There Has To Be a Balance!

I’m faced with a dilemma. Here’s the problem.

The villain in Dividing Spirits is a demon named Axriel. An ancient, Christian-hating, apocalypse type demon.

When I first wrote the novel, I created Axriel to be hard-core, evil being. He had no redeeming qualities, he didn’t think nice thoughts, or show any weakness. He would foul, rude, arrogant…you know, pretty much what people think of when they think of a demon.

Then I ran the novel past a first set of critique partners. They thought Axriel was well-written, but that he was TOO evil. He creeped them out (which was good), but he was so evil, they just didn’t even like him as a villain. Okay, okay, I softened him up a tad bit. He didn’t curse so much, while he was still arrogant and rude, he wasn’t all the time in every single sentence.

In 2009, I went to the ACFW conference where Donald Maass was the early bird speaker. His big thing about villains was that they needed to have at least one redeemable quality. Even if he was never redeemed, the possibility needed to be there. Plus, how many villains are pure evil without that one thing, you know?

Okay, again, I went in a gave Axriel some humanistic qualities. Ten years ago, he was banished to Hell, and now he’s back for revenge and redemption. Redemption in the devil’s eyes, not God’s. He wants to prove himself the great demon he once was. He gets angry and frustrated when other demons have to keep an eye on him, when the only person he can “talk” to is a lowly human.

Fine, all of that is rewritten. Good to go.

On to the next round of critique partners…and they tell me he’s too soft! (insert image of me falling over)

What’s a woman to do?

I go one way and he’s too evil; I go another and he’s too soft.

There has to be a balance!

I’m sure there is. I’ll have to go over the novel and see what I can do to up the evilness without making him so unlikeable that people won’t want to read the book. I mean, there’s a balance in there somewhere, right?

Why is it when you have a villain that is more black and white, like a demon, it seems much more difficult to write than a more gray-area villain like a terrorist? Can someone explain this to me? Please?

Thank goodness for my critique partners, though. They love to help me brainstorm, so I’m sure I’ll be able to fix this little snag. One day. Maybe. For my future publisher’s sake. And my sanity.

Good thing the villain in my current WIP is a warlock bent on unleashing the next apocalypse. Yep. He’s human, I can give him more human qualities. He can care about his son. And his horse. Okay, maybe not the horse.

Now I’m off to crank out another 500 words or so. See what trouble Tristan and Karina can get into in a small village. Muahahaha…

About Ralene Burke

Whether she’s wielding a fantasy writer’s pen, a freelance editor’s sword, or a social media wand, Ralene Burke always has her head in some dreamer’s world. And her goal is to make it SHINE! She has worked for a variety of groups, including Realm Makers, The Christian PEN, Kentucky Christian Writers Conference, and as an editor for a number of freelance clients. Her first novel, Bellanok, is being published as a 4-part serial! When her head’s not in the publishing world, she is wife to a veteran and homeschooling mama to their three kids. Her Pinterest board would have you believe she is a master chef, excellent seamstress, and all around crafty diva. If she only had the time . . .

9 comments on “There Has To Be a Balance!

  1. Hon, he’s a demon! We’re not supposed to like him and there is nothing redeemable about him. If you really had to have a likeable, potentially redeemable villain, you’d have to ditch the bad guy being a demon and go with a likeable, redeemable human being, which would invalidate your entire genre!

    The enemy doesn’t like stories that reveal pages out of his playbook, if he can make it look like the right thing to them, he will manipulate even our own brothers and sisters into trying to detour us from writing what the Lord inspired us to write. It sounds to me like that’s what happened to you. Get reconnected with the original vision that God gave you. Pray about it, and ask him and yourself these questions:

    Who is the human audience of this spiritual warfare novel? What is the fan of demon slayer stories looking for?
    Who is my character?
    How do you want me to honor you, Lord, as I portray this enemy you’ve shown me accurately?

    Keep in mind, no matter what anyone else says, a villain who we love to hate is a perfectly valid way to write. As Gerke says, be teachable, stop being teachable. The hitch is figuring out who is pointing us in a direction that fits what God wanted to do with the story and who is pushing us in a way that seems right in their own eyes.

