Watery Villain: Vodnik Chapter Nineteen

(For those of you who haven’t been following these commentaries, just be aware that they’re all about me discussing how I wrote my book, and they’re chock full of spoilers. Just giving all y’all fair warning and all that. Okay? Okay.)

So. We finally get to the Vodnik in full-on Vodnik mode. Only eighteen other chapters to get here. (This probably makes it clear why it was so important to introduce hints of the character earlier–even going so far as to write him “in disguise” in some spots. When the main villain doesn’t really do much until the book’s half over (as was the case in the original draft of Vodnik), you’ve got yourself a problem, author-ally speaking.)

One other issue I had to deal with was a main villain who . . . isn’t exactly all there. His well doesn’t quite meet the water table, if you know what I mean. In the first draft of the book, the Vodnik was much more evil. Sinister. More like Count Dracula.

He didn’t work at all for this book.

One of my writing teachers back in the day (Dave Wolverton/David Farland) would have us do an exercise when we were working on creating characters. We’d write out a pretend casting call sequence, where you put out a call for people to come fill the role, and different actors show up. He’d challenge us to find and select actors you wouldn’t normally think of us being “perfect” for that role. I loved the exercise, and I still use it sometimes. It helps you avoid getting stereotypes for characters, and you can really end up with some cool results.

I did this when I was trying to recast the Vodnik.

Woody Allen showed up to the casting call.

Not exactly Woody Allen, of course. But someone who had a very rambling way of talking, was neurotic, non-threatening (in a threatening sort of way)–he was perfect, and he was a breeze to write. (In fact, the biggest problem I’d have with him was that whenever he was in scene, he never wanted to shut up. He would just talk and talk and overexplain himself until I had to force him out somehow, then go back and trim down all his speeches.)

Then again, he also made things problematic from a plot standpoint. He’d do things that didn’t make a lot of sense at the time. He was wishy-washy, unwilling to commit to any one plan for a significant length of time. I liked this about him–not all people are great planners, after all, and it reflected Tomas’s own uncertainties very nicely.

So you have a main villain who occasionally decides to just throw caution to the wind and do his best to kill Tomas right away, and at other times, thinks it might be better to wait and kill him in a more organized fashion. The problem the Vodnik was having was that he wasn’t sure Tomas would be able to do what he wanted him to (fix Lesana) if Tomas was stored in a tea cup. But Tomas was creating enough problems for him, that at times it seemed like everything would be better if Tomas were nicely put away on a shelf.

In any case, despite the difficulties he brought with him, I’m very pleased with how the Vodnik turned out, and he’s by far one of my favorite characters that I’ve written. (So much so that I’ve thought now and then about writing a short story about what happens to the Vodnik once he makes it to the after life. Someday . . . )

Thanks for reading!

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