Last week, I was honored to spotlight Charles E. Yallowitz’s newest installment in his Legends of Windemere series, and today, he has been nice enough to return with a guest post. So without any of my infernal babbling, we will get to the post.
A big thank you to Wendell for having me for a guest post so soon after being part of the promotional tour for my latest book, Tribe of the Snow Tiger. An important part of this story involves rivalries, which drive many of the events. In fact, the idea of rivalries is one of the core pieces of the overall series. With a group of heroes and a separate group of villains, it’s hard not to pair them off and have grudge matches turn up from time to time. So, what are some things to consider when using a rivalry? Keep in mind that I’m talking as a series author.
1. A rivalry requires more than one encounter or at least the mention of previous run-ins between the participants. This helps the characters to evolve through their encounters and use each other to improve. For example, Luke Callindor has an early rivalry with a demonic assassin. They have several encounters, which is what helps him evolve from the inexperienced warrior to a blossoming adventurer. If it was only one fight then it would be closer to a random encounter like you find in video games.
2. Not every encounter should be won by the hero. That makes the villain appear to be weak and that can also make the hero seem weak. On the other side of things, you can’t have the villain repeatedly win. A big reason is because that usually results in the hero dying or being horribly maimed. The trick is to have it be a victory that doesn’t end the rivalry and maybe even has both characters claim a success.
3. I might be alone on this, but a series rivalry should become personal. Maybe it starts as business or a spur of the moment encounter, but a deep rivalry goes beyond the quest and overall story. It is a key component of the characters’ evolution as they play off each other and strive to be the final winner. This could be a one-sided personal thing too. For example, a villain keeps attacking because of a previous loss while the hero is simply trying to get the quest done. One fights for wounded pride and the other fights because he/she doesn’t really have a choice unless they keep running.
4. Depending on the length of the series, you do not need a rivalry encounter in every volume. Short series can allow for this, but doing it in a long one can make the dynamic grow stale. Readers will roll their eyes at ‘another fight’ that will solve nothing other than upping the word count. The rivalry is like a delicious scoop of ice cream. Great once in a while, but many people will get sick of it if it’s always around. (Not the best analogy, but I’m hungry and ran out of ice cream.)
5. Characters need to grow and evolve from the rivalry. This is in terms of personality, physical abilities, belief systems, and whatever else gets called into question whenever the adversaries meet. There is a reason such a thing is in your story and that is to drive the characters to become stronger because of or in spite of each other. This can manifest in developing new combat moves, a change in the willingness to kill, physical scars, and any number of changes. My point is that neither character should come out of a good rivalry in the same condition as they went in.
6. Know when to stop a rivalry. Seriously, an author needs to look at every meeting and consider it is the last one. Think about how the encounter will end and if it makes sense for the characters to continue. As previously stated, you always run the risk of a rivalry getting stale. Making it feel like the fight will never end is a surefire way to do this.
7. Connecting to the previous point, the rivalry should end with some closure. Having the two battle, walk away, and never settle the dispute is only useful when you plan on them meeting up again. An ending to a rivalry is a reward for the characters, the author, and the readers.
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Charles Yallowitz was born and raised on Long Island, NY, but he has spent most of his life wandering his own imagination in a blissful haze. Occasionally, he would return from this world for the necessities such as food, showers, and Saturday morning cartoons. One day he returned from his imagination and decided he would share his stories with the world. After his wife decided that she was tired of hearing the same stories repeatedly, she convinced him that it would make more sense to follow his dream of being a fantasy author. So, locked within the house under orders to shut up and get to work, Charles brings you Legends of Windemere. He looks forward to sharing all of his stories with you, and his wife is happy he finally has someone else to play with.