  2. In fact, your plot is a classic overcoming the monster, or slaying the dragon if you prefer. In those stories, we are not supposed to like or relate to the monster. We’re not supposed to understand him or see anything redeemable about him. The monster is simply a terrifying, bloodthirsty killing machine that the hero has to defeat to save the princess and restore peace to the kingdom. It is a time tested, proven plot and a time tested, proven villain. You simply have to target it to the audience that reads and enjoys the slay the dragon story.

  3. The classic overcoming the monster story usually ends with the hero defeating the monster, marrying the heroine he saved, and being put in charge of something, or sometimes he gets a handsome financial reward for his trouble.

  4. LOL, thanks, Andrea. I really am getting excited about the changes. Lots of fun stuff in the rewrite. Your suggestions and opinions were extremely helpful and I’m so blessed to have you (and Cindy and Ren) as CP! 🙂

  5. I agree with Andrea that the monster is a classic story line and is completely legit. We are not supposed to like the monster or even relate to the monster – that’s why it’s called a monster. This is the alien life forms taking over people. It’s a legit style of villain. If that’s what this story is supposed to be, then ignore the whole “too scary” concern – it’s invalid in that genre. In fact, if he’s freaking them out, push it a bit farther and go thriller.

    I recommended more “evil” because I saw spots where I think you can up the tension and danger. Frankly my view on “demons” and demon “hunting” don’t mesh well with the genre or what the established readers are looking for. In reading your book I’ve actually done some research on the topic and find it fascinating yet seriously removed from I think they are in reality. I personally haven’t run into any (that I’m aware of) but my Husband has. We had a long talk today about them.

    I don’t see them so much as “evil incarnate” but spirits that were once as our spirits, but they chose Satan’s ways over God’s. They were denied birth into a human being. Unlike us, they have full memory over their existence before and all that has happened since. They have become bitter and angry, twisted in their misery and jealous of the human bodies they can never own.

    You say you had rude and crude, but I see evil as far darker than that. Rude is a cheap shot. They have had ages upon ages that they have witnessed. I deem the most evil from the dark, heartless, brutal calculation. Oh, they’re smile at you, but they have no compassion. They fear and feel pain and loneliness but they they are the epitome of misery loves company out to keep anyone from getting or keeping what they can never have.

    There are readers and publishers who crave the big bad villain. I had a publisher turn down one of my books and one of the things they remarked on is more or less that my villain wasn’t “big and bad” enough. My villains tend to be very human – it’s part of my style so far. That was part of what THAT book is, and their comments came from only a small taste. For me that said that my book is not the right fit for what that publisher is looking for. It’s not an issue of them being wrong and I right – just different types of stories.

    I also agree with Andrea that the adversary is eager to make all gray. I found a story where upstanding, apparently respectable people are saying that Satan (himself) “isn’t all that bad once you get to know him” and the other readers in my group just loved the story while it made me sick at the thought.

    What type of story do you want?

  6. You’re welcome, Ralene, and thank you. 🙂

  7. Demons are angels who chose to support the archangel now known as Satan when he decided to attempt a coup. As a result, they fell, were banished from God’s presence and from the Kingdom along with their chosen lord. They are jealous of us because we were created imageo deo, and wanting to be like the most high is what got Satan and his followers tossed out. So it’s not fair in their minds and they hate us and God. By possessing us, they possess the coveted imageo deo, when they destroy us with sin, they mock and hurt God. Sociopaths who also suffer narcissism are a good start. Look at the depths of evil that demons can sink humanity to for the best evidence of what the wicked’s gods are like. To the forces of Hell, we’re loathsome pawns in their war to overthrow the kingdom of Heaven and install the enemy on the throne. If one is evil and a rebel against God who finds a Republic of Heaven where we are all our own god attractive*, then what those folks said straight faced is true from their POV. *Like all earthly revolutionaries, the Republic of Hell is governed by a totalitarian dictator.

  8. Great discussion here, ladies! You’re sparkin’ all kinds of ideas. 🙂

  9. […] There Has To Be a Balance! (newauthors.wordpress.com) […]

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