (Ex: stocky, slender, petite, etc.)

Phaidra is around 5 ft, 10 inches tall (just a couple of inches shorter than her husband).

Delicate bone structure, immaculate features, and a perfectly proportioned, long-limbed, graceful body made Phaidra one of the most galactically popular models of all time. She has been voted the “Most Beautiful Woman in the Galaxy” for the past six years.

6. What is their posture like? How do they usually carry themselves?

Phaidra carries herself like royalty. She is the queen of a fashion empire, after all. Her posture is perfect, and she moves with an unhurried grace that has been compared to large, predatory cats.

7. Your character has been seen on a “lazy day” (free from usual routine/expectations): what are they wearing and how do they look?

Minimal makeup and exclusive designer loungewear that cost more than some average citizen’s house. One of the perks of being married to a designer is that Phaidra is never wearing the same thing as anyone else.

8. Do they wear glasses, accessories, or jewelry on a regular basis? Do they have any article of clothing or accessory that could be considered their trademark?

Phaidra’s trademark is a pair of silver crown shaped earrings that she never removes. They were rumored to be a gift from her mother, but she has never explained their origin. However, she refuses to take them off, so designers and stylists have had to work around them. Other than these, Phaidra wears whatever accessories are dictated by her current job.

9. Have they ever been bullied or shamed because of their looks? Explain!

Phaidra’s “perfect” looks have been under scrutiny ever since she debuted at fourteen as the face of a popular perfume. There has been a debate over everything from plastic-surgery to rumors that she was forced into modelling by her mother. However, ultimately it all comes down to how she looks. Despite the criticism and harsh accusations she’s received over the years, Phaidra seems to glow brightest when she’s being attacked, almost as if she welcomes any attention at all . . .

10. Are they happy with how they look? If they could change anything about their appearance, what would it be?

Yes. Phaidra has said that she would rather die than be ugly, and that her looks are really all she has. The only thing she would change is her age – though she’s only twenty-five, she lives in constant terror of her looks fading and wilting with age. There is an entire lab (funded by Phaidra herself) devoted to finding products and routines that will hold back her aging process as long as possible.

So that’s Phaidra, folks. Since this was all about looks, I feel like we only just scraped the darkness and complexity of her character – but that’s just too fitting. Most people (okay, characters in my world) have evaluated/judged Phaidra by looks alone. As you all know, this can lead to misconceptions, misjudgments, and be a terrible mistake.

So what did you think? How important are appearances to your current characters? Red as Blood is the first project of mine to have appearances be pivotal to the plot!

 Did you all do this month’s BP? If so, leave a link so I can check yours out!

 

 

Ask a Writer: Villains vs. Antagonists vs. Antiheroes – What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?

Villains vs Antagonists vs Antiheroes

Copyright – Walt Disney
(More of an Essay than a Blog Post, so be Warned, :P)

As I’ve been rereading The Last Coffee Shop for the first time since I finished the initial draft, I quickly realized something interesting: There is no outright/major villain character in TLCS. Instead, it’s about the heroine dealing with lots of ambiguous antagonists and a hostile world. This is a first for me, as I usually have a distinct villain character, and I love to write them.

And speaking of writing great villains, I read several excellent posts on the subject a month ago, and it set the mental wheels turning. Tracey @ Adventure Awaits had a guest blog post on the 4 Elements of a Good Villain, Victoria Grace @ Wanderer’s Pen wrote two great posts – one on writing good Antiheroes and one on the importance of writing Good Vs Evil. Also, I recently read V. E. Schwab’s Vicious!

All of these posts made for great reading and discussions, and set me thinking – Antihero, Villain, Antagonist – all of those terms are used, sometimes interchangeably, out on the internet. And there are endless debates on the actually “villainy” of plenty of characters, from Loki (Marvel Universe) to Hannibal Lecter (Hannibal) to Saruman the White (Lord of the Rings). And in all of these discussions, there is a lot of confusion. So what’s a writer to do? Well, the best place to start is the dictionary!

