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Monday, November 26, 2018

Brainstorm Your Antagonist's Plotline Earlier

Over the last few weeks I have actually started brainstorming and even outlining my next novel. I still have a lot to figure out but recently, I was reminded again how effective it can be to consider your antagonist's plotline early in the process.

Most of us have a rough idea of what our antagonist is or does by the time we really sit down to brainstorm. At minimum, we at least have a notion. After all, we need an antagonistic force to have conflict for a story.

But it's very easy and very tempting to put all our focus on the protagonist. It's absolutely necessary to spend plenty of time discovering and nailing down our protagonist, but it can be extremely effective to really consider your antagonist quite early in the process.

This is because (obviously) the antagonist will be what your protagonist is up against.

Often we might focus only on the protagonist's view of the plot, thinking about what sorts of obstacles, conflicts, and resistance they will meet and need to overcome and what will be interesting.

However, the antagonist has a very different view of what's going on, even if it doesn't all make it on the page. He or she or it will be "fighting" against the protagonist. The protagonist reacts and battles the antagonist, but so does the antagonist react to and battle the protagonist.

If your antagonist is a person or society (as opposed to nature or self) you should consider how their plot would play out. What would they do next? How would they respond to the protagonist's efforts? What is the cleverest way they would handle this situation?

When you take the time to consider the antagonist's story early, you will be able to brainstorm and map out a more powerful story for your protagonist.

Beyond the protagonist and main antagonist, it's also helpful to take some time to consider what the situation looks like through other characters' perspectives (as long as you don't get too carried away). How does the love interest view what is playing out between the antagonist and protagonist? What about a close family member or friend? Like the main antagonist, it can also be very effective to look at the plot, conflict, or issues from any other antagonistic forces.

For example, in the project I'm working on, the protagonist has to team up with a gray character who is an antagonist-sympathizer. Though he's not the main villain, I have found that I can brainstorm a better story when I take time to think about his view, actions, and reactions, early in the creative process. What this does is give my protagonist more powerful or significant conflicts. I have better quality ideas, and my protagonist needs to deal with them in clever ways. In other words, it produces a better story quicker. I have better ideas in brainstorming.

This sort of approach is also a great way to help you create strong side characters, because it ensures you are creating a plot where the side characters don't only exist for the sake of the protagonist.

When we are learning to plot for the very first time, we are often asked to consider what try/fail cycles and obstacles are keeping the protagonist from reaching his goals, and then trying to brainstorm what those are and how he overcomes them. Then we might go back and see how the antagonist can make those obstacles happen, or what kind of antagonist we need. Then, we might start fleshing out and filling in the side characters to populate the story.

When it comes down to it, I don't really believe there is a "wrong" approach to coming up with your story--you have to find what works for you. But when you are next brainstorming, try taking time to consider your antagonist and supporting cast earlier and see if that helps you actually develop a better plotline for your protagonist.

We talk about the antagonist as a character a lot, but perhaps not enough about his or her or its own actions and reactions when brainstorming.

Here are some benefits to doing this:

- Your story will feel more authentic
- It will be "bigger" than what's on the page
- You'll see elements you can play with that you may not have noticed otherwise
- It helps the plot itself from feeling flat; it adds dimension
- You'll come up with ideas you haven't thought of and would not have come up with otherwise
- Your protagonist will have to work harder to deal with his or her conflicts
- The antagonist and side characters will become more rounded

And that's the tip for the week.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Fantastic Beasts 2: Thoughts from a Fan and Fiction Editor

First, I have to apologize to some of my followers. I met a bunch of lovely people at the LDSPMA conference a couple of weeks ago, and it happens to be that they followed my blog just before I did some atypical posts on it (last week and now this week). But being known for my love of all things Harry Potter, while I tried to resist, I ultimately could not not write about my thoughts and take on the new Fantastic Beasts movie, but don't worry, this post will definitely have some writing insight infused with it, so if you are here just for writing stuff, you'll still get some of that. (Alternatively, you can go to my Writing Tip Index and read a writing tip about the topic of your choice if you prefer.)  

