Step Onto Demon Road

Well now, fancy meeting you here.

As promised, here is the second part to my Laura Talks Books exclusive – again, you can thank my wonderful university for the pleasure. The third and final part will come later this month – so keep your eyes peeled.

Though, not literally. That would be gross. For the love of God, please don’t start peeling your eyeballs. Your parents will be SO mad at me…!

Ahem. As I was saying. This is your second little treat, and it just so happens to be a world exclusive interview with the one and only, Derek Landy, as he talks about his new upcoming trilogy, Demon Road, for the first time in an interview.

I’m too good to you. I really am.

Enjoy!

Laid To Rest – An interview With Derek Landy

Courtesy of my wonderful university and my digital  journalism module, you are ALL being treated to another two (three if you’re good) original Laura Talks Books posts.

You lucky devils.

So, you all know the story of how Derek Landy got started. For ten long, gruelling years he worked on the family farm dreaming of becoming a writer…

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It wasn’t until he was staying in a hotel in London in 2005 that he got his idea for Skulduggery Pleasant and started writing it…

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Nine years on from that night, he has published nine Skulduggery novels, a Skulduggery spin-off, a Skulduggery World Book Day novelette and a book of Skulduggery short stories…

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Ever since the first book was published in 2007 his life has changed dramatically. Derek has swapped the farmer’s life for the life of an avid movie prop collector…

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And he owes it all to Skulduggery Pleasant…!!

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And now here comes the interesting bit! Here is my two minute audio interview with the Golden God himself, talking all about Skulduggery and the end of an era…

Make sure you stay tuned -over the next day or two I’ll be putting up a worldwide exclusive video interview with Derek himself as he talks about his new, upcoming trilogy…

Demon Road.

The Best And Worst Of The YA Trends

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls. Grandmas and grandpas, aunts and uncles. Cats and dogs, rabbits and fish. May I have your attention, please.

Ahem.

Today is a sad day. Today is a very sad day. Today is a very sad day because this is my final blog post.

crying

Yep, this is the end. As part of my digital journalism module, I had to keep a weekly blog, but the term ended on Friday and now this assignment is over, and so comes an end to our blogger/reader relationship. It’s sad really. I was so enjoying this. I thought what we had was special. I was shipping us, I really was — we were my new OTP.

It’s not you. It’s me.

Maybe one day I’ll come back to the blog (it’s SO much work to keep it updated regularly) or maybe one day I’ll switch over to Youtube and take up vlogs? But who knows — we’ll see.
But let’s go out on a bang shall we? For twelve weeks I’ve been discussing the best and the worst YA books of the last decade (or so), and I thought to tie it all up I’d talk about all of the most popular YA trends of the last ten years.

So dry your eyes, put away your Lana Del Ray albums, and put that tub of ice cream back in the freezer. There is no need to be sad when I’m here, taking the piss out of Twilight, and Cirque Du Freak, and all things John Green.

For the final time, put your socks on, so I can knock them off again.

danisnotonfire

In no particular order, here are the most popular YA trends of the last decade, and examples of who did them right and who did them wrong. We’re looking at YOU, Stephenie Meyer…

Contemporary:

How to do it right: The Perks Of Being A Wallflower – written by Stephen Chbosky:

the-perks-of-being-a-wallflower

It’s a coming of age novel that teaches teenagers how to overcome traumatic events in their lives, and that it’s okay to be yourself even if you are a bit of a wallflower, and that you should never settle for anything less than what you deserve. What’s not to love?

How to do it wrong: The Fault In Our Stars – written by John Green:

The_Fault_in_Our_Stars]

The book that teaches teenagers everywhere to talk like really weird old people, to exploit charities to go on really fancy European holidays, and that cancer really sucks. Like we didn’t already know that.

Action/Adventure:

How to do it right: Skulduggery Pleasant – written by Derek Landy:

Skulduggery_Pleasant_book_cover

Over the course of seven years, the Skulduggery Pleasant series has given its audience nine novels, one spin-off, one book of short stories, and one World Book Day novelette, all equally jam-packed with nothing but fun, fantasy, action and wild adventure. The series in one word? Flawless.

How to do it wrong: Fallen – Written by Lauren Kate:

fallen

You’re promised a cool, fun, adventure story of a girl who is cursed to self-destruct when she turns seventeen and comes into contact with a boy who sets the death count-down-timer off, and then it’s all snatched away from you. You would think she’d be on a mission to stop herself from dying, but no, she’d rather jump into bed and embark on a slap-dash (at best), fatalistic relationship with the boy who will be the reason for her demise. Ugh.

