What are disposables? They are temporary characters that bear enough description to give the reader an easy impression and imagination as to exactly what they are and how they look. But then it gets killed, removed, or destroyed at a moment’s notice. As expected.
Why? Since you’ll be destroying them, it is somewhat silly to give them an overabundance of detail, as it would waste your time and the readers’. I mean, if you described every single participant in an army, that would probably be an encyclopedia by itself. And then, of course, there’s the task of remembering exactly who is what and where.
At the same time, too, we don’t want to leave the reader with too little detail. For example, your character suddenly encounters a dark whatchabogga in the wilderness, and after stabbing it, it dies, but he is hurt as well.
… wait, what’s a whatchabogga? What’s it doing in the wilderness? Is it some kind of creature? And where did it get stabbed? Does it have the same anatomy as a human? And how did it die in a way that it hurt you? Did it just flop down dead on your head? Did it explode? Or did it hurt you before it died? How did it hurt? Did it stab? Does it have horns? I’M SO CONFUSED!
Yeah, you get the idea.
Stereotypes are good examples of disposables. I mention a Runescape street guard, and you think about those poor gentlemen standing around in cheap armor, getting their pockets picked and their heads removed for the sake of momentary entertainment. They try to keep the order, but they move as though they’re fighting you underwater while you drive your sword in with three stabs to the chest, a beheading, and finally a vertical cleave down the middle to ensure they are really dead. And then you scoff at his antique crossbow that he drops, which you leave over a bundle of grapes.
The reason you need to incorporate these sorts of characters is because a story or role-play gets much more intense with death and variety. Having the same character fight the same villain over and over again gets really boring and predictable after a while. Don’t believe me? Watch about every single episode of some kids’ action show all in a row which features the same villain. The old Sonic the Hedgehog series (*cringe*) is a good (almost too good …) example.
Let’s start off with the most basic and fun-to-kill disposables: minions.
MINIONS AND HOW THEY OPERATE
Minions are characters that you can kill a lot of and feel good about it. They all look very identical, and feature usually the same traits unless specified otherwise. But even if that’s the case, there is still a distinct similarity among them, like species, clothing, or accessories. Commonplace favourites include robots, aliens, and the undead, due to the fact that there can always believably be a lot of them and they are usually mass-produced.
Usually when you describe minions, you use very general terms. For example, your minions wear very spiky metal armor. It’s not really all that defined, as you can probably imagine many different kinds of “spiky metal armor”, but at the same time, there are also many different minions. The reader can just throw spiky metal armor into the crowd in every direction and organize them for themselves without much effort on their, nor your part. And boom, you have a diverse army without even trying. Brilliant, eh?
Minions are all usually considerably weak compared to your more detailed characters when it comes to ability. Not just fighting, but other things like physical fitness, reaction, and even dressing up. In a nutshell, they are practically guys that saw your character doing what he’s good at and decided that they would like to try to beat him using nothing but natural intuition (which they’re also not very good at).
In the Runescape world, goblins are good examples. There’s a bunch of them, they’re low level, they all look very similar, they are easy to defeat, and they drop some so-and-so loot.
Of course, minions could also be stronger than your character, to which they must use a more tactical approach to defeating. For example, your character is a dwarf sneaking around a bunch of ogres. In a fight, the ogres would obviously win, so your character must instead avoid conflict and bypass them. Not only is this sort of story not unheard of, but it’s the very epitome of tension. You may find you’ll want to create some overpowered minions for your characters to figure out ways to take them down.
Minions should be very general and specific looking, as well as easily relatable. If they are going to be some kind of alien or mythical creature, you’ll want to describe one, give it a general sort of name, and then you can multiply them to whichever extent you want.
For example, a Matrayn is a green, transparent being that looks like a large orb with two red spikes coming from the top and bottom poles. Protruding from these spikes are large, half-circle fins arcing away from the main sphere.
My character encounters 4 Matrayn, standing in a line guarding the exit door. He stabs one in the centre of the orb, but it passes through. A second one dives at him, and he is forced to leap to the side to dodge. In comes a third, who turns over and spins its fins around like a sawblade, threatening to saw him in half. He whips his sword down and slams it into the fins, and they break off with such force that the orb shattered. Relieved, he jumps the second one and ducks the fourth one, sprints for the exit door, and jabs the first one in the upper fin. Like its counterpart, it too explodes, and the two remaining Matrayn flee in terror.
See, I only described one, and yet you’re imagining a fight with 4 of them. Clever, isn’t it?
Lastly, you don’t only need 1 type of minion. You can have as many as a hundred different types, all each in their own vast army, charging towards the centre of this incredibly large battlefield, each in their own faction and side, taking on everything that doesn’t resemble themselves! EPIC 100-WAY BATTLE!