By the way, there are no spoilers stated in this.


I had heard mixed and even disappointed reactions about this movie before I saw it. I had also heard that something somewhat shocking was in it, and I kept getting the vibe that it broke canon. For those unfamiliar with that term, "canon" refers basically to the "bible" of the universe/franchise. For example, if we had a movie where Voldemort actually loved someone, it would break canon, because it has been established that Voldemort is actually literally incapable of love. It goes against rules and boundaries already established.

So I didn't go in with super high expectations. Mind you, I didn't go in with super high expectations for the last one (though I loved it), simply because this series will never be Harry Potter, and they are prequels, and if you've read the books, you already know how the story ends. That's not to say that I didn't go in with tons of excitement. Because I did. Any chance to get more from the Wizarding World is always a mega plus to my muggle mortal existence.

But because of what I'd heard, I kept waiting for something really awful to happen. I kept waiting for really bad writing or a ridiculous rule change that ruined what had come before. Like I mean really ridiculous. If you don't believe me, here are some things that were passing thoughts: Did Dumbledore and Grindelwald somehow magically have a kid? Will someone be brought back from the dead (which would be a huge no-no and would really break canon)? Did Dumbledore make a Horcrux? Is there a fourth Deathly Hallow?

Rest assured that there was nothing as crazy as that! In fact, I really enjoyed the movie. The characterization was on point, and their dialogue exchanges great. One of the insignificant questions I ask myself about characterization, is "Would it be interesting to watch these characters go grocery shopping?" I know that sounds weird, but here's the thing. Grocery shopping is so mundane. So if it would be entertaining to watch that character or characters do that, then they are intriguing enough to watch do anything else. I think our four main characters for Fantastic Beasts meet that. In fact, their characterizations and interactions are one of the best parts of the show, in my opinion. And their acting was great, even all the way to the young actors who played Newt and Leta as Hogwarts students. Man, the one who played Newt--I seriously don't think you could have asked for anyone better. In fact, I found myself wondering how they all got it so right.

Jude Law's interpretation of a younger Dumbledore? Dang, I could watch that guy all day. I loved it. Jacob trying to give advice about girls to Newt? (And then watching Newt try to act on it?) Absolutely adorable! I could see how some people might be upset with Queenie's ultimate direction, but I actually really thought the opening worked well. We got to see another (contrasting) side to her that made what could have become a flat innocent character more complex. (As I've said before, whenever you want to make a character more complex, give them something contrasting or contradictory--the complexity comes from reconciling that within their characterization.) And then there is Grindelwald. When I saw the last Fantastic Beasts movie, everyone laughed when they saw Johnny Depp. Everyone.

Ten minutes into this film, and no one was laughing. In fact, I found myself thinking, "Hedwig, we aren't at Hogwarts anymore!" I mean, we all know Voldemort is really a bad guy, right? But for the majority of the Harry Potter series we don't actually, as an audience, see him being that bad. After all, the epitome of his rule happened prior to the books. It was pretty chilling to see a dark wizard actually do really terrible things--dang there were some really great ways they conveyed that in the opening.

For example (this is a super minor/insignificant thing, but skip the paragraph if you don't want to know) we watch him use a magical creature to escape. After the creature does his work, we see Gindelwald comfort, praise, and care for it--and then throw it out the window. From a writing standpoint: That. Was. Brilliant. The audience's reaction was visceral, to the point that people gasped and cried out in the theater. See, the filmmakers and Johnny Depp handled it just right. They showed us Grindelwald cooing and stroking the beast long enough and convincing enough for us to believe he actually cares it--for me as a writer, I took it as what's called in Hollywood, a "petting the dog" moment, where you show someone petting a dog to make us like the person. "Petting the dog" is usually used for heroes, but sometimes it's used with the villains to convey to us that they aren't 100% evil and have some goodness in them (again, making them complex). So when he so simply threw it out the window, even I was stunned. (Not to mention, it worked as a fantastic foil to Newt.)

