Showing posts with label children's literature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label children's literature. Show all posts

Villain or Antagonist: What's the Difference?

Is a villain and an antagonist one and the same? Sometimes, and sometimes not. First stop, the dictionary definitions:

Mwa Ha Ha

A villain is: 1. a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; 2. A character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.

Second, a peek on Google by searching popular villains in children’s literature (which was wicked, good fun.) A few all-time favorites:

  • Miss Trunchbull, the headmistress of Crunchem Hall Primary School, in Roald Dahl’s book and the film, Matilda, is the tyrannical educator who terrorizes her students with creative, over-the-top punishments.
  • Cruella de Vil, originally the character from the Dodie Smith 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians, who kidnaps Dalmatian puppies for their fur.
  • Captain Hook, from J.M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan, is a “callous and bloodthirsty” pirate. Note: In Disney’s animated film Peter Pan, Hook is more comical than the original villain.

The Not-so-Dastardly Antagonist

An antagonist is: 1. A person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another; opponent, adversary; 2. The adversary of the hero or protagonist of a drama or other literary work: Iago is the antagonist of Othello. (Definitions from

And now for examples of popular antagonists in children’s literature—a little harder to find. This is where the words villain and antagonist get blurred. Examples found on Pinterest include the Evil Queen in Snow White, The Evil Step-Mother in Cinderella, The Wicked Witch of the West in the Wizard of Oz, and so on. Villains or antagonists? You decide.

Does the Difference Between a Villain and an Antagonist Even Matter?
Summed up:
  • A villain is evil, through and through. His motivations are evil and his actions are evil.
  • An antagonist opposes the protagonist. She causes conflict with the main character.

Where the Rubber Meets the Road
In my WIP, I have crafted an antagonist. I wanted to make sure he isn’t simply a one-dimensional character. Through research and reflecting on personal experience, I think I have found a way to make him quite an interesting, and I’m hoping compelling, fellow. Below, I have used the term “villain,” but I think the same holds true for your antagonist.
  • Understand your villain’s motives: Make her as detailed and nuanced as your main character. Achieve this, and you’ve uncovered one of the most important keys to a compelling story. Where to begin? Get personal. Mine your personal experiences and the people you have known and expand from there.
  • Find a model: Your villain can be based on someone you know, a celebrity, or someone you’ve seen on TV. I’m guessing most women have had a catty gf at one time in their lives, someone who wouldn’t be considered a friend, and may have even done mean things to them. I’ve had two incidences that I know of (luckily, I’ve been spared from knowing any more than that!), one in early grade school and the other as an adult. At the time these incidences occurred I was devastated. My adult experience took me about two years to get over—after two years I said Enough! and finally was able to let go of the hold the experience had on me. 
  • Describe your villain as carefully as you’ve described your main character: Add to your villain’s persona a drooping eyelid, a telltale scar slashed across his cheek, or something that connotes this character’s dark side.
  • Conjure up how your own misfortunes made you feel: Keep these feelings in a notebook. If your model is a stranger, watch how their misdeeds make the protagonist feel. Show these feelings in your story. Caveat: Little did I know that later I would be able to draw on the bad feelings I experienced to help me empathize with what mean words and actions can do to my characters. And also, how my experiences have helped me craft my villains.
  • Nail down your villain’s motivation: Was it something bad that happened to her in the past? Did he do something, such as steal something small, find that he enjoyed the thrill of living on the edge, and try for bigger and better spoils?
  • Show that your villain is fearful of something: J.M. Barrie’s Captain Hook, from his play Peter Pan, had two fears: the sight of his own blood, and the crocodile who pursues him after eating the hand cut off by Pan. In Roald Dahl’s book and the film Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is very superstitious and has an intense fear of ghosts, black cats, and the supernatural in general. 
  • Show that your villain has a good side: Each article I researched made the point that portraying your villain as all bad risks creating a cardboard character. He will be more human if he has some good qualities.  J.K. Rowling does this expertly in Harry Potter. Lord Voldemort was once a student at Hogwarts, just like the series’ hero.
  • Show that your villain is likeable: In Mark Twain’s book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, according to Cliffs Notes, thirteen-year-old Huck Finn’s “literal, pragmatic approach to his surroundings and his inner struggle with his conscience that make him one of the most important and recognizable figures in American literature . . . He is playful but practical, inventive but logical, compassionate but realistic, and these traits allow him to survive the abuse of Pap, the violence of a feud, and the wiles of river con men." 
  • Have a clear idea of the conflict between the villain and the hero in your story: How does your hero thwart your villain’s main goal? At your story’s climax, your villain and hero need to confront each other alone. Make the stakes as high as possible by ramping up the obstacles the villain has thrown in your hero’s path.