I love words and definitions, so we’ll let Merriam Webster take this. According to the dictionary:

Villain:

1:  villein

2:  an uncouth person :  boor

3:  a deliberate scoundrel or criminal

4:  a character in a story or play who opposes the hero

5:  one blamed for a particular evil or difficulty

It’s actually not the most precise word, is it? Going on our modern definition of “villain,” or someone who does “wrong” things and opposes the story’s hero, a better word might be “malefactor.”

Malefactor:

1:  one who commits an offense against the law; especially :  felon

2:  one who does ill toward another

Middle English malefactour, from Latin malefactor, from malefacere- to do evil

A Malefactor – or someone who intentionally causes harm or evil, is what we’re usually meaning when we use the word “villain.”

Examples would be Sauron (LOTR), Emperor Palpatine (Star Wars), Voldemort (HP), Iago (Othello), or the Joker (Batman). These characters may or may not be nuanced, they may be tragic and even sympathetic, but at their root, they cause intentional evil to those around them. In other words, a true villain is a god unto themselves, a person who believes in no higher or more moral/spiritual authority than themselves and their own desires.

And I don’t mean believe in the “I believe chairs are real,” sense. I mean believe in the “believe/am convicted that this entity or idea outside of myself is greater/higher than me, and should be regarded when I make decisions.”

So what is an antagonist?

Antagonist:

one that contends with or opposes another :  adversary, opponent

From antagonize – Greek antagōnizesthai, from anti- +agōnizesthai to struggle, from agōn contest — more at agony

Rather different from a “villain,” isn’t it? Basically, an antagonist is someone who struggles against or opposes someone.

If we’re rewriting Star Wars with Darth Vader as the main character, then Luke and Obi Wan Kenobi are both antagonists. They contend with Vader, and directly oppose his point of view. So while an antagonist can be a villain, not every antagonist is evil.

Which brings us to antiheroes.

Antihero:

a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities

That’s a little vague, so let’s look at the root words – anti, or “against” from Middle English < Latin < Greek, prefix meaning “opposite”

Add this to hero – “man of superhuman strength or physical courage,” from Greek heros demi-god”, originally defender, protector,” from PIE root *ser- to watch over,protect (cf. Latin servare “to save, deliver, preserve, protect;” see observe).

So an antihero would basically be anyone who does the opposite of the “heroic” actions, or who (like our definition above), lacks the classical attributes of a hero (such as courage, selflessness, integrity, honesty, etc.)

However, in modern literature, this term also encompasses any nonstandard hero (including some characters that might be more properly categorized as villains). An antihero is always the hero/protagonist of their own story, which makes them the exact opposite of an antagonist. However, like antagonists, antiheroes are not necessarily evil.

Okay, now that we’ve looked at the technical differences between these terms, what makes a good villain, antagonist, or antihero? Let’s look at some examples.

In Star Wars, Emperor Palpatine may “believe” in the Jedi, the “Light Side of the Force,” and that those things are real – but he sees them as invalid. For him, whether the Jedi’s morals are right or wrong is unimportant – he is ruled only by himself and his perception of The Force. This makes him a classic villain, or malefactor – someone who sets himself up as the only right, and tramples others in his path.

Granted, Palpatine isn’t the most memorable or chilling villain, so here’s a second example. Wilson Fisk (Netflix Daredevil series) is one of the most terrifying and effective villains I’ve ever encountered. But what makes him such a good villain? Well, for starters, he’s a character, and his story is extremely important to the overall narrative.

(Disclaimer: the scene below is appropriate for all ages, but note that Daredevil is a mature show that isn’t suitable for all audiences)

The voiceover is from an article that reporter Ben Urich was writing about Fisk, challenging Fisk to “step into the light,” and answer for his crimes. But there are a few serious problems.

For starters, Fisk has left no clues behind that will point to him. The atrocities he’s committed, and the terrible people he’s worked with, can’t be traced to him. Also, Fisk believes 100% that he’s right at this part in the narrative. He views himself as a hero, and Matt Murdock (Daredevil) as a villain who would destroy Hell’s Kitchen.

