Does every story need a villain?

The writing community goes back and forth about whether a story needs a villain or not. Some people want a villain to make the hero become a hero. They believe a villain promotes action, conflict, romance, and other plot trends.

In some genres, this is true. The story must have a villain to succeed. However, in many stories a villain is not necessary and I do not think a writer should worry about creating one all the time.

A story needs at least one protagonist attempting to accomplish at least one goal. The writer creates conflict through the use of obstacles making the accomplishment toward the goal a challenge. The obstacles do not have to be a bad person.

Obstacles can be things as weather, environment, or other natural occurrences. They can be organizations like companies or governments. Or, they can be the culture and society who rule over the protagonist.

A villain is an easy way to form obstacles, host conflict, and create action. It is a simple way for a writer to expand the story and keep the interests of a reader. I do not write stories with villains.

While the back and forth between a hero and villain can make a good plot, I try to read something with broader scope and maybe not as predictable as the antics of two people fighting.

I write stories without villains to complicate my protagonist’s approach to achieving their goals. I want the person to confront obstacles bigger than another person. Even if those obstacles are the protagonist own doing and they are the villain.

How to Write Project Titles for Grants

The project title for a grant application is as important as the rest of the application. Not only does it determine the theme of the request, but most online applications use the title as the file name. This makes the title the first thing people read before opening the request.

However, it is not easy to write the perfect project title (for most of us, it’s not easy to write any title for any body of written work). To start, most online applications allow fewer than 50 characters for the project title (about 8 words or less).

To write a project title, the writer should focus on two things:

  • Alignment with the foundation’s priorities. If a foundation member sees the title as being something they might not fund, they may not read further.
  • Reflect what the grant request is about. A foundation member (like anyone) does not want to read a project title and see later that the request is about something different.

In addition, the title should not be a list of keywords. There should be an action verb uniting words explaining what the money will buy with the result of that action. Try to avoid generic words like “feeding the hungry” or “sheltering the homeless,” unless this is all the writer can come up with. Try to be more specific.

I’m not providing examples because all project titles are subjective. The best a writer can do is create one that is compelling and makes a statement that what follows is important.

The project title should be the best the writer can do. Afterall, there’s the rest of the application to be filled out.

How to Write a Good Title

The title of anything is what people read first. For most writers, a title is also one of the hardest things to write.

When I’m trying to come up with a title for what I wrote, I spend maybe weeks or months hoping inspiration will strike. Surprisingly, it sometimes works. But, not often enough.

So, I use other techniques like writing down the five most important things about what was written. These could be names, objects, animals, or anything mentioned throughout the writing. After I have the five things, I get rid of two of them.

Next, I add in the two things that almost made the first list of five. Of course, this is just mixing words together different ways in the hope something appears to make sense. However, it also makes me think more about what is important in the story that should be in the title. Sometimes this works and a title pops out that I like. A lot of times, not.

Another technique I use is more logical. If the story is about two people, I put their names in the title with a description of the environment they exist in such as riding a train. These titles are sometimes okay.

While there are lots of opinions about this, I think short titles are not that good. The best titles are at least five to seven words. These are harder to write, yet tell more about what was written. A one or two word title does not say much.

Out of all of this, the single most important thing to writing a good title is taking the time to think about it. A title should be as important as what is written.

Online Grant Applications

I find online applications can be intimidating. Not because they are online, but because the foundation uses another business to manage the submissions. While the foundation provides the criteria, the generic online software is the same whether it supports an animal shelter or a soup kitchen.

Also, there are usually more questions to answer in an online application. And, some of these questions can be confusing. Such as “Performance Measurements Logic Model.” I wonder how many of these answers are read.

Mostly, online grant applications are intimidating because of the way the categories and questions are displayed. When applying for a grant online, I find it easier to ignore the categories and go methodically through the application by concentrating on what is needed in the grant request.

As I do this, I copy the questions and lists of data required into a Word document or other word processing software. This gives me the flexibility to answer everything offline and send draft answers to other people for critiquing.

I answer each question one at a time. I do not pay attention to how many more questions are left, I just move on from one to the next. Like taking one step at a time. In the end, providing the list of data is just uploading documents such as annual budgets, audits, and the board of directors.

The various headings and categories in an online application can be unfamiliar and a challenge to a grant writer. Yet, all grant requests have the same important categories: budget (project and organization), a description of the nonprofit, and what is needed.