The opening was great. The characters and relationships were great. The acting was great. The world was great--I mean, a wizarding circus? Hogwarts in the early 1900s? (With a boggart and the Mirror of Erised?) The Wizarding World in Paris? A glimpse of the Sorcerer's Stone? More fantastic creatures on screen? Baby nifflers?!?! I'm eating it all up. I'm eating up Newt and Tina, Newt and Jacob, Jacob and Queenie, seeing Dumbledore having to deal with the ministry thinking he wants to be minister even clear back then (something alluded to in the books). Seeing Dumbledore cleverly manipulate the pure in heart to do his work, again. Seeing Dumbledore in front of the Mirror of Erised, knowing all the way from book one that he had lied to Harry about what he saw in it. Is this like a dream come true? I'm salivating.

Then there is the plot.

And I think this is where the mixed feelings walk in. Remember, I liked and enjoyed the movie--everyone clear on that?--but I totally see why people are disappointed or have mixed feelings (especially since J.K. Rowling actually wrote this script.) If someone forced me to point to which film of the Wizarding World had the weakest plot, I'd grudgingly be forced to point to this one. *hides face*

Do you remember when after Harry Potter, every other major film series decided they wanted to split their movies into "Part 1" and "Part 2"? (When their story didn't actually need it?) This movie felt like a "Part 1," where the end is really more of a midpoint than an end point. Obviously there are more films in the series, so yeah, I guess that makes sense. But every other Wizarding World film (minus Deathly Hallows because that literally was split in two) can stand on its own plot-wise. This one? Not so much. It either felt like a Part 1, or it felt like one of those middle movies, where it's acting as a bridge to move from the first movie to the next movie.

This might be the part where those who saw the movie go, no, no, it was the reveal! It was the reveal that didn't work for me! --Dude, hold on, I'm getting to that part. Just listen.

As most of you reading this know, I'm a HUGE Harry Potter fan. For those that don't know, I did my capstone project on it in college, and I am a panelist every year at FanX (Salt Lake Comic Con) for the Wizarding World panels. One of my FAVORITE things about Harry Potter is that J.K. Rowling is a MASTER at what I call "undercurrents" in stories. To me, the undercurrent is all the plot stuff that's not on the surface of the story. Rowling is a master at undercurrent plotting, both in each volume of Harry Potter, and then in the series overall. I did a whole post about crafting undercurrents in stories, using Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as an example. (You can read that here.) I personally believe that her ability to craft great undercurrents is one of the reasons the series was so huge.

However, undercurrents are meant to be underneath a surface story. For example, in Goblet of Fire, the undercurrent story is about Barty Crouch Jr. and Peter Pettigrew giving Voldemort a new body and needing Harry's blood to do it. The surface story is that Harry has to compete in the Triwizard Tournament, and he doesn't know who put his name in the Goblet of Fire. Similar thing in Order of the Phoenix. The undercurrent story is about Voldemort needing the prophecy from the Department of Mysteries, but in the surface story, we are largely following Harry dealing with secondary antagonists--particularly Umbridge being at Hogwarts. In Deathly Hallows, the undercurrent story is about the Deathly Hallows, but the surface story is about Horcruxes (which interestingly was the undercurrent story of the Half-blood Prince).

In every Wizarding World installment up to this point, we have had surface stories being paired with undercurrents. Crimes of Grindelwald is the first one that doesn't really do that, which actually automatically causes a few potential problems. Crimes of Grindelwald is only really about the undercurrent. This makes things difficult, because the undercurrent is supposed to be under the surface story--but this installment doesn't really have a clear surface story. Because the undercurrent is the story, we innately can't feel the same degree of tension, because undercurrents don't fully reveal or explain themselves until the end, if even that. And in order to have tension, we need enough context and specificity (not vagueness) to get fully invested in what's happening. We can't feel the same level of tension if we aren't as deeply invested.

