|Think of a person that you admire. The person can be someone from history, from fiction, or someone that you know--anyone!
Write down three to five adjectives that describe why you find that person admirable.
Now write the opposites of those three to five adjectives.
Write or draw something from the point-of-view of a character who displays some or all of the "negative" adjectives on your second list.
I chose as my three positive traits honesty, empathy, and selflessness. For their foils, I chose dishonesty, indifference, and greed. Indeed, the last three do define a villain for me!
However, the challenge lay in making someone embodying these traits into a sympathetic character. I started by considering that we all, at times, show all of these traits. They may not be parts of our personalities, but they do manifest, however fleeting. So my next challenge was to think of a scenario where a person might be dishonest, indifferent, and greedy and yet be somewhat justified in those feelings. I chose to depict my point-of-view character, Pengolodh, so as not to fall into the temptation of turning the vignette into the depiction of a villain.
The Mountains and the Sea
The girl flung herself down on the grass near to me and commenced hiccoughing into her folded arms. It was a particularly lovely day, passing unseen, for, despite choosing to pass the day's study outside of doors, I'd determinedly kept my head bent over my book and didn't grant any mind to the cerulean sky or the benevolent gaze of the sun or the wispy clouds being pulled apart by the delicate breeze or any of the other poetical hogslop typically applied to days like this.
When she flung herself into the grass, I clutched my book tighter and pulled my elbows into my body, like I might collapse myself into a speck invisible to her eyes if I squeezed tight enough. There was a whole vast hillside upon which to fling oneself--unoccupied save for myself--but she chose this spot, where I had no choice but to overhear her escalating sobs and the dull thumps of her tiny fists beating the earth. I shrunk smaller yet and wished for that gentle breeze to whisk me away, anywhere but here.
The trouble was that I'd chosen here in the first place for the tendency this day of Nevrast to behave in a manner much like that of the weeping girl proximate me. I was not the sort to become whimsical at the prospect of studying out of doors: the clouds sliding across the Sun created uneven, unexpected shadows and the wind toyed with my pages. But I'd been unable to work in the city. If marble and stone could wail, Nevrast would be a cacophony. Such was always the way when men were called to war.
I knew that she had flung herself intentionally near to me in hopes of exciting my pity. I knew that I was supposed to ask whatever was the matter and to put on a voice of syrupy sympathy. I hugged my elbows tighter to my body and did not speak. The only emotion that she incited in me was a rousing irritation that her sobs were scattering my thoughts like pebbles thrown into the midst of a flock of gulls, and I had an exam the next day. I was never much for playacting and hardly wished to develop an affinity for it now.
"It's terrible …" she mewled.
I heard myself agreeing that it was. That required no playacting; a whole page I had read now and every word slipped right from my brain as though they came greased. Greased by tears, most likely, and unnecessarily strident sobbing. She was telling me that her betrothed had volunteered. She was telling me about the assault on the lords to the north as though I didn't already know about it--but, then, I didn't know much, did I? They had broken upon the armies of King Fingolfin, she told me, but isolated bands had escaped and come as far as Ivrin, and they would not come here, most likely--not with Ered Wethrin to cross--but the men of Nevrast had roused at the chance for heroics and-- There she shrugged. "He volunteered," she said. Her sobbing had stopped.
"Yes, yes," I said impatiently. I knew these things, though I had tried not to hear. I preferred them to come to me distilled as legends and stories, upon the pages of books, with men in bright armor astride chargers that galloped in the margins. But I had heard. "You are a scribe!" my mother had said. "What are you to do there?" She sounded aghast at the thought.
"I can record the deeds in song, if nothing else," replied my father, although all knew that he was Lord Turukáno's historian for reason of being a mediocre poet. Then, laughing and indignant, "I can sit astride a horse you know!"
"But I do believe it requires more than that, love."
"I suppose I should be happy for him," the girl near me was saying. "He could feature in your books someday." Trembling fingers flicked the tears from her cheeks. "He is braver than me, certainly. I doubt that I could go to war, much less volunteer--" She squared her shoulders and turned her face to the sun. If a tower suddenly sprang up beneath her--a tower crawling with vines and roses--she would make a very suitable illuminated page border for an epic romance: the hero at war, the stout-hearted lady who remained in wait--
"Not necessarily," I heard myself mutter. "There is bravery in waiting." But she did not hear me. She was already rising and running back toward the city, her mind probably filled with ridiculous images of the sunlight on their armor and ladies casting roses beneath the feet of their high-stepping horses … I hugged my elbows closer and returned to my book.
Hemmed as we were between the mountains and the sea, who had expected this? It was supposed to be safe here; another Valinor, I had once heard my parents whisper. Another Valinor, a place of beauty and peace. We were not supposed to march to war. How would there be beauty and peace if we marched to war? If we learned that blood began as cadmium and dried as alizarin? How would there be beauty and peace if we did not march to war? Hemmed as we were, between the mountains and the sea?