Fisk is convicted about the crime and decay of the city, he loves his girlfriend Vanessa deeply, he has an artistic soul, and his backstory is both tragic and sympathetic. But none of this excuses his behavior. He uses all sorts of criminals and gangs to do his work, keeping his hands “clean,” and there is no moral line he will not cross in his pursuit of his goal. To Fisk, as long as he wins, and reshapes Hell’s Kitchen in his own fashion, he will do anything.

That becomes a major difference between him and Matt, and a defining characteristic of the series. While Daredevil has doubts, trials, moral lines, and dilemmas, Fisk does not. He is a self-proclaimed deity in all but name, and he answers to no one but himself, regardless of who suffers the consequences. By the end of the series, Fisk is a true malefactor – or one who both commits crimes against and hurts others, in pursuit of his own desires.

When you’re writing a villain, whether he/she is the protagonist of your novel, or opposing the hero, you need to make sure that they’re as completely developed as the main character.

If you watched the Daredevil clip above, you’ll notice something very important to a truly terrifying villain: Fisk twists the truth and speaks it back, with an uncanny resemblance to what Ben (the reporter) was saying about him. Fisk is an “angel of light” villain, or someone who sounds/looks/seems good, but has depths of depravity/wickedness that aren’t visible at first. Fisk says all the right things, and in the public eye, does all the right things. He seems like a good man. But there’s a lot more to his character.

Here are some questions to ask yourself as you’re developing your villain’s character:

  1. What do they want most, and how far will they go to get it?
  2. Why do they want it?
  3. How do they view the people around them?
  4. How do their goals influence how they treat the people around them?
  5. What truly puts them in conflict with the hero/protagonist?
  6. Does your character masquerade as (or believe he/she is) one of the good guys? Did they start with good intentions?
  7. Who is their ultimate authority?

Let’s move on to antagonists.

Antagonists are supporting characters that oppose the protagonist and move the story along, usually prodding the main character into action with their alternate viewpoints.

All of the villains mentioned above are antagonists as well, because they oppose the protagonists. Still, there are plenty of antagonists that are either morally superior to the protagonist, or at the very least, not evil. Some examples include the detective L (Death Note), the fairies in the Artemis Fowl series, both Captain America and Iron Man in the Civil War comic arc (Marvel), or Buzz Lightyear in the movie Toy Story.

In The Last Coffee Shop, my protagonist Mads is taken hostage by Luc the bounty hunter, who is the primary antagonist of the book. However clouded Luc’s motives are, he means no harm to Mads – he just gets in the way of her plans. And that’s another major function of the antagonist. They often provide frustration of the MC’s plans or prospects (like Lady Catherine in Pride and Prejudice).

Still, whether an antagonist is an outright villain or not depends on the story.  In many books and movies, a character who is an antagonist or villain will have a redemptive, positive character arc that results in their joining the hero’s side/making the correct decision. Zuko (Avatar: The Last Airbender), Itachi Uchiha (Naruto), or the original T 101 Terminator (Terminator), are all examples of this type of character. And speaking of Naruto, Pain-Nagato is a classic antagonist that fulfills both of these definitions.

(SPOILER WARNING: Spoilers for Naruto Shippuden Season 8, or Chapters 413-453 of the manga from here on)

When you first meet Pain, he’s a godlike figure determined to fix the world by removing all ninja from it. This will kill a lot of people, but presumably stop all wars by doing so. Pain’s motives are good – he wants world peace – but his execution is terrible.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Naruto, I’ll give you some context. Pain-Nagato has been the major antagonist (though the characters didn’t know this) for a loooong time now, sending people after Naruto and wreaking general havoc. However, the action finally comes to a head in a climactic confrontation between Pain-Nagato and the Konoha ninja. By this point in the story, Naruto has lost his mentor/father figure Jiraya (the Pervy Sage mentioned in the clip), and many of his friends to Pain-Nagato and his goons. So Naruto has reasons for revenge, but it’s very interesting how this plays out. Pain-Nagato and Naruto have a one-on-one conversation, and we see if all of Pain’s antagonism will cause Naruto to “fall” by choosing revenge and the normal “ninja route,”or will Naruto be able to find a different path?

