Tag Archives: Sandra Orchard

Doesn’t take Talent …

2008, I was a buzz-eyed new teen with my first writing victory — third place in The Word Guild’s novice writer competition; my name in the newspaper and this crazy euphoria that in a year I’d be autographing a bestseller, already optioned by New Line to postlude The Lord of the Rings blockbusters.

Simultaneously, then-unpublished mom (Sandra Orchard), was attending The Word Guild’s conference spending my victory winnings on “write-better” books (for me of course), and doing what writers actually do to produce viable works — develop their craft.

Mom (Sandra Orchard), and bestseller, Ted Dekker, at The Word Guild's conference
Mom (Sandra Orchard), and bestseller, Ted Dekker, at The Word Guild’s conference

7 years later, it’s now registration time for The Word Guild’s annual conference. Mom, now a multi-published and multi-award winning author, is in the speaker lineup teaching Fiction Basics 101. And I’m where she was 7 years back — drilling through the “rough” drafts of a hopeful novel, attending conferences, picking wisdom from seasoned writers, and doing what all writers (bestsellers and novices) must never stop doing  — honing their craft.

So get to it. Open up those writing technique books. Read much fiction. Attend conferences like The Word Guild‘s or others. Write. Write. Write.

It doesn’t take talent to be a good writer, it takes understanding of what is good writing.


What Makes a Villain Powerful?


A powerful villain is the one you hope will survive.

Part way through “Snow White and the Huntsman” we discover the back-story of the evil Queen and why she is the way she is.

Watching it, my brother scoffed, “Great, now they’re going to make us feel sorry for her.”

Which got me thinking…

Why should we feel empathy for the villain? Shouldn’t villains be dark, ultra-evil beings, incapable of being loved? Shouldn’t they be the epitome of everything we hate? Wouldn’t that be more formidable for us and our characters than a sympathetic villain?

But think about it. Why do we root for our hero? Why do we want him to win?

We love the hero because he’s sympathetic. We follow him because he faces great trials.

So what happens when your villain is sympathetic?

Suddenly it’s harder for your hero to do the morally right thing and defeat them. Suddenly both you and your hero are, so to speak, torn.

The most compelling stories are the ones with high costs. What if your hero doesn’t really want to destroy the villain but knows he must in order to save the world?

Does a sympathetic villain draw attention away from your hero?

I suppose, if not handled carefully, you could turn your antagonist into the star of the show, but if done right they become a more formidable enemy to your hero. The hero sees part of him/herself in the villain. Your hero sees what they could become and it terrifies them but it also makes them want to believe there is hope for the villain because they need to believe there would be hope for themselves in the same situation. (A compelling example is Frodo and Gollum’s relationship in The Lord of the Rings).

Your hero’s moral compass is his strongest weapon.

Make him question his own morals in defeating the villain, and your villain will have immense power over him.

Innately we know the villain must go. But because a little bit of our heart wants them to survive, the cost will be high.

Do you want to make your villain unbearably hard to defeat? Make a small part of us root for him.