And stick your most powerful character in the middle of it all. Now THAT would be fun to imagine. 1 VS 100 armies.
Oh, and one quick tip. If you want a “unique” minion, give him an interesting descriptive trait a few sentences before he dies. This way, the reader can momentarily imagine, and then forget it, switching immediately back to the default either by instinct or the prompt of a keyword like “normal” or “ordinary”.
Example: Before he is able to escape, suddenly two more Matrayn confronts him. Unlike the others, these ones were nearly twice as big and boasted a dark red color. With a smile, he jumps the first one as it dives fin-first, slammed the blade to shatter the second one, and twirled the blade around to finish off the first. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw 6 more normal Matrayn pour out of the cave, and he bolted out of sight.
Time to create your very own minions! Create them like you would create your own character (bring up and review part 2 if you need help).
Except I want you to create a character IN LESS THAN 30 SECONDS!
Ready? No? Good. GO!
How was that? I imagine you only really got a species, general looks, and maybe some simple clothing concepts without accessories.
Sounds like a good minion to me. Throw in a few general descriptions (like the general size, color, and types of clothes rather than the details) and you have it! Not very difficult at all.
If you want, create a few more. Practice a little, and you’ll soon find that you can almost dream these guys up on a whim. And drawing them is easy, since they don’t have any surefire form, you can draw as general and simple as you want.
Lastly, duplicate them tenfold, throw your hero into the fray, and just sit back and watch the fireworks as your hero takes on all ten at once with ease. Delicious fun.
Villains! What are they good for? Dying in an incredibly epic fashion, of course! This sonofagun jeopardized our hero’s vision of a good life, caused misery to everybody who just want a good life, and probably killed somebody’s parents on more than one occasion. They’re those guys that take great pleasure in pain, so long as it’s somebody else having to endure it. They’re dastardly, they’re cunning, they’re demented, but most of the time, they’re just plain annoying, and it comes with great satisfaction to see them meet their demise after the end of it all.
Villains come in many different variations:
There’s the “Lingering Villain”, who despite causing an aggravatingly immense amount of trouble, is a coward at heart, and always has an escape plan for when the hero bypasses all his defences and delivers the satisfying punch to the craw. Sure, he gets away, and starts doing it again, but watching him get punched at many different angles and during different periods of time is usually always worth it if it’s done in a worthy enough manner.
There’s the ever-so-popular “One-timer Villain” that appears out of nowhere in a story (or has always been there to begin), does his evil attempts in either conquering the world or maintaining the world he’s already conquered, and he makes the hero miserable by taking out (or attempting to take out) anything he holds dear to himself. Once the hero confronts him, either the villain or the hero dies. Or the hero dies, and the villain is rendered incapable at doing what he’s so good at for the rest of his now-miserable life. Either way, once the hero rests, the villain is no more.
There are the “Elite Minions”. These are your army generals or elite warriors who take orders from the big cheese and charge into the fray along with the regular minions. These guys not only die, but sometimes even get converted to the hero’s side, since they’re mostly in it for the money and may still boast a sense of morality. It takes the hero a considerably longer time to kill these guys compared to the regular minions, but doing so usually involves your hero getting exhausted at the end overtop anything else. Maybe an elite will wound, or kill a few minor allies, or even cripple your hero, but they are never the end unless they suddenly come out of nowhere after the hero finishes off the villain. Still, they will be the first to die or convert before the hero does. That’s a promise.
And then comes the “Unexpected Villains”. A mastermind behind the scenes, manipulating a pawn that only appears to be the main villain, but much later in the story, subliminal references will suddenly make the hero look behind the shoulder of the main baddie after he’s down and bruised, and then he will see this new, even more powerful, nearly impossible to kill “final boss”. Sometimes, he makes you go “And who the @#$! is THAT?!?”, sometimes you’ll say “Hah! I knew it! It HAD to have been him!”, but my favourite is when the mastermind appears and you can’t help but think, “WHAT?!? HOW COULD HE-?!? Aw, no way! How did I not see that coming?”, where the most unexpected character to be the mastermind suddenly turns out to be the guy pulling the strings. Maybe it’s the hero’s sidekick. Maybe even the hero’s best friend. Or even the hero’s parents. Yes, it usually does it if the hero knows the character well. Otherwise, maybe it’s the helpless character the hero is charged with protecting all this time. Wouldn’t that be a twist?
Let’s look at a few Runescape villains as examples.
