The Arch

Stronger than any lintel based structure, arches are generally constructed from a series of voussoirs, that downward pressure forces together. A single arch will also require buttresses on either side in order to resist the diagonal forces.

On a completely different note – the word arch comes from the Greek word arkhos, which means ‘most important’.

Archenemies abound in stories (and yet, strangely, not so many archfriends). If you look closely, you will find them in surprising places.

Here’s are some thoughts on how to write an archenemy in a selection of genres:

  • Absurdist/surreal/whimsical. Ah, who knows – maybe common sense is what opposes all whimsy. This kind of stuff is so out there that you’re going to have difficulty telling friend from foe so you might just as well make them all as crazy as each other.
  • Action. This is the easy one – the archfoe is the being in charge of all the minions that are sent out to kill the hero. They just need to never smile (maybe a sneer is admissible), want to rule the world and be arrogant enough to think that they can.
  • Adventure. Lack of stamina is probably the worst enemy for someone on a quest. Picture thirst in a desert, tiredness on a long slog across wherever, hunger in a place where there isn’t any food – that kind of thing.
  • Comedy. If you were on a stage doing stand-up, what would you not want as an audience? People who don’t laugh – yeah, but what about people that heckle you continually, people who throw food at you or, worse thing ever – people who don’t even turn up.
  • Crime. Well duh – criminals – obviously. The criminal mastermind needs to have scars, tattoos, scowls, weapons, menace and a total lack of empathy for anyone who stands in the way of … criminality. I don’t know anybody like this. Boy am I glad.
  • Drama. This is an odd one. I just looked up the definition and it basically says – real life stuff, the opposite of comedy. When I look at my own life and think to myself – who is my greatest enemy, I come up with – you are your greatest enemy. Hmm – deep.
  • Fantasy. There’s usually some kind of hierarchy-of-bad in fantasy. Usually, this is based on stereotypes such as ugly is bad and handsome is good, but not always. Wizards can be either good or bad, as can witches. I guess this is a genre that is so redolent with good and evil that it has become common to transform one into the other.
  • Historical. Ah, well – the thing about history is that it has already happened and so all you have to do here is research. Check out which kings were wicked, which of their underlings were conniving traitors, which sweet young thing will turn into a power hungry monster – and stuff like that.
  • Historical fiction. Huh? Didn’t we just do that? Oh – okay – fiction. I suppose this is like steampunk or alternative histories, for example – what would have happened if Bush had won in the Middle East. Historical fiction is similar to the way that everyday life was in the past, only with a twist. The twist might be that archfriends and archenemies swap place, which actually sounds quite interesting. Any examples?
  • Horror. Monsters, and people who behave like monsters. The worst baddie can be and usually is the person who you thought was your best friend. They get mad at you, push you in front of the monster, drive off and leave you, unfriend you on FaceBook and generally treat you like dirt. In fact – that’s the essence of horror right there – betrayal.
  • Magical realism. Another one I had to look up – this is literature where magic (levitation, telepathy etc) is real. Because it is like life, there won’t be an obvious evil overlord here, there will be lots of individuals running around being bad, which means that we’re back to – you are your own worst enemy, except with superpowers.
  • Mystery. The all-enveloping darkness, the shadows in the back of the mind, the things left unsaid, the silences in the night, the unexplained occurrences, the vindictive words and acts, the … But enough about marriage – mystery itself is the archenemy here – ’nuff said.
  • Paranoid. Ooo – that’s an interesting one. Paranoia is, generally, the feeling that someone (or everyone) is out to get you. Therefore, pretty much by definition, others, in all their multitudinous forms are the enemy. But wait – surely the worst enemy here is the paranoia itself. Bitter, distrustful, betrayed and twisted. Ugh!
  • Philosophical. What? This is a genre? Well, when I think about it – maybe it is. Literature that ponders the meaning of life and all of that. I guess that some aspect of human nature is going to turn out to be the evil overlord here. Pick any one from greed, pride, sloth, avarice (wait – don’t tell me), anger? … oh I don’t know – all I’m coming up with now are Snow White’s friends.
  • Political. Pass. Not interested in politics at all. Overlord of Evil? Erm … Okay, I’m not even going to go there. I’ve already made one crack about Bush so that’s enough for me. You might as well base your villain on the obvious ones like Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot or Ronald McDonald – each responsible for countless avoidable deaths.