Crimes of Grindelwald doesn't have a clear surface story. Instead, every character is chasing after the undercurrent, which we can't fully appreciate because it's underneath what the audience sees.

Let's look at the first film for contrast. What is the undercurrent of the first Fantastic Beasts film? It's that Grindelwald is trying to locate an Obscurus to use to further his political agenda. What is the surface story? It's that Newt has a Thunderbird he wants to release and is studying and traveling to write a book about fantastic creatures, but more than that, it's that he has to catch all his creatures that got loose. He has a tangible (surface) goal that is easy to understand and follow. Because of that, we can experience tension, and progress on the surface story while simultaneously trying to piece together the undercurrent.

But in Crimes of Grindelwald, the surface story isn't there. Sure, Newt wants to be with Tina, but that's not very tangible--it's abstract--nor does it actually take up much of the plot. He's sort of helping Dumbledore, but it's not very concrete (not to mention he's on the fence about it). And everything that relates to the story progressing comes back to people looking for Credence--which is supposed to be the undercurrent. Because no one the audience is close to really knows who Credence is, we just know that he might be someone important, and because no one in the audience really has a clear tangible understanding of what the ramifications or consequences would be if he is said person, we don't get that strong tension of rising action or that payoff of a climatic end. Because it's an undercurrent, we don't know enough about what is going on.

Sure, who he is and what that could mean is touched on several times. But the audience doesn't get to really consider or feel the consequences of said meaning. We don't really get to feel the stakes. In the end, in some ways, no one really wins and no one really loses, and we just get more information. I've heard this is one reason why people didn't like Order of the Phoenix, no one really wins, no one really loses, and we just get more information (though that book is actually my favorite in the series) BUT it's okay because we win the surface story--Harry and Hermione defeat Umbridge and at the end of the overall story, Hogwarts is restored to its glory with Dumbledore as the headmaster. All the members of the D.A. got to help fight off Voldemort's followers--and Harry gains more friends and supporters, which was on of his struggles through the volume.

In fact, the undercurrent in Order of the Phoenix is actually very similar to what's supposed to be the undercurrent in Crimes of Grindelwald--not because of the content itself, but because of the story pieces and structure. In Order of the Phoenix, we know Voldemort wants something, but we really have no other idea as to what that thing is for most of the story, other than it could be a weapon he didn't have last time (and what also helps is that at one point in the book Harry comes to the wrong conclusion that he is the weapon). Similarly, we don't really know what Credence is, other than he could be someone dangerous that Grindelwald could use. We don't get the information until the last scene.

All of the important characters are chasing the same overall goal, and we don't really know what it is until the last scene.

Which is where some people freak out.

Did Rowling change canon? Did she? Didn't she?

I can't speak for everyone, but in my theater, there were at least two different interpretations as to what the last scene actually meant, leaving us with additional questions that are kind of vague. (Don't get me wrong, I love it, but just explaining what happened.)

So naturally I came home and hopped online to see what I could find. From what I can tell, my interpretation is right, and to me, that means the canon wasn't really changed, only added to. I actually think the reveal is even plausible, when you consider the characters that were involved. However, even my interpretation pleads for more information--which I'm assuming I will get in the next installment.

I can easily see how this reveal could upset some fans and people. Personally, I'm okay with it (remember how I told you I was waiting for the ridiculous reveal where Grindelwald and Dumbledore somehow magicked a human child into existence? *facepalm* That's the kind of crazy I was trying to prepare myself for.), I just want to know the other information, because part of even the most sensible interpretation is missing a piece. 

