In the previous blog, I asked a seemingly simple question:  If enemies oppose the protagonist, are they evil?  It’s time to consider the three types of characters who are viewed as enemies.

Shapeshifter.  Villain.  Shadow.

public domain
Alice with Humpty, colorized from the original in Through the Looking Glass

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean–neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty, “which is to be master–that’s all.”

These three characters who provide “Tests from Enemies” have strong associations with evil thoughts and evil deeds, but only one of them is truly evil.  One could be but isn’t–or isn’t considered so but is.  And one will be evil with the wrong choices.

Confused yet?  So was Alice with Humpty.

Shapeshifter

Shifter characters take one of two forms in order to be considered enemies:

  • 1st = seemingly allied to the protagonist but actually working for the antagonist.
  • 2nd = seemingly supportive of the antagonist but actually not supportive.
Second Form

This form has the angst.  Misread, misunderstood, isolated by perception, and excluded before they open their mouths, these characters may wish to support the protagonist.  Circumstances create a trap.  Relationships may gag the truth they so desperately want to reveal.

Sirius Black escapes in The Prisoner of Azkaban.

Building a believable angst for the audience is difficult.  Even when building a story with the omniscient viewpoint, the writer needs to select carefully which viewpoints will inform the audience.  Enemies that aren’t actually enemies don’t need to be viewpoint characters.

Withholding this shapeshifter’s angst until the end creates an even more potent revelation after the antagonist’s defeat.

Snippets of body language convey this trapped situation:

  • The mouth opened to speak only to close with a shake of the head.
  • The aborted gesture to stop.
  • The step forward then back.

These behaviors are minor touches that express a repressed drive.

Think Sirius Black in the Harry Potter film.  Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.

First Form

This shapeshifter form is the double agent, back-stabber, hypocrite, secret mole, and two-faced dastardly being who tricks the protagonist.  First form projects total loyalty, an ally—even as s/he fulfills the antagonist’s commands.

Friendly connivers, First Form enemies are wholly trusted.  Until the truth is revealed.

Think Loki in the first Thor film.  Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity.  Wyckham, antagonistic to P&P‘s Darcy.

Revelation of the true alliance occurs in the Tests stage or is held (preferably so) until the Approach to the Inmost Cave, the crucial Ordeal, or the Resurrection Stages.

Classic Villain

Totally evil dudes.  Totally enemies.

The best examples in story are the goblins and ogres and trolls of the Tolkien realm.  A true villain, unlike an antagonist, will have no redeeming traits.  Goblins lie and steal and kill even their comrades.

Anne Rice and Stephanie Meyers created their own versions of vampires with redeeming qualities.  The saturnine Louis captured hearts;  Lestat reminds audiences of the vampire’s true nature.  Meyer’s Twilight turned vampires “vegetarian”.  I remember reading the first 50 pages or so of the first book and thinking, “Okay, yes, this is going somewhere” only to have great disappointment as the danger just dissipated.

Hannibal Lechter in Silence of the Lambs has no redeeming qualities—any help he gives is only to help himself escape and resume his evil desires.

After Silence…Lambs came out as a film, enthralled fans clamored for more Hannibal.  The author then proceeded to write Hannibal as a warning of what true evil is.

Never mistake villains.  They have NO redeeming qualities.

Shadow

First Choice

The Shadow avatar reveals the dark side of the protagonist.  This is the reflection of what the protagonist can become if s/he gives in to evil.

Dark secrets, dark instincts, dark emotions:  release these in the protagonist during a test to have a fall from worthiness.  The protagonist must then deny, overcome, reject, or defeat these self-enemies.

Luke Skywalker has the same potential for evil as his dark father, yet he rejects it and triumphs.

Mary Crawford (L) with Fanny Price in the 2007 Mansfield Park

In Austen’s Mansfield Park, Mary Crawford could be a second protagonist.  (She isn’t.  See below.)  She gives into the dark greed of contemplating Edmund’s advance into his brother’s shoes while the true protagonist Fanny Price thinks only of helping brother Tom recover his health.  It takes a while for Edmund to recognize Fanny’s sweetness, which rewards her long and steadfast love for him. 

Very much antagonistic, the Shadow self struggles with negative forces intermixed with positive ones.  While repressing dark for the light, the destroying aspects will ultimately control the Shadowy protagonist.

This is totally Mary Crawford.  Hints of the negative forces that shaped her are explored in 2007 Mansfield Park (totally missing in the 1999 version, my favorite even as the 2007 fascinates me).  She is alluring, fascinating, witty, assured, sophisticated–but the dark desire of greed compels her.

