Behind The Monk’s Curse: Chapter Six

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

Two weeks too late! I completely missed last Wednesday (the day that this post was supposed to come out). After all, I did promise one post per week giving an insight into each chapter of The Monk’s Curse. On this note, I have two confessions to make.

Firstly, I have realised what a dismal show this topic of blog posts has put on. I promised behind the scenes and I delivered teasers. So, this week I will endeavour to correct that.

My second confession is that I am drowning under the work of being a self-published author. Not only has this kept me away from Twitter, and blogging, but it has brought all my works to a grinding halt. A book that was supposed to be published at the start of this month is get published two weeks too late. Other books that were planned for release this month will probably have to be moved on to next month. Alas, that is the price for trying to juggle so much at once.

But, onto the chapter

This is the unravelling of the tantalising plot. This is the chapter where two pivotal characters meet and where three key bits of information are passed on. Behind the scenes, this was the chapter that lulled me out of the comfort of my seat-of-the-pants writing style. That is, unlike previous chapters, I could not write this one without any planning.

Because two key characters meet here, it was especially important to decide how much to give away to the reader and to the protagonist as he continued in his search for the truth. In the end, not much was given away. What was given away was a pivotal newspaper article that only led to more intrigue. This was in itself fun to write because not only did it add another dimension and character to the story, more of which came to be elaborated on in other chapters, but because I delved into historical research for it. It took more on a journey deeper into the circumstances of the end of the Romanov Tsardom. It took me on a journey deeper into the end of the House of Medici. And, it took me further into territories of European history unchartered and clouded by the rise of the USSR and its suppression of fact through propaganda. Apart from that, another document was revealed to the protagonist. This was a brochure discussing Ottoman primogeniture. As anyone familiar with this topic know, it is a quagmire of details that are far too obscure for the lay man to understand. As such, it is not fully comprehended by the reader or the protagonist. Nevertheless, as all parts of the story do, it has its place. And that place is something that will come to rock the curse around which the book is centred.

To conclude

I hope that this blog post has been refreshing. I hope it has been so for me. From here, onward and upward. Until next week.

The Problem with Modern Villains

So this is another one of my impassioned rants. And expect another one in the next few days. So, today is my short exclamation of discontent with villains gracing the stories of the 20th and 21st centuries.

I won’t beat around the bush. First, let me list these villains to which I refer. Sauron, Torak, Voldemort, Thanos, The Night King.

As any geek, dork or nerd should know, Sauron is the overarching antagonist of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings world of Middle Earth. Of course few people have dared to criticise the great J.R.R. Tolkien. Neither shall I. Only, his villain is so problematic to the world of fantasy, at least in the legacy it has left behind. In creating Sauron, he created the archetypal ‘Dark Lord’ who has no good in him and who meets a satisfying death – one that is reflective of his power. Rather than dying as any person should, he crumbles.

If I remember correctly, so does Torak, the Dragon God of the Angaraks in David Eddings’ world of the Belgariad and Mallorean (edit: Torak does not crumble. His body remains intact. His death is also human as he realises and laments the fact that he is loved by none. His death is even mourned by the good Gods, his brothers. For all of David Eddings’ appropriation of J.R.R. Tolkien fantasy tropes, this is where he deserves applause). So does Voldemort, at least in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. So does Thanos at the end of Avengers: Endgame. So does The Night King of Game of Thrones’ Season 8.

Here is the problem. These stories have dehumanised their villains, setting the precedent for creating unrealistic stories where the villains have no humanity. This is contrary to the reality of villains, even Hitler himself. Okay, shouldn’t a fictional villain have fictional characteristics? Well of course. No one is calling for their powers to be stripped off them. And yet it remains a firm principle that fantasy worlds are inevitably based on the real world. Looking at every one of the stories above, there are all many uncanny reflections of the real world. Such are stories.

But these villains disappoint the fundamental substance of any story – that it should be relatable to its audience. Villains are made to be great. To be dark. To be powerful. And to meet deaths that are certainly not deaths that their victims would meet.

So on Voldemort, even though the movies made a royal mess of his death (books are better than their film adaptations!!), J.K. Rowling put is astutely when she gave Voldemort a human death in the books and when she said that there are no completely good and completely evil people in this world – we all have light and dark in us.

And yet the majority of stories fail to portray this. Their villains are almost godly in their evil, detached from humanity and thus unrelatable. In my opinion, as villains are mortal, they should be burdened with the same aspects of mortality that burdens protagonists. The best villain is one that the reader or watcher may slightly agree with. Black Panther did this perfectly with Killmonger. So did Avengers: Infinity War. But ultimately, Thanos was the perfect villain – so immortal that his death had to be that cliched disintegration.

So this is my issue. Villains should meet mortal deaths. And, they should at least have some good in them. Otherwise, we slip into the further problematic cliches of the fantasy world that I will speak to in a post next week. This is why, in The Monk’s Curse, I made a compelling past for my villain – one that makes a reader almost pity him even as he commits murder. As the world of fantasy parallels reality, so should its villains.

Behind The Monk’s Curse: Chapter Five

Behind the Scenes, The Monk's Curse - Prologue

In my opinion, this has to be one of the most exciting chapters in the entire novel. Of course the Prologue was exciting. As was perhaps Chapter Two – that is, in my opinion. But, like those two chapters, Chapter Five remains a firm favourite of mine, as the author.

Of course my opinion is skewed. But, unlike Chapters Three and Four, this stands with the chapters I mentioned above as one of the key chapters in the novel. As usual, I cannot say much without giving a spoiler. And, I did promise last week that the 31st of May would herald a comprehensive historical companion to The Monk’s Curse. Firstly, I shall keep my first promise – to not spoil much. Unfortunately, I cannot keep my second. Attempting to write a book encompassing all of my research is proving to be tedious. It is filled with historical detail. In any case, it will not release at the end of this month. Perhaps the end of next…

But as historical detail is important to that guide, so it is to this novel. And the detail begins to take shape in this chapter. That is what makes it so exciting. Spurred by discontent and doubt, the protagonist is led to a shocking discovery which will only lead to more shocking historical discoveries. I did promise monasteries and the like in the blurb. This comes close to that promise, but not quite. I also love this chapter because it links back to another of my favourites – the Prologue.

But, let me leave it there. To sum it all up, this chapter propels the novel in the direction it is to take more than any previous chapters. This novel introduces what will come to be the impetus for many important discoveries. This is where the history begins.

My only hope now is that I may deliver a historical companion to all of this, if not for my satisfaction, the hopefully for the readers of The Monk’s Curse.