Fantasy:

How to do it right: Harry Potter – Written by J.K.Rowling:

harry

It’s a story about a boy who discovers he’s a wizard and gets sent off to a wizarding school so he can grow up and become powerful enough to save the magical world from being taken over by an evil wizard overlord. Fantasy/magic done RIGHT.

How to do it wrong: City Of Bones – Written by Cassandra Clare:

City_of_Bones

Another typical YA novel created to trick girls into thinking that they’re all really just waiting for a hot supernatural boy to sweep them off their feet. The author tried to cover up the obvious romance genre by adding in magic, demons, and cringe-worthy words like “Shadowhunters” so as to pass it off as a fantasy, but we’re not so easily fooled…!

Sci-fi/dystopian:

How to do it right: The Hunger Games – written by Suzanne Collins:

Hunger_games

This series is the embodiment of the dystopian future genre, fully equipped with an evil dictator for a president, a country of poorly treated, oppressed people, a small, rich segment of the population who live the life of luxury using the poor as their slaves, and a young, brave, teenage rebel who overthrows her corrupt government and saves them all. See what I mean? Full to the brim with dystopian genre goodness!

How to do it wrong: Divergent – Written by Veronica Roth:

divergent_hq

This is a woman who watched The Hunger Games and went, “I could change that slightly and make loads of money!” And then it didn’t work. See yourself out, Veronica.

Horror:

How to do it right: Rot And Ruin – written by Jonathan Maberry:

rot and ruin

It’s one of those “who are the real monsters here?” type of zombie books that has enough horror, gore and zombie-goodness to shake even the most fanatic horror-novel-junkie.

How to do it wrong: Cirque Du Freak – written by Darren Shan:

Cirque_du_freak

A boy steals someone’s pet spider and turns into a vampire. That’s it. That’s the whole twelve-part story right there.

Mystery:

How to do it right: The Chronicles Of Vladimir Tod – Written by Heather Brewer:

vladimir

The story of a boy who is half human, half vampire, who is on an epic search to find his parent’s murderer. This book series is a real whodunit, full of mystery, with lots of fantasy and adventure mixed in too. Brilliant!

How to do it wrong: The Maze Runner – written by James Dashner:

The_Maze_Runner_cover

This is another author who watched The Hunger Games and went, “I can change that slightly and make loads of money!” and added in an element of “How will we ever get out of this maze??” to add in enough mystery to pass it as a mystery novel. James, you can also show yourself out.

Romance:

How to do it right: Hush Hush – Written by Becca Fitzpatrick:

hush hush

For once, when a girl falls in love with a supernatural boy she isn’t a complete dick about it. The leading lady finds a boy she likes, doesn’t let him control or dominate her, doesn’t let him take over her entire life, allows him to bring her into his supernatural world without letting it change her, and is the ultimate heroine of the whole series.

How to do it wrong: Twilight – written by Stephenie Meyer:

Twilight_book_cover

“I kissed a boy and now I’m immortal! Yay!”

jenna marbles gif

And there you have it, the best and the worst of the most popular YA trends of the last decade. I hope you all feel a little more intellectular now than you were before you clicked on my blog.

And now, my lovelies, it’s time for us to part ways. I’ve loved every minute of boring you to death with my ranting and raving, and ridiculously biased opinions, but alas, now we must say goodbye.

I hope you all have an incredible Christmas (if you celebrate it) and an awesome New Year. Maybe we’ll meet again in the 2015, but now, for the last time…

Laura, out.

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The List Of The Dead

Do you sometimes have trouble telling the difference between fictional worlds and real life? Do you ever panic that you might be in love with a fictional character? Have you ever read Harry Potter and gone outside, picked up a twig, and tried to Avada Kedavra the next-door neighbour? Have you ever read Skulduggery Pleasant and sat on your bed, clicking your fingers, waiting for a flame to appear?

If you’re shaking your head to each of these things then you’re lying and you need to stop.

If you’re admitting to each or any of these things, then you’re either crazy or a fangirl/boy. Yay!

Although seriously, go see a doctor. Seeing Albus Dumbledore at the foot of your bed isn’t normal. Trying to overthrow your government under the alias Katniss Everdeen isn’t normal. Planning your future wedding to Dexter Vex isn’t normal. You’re going to end up in that asylum ran by Jessica Lange, okay? You’re certifiably crazy. You’re one fruit loop shy of a full bowl. You’re one taco short of a combination plate. You’re a few fries short of a happy meal. The wheel is spinning but the hamster is dead. Seriously, the receiver is off the hook, go check into a mental hospital.