Sigmund from the Death to the Dorgeshuun series is a good example of the lingering villain, where every time you “almost” kill him, it turns out he’s got a ring of life on. This happens several times before a final showdown, in which … oh, I’ll let you find out yourself. Another lingering villain would be, of course, our all-time-favourite King Black Dragon. You kill him, but you know he’s not really dead, and after a minute, you’re at it again with the “one and only”.
A one-timer villain … there’s a ton of them in Runescape. You do the Demon Slayer quest, you have to get silverlight to take on this summoned demon from the netherworld, or else he will destroy Varrock. I won’t go into the details, but Varrock is still standing, I’ve got a shiny new sword, and Gypsy Aris is sleeping well without need to worry about the name again. Zing! You do the Wanted quest, you take on this crazy-powerful mage named Solus. In the end, … he dies. Zing! Dragon slayer. Our villain is the dragon. Quest name says it all. Zing! I could go on, but … OK, one more. Legends Quest. Nezichened. Zing!
As for the unexpected … it’s really hard to label a few without spoiling a few quests for all you potential questers. If you don’t like spoilers, then skip to the next paragraph right now. If you are alright with spoilers, then I think a simple enough everybody-knows-it-already unexpected villain would be King Lathas from Ardougne. After doing the fourth quest in the Plague City series, you were working for the good king for a while, but right after you complete his objective and destroy his “evil brother”, you get a bit of help from a renegade elf right before entering the castle, and suddenly it turns out Lathas was the Zamorakian villain all along. Of course, we haven’t done much about him yet, but there are still quests branching off from the series in which you side with the real good guys.
Creating a villain is super-easy. Just create a character like you normally would. Before you give him a personality, do a little research on the Seven Deadly sins. Then bag a few, apply a bicycle pump, and jam them down your character’s throat. Boom. Doesn’t need a motive, just needs a sword and a thirst for innocent blood and wealth.
That, and awesome looks. The more awesome the villain looks compared to the hero, the better for your story. Why? … well, I suppose because your hero gets his clothes after he dies and uses them as a trophy.
Just kidding. The reason why you want your villain to look better is almost to subliminally show that the villain is more capable than the hero, giving them more of a challenge. Usually it’s the smaller, subliminal details that really get a reader into a story, not the characters themselves. A story has a lot more depth is the characters throw in some (keyword: “some”) backstory and current-events before continuing with the plot.
So. How do you kill them?
Just about any way imaginable. A popular favourite is by some ironic method where the villains practically dig their own grave. For example, a demon creates a volcano to engulf a great city, and the hero pushes him into the lava, where he melts. Or a demented CEO who falls off his own corporate skyscraper. Or an insane archer shoots an arrow, the hero makes it bounce somehow, and the arrow strikes the archer instead.
Of course, villains dying to the heroes’ weapon of choice is one of the better ways vengeance is achieved. A hero gets his father’s sword from his own dying grasp, and impales his murderer with it. Classic. Or, we can have a villain suddenly dying to the guy the hero lost “to the dark side”
Up until now, you’ve been creating characters without any real faction. Not just that, but I’m only starting to introduce new kinds of characters under the disposables section of my guide. Why am I doing this, you are asking.
Reason being is that these character types mostly fall under disposables, as they are not really “permanent characters”. Since there’s only really one type of non-disposable (unless you really want a repetitive enemy and unkillable minions), I figured I might as well kill two birds with one stone here.
With that out of the way, let’s create a villain. Create one like you would any other character, except make him a tad darker and more evil.
Give him a motive. A long-term desire that he’ll go to no end achieving. Can be something simple and easy, like taking over the world, or something more diverse, like getting and maintaining the highest possible company income record the world has ever seen. Murder, brainwashing, making certain individuals “vanish” … yes, create a few allied disposables too and let your villain off them in some way.
After your villain delves into your mind nicely enough, throw your hero into the scene somehow, and kill it in the most creative way possible. An epic sword combo, launching it off a cliff, getting it crushed under a building or rock, etc. Don’t even write it down, just imagine it.
Lastly, repeat until you just love how epic your hero is. That’s the beauty of villains, is that you can get incredibly creative with them, and it will make your hero almost have to use his abilities tactically.
Ah yes. The time has come to kill off a good guy, and a very well-developed, favourite, and familiar character. Why? Emotion, my good friend. A death is felt as much as the character is known and loved. A very effective story will tug at the emotional strings of any reader, bringing tears to their eyes with mere words and thought. The ultimate in thought-manipulation.
Right about now, I imagine you must have a favourite “hero” of some kind; a character that you like so much that you don’t want him killed. If not, that just makes the later exercise a lot easier.
