Get that Plank out of my Eye!

Since we talked about villains last week, these verses in Proverbs 24:17-18 caught my eye yesterday. “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.”

Isn’t that an eye-opener?

Yeah, the villain is a bad guy, but taking pleasure in his punishment isn’t good either.

So…at the end of the book when the bad guy gets his just desserts, my hero better not gloat, or the next thing he knows his author will have to help him confront his pride issues!!!

As a writer I spend a lot of time contemplating the truths my characters need to learn. My understanding of these truths, and my need to embrace them in my own life often grows as a result.

Oftentimes, their complexities don’t fully gel in my mind until I tackle crafting the study questions for the back of the book–like the ones we’ve been exploring here each Monday.

That’s where I’m at right now with the third book in my undercover cops series. Originally titled Dose of Deception, the book, at the spiritual level, explores many levels of deception, but most importantly how we deceive ourselves.

In a romance, someone who has been burned by love may say they’re not interested in dating again, but really they’re afraid of being hurt again. Deep down they know they will be…

Even deeper than that, they don’t trust God to be sufficient when the inevitable happens.

Your turn: Can you think of a time when you tried to convince yourself that you were doing the right thing and perhaps even offered noble reasons for your choice or decision, but deep down that choice was driven by fear?

Interviewing a Villain

Since we talked about villains on Monday, I wanted to share here the interview Emile Laud did with blogger Suzanne Hartzman at the end of September. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed playing him. 
Visiting with us today is Emile Laud a character from Sandra Orchard’s debut novel Deep Cover. To help you better follow my interview with Emile, allow me to first share a brief description of the other main characters.

            Rick Gray (aka Duke Black) ~ Undercover cop working as a construction foreman on Emile Laud’s newest development—a group home for his mentally-challenged niece
            Ginny Bryson ~ A web copywriter and the PR person for her Uncle Emile’s construction project. When not trying to raise funds for the project, or writing copy for her uncle or other clients, she cares for her dying mother and coaches a T-ball team of special needs players, including her sister.
            Lori Bryson ~ Ginny’s eighteen year old sister who has a mental age of three to four and works in a supervised work placement during the day.
Suzanne: Your foreman Rick Gray, uh, I mean Duke, would have us believe you’re the villain of this story so I thought it only fair to give you a chance to defend yourself against these accusations. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Emile: I’d be happy to. I appreciate you having me here. I honestly have no idea why Duke would think such a thing of me, especially after I gave him a job. I’m a developer. I’ve done quite well over the years. I left Miller’s Bay almost twenty years ago, following the tragic death of my wife in a house fire. I simply couldn’t bear the reminders the town held of our happy years together. But I returned a few months back to re-establish my business in the community and to give back to the town that helped launch my career by building a group home for special needs adults.
Suzanne: Tell us a little more about the group home you’re building.
Emile: Foremost, the home is for my niece Lori. With her mother dying, it’s the least I can do to ensure she has a stable home in the future.
Suzanne: Tell us what your niece Ginny is doing to help with the group home.
Emile: Her assistance has been invaluable. Thanks to her tenacious fundraising efforts and government lobbying, grants and donations toward the construction are pouring in. She is such a lovely girl, always helpful, never questions my decisions. I try to help her out however I can. She has a lot on her plate holding the family together. Her mother, my dear departed wife’s sister, was an alcoholic you know. She’s quit now, they say. I suppose with the cancer making her so sick, she had no choice.
Suzanne: Oh, I didn’t know that. No wonder Ginny thinks the world of you. In fact, most people in Miller’s Bay seem to think highly of you. Why is that?
Emile: Why because money talks my dear. Show compassion to the less fortunate, donate to a worthy cause, build a home for the needy, and everyone thinks you’re honorable. If only the insurance company was so easily persuaded. If they paid the settlement on the townhouse fire instead of dragging on a fruitless investigation, I’d be able to move forward with construction much more quickly.
Suzanne: I’ve noticed you always dress in expensive three-piece suits and eat at the best restaurants and even own a yacht. Appearances seem very important to you. Why is that?
Emile: I was poor once. Bullied by kids at school. Mocked for my secondhand clothes. Ignored by the girls. I never intend to go back to that life.
Suzanne: I see. And why doesn’t Ginny’s mother, your sister-in-law, like you?
Emile: She blames me for her sister’s death I’m afraid. It’s understandable. I blame myself. If I’d been there that night instead of working late at the office, I might’ve been able to save her.
Suzanne: What evidence does Ri—uh Duke have to make him suspect that you torch some of your buildings to collect the insurance money?
Emile: Come now, you look like a woman of the world. You know how these rumors get started. I was working late the night my wife died. And yes, so was my secretary. But that didn’t mean I was having an affair. And yes, perhaps my business endeavors have been victimized by arson attacks more than most. But any evidence he believes he has is pure conjecture I’m sure. 
Suzanne: What threats are being leveled at Ginny?
Emile: < squirms, looking suddenly uncomfortable> There have been…shall we say, incidents. One nasty note she received said I know. And one way or the other, HE WILL PAY. Obviously, I’m concerned for her. Although it has occurred to me that Duke, not I, is the “he” to whom the note refers.
Suzanne: But—
Emile: I admit that a man doesn’t get to my position without creating a few enemies. That’s why I asked Duke to use his criminal connections to try to find out who’s behind the attacks on my dear niece and put a stop to them. Now, I ask you, if I were trying to hurt my niece, why would I ask Duke to protect her?
Suzanne: Hmm, good question. I guess I’ll have to read Deep Cover to find out who’s really telling the truth. 
Your turn: If you read Deep Cover, were you surprised at the end to discover who was trying to hurt Ginny?