Follow these guidelines and read more detailed information on the creation of your villain/antagonist by consulting the list of articles below that contributed to this post.; post by Annika Griffith
Clipart of villain courtesy of: Clipart Panda

Linda Wilson, a former elementary teacher and ICL graduate, has published over 100 articles for adults and children, and six short stories for children. Recently, she has completed her first book, a mystery/ghost story for children 7-11 years old, and is hard at work on Book Two in the series.  Follow Linda at

Conflating Promotion, Children's Lit and Promotion

Article Children’s Promo

Formula for a Long-Lasting Promotion

E-Book + E-Gift + Cross Promotion = Great FREE Promotion for Children’s Books

By Carolyn Howard-Johnson,
Author of the multi award-winning HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers

The 4th of July seems like a good time to talk about children’s books, to celebrate children's book, to give author of children's literature a little support. In a discussion I had with one of the longtime subscribers to my SharingwithWriters newsletter, Wanda Luthmam, author of The Lilac Princess, she said, “Of course the thing that is different for children's authors is that the product is for children yet the purchaser is an adult.”

Because Wanda is absolutely right, one of the best kinds of promotion is one where children’s authors cross promote.  That means partnering with other others, sharing lists. Forming groups where you cross-tweet one another’s tweets that point out benefits of each children’s book to the parents cause kids won’t be on Twitter, not yet at least.  

One of my favorite promotions—the one that lasted longer and was more “keepable” than any other I’ve done—utilized cross promotion. Here is a case study of that promotion straight from  my multi award-winning The Frugal Book Promoter. I have adapted it slightly to be more meaningful for children’s authors.

The anatomy of a free e-book might be just what you need to make one work for you. The free e-book I published as a cross promotion with other authors was one of best, most long-lasting promotions I’ve done. Let’s call it the new math for free publicity. It is: E-book + E-gift = Promotion. Oops. Error. Make the answer FREE promotion. However, it would be better if we slotted in another element: + Cross Promotion.

I met Kathleen Walls in an online group. She asked more than two dozen authors from several countries to contribute to an e-book that would be given away. Her idea, Cooking by the Book could be used as a gift of appreciation to the support teams it takes to edit and market a book and to the legions of readers who cook but had never read any of our other books. Children’s authors could use exactly the same idea (or adapt the basic steps to another theme). Here’s why. 

Authors who had at least one kitchen scene in their books (children’s authors might have a household cooking scene or just something foody going on in the plot like lollipops, ice cream cones—even apple trees!) were invited to contribute to Cooking. Each author’s segment begins with an excerpt from that scene. The recipe comes next, and then a short blurb about the author with links so the reader can learn more about the authors and their books. When children’s authors adapt the them, they might adapt the recipe segment to something else that would appeal to parents like the psychological benefit their child will get from reading the book. 