It's easy to pull this story apart and talk about where it's weaker, but until you have actually tried to write a story at a professional level, let me tell you, you have no idea how difficult the process is. After all, we only see the finished result--not all the idea fragments and plot threads and concepts that were scrapped or changed or whatever. Some days I'm more than grateful I'm not J.K. Rowling and having to deal with the pressures of nailing the Wizarding World every time for a MASSIVE worldwide audience. I mean, she's amazing, but she's still human. I also think that sometimes fans forget that the creator doesn't actually owe us anything. Bless you, amazing, wonderful J.K. Rowling.

Originally Fantastic Beasts was meant to be a trilogy, but then it grew into five movies. Maybe like The Hobbit, it really should have stuck with what was intended for it--that might have helped with the feel of the movie. However my (unimportant) opinion is that more than that, the audience needed a stronger surface story--like every other Wizarding World installment has. Even if it was repurposing something already there, like that plot thread about Grindelwald's vial so that it was surface content instead of just more undercurrent tagged on. That could bring some real great tension into the story--knowing what it was, what it meant, and having Newt try to get it--but again, like Credence, we didn't understand what it was until the very end. That's probably what I would have suggested the writer do.

So did I like the film?

Looking at how long it took me to talk about the plot, you might think I didn't. But one thing as an editor that I've learned is that it almost always takes longer to talk about what doesn't work than what does, because you actually have to explain how those pieces function.

I loved it. Already looking forward to seeing it again. However, I think this film is probably more for the die hards (largely because it lacks a surface story), where you can soak in all the characters, magic, Easter eggs, and connections that Rowling is so great at--with mentions of Lestranges and Mclaggens and Dumbledores and Traverses--and bask in the world you call home.

P.S. Did you notice how well they interlocked Dumbledore's and Leta's characterizations?! I want to go on and talk about it in more depth but don't want to say too much--but notice how they are similar and how that was handled? Five points to the filmmakers on that micro-concept.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Context, Text, and Subtext: What They Are and How They Help With Storytelling

Hi everyone! As some of you know, four times a year I coach over at, and that's what I'm doing today. So for this week's tip, I'm going to send you over there (hope you don't mind!), where I'm talking about the difference between context, text, and subtext in writing, how each functions and where each fits in storytelling. I've designed this post to give you a clear but quick rundown, because we don't talk about these three terms enough.

But if you are on the fence, here is the opening to help you decide if you want to read further. . . .


In writing tips, we talk about text a lot. But I feel like we don’t talk enough about context and subtext in this industry. Both are vital to good storytelling and often misunderstood or even mixed up. So today I wanted to go over and define the differences between context, text, and subtext, and explain how they work.


Often when we think of context, we think of things like the date a work was published, who it was written by, or the climate of the time. But context is very important within your fictive universe as well. Context in this sense is all the grounding and guiding information that the audience needs, such as who the characters are, where they are, what time of day it is, etc. Context can also be any other additional information the audience needs to interpret and accurately understand what is happening in the story.

Here is an example of a passage without context.

Mack shut the Hummer’s hood. “Should be fine now,” he said to John.
 “Great. Thanks, Karl.” John got in the driver’s seat and stuck his key in the ignition. 

Why did John call Mack, Karl? We have no idea. There is nothing in the text to help us interpret and accurately understand what his motives are. Is it an accident? Intentional? A nickname? Is this a typo or mistake the author made?

This passage lacks context.

This can happen when the writer is trying to make their story mysterious, exciting, or engaging by leaving room for readers to come to their own conclusions and interpretations (which is what subtext is for). Sometimes it can happen from trying to follow the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule too religiously.
When the audience lacks context, the story becomes very vague, which is a problem for several reasons. (See my post on vague vs. ambiguous.) If there is no context, there is almost no investment in the story, because if the audience doesn’t have access to any clear meaning, they are unable to care about what happens. The only time where a lack of context works is when writing teasers.

Have a great week!