Recovering standing after collapsing into the temporary satisfaction of the dark becomes a great test for the protagonist.  Unforeseen repercussions ripple outward from that cold, hard pebble.

This is truly Walter Neff in the classic Double Indemnity:

Better Choices

Nevertheless, the best Shadows are antagonistic foils of the protagonist:  “There but for the grace of God go I,” an arrogance in itself but also a truth.  See, Mary Crawford belongs here.

As a character separate from the protagonist, the Shadow needs to tempt and even call up the darkness in the hero/ine (Double Indemnity again, Barbara Stanwyck’s character.  If you have never seen this film noir classic, please do).  The protagonist must reject the Shadow because it treads too closely to the path that the antagonist has taken.

And the protagonist must reject the antagonistic path.  S/he cannot tread the evil ways without transforming into evil.

Wrapping Up

  1. Threshold Guardian
  2. Ally (and potentially the Love Interest)
  3. Foil
  4. Herald
  5. Idol
  6. Blocking Figure
  7. Trickster
  8. Shapeshifter
  9. Villain
  10. Shadow

Not all of these allies and enemies are necessary in stories.  They also need not occur only in the testing stage.

A protagonist who overcomes the tests presented by these characters is more prepared for the next stage:  Approach to the Inmost Cave.

The cave itself is the Dark Moment, the Ordeal.  Before reaching this cataclysmic encounter with the antagonist, however, the protagonist must continue through the Approach.

And after the Ordeal?  Well, it’s still not an easy downhill slide.

Writing Story :: Allies and Enemies, II of III

Neither Ally nor Enemy but Something Else Entirely

Alice in Wonderland ~ “The different branches of Arithmetic:  Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.”

Herald.  Idol.  Blocking Figure.  Trickster.

Those characters certainly fit Alice’s different branches of Arithmetic, don’t they?

These four are categorized with the Tests, Allies, and Enemies (Stage 6 for the Archetypal Story Pattern).  However, they don’t really fit the classification of ally or friend.  They are neither.  Perhaps they are something else entirely.

Let’s call them “Stumbling Blocks”.

Neither Yet More

In the first of the Allies and Enemies post (August 10), we discussed three types of allies.  Threshold guardians present tests.  Classic allies buttress the protagonist.  Foils foreshadow what will happen if the protagonist doesn’t learn the lessons of the tests.

We also mentioned that the Love Interest should not be an objectified reward or elixir, but should enact one of the 10 roles of the allies/enemies.

The four characters in this blog are stumbling blocks for the protagonist.

Herald = Ambition = the goal to be achieved.

An announcer of information, the herald seems a brief, walk-on character important only for that information.

A stumbling block

How can the herald be a stumbling block?

Many writers use the herald to inject humor and quirkiness or edginess and doom into their stories.  The herald can be a casualty of random evil or of the antagonist’s directed evil.

Understanding the herald’s message can form the test.  The message often comes as a riddle.  Riddles can misdirect or mislead the protagonist.

When the message is a simple truth, the protagonist can be tricked into ignoring it.  Worse, s/he may overlook its significance.

IDOL = Uglification = the blingie wonder that turns the protagonist from reality to fantasy

The Buddha seems of peace but merely teaches of apathy and nothingness, controlling all emotion to experience no emotion.
A golden idol may seem like a dream, but it hides the reality in glittering falsehoods.

The Idol may create a golden dream for the protagonist.

Realizing the Idol is merely human is a lesson for the protagonist.  The idol’s “uglification” process may even descend to walking in mucky mire.  And the protagonist will never have imagined the soil that begrimes the erstwhile Idol.

While the realization alone can be a sufficient test, it helps if the protagonist does not at first believe the idol’s begrimed state.  Three reactions occur when idols fall:

  1.  When faced with the reality of the fantasy, people will deny the reality and cling to the fantasy.
  2. Then they willfully blind themselves.
  3. When they do accept the truth, they are dejected or become apathetic.

The Idol is a noun: person, place, thing, or idea.

Disappointment alone is not a strong test.

As a writer, tally up the multiple ways that people become disgusted with what they once held aloft.  The following link gives 9 options for the uglification of the idol:

Click here for a protagonist’s responses to an idol’s “uglification”.

Blocking Figure = Distraction = the sidesteps that divert from the goal

Like the Herald, the Blocking Figure causes the protagonist to stumble on the heroic journey.