Why kill heroes? Resolve. The bad guys are definitely not to be messed with if they can off some of the guys on the heroes’ side. The surviving heroes get fuelled by vengeance and resolve, hoping to take out the enemy before any more of them die. See, a bad guy can do any number of awful deeds, and the hero will have them put away for that. That’s a children’s cartoon right there. However, have a hero die by their hand, and IT’S ON NOW! No more shaking fingers. There will be throats torn out, and there will blood all over their nice new uniforms.
Try the While Guthix Sleeps quest in Runescape. There is a really good example of this midway if you really like to get into the quests beforehand. Otherwise, play through the Death to the Dorgeshuun series. Again, I really hate to spoil things, so I’ll let you do it yourselves. In this scenario, it’s actually prudent that you DO do the quests, because the effect wouldn’t be there if you used walkthroughs and guides.
The fun part about killing heroes is that you get to make it as dramatic, noble, and epic as possible. Here’s a few examples as to how it can go:
Firstly, the “Immunity Shot”. Once a hero gets shot in the chest, he is pretty much granted half a minute of immunity to anything else before he dies, as well as time slowing down to a crawl for him, in which he’s going to use it to the best extent as he possibly can. He will suddenly lose all aspect of human clumsiness and score every hit perfectly, as though he’s suddenly a grand master on the spot. And then just as he falls, he throws the sword for one final, awesome kill before eternal slumber.
Actually sounds pretty neat, once you think about it. Give it a try. Just create a character and a bunch of disposables, have your character shot in the gut, and then enter “30-second epic mode”. What can he do if he’s practically in bullet-time with all his movements perfectly pulled off without the merest of thought?
Another example is the ever famous martyrdom, or as I like to call it, “Going Out With A Bang”. A hero is fallen, but not quite dead, but there’s no hope for him. So how to spend his last few minutes? As a human proximity bomb, of course! Pack the poor sap with as much grenades and C4 as possible, give him a remote and salute, and get the $%^@ outta there while making as much noise as possible to lure all the enemies over! The entire army coincidentally get really close and surround our fallen hero, asking for “any last words”, and he says, “Just one. Kaboom.”
And cue impossibly large explosion scene.
Lastly, the “Zombie Drive”. A hero’s got only a few minutes to live, and he’s the only one who knows something or is capable of something. He gets on his feet using will alone (and his limbs, duh), and he stumbles like a lifeless husk, completely disregarding everything that happens around him, bent on one final goal in which will alone will completely force his body to achieve. Sometimes he takes an important enemy with him, like one he directly had a vengeance against. Sometimes he has to get behind the safe line and use his last breath to relay an incredibly important piece of information that only he knows. Or maybe he’s wearing his body-weight in explosives and he stumbled himself to launch his body off the catwalk into the reactor core below.
I find they’re the best deaths if there is no body left for them to bury. Explosions are really good at taking care of that.
FALLING HEROES EXERCISE
Create a character who is related to your hero, if you have one. Give them a bit of a history together. Maybe they’re siblings, maybe they’re coworkers, or maybe one of them saved the life of the other.
Now kill him. I don’t care how, just kill him. Heart attack, suicide, killed taking down a 10 000 man militia solo, whatever. No need to get dramatic, no need to have your hero freak out, just get this character killed and have the hero go “oh well”.
Feels a little strange, doesn’t it, killing off a good guy. Or if you like the bad guys, the bad guy. OK, it feels strange killing a guy that you’ve started to actually like. You’ll find that the more you develop your character, the more … painful it is to make him die in a story or round robin.
Create another “related” character and actually put him through almost an entire chain of events with your hero. Take about half an hour just imagine all the “wonderful times they had together”. Make them totally inseparable.
Now kill this character by means of sacrifice. He sacrifices his life to save your hero, and you know he’s about to die, but he is not yet done fighting. Perhaps he gets shot while trying to escape a building about to explode, and as it turns out, the bomb switches to manual detonation, in which he will struggle to get to while the hero escapes and blow himself up to “save the world”.
It’s not just the history, but also the manner in which they die. Getting blown up and having the hero cry over them is not quite as effective as them going through a last stand, using their last breath to move their arm and squeeze their trigger finger one last time WHILE the hero cries over them.
Lastly, create another character, give him some history, and then put him through the three epic methods I listed above, helping the hero get through some incredibly tough scenarios.
It would be good for you to practice this a bit, as at first, it’s difficult to kill your characters at first attempt. Either it gets rushed, or there’s too much dying and not enough death. Just like jumping off a 5-meter diving board. Either you back away, too afraid, or you do it with your eyes closed. Just do it a few times, and you’ll get into it.
And then you can show off to all your friends.
Stay tuned to part 4 – Worlds and Environments