Crime, Paranormal, and Horror Writing

The Sizzler

How Do You Like Your Villains?

Antagonists are the characters in a story that opposes the hero of the tale.

They are in the story to create conflict and build up tension within the story as you never know what they are really up to. They can be antiheroes like Mesham from The Torcian Chronicles, who reluctantly agrees to attempt to save his country from the Mivirian invaders. His only other choice being certain death coming from either country…

       ‘Warlock Mesham … We command you, open in the name of His Royal Highness, King Athemar!’ shouted the menacing voice.

The warlock wrinkled his nose, cross at being disturbed once more and stiffly eased himself from his armchair, knowing the dire implications of disobeying his king. Warily, he unlocked the door and was abruptly thrown against the wall, as two huge Royal Guards dressed in black body armour emblazoned with the gold royal dragon strode through the doorway. Ignoring, the dishevelled warlock they took up position by the dust covered windows. Two more guards filled the doorway, towering over a little man resplendent in a blue silk robe.

Two dark brown eyes stared sharply at the warlock.

The Warlock bowed stiffly and King Athemar entered the hovel.

Suddenly, the whole room, blazed white with a blinding flash of lightning. King Athemar caught completely unawares by the sudden strike jumped and screamed in terror. The Royal Guards stood firm at their posts, their faces a stern mask of unswerving loyalty and devotion. The warlock’s eyebrows rose, and the corner of his mouth twitched but he continued to look firmly at the floor in front of Athemar’s feet.’ The Torcian Chronicles, P.J. Reed

Antiheroes can be characters who did not fit into the traditional heroic role of good-looking, honest, law abiding citizens. Such as the womanising, slightly criminal Star Lord versus the perfection of Thor in the Marvel comics. It is the human flaws in our antiheroes and the fact their actions prove their noble intent in the end, that endear them to readers and cinema goers alike. For as fellow flawed human beings we can relate to their problems and behaviours.

One great example of a flawed hero is Peregrin Took.

‘Fool of a Took!" he growled. "This is a serious journey, not a hobbit walking-party. Throw yourself in next time, and then you will be no further nuisance.’ The Lord of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Clumsy people, myself included, can easily identify with poor Pippin, when he accidentally knocks the rock into the well causing the orc drums of Moria to sound.

However, some characters are so bad they have no endearing qualities for us to relate too.

In Stephen King’s It, Pennywise the dancing clown is bad. Hopefully, he possesses no behaviours we can relate to and yet he triggered a menacing clown epidemic in 2016. It was his abnormal wickedness which people could not understand.  This aberrant behaviour fascinated people and created his huge fanbase, as they tried to understand the reasons behind …

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The Sizzler

The Rise of Snape

Snape is an antihero. Antiheroes are the characters in a story that oppose the hero of the tale, they create conflict and build up tension within the story as you never know what they are really up to. Antiheroes are the characters who did not fit into the traditional heroic role of the good-looking, honest, law-abiding citizen. It is the human flaws in our antiheroes and the fact their actions prove their noble intent in the end, that endear us to them. My favourite antihero of all time is Professor Severus Snape.

In the early books, Snape was written as a villain and is shown as bullying Harry and Neville. He dislikes Harry and basically any pupil outside his house. However, mixed with these negative character flaws he has positive features. He is a gifted Potionmaster and talented wizard. As well as demonstrating unusual bouts of bravery and dedication to Hogwarts which shows he possessed the saving good character traits of a tormented antihero.

For example,

In Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone – Snape is suspicious of Professor Quirrell and tries to warn him against performing acts against Harry and Hogwarts, he tries to unjinx Harrys broom in the quidditch match and dashes after the marauding ogre.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban – sees Snape try to capture Sirius the man he initially thought killed his beloved Lily. However, instead of trying to kill him outright, he decides to take him to the dementors even though he could ‘Do it, you know.’ Thus, demonstrating his strong moral compass.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire - At one point, Snape is named as a Death Eater by Igor Karkaroff, but Dumbledore comes to Snape's defence, claiming that although Snape had indeed been a Death Eater, he changed sides before Voldemort's downfall and turned to become a spy for Dumbledore. Later, Dumbledore assures Harry that Snape's reformation is genuine, though he refuses to tell Harry how he knows this, saying the information, ‘Is a matter between Professor Snape and myself.’ However, his actions are still suspicious and like Harry many readers do not believe in the heroism of Snape.