Monday, November 5, 2018

3 Redemptive Character Types

I love a great redemption story, but not every character who finds redemption is the same. So today I've outline three types of redemptive characters and what to watch for and consider when writing each.

Type 1: Characters Who Think They Are Worse Than They Are

If you are familiar with the story of Les Mis and you are like most people, you were probably thinking that stealing a loaf of bread to save your starving family is really not that bad of a sin. (And certainly having to spend 19 years in prison is waaaay too much, whether or not you tried to escape.)

Yet throughout the story, Jean Valjean consistently feels that he is falling short, even though most of his mistakes and sins are actually rather minor and understandable in comparison to his trials and accomplishments. Time and time again, Valjean sees himself as far worse of a human being than the audience does. In fact, he can't bear Cosette, the one person in his life he can love and who loves him in return, finding out about his sins, and in his death scene, asks her not to read his letter about them until he has passed away.

Valjean is not a terrible person. He's an amazing person! But nonetheless, his story of redemption is perhaps one of the most powerful and moving.

You can write redemptive characters the same way. However, like everything in writing, you need to be balanced. One of the easiest mistakes to make with this character type (or really, in any redemptive story) is to become too sentimental or melodramatic. If you go overboard about how wretched your character feels about herself, it can become annoying. If the gap between what the sin actually was vs. how awful she feels about it, is too big without an explanation, it can become more annoying. To be honest, there is a rather large gap between what Valjean commits vs. how awful he feels about it, but the gap is explained in how his society and other human beings (such as Javert) treat him for it--which further enables him to feel wretched.

A third problem can arise when you render the character's emotion improperly or poorly, particularly by having it all illustrated through the character on the page instead of allowing the audience to feel it first. Unless you are in a denouement where you want to release and validate all that emotion, usually less is more.

Characters of this type tend to have a lot of inner turmoil and conflict, so getting the emotion right is key. (You can find all my tips on rendering emotion in my Writing Tip Index.)

Watch out for: Sentimentality, melodrama, repetitious emotions, too wide of a gap between the sin and the poor self-esteem (without an explanation), and poor rendering of emotion.

Consider: Inner turmoil/conflict and how it is portrayed, how others and society may view the character and how it compares or contrasts with how he views himself and also how that affects his relationships, how shame and guilt and the sin motivate his actions or dam his progression.

Other Examples: In the movie DragonHeart, Draco thinks less of himself and is harder on himself for having given half his heart to save a boy who grew to become an evil king--what was meant to be a noble act, even a holy act, ends up haunting Draco for the rest of his life. In Disney's The Lion King, Simba blames himself (thanks to Scar) for his father's death, which leads to him turning away from his place in society and even his true identity.

Type 2: Characters Who Give into a Moment of Weakness

Before the Reynolds affair even started, Hamilton discloses to the audience that he is in a state of weakness--exhausted, overworked, and lonely. Despite being popular with the ladies, he is not out and about looking to be promiscuous. He's minding his own business, trying to save his job, when a woman seeks him out.

Essentially, the entire song "Say No to This" is about Hamilton literally praying to God that he can resist temptation, and out of weakness, giving in again and again and again, and being mad with himself about it, but . . . giving in again.

Like I talked about at FanX, I think this is a human experience we can all relate to (though ideally ours isn't about an affair). We all have weaknesses, whether it's a brownie, impulsive spending sprees, or even lust.

This type of character needs redemption because she actually did do something pretty bad. She might have gotten caught in the moment, experienced powerful temptation, given in to a weakness, or felt overwhelming desperation. Any of those particular things can be powerful motivators--leading people to do things they would not typically do.

I once had someone tell me that all human beings really have personal boundaries rather than personal standards. We may think we would never do X, but when we get pushed enough--from being stuck in shortsightedness, powerfully tempted, overworked, or desperate--and Y situation happens, we might.

One thing I love about this type of character, is that the experience is so human, and even if we may hate it . . . relateable.