Watch this pivotal scene from Naruto Shippuden, and you’ll see what I mean:

“Words of forgiveness come easy. Love does not.” Man, I love that line. But that’s beside the point – do you see how Pain-Nagato baits and plays Naruto, riling him (Naruto) up and egging him on?

(NARUTO SPOILERS END HERE :P)

A good antagonist always causes the Protagonist to move forward in the plot. Whether that means a “fall from grace” or a character progression really depends on the story. But a fully fledged antagonist has their own motives and complete character arc as well – and they are affected by the MC’s arc. (For example, in Naruto, Naruto’s final words and actions not only impact Pain-Nagato, but everyone around them).

For an antagonist to have impact – their choices have to be nearly equal or equal to the importance of those of the MC.

And this brings us to our last definition – The Antihero.

I won’t drone on as long about this character type (and you should definitely read Victoria’s excellent post), because most people are familiar with them. However, I will use two of my favorite examples: Light Yagami (Kira) from Death Note, and Dean Winchester from Supernatural.

These two young men couldn’t be more different, but they’re both antiheroes and (one of the) main protagonists of their respective series. We’ll start with Light.

Light is introduced as a morally upstanding, scholarly, brilliant student. He’s a model son, and he’s very sure of right and wrong. But when he finds the Death Note*, Light suddenly has power to change the world.

 *(The Death Note is a notebook that belongs to a "death god." If it falls into the human world, it belongs to the person who finds it, and any name they write in the note will cause the death of the named person)

Light, with his strong morals, feels that he is the perfect person to hold life and death in his hands, and he quickly begins to “execute” criminals by writing their names in the note.

Now you or I might see problems right off, but hang with me for a minute. Surprisingly, Light makes some very convincing arguments, and he has a lot of charisma. You find yourself hoping he won’t get caught almost as much as you hope he will get caught! However, this kind of godlike power quickly goes to Light’s head.

Image not mine – quotes from Death Note – found here

As detectives close in (particularly the sketchy, eccentric “L”), Light gets more and more corrupted and indiscriminate about the people he kills. And every time he takes a life, he become more immune to his actions. After all, he doesn’t have to actually deal with doing the deed himself. It’s all very neat and removed. So ultimately, though Light believes in right and wrong, and that evil should be punished, he is the ultimate moral authority on his own actions. But he’s still the protagonist of the series, making him an antihero (or a non-conventional hero). You’ll have to read the manga or watch the anime to see what happens, but it’s a very cleverly constructed story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Dean Winchester, on the other hand, could not be more different from Light. Dean is rough-edged, violent, under educated, and frequently boorish. He has low tastes, and he is perfectly happy with himself (at least early on). He’s as far from the classic “hero mold” as you can get without having an outright malefactor. So what makes him an antihero? Despite all of the above, Dean frequently makes the moral choice when the going gets tough.

Image not mine, found here

If there is a child in danger, Dean will risk his life for them. If saving his brother means losing his own life, he’ll do it in a heartbeat. If stopping innocent deaths means doing something horrible like crawling into a ghoul nest or luring monsters to himself, Dean will do it with little hesitation. Even if he makes bad choices, or does terrible things, he is usually driven by his love for his brother (or his friends), and his desire to save others.

In a nutshell: regardless of Dean’s inclinations or motives, when he has to choose between doing the right (non self-serving) thing or walking away, he eventually chooses the right (harder) choice. This is what makes him an antihero – a non-conventional hero who does the right thing when it counts.

The one thing that villains, antagonists, and antiheroes all have in common is a strong, driving motivation, and a completely developed character.

While they may cross over into the same thing, they are distinct, different words. And ultimately, when crafting any character, you have to ensure that they have a complete arc that is pivotal to the story.

This is probably redundant, but I believe you can’t ask it enough: what does your opposing side/force/character want from the world, and how does that put them in the way of your protagonist?

As long as your characters are well-rounded characters first, with motives, stories, and consistency, then it doesn’t matter which role they play. I’m sure you’ll pull them off well 🙂

So what do you think makes a good villain, antagonist, or antihero? Do you think it’s important that we use precise language, or do you not really care about definitions? What are some of your favorite examples of these types of characters?