BFDs can take away what the protagonist expected to use.  They can supply wrong information.  They can literally stand in the way.

Block.  Deflect.  Divert.

Their intervention causes the protagonist to stumble, start again, go around, or plow through.

Trickster = Derision = laughter or ridicule, a balancing act

One of the most misunderstood characters is the Trickster.

The Trickster is more than a simple ally or enemy.  This character is an archetype.  I first discussed the Trickster in the “Last but not Least” blog of April 20: http://writersinkbooks.com/2017/04/

1956 film
Danny Kaye in “The Court Jester”.  The Fool seeks the audience’s ridicule to build them up while tearing himself down. The Trickster learns to manipulate the audience and thus outwit them.

This archetype has two sides:  Fool and Trickster.

The Fool makes mistakes and never learns.

The Trickster learns.

The Fool, like a court jester, plays to an audience.  He doesn’t care about the audience’s derision.  All he wants is laughter.  His actions are actually reactions, a cyclical feeding off the audience.

The Trickster acts.  He thinks of a thing to do.  Next, he half-anticipates the result (usally, only the best result).  Then he does the thing.  The consequences are not his concern.  He does care about derision.  That derision is the very reason he begins to change.

A protagonist can start as a trickster, as Odysseus did.  The trickster who never cares about the consequences to others cannot be a true protagonist.

Wrapping Up

Sept. 10 will focus on the Enemies of Stage 6: Tests, Allies, and Enemies.

Enemies oppose the protagonist.  Does that make them evil?

 

Writing Story: 7 Questions to Start

Every man has three characters: that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has. ~ Alphonse Kerr

We start life as a tabula rasa.  Then we transform ourselves as we mature.

Who we are . . .

is not who we want to be . . .

and not who we should be.

All of us struggle with a duality, positive in conflict with negativity and only rarely in balance.  While we strive to improve, we are also tugged to wallow in a morass.

In the ancient monomyth, the Hero’s Journey did not just exhibit how an ordinary person became extraordinary.  It also developed how a shallow community member became a strong individual, a leader who inspired others to change.

The first stage of the Hero’s Journey—the Ordinary World—presents who we are before the transforming journey occurs.

Start with Duality

Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit (my favorite Tolkien) is complacent, self-absorbed, content

but certainly not satisfied.  He must be pushed and tempted into the journey There and Back Again.  This trailer shows the strength of a well-written Ordinary World and Call to Adventure.

 

Frodo in Lord of the Rings certainly feels his dissatisfaction, but he lacks both the impetus and will to take the first brave steps alone.  Thus, we have the necessity of his friends at the onset of the journey, each who have their own individual transformation to come.

A character’s dual nature can be two sides of the personality, can be two sides of the genetic inheritance (as it is for Bilbo), or can be two of the Tripartite Being in conflict.

OW

from The Hobbit, 2012
Bilbo Pushed & Tempted

Take care when presenting the primary characters during the Ordinary World.  The primaries should not become so arrogant that the audience can’t stand them.  Any bad trait should be counterbalanced with a good trait.

The Ordinary World (OW) stage of the Hero’s Journey—however brief—is necessary to show the unchanged primaries.  Obviously, the protagonist is necessary to introduce.  Presentation of the other primaries is necessary only if their transformation is key to the protagonist’s.

In The Hobbit film, Thorin Oakenshield’s OWie is presented in flashback, a story recounted in heroic fashion to Bilbo.

The problem with flashback and the reason it is kept for limited use are that it disrupts the story flow.  In film, this disruption traps the audience—unless we control the remote and skip ahead.  In a book we can skip it or skim it—although we rarely do.  Flashback used to present OW information becomes info dump, which is always to be avoided.

How do we write an Ordinary World start to our story without turning it into info dump?

Marion Zimmer Bradley said often to start a story at the first onset of trouble.

However, we need a bit to set up how that onset came in as trouble.

So, find the moment right before the onset of trouble.

1st Story Stage: the Ordinary World

Build the OW with the Latin 7.

WHO is here?

The protagonist, of course.  The actual question should be who else is here?  Any primaries?  Are these primaries allies?  How will the antagonist enter this scene?  Who else do we need?

WHAT is the sacrifice?

The What can be person, thing, object, place, and idea.

What thing needs destruction in order to start the protagonist on the journey?  How is that thing cherished by the protagonist?

The destruction, which is the 2nd Story Stage, is an explosion, literal and figurative.  Our job in the OW is to start rolling toward that destruction.