And I think that is key to this type. Even if we completely disagree with what the character does, think they were stupid, or anything else negative, we have to understand it. We have to be able to relate to it on some level, or at least see how it could have happened. If not, it will be annoying, it will be a fail. I would say most of the time, the sin is not going to be something premeditated--exceptions to this are when pressures are ongoing and intense (ongoing exhaustion, ongoing temptation, ongoing desperation). The character will probably feel bad or, like Hamilton, angry with himself ("How could I do this?!")

Watch out for: Situations and setups that aren't relatable to the audience--or rather, are not rendered in human, relatable ways, are not properly explained. The sin should probably not be done flippantly; it's done in a moment of weakness not laziness--there is a difference.

Consider: These powerful components--being caught up in the moment, experiencing personal weakness, powerful temptations, desperation, and ongoing trials and hardships and what that does to a person. Think in terms of boundaries rather than set standards. Explore how your character reacts and feels about what she has done, to capitalize on the human experience.

Other Examples: In Lord of the Rings, Boromir as well as a number of other characters experience moments of weakness when confronted with the Ring. These are great examples of individuals dealing with limits--the edge of their boundaries and capacities.

Type 3: Characters Who Discover Wickedness Never was Happiness

Another perhaps particularly powerful redemptive character is Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. In fact, he was so redemptive that a lot of people seemed to forget what a total jerk he actually was. Snape dabbled in the dark arts when in school and actually even invented lethal spells. While he is a rather gray character, I think we can all agree he was once a "bad guy"--Death Eater and supporter of Voldemort, et al.

. . . until that journey became particularly personal in that Voldemort was going to kill the love of his life.

It may have been all about Lily, but ultimately Snape was true to the Order of the Phoenix, to Dumbledore, and to Harry.

In this type, the character is intentionally doing wrong. It may be that they are a villain or a "bad guy," or it may be that while once goodhearted on page, they went down the wrong road, but whatever the case, they are committing sin left and right and purposefully. If we had the power to grant one person absolution, I think most of us would pick someone of the other two types before we considered this one. In fact, in the story, this type may not even seem like she is going to get a redemptive arc at all.

In some stories this character may be an anti-hero, in which case they will be handled a little differently than a bad guy or villain.

Unlike the other two types, we may not relate to this type as easily, at least not until later--likely when they begin the redemption process, or at least when we get a better understanding of why they are the way they are. Snape, for example, was easily hated by most people for most of the Harry Potter series. A slight exception to this is that in some cases, this type may do things that people privately wish they could do--wouldn't life (seemingly) be easier if we didn't care about doing wrong things? They may also have a cool factor because of it.

However, if they are a redemptive character, at some point they will realize, that in some ways, wickedness was never happiness. In some cases these types embody more of a theme or a lesson than a relatable emotional experience, like the prior two.

An important part of this character type is validation. The audience needs to see--have it validated to them--that this character truly does evil things. Then during, or after the redemption, the audiences needs it validated that they are truly a changed person.

The contrast between how wicked the character is and how much redemption she receives can create a very powerful storytelling effect. Often in highly powerful examples of this trope, the character sacrifices his life--either literally in death or figuratively in how he chooses to live out the rest of his life.

Watch out for: Glorification of wrongdoing in the overall story; failure to validate wickedness and redemption; flat redemption where the redemption isn't "earned," developed, or adequately explained.

Consider: What led the character to choose wickedness, what caused them to change, how that change will affect their circle of relationships and whether the change will be accepted by others (will they be tolerated or forgiven?). Also watch the breadth between their bad deeds and the extent of their redemption. What of their life is sacrificed?

Other Examples: In Star Wars Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side but ultimately dies saving his son from Emperor Palpatine. In How the Grinch Stole Christmas, after trying to destroy Christmas, the Grinch learns to appreciate it, and his heart grows two sizes.

In the future, I may expound on these three types and talk about writing the story arcs.