Weirdo.

(WARNING: THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS BLOG POST ARE PURELY FOR ENTERTAINMENT PURPOSES ONLY AND MAY NOT REFLECT THE TRUE OPINIONS OF THE WRITER. IF YOU TAKE ANY OF THIS STUFF SERIOUSLY, YOU’RE PROBABLY A BIT STUPID, AND I WILL MOCK YOU FROM AFAR. AFAR, I SAY.)

danisnotonfire

And I mean it, before you all start throwing virtual cabbages at me, I’m making fun of myself as much as I’m making fun of all of you. I’m crazy too, believe it or not. I’ve gone to bed, turned off all the lights, stared into the darkness and planned out my entire wedding with Billy-Ray Sanguine, and how to stop his lack of eyeballs from unnerving the guests. I’ve sat in my room and come up with my own master plan of how to kill Voldemort without taking seven years to get to the good bit. I’ve drawn up pro’s and con’s lists of both Peeta and Gale in case I one day have to pick which one of them I want to start a fatalistic relationship with.

It’s not easy being this insane, it’s really not.

joker

But I think the one thing that we, as a collective of fangirls and fanboys, struggle with the most is when our favourite character dies.

It’s a sad truth, but when we lose our favourite characters, we actually feel it. We actually mourn for them. We cry, and slam the book shut, and throw it across the room. However you react, there is always some kind of emotional trigger, be it sadness, anger, hurt, betrayal, fear, or shock, when our favourite characters die, they take a part of us with them.

(Definitely isn’t the intensely crazy part, that’s for sure.)

There’s actually a term for feeling a legitimate emotional attachment to a fictional character (Oooh, the science bit!) and it’s called Parasocial Relationships. Basically, this is where one party (that’s you) forms a strong bond (gets feels for) another unresponsive party (the fictional character) who will never be able to return your feelings (love) because they do not exist.

People have been trapped in parasocial relationships since the dawn of time and the Greeks used to believe they were actually in love with the ancient (fictional) Greek Gods. Of course, you can have a parasocial relationship with a real person (why won’t you notice me, Tom Hiddleston?!) but it’s most commonly noticed (and made fun of) in cases where people become infatuated with a fictional person.

As much as it’s completely fascinating, it’s also pretty scary. Like, would I cry as much over my best friend’s death as I did when Dobby died? I would like to think so, but who knows?

And in the spirit of talking about traumatic fictional deaths, in this week’s blog post I am going to do a masterpost of all the most traumatic YA book deaths in the last decade (or so).

Get a box of tissues and some cookie dough ice-cream. You’re going to need it.

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In no particular order, and of course full to the brim with spoilers, here they are…

The List Of The dead:

Albus Dumbledore

dumbledore

He sacrificed himself, letting Snape kill him, so Harry could take down Voldemort once and for all. Always a hero, he made sure he died a hero too.

Cedric Diggory

cedric

He was brutally murdered by Voldemort while trying to help Harry escape his clutches. His only wish was for his body to be brought back to his parents, which Harry honoured.

Harry Potter

harry

He may not have been dead for long, but for those few pages when he really was dead, after Voldemort had used the Avada Kedavra curse on him, we were all in mourning.

Hedwig

hedwig

Probably the most needless death in the whole series, but Hedwig getting shot down by one of Voldemort’s death eaters was symbolic of Harry’s childhood dying.

Severus Snape

snape

Everything he did was to protect Harry because of the love he had for his mother, and he ended up dying at the hands of Voldemort and his snake/horcrux, Nagini.

Dobby

dobby

Dobby died trying to protect Harry Potter after Harry had specifically asked him in Chamber Of Secrets to never to try and save his life again. Dobby was killed by Bellatrix’s dagger that was meant for Harry.

Sirius Black

sirius

Sirius was killed by Bellatrix Lestrange after he came back to protect his one and only godson, Harry Potter. His life and his new-found happiness were both equally cut short.

Fred Weasley

fred

Fred was killed in the Battle Of Hogwarts, fighting against Voldemort’s Army. Reading about George crying over his dead twin brother’s body was enough to break anyone.

Primrose Evergreen

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Primrose was killed while trying to save others, when she was blown to smithereens by a bomb going off in the area. Everything Katniss did was to save her sister, and the Capitol still killed her anyway.

Finnick Odair

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On a secret mission to get inside President Snow’s mansion Finnick is eaten alive by lizard-hybrid-mutations that rip off his head and kill him instantaneously.

