Friday, July 19, 2013

"Creating Sinister Appeal: Hooking the Reader, Part Two" with Brian McBride

Brian McBride is a Christian blogger, writer, and published author of a high fantasy novel geared toward the young-adult crowd. He is a musician, artist, and amateur photographer. He has recently started his third "official" novel, which is book three in The Starcrafters' Saga and is editing book two. He writes fantasy, horror, dystopian, and science fiction of all sorts. You can find him on Facebookhis blogTwitter, and Goodreads.

    Last week, I talked about “hooking the reader”. This week is not much different; I’m just exploring a different aspect of this.
    This week, I want to discuss something I like to call “sinister appeal”. What is this, exactly? Well, have you ever noticed how most stories have a shadowy figure/theme/plot? Something that creates an air of mystery? This can apply to all genres. It could be a school bully, a murderer, a sorcerer, an alien…
    Every story needs an antagonist, and I want to help show you how to give your story the perfect “sinister appeal”.

1.      Use Foreshadowing.
    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m sure you’ve already heard of this. But I must include this, for it is a very important step in giving your story a “sinister appeal”.
    However, if you have not heard about this mysterious element… then God help you… No, I’m just kidding. A little writer humor… *sigh*
    Anyway, I’ll give you the dictionary’s definition for “foreshadowing”.
   Foreshadowing - to indicate or suggest something, usually something unpleasant, that is going to happen.
    You can see quite clearly how this might give a story that proper “sinister appeal”.
    How do you foreshadow? You do not want to give away all information right away. In fact, you may want to wait to even reveal the antagonist. For instance, Star Wars; It was not revealed that Anakin Skywalker would inevitably become the ruthless Darth Vader until the third episode (at least, in the version I watched).
    You could write one single line that could set the air of mystery. That is foreshadowing.
    The first book in James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series demonstrates this effect perfectly: The funny thing about facing imminent death is that it really snaps everything else into perspective.
    Isn’t that a perfect example?

      2.      Create a Well-Written Antagonist.
    What would a story be if there was no conflict? What would the conflict be if there was no antagonist? Every story should have an antagonist, it doesn’t matter what genre your story is in, make sure it has one.
    “Well, how do I make a really good antagonist?” A good antagonist not only causes a story’s conflict, but it/he/she should have conflict within its/his/her own life. An antagonist should be struggling against its/his/her own emotions, feelings, desires, lusts.
    Loki from The Avengers is constantly barraged by his own inner turmoil. He feels abandoned in a way by his brother and father and seeks dominion because of it. He is one of the best-written villains I've seen in a while.

3.      DON’T Reveal Everything In the Beginning!
    I mentioned this in part one, but I’ll say it again, since it’s VERY important: you do not want to reveal your mysteries, or answer all of your story’s questions in the first 100 pages of the book. To some, this may sound appealing, but not to most. This point also goes along with foreshadowing in a way, it’s just expounding upon it.
    Make sure to answer your questions “spatially”. Go in this order:
1.      Bring a question up.
2.      Have characters ponder question while continuing on their “journey” or story.
3.      Circle back to question by having another character or incidence happen. Don’t answer the question blatantly. (You don’t want to make the reader feel like they aren’t smart enough to figure it out on their own.) Have a specific occurrence make the reader realize the answer to the original question. This will be the “Ah-ha!” moment.
    A reader of this blog brought up a question to on my last post in this series on “Hooking the Reader” last week. The irony is that they somehow knew what I was posting about this week.
    Anyway, you want to make your book at least semi-esoteric so that it will make the story more interesting.

    Some of you may think that these 3 points are mostly for writers of speculative fiction, but it’s not. Point 3 was used in To Save A Life by Jim and Rachel Britts, which is a great contemporary book! You should seriously consider reading it if you want to be taken on a heart-wrenching journey. But… I digress.
    The vast majority of books need to contain an antagonist, otherwise the book will not be interesting. No one wants to read a story about “a boy who went to work, had dinner at work, got home, and watched a little bit of TV”. Like, really?

    See you next time!


  1. I love the Maximum Ride reference! It really is a perfect example o your first point :)

  2. I agree that a great antagonist is the key to a great novel. Another epic villain that comes to mind is the Sheriff from the BBC Robin Hood tv series. He's villainous in a hilarious kind of way.
    And a quote from Loki (Tom Hiddleston) on this subject (can't remember the exact wording, but something like): "The wonderful thing about Marvel is that it makes its heroes flawed and its villains heroic."