This e-tool was a cross-pollinator. Contributing authors publicized it any way they chose as long as they gave it away. Here are some of the ways we used to distribute Cooking by the Book
  • Some offered a free e-book as part of a promotion and let people e-mail them for a copy. This is the least techy approach and it allows personal contact with readers. It also allowed us to collect and categorize our readers’ e-mails to use in later promotions.
  • Some set up an autoresponder that sent our e-book directly to our readers’ e-mail boxes when they sent requests to an address we provided. This automated approach requires little but promotion from you after you’ve once set up the responder. I sent the first chapter of my novel using, but it could as easily been a full e-book.
  • Some contributors sent readers to their Web sites where they found a link to download a .pdf file of our free e-book. E-books distributed like this are more effective if they include an offer or call-to-action—perhaps a discount on a series of your books—within its pages. If I did a promotion like this again, I’d include a contributor page in the backmatter that listed each contributor, her book’s title, and a direct link to an Amazon Kindle edition. The side-benefit for this is that traffic to your site soars and that helps your search engine optimization (SEO). 
  • ome contributors let others distribute our e-book as a gift to their clients, subscribers, or Web site visitors—either with a purchase or as an outright gift. When you use this method, you get to set the guidelines for its distribution because you provide the free e-book.
  • If we were doing this promotion today, we could offer our free e-book through To make free e-book editions work for you, your book must include ads, links in the text, or both to entice readers to your Web site or to buy your other books.
  • You may find other ways to distribute your e-book or alter these processes to meet your needs. You could even give out business cards or bookmarks at children’s bookfairs that give the links to the free e-book you are offering.
Contributors to our Cooking by the Book benefited from their efforts and from contacts with other authors. It turned out that we had some superior promoters among us:
  • Most of us set up a promotional page for the cookbook on our Web sites. 
  • One promoted it in her newsletter. 
  • Mary Emma Allen writes novels, but she also featured the cookbook in the columns she writes for New Hampshire dailies The Citizen and The Union Leader.
  • David Leonhardt incorporated the cookbook into a Happiness Game Show speech he delivered over a dozen times.
  • We all gave away coupons offering this gift at book signings. Because e-books cost nothing to produce, they can be given to everyone, not just those who purchase a book. Some made bookmarks featuring this offer.
  • I put an “e-gift” offer for Cookbook on the back of my business cards.
  • If we were doing this promotion today, we’d all blog about it and use Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social networks.
  • We treated the promotional book like a real book. We got blurbs and reviews. Reviewer JayCe Crawford said, “For a foodie-cum-fiction-freak like me, this cookbook is a dream come true.” That review popped up in places we didn’t know existed. 
  • We used them as e-gifts to thank editors, producers, or others online.

Our most startling successes came from sources we had no connection to at all. The idea for using a promotional e-book like this was featured in Joan Stewart’s The Publicity Hound, in Writer’s Weekly, in the iUniverse newsletter and more. They probably found it especially newsworthy because it worked so well for writers of fiction. Your book themed for the parents of children might appeal to popular psychology Web sites or others—depending on the theme.

When I queried radio stations for interviews with angles related to this cookbook, I had the highest rate of response I’d ever had, and that was in competition with a pitch for my novel This Is the Place just before the Salt Lake City 2002 games and an intolerance angle on the same novel right after 9/11.

Each year Mother’s Day beckons us to repeat our publicity blitzes, because, if you haven’t noticed, mothers tend to do lots of cooking. Almost any e-book that appeals to mothers of young children could also benefit from Mother’s Day promotions.

Hint: I love services like and for publishing both e-books and paperbacks, whether or not they are to be used as promotions. You can probably do everything yourself and absolutely free except for the copies you buy and the extra services, if you prefer to have that help. I also like that you can put your own publishing company’s name on the book—in other words, develop your own imprint. There are even templates for covers there. If this feels kind of publishing feels scary at first, I can coach you through the first one and you’ll be set forever more. Contact me through the contact page on my Web site.

Special E-Book Offer: I offer a free e-book for subscribing to my Sharing with Writers newsletter. Find the offer on most pages of my HowToDoItFrugally Web site, upper right corner. Everyone is your cross-promotion pool could do the same thing.

Here’s another idea from Wanda. She says “At my events, I invite children to my table to make a free craft that is book-theme related. While they are working, I talk to the parent about the benefits of the book and reading.”


Today's blogger, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, will soon have a children's picture book ready to submit to her agent. It's about the feisty squirrel who is bent stealing tangerines from her tree. 

Carolyn is not known for writing children's literature. She brings her experience as a publicist, journalist, marketer, and retailer to the advice she gives in her HowToDoItFrugally series of books for writers and the many classes she taught for nearly a decade as instructor for UCLA Extension’s world-renown Writers’ Program. All her books for writers are multi award winners including both the first and second editions of The Frugal Book Promoter and her multi award-winning The Frugal Editor won awards from USA Book News, Readers’ Views Literary Award, the marketing award from Next Generation Indie Books and others including the coveted Irwin award.

Howard-Johnson is the recipient of the California Legislature’s Woman of the Year in Arts and Entertainment Award, and her community’s Character and Ethics award for her work promoting tolerance with her writing. She was also named to Pasadena Weekly’s list of “Fourteen San Gabriel Valley women who make life happen” and was given her community’s Diamond Award for Achievement in the Arts. 

The author loves to travel. She has visited eighty-nine countries and has studied writing at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom; Herzen University in St. Petersburg, Russia; and Charles University, Prague. She admits to carrying a pen and journal wherever she goes. Her Web site is 

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