Rue

rue

Rue was killed in the 74th annual Hunger Games by a spear to her heart. Katniss tried to save her but it was too late, and instead buried her amongst the flowers.

Cinna

cinna

Cinna was beaten to death in front of Katniss’ eyes to punish her, and she could only watch helplessly from her launching pod. He was killed for supporting her as the Mockingjay.

Dustfinger

Dustfinger

Dustfinger gave his life over to the White Women (bringers of death, takers of life) to save Farid who he considered as the son he never had. He died and moved on to the other side.

Damon Salvatore

damon

Damon Salvatore gave his life to save Bonnie, and let himself be speared in the heart by the roots of the white ash tree. He died a slow, painful death, much to the love of his life, Elena Gilbert’s, distress.

Sherlock Holmes

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(Yes, I know this is a picture of the TV Sherlock. Sue me.)

While fighting with his arch enemy, James Moriarty, over the Reichenbach Falls, both Sherlock and James topple and fall to their doom. When Watson hears of Sherlock’s “death” (yes, I’m using quotation marks for a reason, go read the books) he is dismayed.

Wanderer

wanda

Wanderer (Wanda) realises her time is up on planet earth, and finally sees the error of her alien species’ ways. She can no longer justify living as a parasite in her host body and she tells the humans the one big secret of how to extract her. She hands herself over to them and they rid themselves of her once and for all…

Ghastly Bespoke

Ghastly

Ghastly bespoke was killed by one of his best friends, Erskine Ravel, who betrayed him and, quite literally, stabbed him in the back. Ghastly was left to bleed out and die a slow, painful death while all his friends watched on a TV screen, helpless.

Anton Shudder

Shudder

Betrayed by the same person who killed Ghastly, Anton Shudder was beheaded by the Cleavers and died side-by-side with fellow Dead Man and lifelong friend, Ghastly Bespoke.

Billy-Ray Sanguine

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Billy-Ray died protecting the love of his life, Tanith Low, who was under attack from the Black Cleaver. Even though she had no recollection of their relationship, love affair, or engagement, and even though she couldn’t remember any of their time spent together, and even though Billy-Ray knew she didn’t love him and never would, he still loved her enough to give his life for her. He was killed when the Cleaver’s scythe slit his throat. He died a hero.

Alice Edgley

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She may have only been dead for a few moments, but they were the worst few moments of Valkyrie’s, and our, lives. Valkyrie had to kill her baby sister using the totally instant and pain-free death-touch gauntlet, so she could claim the Sceptre Of The Ancients for herself and use it to kill Darquesse, and then bring baby Alice back to life with a Sunburst.

Echo-Stone Gordon Edgley

gordon

For a second time Gordon Edgley had to die, this time at the hands of Darquesse, and it was horrific. His image in the echo-stone flickers in and out of life as he says his final goodbyes to Valkyrie and disappears forever.

Stephanie Edgley

stephanie

Stephanie Edgley, once a character we all hated, used to be Valkyrie Cain’s reflection, but due to overuse became her own person and took on the roles of daughter and big sister that Valkyrie had left behind. Stephanie became a better Stephanie than Valkyrie ever was, proving herself to be strong, brave, capable and kind, and her death, where she was brutally beaten to death by Darquesse, was truly tragic.

Kenspeckle Grouse

Kenspeckle

Taking on the role of Valkyrie’s adopted grandfather, Kenspeckle was a kindly old man who loved Valkyrie and regularly put Skulduggery in his place. He was a science-magic genius who was brought to an abrupt and bloody end when his Remnant-possessed assistant, Clarabelle, sliced him up into little pieces.

Thrasher

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It was a death that only lasted for a few minutes, abruptly ending when Scapegrace pulled the giant sword out of Thrasher’s head and he sprang back to life, but during those sad few moments as Scapegrace was saying his final goodbyes, there were definitely tears in a few people’s eyes…

Melissa and Desmond Edgley

[NO PICTURE FOUND]

Again, another one of those “blink and you’ll miss it deaths”, Melissa and Desmond were only temporarily dead after Darquesse made them disappear into thin air, but when they died, we all really felt it along with Valkyrie.

Skulduggery Pleasant

skulduggery

And lastly, and I have saved the best for last (how could I resist?), we have Skulduggery Pleasant. Again, he’s not really dead, not at all, but you don’t realise that until the final few pages of the last book. As far as the reader is concerned, Skulduggery has walked straight to his death in order to save the world, and to save his Valkyrie Cain. For that brief moment, when we all thought he was dead, that was probably one of the most shell-shocking, heart-wrenching, soul-crushing moments of the whole series for a lot of us, and a large percentage of his readers won’t be forgiving Mr Landy any time soon.

