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As I develop characters and decide on who is the protagonist and antagonist in my story, I realize real life is not nearly that simple. Sure in my life story I’m the protagonist. But in someone else’s story, I may be the antagonist.
Many times, I’ve been the sidekick. Even, an ancillary character that fills in the background. And the character I portray in other people’s lives is very different from the character I am in my own story.
Which randomly brings to mind this Klimt painting. Each character is drawn relative to the other. If you remove one, the others lose their positions. And I think that is what makes storytelling so interesting. Everyone’s role is defined by the others. Remove one person from the picture and everything shifts.
What got me thinking so deeply about this? My online Writer’s Digest class. We had to describe our protagonist and antagonist and what motivates them. To me as the unbiased third-party story-teller, I am privy to all the facts and circumstances of their lives (or at least I like to think I am). It allows me to determine what role they play in the novel I am writing.
But then I have to delve into what roles they play among the other characters. And that is where things get convoluted. I have a heroine, who some view as a spoiled manipulative man-eater, while others see her as someone who put her friends first and suffers mightily for it. Same character, different perspectives. She is all these things. And that’s why I love writing her.
And I started wondering…hmmm in my own life…I’m sure I’ve been the antagonist in several people’s stories. I’m sure I’ve been good and bad and everything in between. And I started to wonder how I play out in other people’s stories. Which got me wondering, does anyone see themselves as the antagonist? Or do we all cast ourselves as protagonists in our own minds? Even when we may very well be the antagonist in many situations?