Fighting the Villain Inside

I love writing villains. 
Not the mustache-twirling villains of old that modern readers find laughable. Multi-faceted characters that I can exploit for good and evil, and in the process, surprise the reader. At his best, a villain will make the hero stop and take stock. 
If the reader does too, all the better.
One trick writing books suggest for humanizing villains is to look at them through the eyes of someone who loves them.
In Deep Cover, the reader sees Emile Laud through the hero’s eyes as someone who would torch buildings for the insurance money without concern for who might be hurt as a result. We also see Laud through his niece’s eyes as someone who is generous and supportive.
The reader, of course, is left wondering who is right.
Laud is driven by ambition. He wants people to believe he’s wealthy and altruistic so they’ll admire him, because as a child he was scoffed at for being poor and unpopular.
By the end of the book, we see the consequences of his obsession. (no spoiler!)
Witnessing firsthand the villain that lurks inside each of us, the hero finds himself evaluating his own decisions.
Your turn: Is ambition a bad thing? Why or why not?
Food for Thought: Do you unconsciously try to fill a deep-rooted need in ways that might lead to unwelcome consequences?


The most common question I’m asked when people find out I’m a writer is: where do I get my ideas?

The answer: from everywhere.
They may come from a news report, or from an incident I see while out and about. The other day my friend called to ask me if I knew what MPAC was because some stranger claiming to be from the organization had left a note in her door saying he’d missed her and would drop by again.
Instantly, a suspense plot began to form in my mind. In Ontario, MPAC is the organization that does the market value assessments on which our property taxes are based. But what if the guy wasn’t really from MPAC?
What if he was going around neighborhoods posing as an MPAC assessor, but really casing homes for robberies?
Or what if he was posing as an MPAC assessor to target the heroine specifically?
That last question opened up a whole new range of questions. Why’s the guy targeting her? What does he plan to do? Maybe he’s not so much interested in her as in baiting the hero to do something… 
Ooh, why might he want to bait the hero?
You get the idea. That sort of brainstorming is my favorite part of creating a story. My eighteen-year-old daughter is also a writer and we have a lot of fun playing with story ideas–especially villains.
For example, the last time we went kayaking, I remarked on how easy it would be to…well, actually I’m not going to tell you what, because I don’t want to give criminals any ideas! But the simple observation prompted a slew of ideas on how we could use that crime in a story.
Your turn: Let’s go back to our nefarious MPAC assessor impersonator. Why might he want to bait the hero? Let your imagination run wild. You’ll be amazed at how quickly the creative juices start flowing. Share your ideas and watch where they lead. It’s a lot of fun.
Warning: You may start looking at the people who knock on your door a little more warily. (Cue spine-tingling music)