I, certainly, will be having words.

And there you have it. Some of the most traumatic/memorable deaths from the most popular YA books in the last decade.

I’m not even going to end this blog post on a joke, because I’m actually quite sad now.

Laura, out.

Bad Good Guys

Last week I began my blog post by reciting an age-old quote from the bible. For those of you who don’t remember, this was it:

‘A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the God of Writing said “there shall be character arcs!” and thus character growth and development was born, turning those drab two dimensional characters into something three-dimensional and fabulous.’

#TrueStory #TotallyLegit

This week I would like to start my tenth blog post with another well know passage from this bestselling book…

Ahem.

‘The God of Writing also said unto them, the lowly creative writing students, “that when you create character arcs, you can also write them in reverse, instead of having villains turn into heroes, you can have heroes turn into villains”, because nothing more pleases the masochistic human brain than watching a nice guy turn into a complete knob.’

You probably shouldn’t try looking either of those quotes up. They occur somewhere towards the back. You should probably just take my word for it.

But I digress. The point I was trying to make was that for all the bad guys out there turning into good guys, there are an equal amount of good guys turning into bad guys. And here comes the science bit! Again!

(Let the HUGE spoilers begin…)

There are two types of hero-to-villain character arcs:

#1 — The Born-Again Villain:

This is your character who was a classic hero all along who, either by their own devices or through no fault of their own, becomes the villain of the story.

Example: Valkyrie Cain becoming Darquesse — Valkyrie was the lead protagonist through the first eight Skulduggery Pleasant books, and then in the final book, through no fault (well, a little bit of fault) of her own, she become the evil Darquesse, hell-bent on destroying the world.

darquesse

#2 — The Undercover Villain:

This is when the character was really a villain all along, but they were undercover as a hero. They usually aren’t outed as the bad guy until the last moment, and 90% of the time the audience won’t know this secret, so it’ll make a good plot twist.

Example: Saruman The White — He’d secretly turned to the dark side but he led Gandalf to believe he was good until he outed himself later on as a baddie.

gandalf

Whether the character has a type one or type two arc, we the audience (because we readers can truly appreciate good writing, plot twists, and character development…!) will start salivating with delight when we see goodies go bad. Whether it’s Professor Quirrell ripping off his turban and revealing Voldemort glued to the back of his head, or it’s Skulduggery Pleasant revealing that he used to be the infamous Lord Vile, we love a good hero to villain story.

And here, in traditional Olympic Medallist style, are my top three good guys gone bad. Prepare for AWESOMENESS.

Ahem.

BRONZE MEDAL: PETER PETTIGREW (The Undercover Villain) — THE HARRY POTTER SERIES, WRITTEN BY J.K.ROWLING:

pettigrew

Peter Pettigrew, born a wizard to Mr and Mrs Pettigrew, he started attending Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft and Wizardry at the age of eleven where he was sorted into Gryffindor. He met Lily and James and they became friends. Later on, he and his good buddies James Potter, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin created the Marauders Map.

After Hogwarts, Pettigrew joined the Order Of The Phoenix, but became a double agent when he joined Voldemort’s army as a Death Eater. He betrayed James and Lily, handing them over to Voldemort to be killed. He then faked his own death and framed Sirius for they betrayal.

Using his animagus powers to hide away as a rat that ends up being adopted by the Weasley family, he spends the next twelve years as Ron’s favourite pet, Scabbers.

Of course, the audience doesn’t find out any of this until the third book, The Prisoner Of Azkaban, where the truth all comes out. Scabbers turns back into Pettigrew, and Sirius’ name is cleared (well, only to Harry and Co.), and we learn that Pettigrew was really a bad guy all along.

So why does this work? Because it’s a plot twist none of us saw coming. We were all so fixated with the idea that Sirius was the villain that we could never even begin to entertain the idea that someone else could have done it.

Pettigrew manages to escape and he becomes a recurring villain through the series (who eventually gets his well-deserved comeuppance), and we have a brand new hero, Sirius Black, to fall in love with. Everyone’s a winner!

SILVER MEDAL: PEETA MELLARK (The Born-Again Villain) — THE HUNGER GAMES SERIES, WRITTEN BY SUZANNE COLLINS:

peeta

Poor Peeta Mellark. He was just a simple baker’s boy from district twelve who minded his own business, crushed on a girl way out of his league from afar, and who couldn’t hurt a fly.