In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix - Towards the end of the novel, Dolores Umbridge – the school's politically appointed headmistress – captures Harry and interrogates him about Dumbledore's whereabouts. She sends for Snape, demanding that he provides her with the magical truth serum Veritaserum in order to force Harry to reveal any information he may be hiding. Professor Snape claims that his supplies of the serum have run out after Umbridge tries to use the drug previously on Harry. Later in the book we find that Snape had in fact supplied Umbridge with fake Veritaserum on her prior attempt, in so doing he is protecting both the Order and Harry. Professor Snape then carries Harry's cryptic warning about Sirius' capture to the other Order members, allowing them to come to the rescue in the Department of Mysteries, even though Sirius had put been of Harry’s fathers gang that used to bully him.  

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Snape is seen protecting another child in his care when he makes the Unbreakable Vow to protect Draco Malfoy. Dumbledore asks Snape to be the one to kill him to further protect Malfoy and reluctantly Snape does. When Harry pursues Snape, Draco, and the Death Eaters as they flee the castle. Snape easily blocks Harry's spells and points out Harry's mistakes, but never strikes back, showing his true character.

Finally, in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Snape Uses his position as Head Master to protect school and students as much as he can and contain the evil Carrow’s. His dying memories show that as a Death Eater, Snape had revealed to Voldemort a prophecy made by Sybil Trelawney, causing Voldemort to attempt to prevent it by killing Harry and his parents. Snape, who had not realised until too late that the prophecy was referring to Lily and her family, begged Voldemort to spare Lily. He also approached Dumbledore, admitted his actions, and begged him to protect the Potters. Dumbledore agreed and ensured that they were placed under the Fidelius Charm. In return, Snape allied himself with Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix as a double agent against Voldemort, using his powers of Occlumency to hide his betrayal from Voldemort.

However, Snape demanded of Dumbledore that his love for Lily (his reason for switching sides) be kept a secret. Dumbledore agreed and kept the secret throughout his life, although questioning Snape's request to ‘never reveal the best of you.’ Even with his efforts to protect her, Snape still felt responsible for Lily's death. The only friend he had ever had. He spent the rest of life trying to protect everyone except himself.

He was the bravest man in Hogwarts.

Rest in Peace Severus Snape, hero of the anti-Voldemort resistance.

by P.J. Reed - Author of Windorwold

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Inspiration Points

The start of a story, that moment when an idea begins to form and then explodes into a million different characters, places, and events is one of the most exciting times for an author.

It arrives naturally and sometimes you have to be patient but when the creative spark hits your life changes forever. You enter a whole new reality and embark on epic adventures.
So where does this creative spark come from?

It could be a memory, gossip whispered by a friend, a daydream or even an image captured in your minds’ eye. Something in these events acts as a catalyst and sends your imagination into overdrive.
For example, one morning I nipped into Costa for a cup of tea and a slice of chocolate tiffin, as I am particularly partial to any food with chocolate in the title and my life changed forever. A story unfolded before my eyes like a movie and I dived into Torcia, the first fantasy world I ever created.
I saw the main character of the story, a warlock sitting in ragged clothes in a dingy…

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The Red Shirt Effect

I do enjoy watching rather off-centre films particularly the sci-fi post-apocalyptic ones which are on offer on Netflix – I am also quite partial to the small budget, independent ones. They all have something to offer even if they are hated on ‘Rotten Tomatoes’. However, the last two films I watched, I noticed a slightly unnerving pattern occurring.

The colonies under attack were both led by elderly but physically strong, black men who mentored a younger, more attractive (white) male. In each case this proved disastrous as the elderly leader died protecting the colony and the younger …

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