  • Romance. Wherefore lies the enemy of the heart. In which nook of the world hideth the knife that twists? Under which cloak of disguise lurks the face of seeming innocence, the foul breath, the eyes that burn, the … Okay, okay enough – it’s usually just a simple misunderstanding that causes all the trouble in romances. If only people would talk to each other already!
  • Saga. I reckon that a saga is like a long adventure. Let me just check the answer in the back 0f the book … Nope – wrong! Well, maybe a bit right – sagas are like Viking adventures. Vikings didn’t really have any enemies – except maybe displeased gods. And all they had to do to set that right, was to kill someone – which is pretty much all in a day’s work. Apologies to any Vikings out there if I have misrepresented you at all.
  • Satire. This is all about using biting wit to mock unpopular (in the eye of the beholder) stuff. The über-villain (you just gotta love the umlaut) here is usually unpopular stuff and can be anything from animal experiments to zillionaires but could be anything that someone gets a bee in their bonnet about – even innocuous stuff like Taylor Swift. At the end of the day – haters gonna hate (hate hate hate hate) – you just gotta shake it off.
  • Science fiction. There are loads of different kinds of sci-fi and so it’s difficult to pick out one archenemy. Maybe one common theme though is strangeness. The villain is usually from over there and wants to come over here. If they looked and acted like us then there wouldn’t usually be a problem (unless they are lizards in human suits, of course) but because they are … different, then there is a problem. Particularly if they have better tech than us. Saddle up!
  • Slice of Life. Me, sitting in the study, whilst listening to the rain pattering against the window and the birds tweeting. Me, typing these words for you. Me, feeling hungry and saying to myself – nearly there. Me, being me and doing stuff – that’s slice of life. And my only enemy? Time. Do I have time to do this on a Saturday morning when there are a million and one other things I should be doing? Nope – I don’t. But I like doing this – so I fight!
  • Speculative. The death of all speculation is the numpty who says that everything is just fine the way it is thank you very much. The death of all stability is the numpty who speculates whether life might be better over there – in that green area. Sometimes, the archfoe is whatever or whoever is opposed to us and, by extension, we ourselves are the archfiends for those who are opposed to us. Or am I getting too speculative here?
  • Thriller. Who are the thrillers and who are the thrilled? You are the thrilled and the thrillers are those who would manipulate various chemical in your body in order to evoke feelings and emotions in you. If you want to get meta about this, then your worst enemy here is the writer (unless you are the writer, in which case you are lovely) who wishes to manipulate you, your body and your mind in order to do something as base as selling books. How evil is that?! (unless you are the writer, in which case I totally understand that you need to put food on the table).
  • Urban. What? Urban as in ‘set in a city’? What kind of genre is that? I mean – all sorts of things are set in cities. This is more like a setting than a … Oh, you want me to look up the meaning? Well okay then. Hmm – this is an odd one – let me give you a flavour: “… statements derogatory to white people are made, usually by the characters …” Well there you go then – the white dude is the enemy – cut and dried (not – not literally – although …)
  • Western. Cowboys are the enemies for the Indians and the Indians are the enemies for the Cowboys, but the real enemies, the overarching enemies here are xenophobia and greed. It’d be a whole heap better if we could all be happy with what we have and leave everyone else to be happy with what they have. Maybe we should focus on greening over the deserts rather than stealing someone else’s places. There are loads of deserts. Nobody would mind if we planted a few trees and rolled out a little turf – right? Yeah, yeah, I know it doesn’t work like that – but if we put more resources into stuff like this, while we still have resources left, then maybe we could get it to work out. We could just leave a little bit of desert free, to film westerns – that’d be cool.

If you have reached through to the end of this document – well done! Now treat yourself  to something nice, for the patience and love you have shown here. Or maybe you could just pick a genre, write an archenemy for it and then destroy your foe in the most imaginative way you can think of. Oh, and do let me know how that goes for you!

6 thoughts on “The Arch

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