And then that all changed. After surviving the Hunger Games twice — yes, twice — he was captured by the evil Capitol, forced to become President Snow’s own personal propaganda puppet, and was eventually tortured into complete madness.

All through this he remained a hero. He didn’t give in. The games didn’t turn him into a murderer. The torture didn’t turn him into a traitor. No matter what they did to him, he persisted as a protagonist.

And then they brainwashed him. Yep, poor Peeta gets brainwashed into hating/fearing the one person he loves most in the world — Katniss Everdeen. When they’re finally reunited, she goes running to him for a hug, and he runs to her for what she thinks is a hug… and then he tries to kill her.

He spends a large portion of the last book trying to kill Katniss, and as we’ve learned before, if you’re trying to kill the main character, you’re probably the bad guy.

Why does it work? Because it was unexpected. Because we readers were foolish enough to believe that Katniss was finally going to be happy for a moment, and this is our punishment for being so stupid.

Stupid us.

And lastly we’ve come to our gold medallist (and my personal favourite)…

GOLD MEDAL: TANITH LOW (The Born-Again Villain) — THE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES, WRITTEN BY DEREK LANDY:

tanithaw

Ha ha ha. Anyone else remember that time Derek Landy took one of our favourite characters, a perfect heroine, a strong, funny, brave, intelligent character, one half of our Ghastly/Tanith OTP (one true pairing) and destroyed her? Ha ha. Anyone remember that? Ha. That was so funny. Good times. Good times…

Except it wasn’t good. Because he took Tanith Low, tore her from her friends, ruined her relationship with Ghastly before it even began, stamped all over our hearts, tore our souls in two, and stuck an evil Remnant inside her body that would possess her forever more, and make her an evil mastermind. Anyone else remember when he did that? Yeah, me too.

And suddenly Tanith Low, one of the huge heroes from the first five books, gets transformed (against her will) into an evil super-villain in Mortal Coil. And this one hurt especially badly because it wasn’t just her life who was ruined, it was all her friends lives that were ruined too. Valkyrie lost her best friend, Skulduggery lost a valued ally, and worst of all Ghastly lost the love of his life. Tanith becomes the bad guy, assumes her new role with relish, and thus the entire Skulduggery Pleasant fandom was thrown into despair.

Why does it work? Because it was sudden. Now, as Skulduggery fans, we know better than to assume that any character is safe, but when you see a character like Tanith, who literally gets tortured in every book and comes out the other side still smelling like roses, you just don’t expect her to her get taken down properly by anything, especially not something as stupid as a pesky Remnant. Least of all do you expect someone who is pure goodness through and though like her to became the one everyone is suddenly against. It was sad, it was painful, and it was heart-breaking.

It was brilliant. And that’s why she’s won the top spot for my favourite YA hero to villain character arcs. Enough said.

If you liked this blog post then leave me a message in the comments section below. If you didn’t like it then, um, you’re really weird.

Bye now!

Seriously though, no one was even a little suspicious of Ron’s pet rat lasting for twelve years? Isn’t an average rat’s lifespan four years? What were the Weasley’s thinking??

plot twist

Laura, out!

Good Bad Guys

‘A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the God of Writing said “there shall be character arcs!” and thus character growth and development was born, turning those drab two dimensional characters into something three-dimensional and fabulous.’

I’m pretty sure that’s a direct quote from, like, the Bible, or something,

A lot of people hear the phrase “character arc” and they go, “That means how the character changes right?” Well yes, but there’s a little more to it than that.

(And here comes the science bit! Don’t worry it’s really short!)

A character arc is the status of a character’s personal development as they continue through their journey in the story. Some people confuse character arcs with the 12 step hero’s journey — however, the hero’s journey is the arc of the storyline, not the actual character. What needs to be remembered is that to create a good arc you don’t need a rags to riches character who has an epiphany halfway through the book. The arc we’re talking about here is about actual changes happening within the character that change them as a person.

The important thing to remember is that if you’ve got your arc right, your character should be able to carry the story, rather than letting the storyline drag them along. Good character arcs make your storylines character-driven! And that’s what you want.

Now if you Google “character arc” you’re going to get a bunch of images come up like this:

character arc

But this isn’t always necessarily the case. It’s not wrong, not by any stretch, but it’s not the only kind of character arc out there. In fact there are three defining arcs…

#1 The Change Arc — This is a good old-fashioned hero’s journey. You’ll see an unlikely protagonist turn from zero to hero using some kind of inner strength that was within him all along. Example: Harry Potter — a scared, lonely little boy who lives in a cupboard under the stairs, steps up to the plate and kills the world’s most dangerous dark wizard.

#2 The Growth Arc — The protagonist has to overcome an internal opposition (weakness, fear, etc.), while facing an external opposition (villain, difficult task, etc.) and by doing this they usually become a better, more well-rounded person. Example: Batman — he overcomes his fear of bats and uses his one weakness to drive himself to become Batman, the saviour of Gotham City.

#3 The Fall Arc — The protagonist manages to doom himself — and/or others — to a horrible fate/untimely death. Example: the really terrible captain from Titanic. He sunk a whole ship. Do I really need to explain any more than that?

(And what do you mean, “Titanic really happened?” Whu?)

But what is it about a good character arc that makes them so delicious? As human beings, we actually get pleasure from seeing people change and improve. We get enjoyment from watching someone (even if they’re entirely fictional) become a better people. Likewise, we get the same kind of pleasure from watching it happen completely in reverse, seeing a character spiral into despair and become the bad guy (because we’re all giant masochists at heart…! Yay!) because we, the human race, are the height of hypocrisy. And if you don’t think that makes any sense, then imagine how I’m feeling. I just had to write all of that…

But anyway, that is the science part of this evening’s entertainment out of the way. Now onto the fun bit!

We are back in full Olympic Medallist swing, ladies and gents, because tonight I am counting down my top three Villain to Hero character arcs, and it’s going to be awesome.

Am I building this up too much? Probably.

LET’S DO THIS!

(This blog post is rated ‘Mother Of God!’ for spoilers. You have been warned.)

BRONZE MEDAL: DAMON SALVATORE (growth arc) — THE VAMPIRE DIARIES SERIES, WRITTEN BY L.J.SMITH:

damon

He’s got it all, hasn’t he? Strong jawline, high cheekbones, those smouldering blue eyes and that crooked little grin…

What was I saying…? Oh yeah, he’s gorgeous. Typical bad-boy gorgeous. Like, do you have any idea how hard it was not to use a picture of him topless? The struggle is real.

But gorgeousness aside, the point I’m trying (and failing) to make is that he looks like a villain. He’s not a pretty-boy with the square jaw and the big, toothy, Hollywood smile. No, you look at Damon and you go, “Ohh… he must be the sexy villain, right?”

Right. And he’s a damn good one too. Damon Salvatore enters the first TVD book as the main bad guy. He’s a 200 year old vampire, killed by his father and turned into the monster he is by his brother, Stefan, and after years of avoiding his past, he’s finally come back to their home town to wreak havoc.

He wants to kill his brother and steal his girl from him. Part of being a vampire means Damon can turn off his emotions, and after running around for two centuries without a conscience, killing people to get his own way is second nature.

But it all changes when Elena Gilbert comes onto the scene. Equally beautiful (everyone in this town is gorgeous apparently) and delightfully human, Elena becomes Damon’s moral compass. She is the only one who can talk him down. She’s the only one who can make him switch his emotions on again. She’s the only one who makes him want to be the better man, and he falls for her.

With a reason to be a good again, and with the love of his life to suddenly protect, over the course of eleven books Damon transforms from baddie to goodie (even if he is a bit of an anti-hero), putting aside his differences with Stefan, and helping Elena and Co. fight off all paranormal villains and ne’er-do-wells that are weirdly only attracted to her.

Sure he makes some slip-ups along the way. He kills a few people (a lot of people) and he accidentally sends Elena and her friends to hell and back a few times, and he also steals his brother’s girl away from him… but he’s good at heart.

And let’s face it, if Damon was all good would we even still love him as much? He said it best himself, “If you’re going to be bad, be bad with a purpose. Otherwise you’re just not worth forgiving.”

He proves his heroism right at the very end by giving his life to save Elena. There was gross sobbing all round.

SILVER MEDAL: SERVERUS SNAPE (fall arc) — THE HARRY POTTER SERIES, WRITTEN BY J.K.ROWLING:

snape

Okay, so admittedly, this picture of Snape isn’t the scariest picture I could find. There were loads of other ones, where he’s frowning, and looking all mad and broody, but the sentimental sop in me had to choose this one. Because of reasons.

And alright, before you Potterheads start throwing Order Of The Phoenix at me (because I can hear you out there rubbing your hands together, hoping for me to get this wrong), I know what you’re going to say: “Snape wasn’t really the bad guy. Snape was a good guy all along. Everything he did was to protect Harry.” Yes, I know all this, I’m a Potterhead too.

The point is, when you first start out reading the books, you don’t know Snape is a good guy. As far as you’re concerned, Snape is Harry Potter’s evil potions professor who likes scolding him in front of the class, ratting him out when he’s up to something, and giving him detention. And no one would blame you for thinking he’s the bad guy — we all did.

Throughout the first half of the series he comes across as one of those everyday villains. He’s that mean teacher we all had at school, the guy who just hated us for no reason, and although we wouldn’t wish any serious harm on the man, we’d still like to see him get his comeuppance.

And then you get to the second half of the series and you learn Snape is a Death Eater working closely with Lord Voldemort (gasp!) and you’re sitting there going, “I knew it! I KNEW IT!” and all the sudden you hate him. Because now you KNOW he’s a proper bad guy, his villain status granted the moment he kills Dumbledore.

It’s not till right at the very end that you discover he was a good guy all along, and the guilt you feel for hating him for all those years is almost unbearable. You find out that he was desperately in love with Lily Potter, and everything he did was to protect Harry, and that Dumbledore asked Snape to kill him all as part of their plan to take Voldemort down.

And you don’t find any of this out until after he’s dead and you’re already sending yourself on the guilt trip from hell for hating him for the last seven years.

Read Harry Potter, they said. It’ll be FUN, they said.

And finally…

GOLD MEDAL: BILLY-RAY SANGUINE (change arc) — THE SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT SERIES, WRITTEN BY DEREK LANDY:

billy ray

Okay, so first off he just looks like a bad guy. He’s got the cool shades, the expensive suit, and the sly little grin. This man practically oozes I’m-Up-To-No-Good-Ness and it’s beautiful.

Billy-Ray Sanguine, a self-professed psychopath and evil sorcerer from the heart of Texas, is a recurring villain throughout the Skulduggery Pleasant series. Originally only meant to appear in the second instalment, Playing With Fire, Sanguine is living proof that some characters really do live beyond the pages of their books.

But why is he such a baddie, Laura? What’s he done that’s so evil? Well now, where do I begin…?

  • He’s a hitman deluxe who kills people for fun as well as the money.
  • He used to be a detective but gave up when he kept killing his clients out of boredom.
  • He’s tried to kill Skulduggery and Co. more times than I can count on both hands.
  • He kidnapped Valkyrie (well, someone had to…)
  • He worked under notorious evil sorcerer, Baron Vengeous, for a large portion of Playing With Fire.
  • He released Springheeled Jack from prison.
  • He helped bring the Grotesquery to life.
  • He’s partly responsible for bring the Faceless Ones back.
  • Worked for the evil group, The Diablerie, for most of The Faceless Ones.
  • He once punched Valkyrie so hard he broke one of her teeth.
  • He helped his father, Dreylan Scarab, try to blow up Croke Park with 80,000 people inside it.
  • He worked as part of the Revengers Club (still laughing about it, even now) for most of Dark Days.
  • He started dating (and eventually got engaged to) Tanith Low when she became possessed by a remnant, taking her away from Ghastly and ruining hundreds of OTPs (One True Pairings) everywhere.
  • He went on a scavenger hunt/killing rampage set up Tanith (still possessed) to find all the God-Killer weapons and destroy them.
  • And plenty more…

And after all that he’s still my favourite character.

But then it all begins to change when he starts to actually fall in love with Tanith. It’s on the scavenger hunt for the God-Killers that he realises he can’t go through with it. As much as he wants to please Tanith, and as much as every instinct in his body is telling him to do the wrong thing, he just can’t justify getting rid of the only instruments on earth that are able to kill the soon-to-be-at-large, all-powerful, totally evil, Darquesse. He put it best himself when he said, “There wasn’t a lot of point in helping someone you love bring about the end of the world, if the end of the world meant you couldn’t be with the one you love.”

It’s not until the final book, when it’s crunch time, that Billy-Ray finally crosses into the hero threshold for good, and gives his life to save Tanith, the woman he loves, even though he knows she never loved him, and never would.

Billy Ray died a hero.

A lot of tears were shed that day.

Ahem.

And there you have it. My top three Villain to Hero character arcs, each of them stretching over the three different types of arcs (because variety is nice), covering growth, change, and tragically, the fall.

If you had as much fun reading this blog post as I did writing it then leave me a message in the comments section below telling me what you thought. But it’s goodbye for now. So… uh… bye!

Seriously though, Snape couldn’t be a little nicer to Harry while he was at Hogwarts? It’s not Harry’s fault his mum didn’t want to pork him.

funny snape

Laura, out!