For example, if the destruction is the revelation of a lie, what dream will the lie destroy?  That dream becomes the protagonist’s OW focus.

The cherished thing to be sacrificed should be so strong that the antagonist can’t just turn away.

WHY is the cherished thing so dear?

Know the reason.  We may not write the reason into the 1st Stage.  We should certainly state it by the end of the 3rd Stage.  Yet we need to know it now, as we start.

HOW will the sacrifice occur?

Writers also need an early knowledge of the How, for we must set up for it.

BY WHOSE AID?

This is a two-sided question.

1st: The sacrifice needs to be important to the protagonist and another (one or more).  This increases the need for the protagonist to embark on the difficult Hero’s Journey.  Whether the genre is contemporary mainstream, historical romance, fantasy adventure, or another one, the destruction of the sacrifice should shock more than the protagonist.

2nd: The other side of “by whose aid” focuses on the participants in the destruction.

Know the reason that the antagonist is able to focus on the sacrifice.  This may come out at any point in the story, especially if the antagonist has a moment to gloat over the destruction of the dear.  The antagonist should also “know” the protagonist well enough to understand how the destruction will hurt the protagonist and other primaries.

Sidestep to a Side Character

A side element is the character who conveys information about the sacrifice to the antagonist.  This character needs to be familiar with the protagonist:  the degree of this side character’s perfidy is up to us writers.  And the revelation of the perfidy—that is also up to us.

WHEN and WHERE

The last two of the Latin 7 seem simple.

WHEN is a moment when destruction is least expected.  A moment of happiness is typical:  wedding, family gathering, holiday celebration.  Try to break the typical.

Pick an ordinary moment: driving home, going to a restaurant, Saturday errands.

WHERE should be a place of security for the protagonist.  Then the sacrifice of the cherished thing becomes even greater, for security is sacrificed as well.

Just as with the WHEN, the destruction’s occurrence in an ordinary place destroys the semblance of security.

Start the Story

“Begin with the end in mind,” Stephen Covey said in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  As it works in business, so it works in story.

From Hero with a 1,000 Faces
Campbell’s Keys to the Monomyth, from which the 12-Stage Hero’s Journey is derived by Christopher Vogler in The Writer’s Journey

Writers should start by knowing where the story is going, so we can lay traps for our protagonists.  And our first traps start in the Ordinary World.

Here are the 12 Stages of the Hero’s Journey.  We are working our way through them, two stages per month.  Join us for the next stage on the 20th of May ~~ and a promo for one of my books on the 1st.

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call to Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meet the Mentor
  5. Crossing the 1st Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, and Enemies
  7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
  8. Ordeal / Dark Moment
  9. A Reward
  10. The Road Back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return with the Elixir

~ M. A. Lee

Strong Women :: Bright Lights and Hot Messes

Strong women create strong relationships when matched with a strong man.  Yet strong with weak is out of balance and will ultimately fail.

Don’t be a woman that needs a man.  Be a woman that a man needs. ~ Modern Proverb

Pixar's 2008 film
Eve in Wall-E: a strong woman against a strong man yet eventually allying with him

Why is it that strong women are often viewed as a negative?

In the workplace, a strong man is called “assertive”.  A strong woman defending the same idea / process / change is considered “too aggressive.”  Strong women can be called “bitches” when in fact they are merely Alpha Females defending their positions.

Women who question men are often see as interfering when they are usually just trying to point out a better way or a different way.  Strong women usually don’t think this or that / yes or no.  They think “this and that and other”.

Strong women are often antagonists for heroes to overcome.

Strong Women in Ancient Days

This pattern of viewing  strong women as monsters to be overcome harks back to mythology.  In Greek mythology, especially, heroes often fought monsters that were half-woman.

  • Perseus and the 3 Graiae (Grey Women): half woman / half swan
  • Perseus and the Gorgon Medusa (a winged beauty with snakes for hair)
  • Odysseus and the Sirens (more bird-women)
  • Odysseus and Circe . . . and Calypso
  • Oedipus and the Sphinx (a woman with a lion’s body and bird wings)
  • Jason and the Harpies (raptors with women’s faces and bodies)

Mythology also has

Mythology uses Symbolic Number
the Three Norns by HLM: the Crone, the Matron, the Maiden or Past / Present / Future
  •  The 3 Fates :: in the Greek form as the Moonspinners: Clotho, Lachesis, and the dreaded Atropos who determined the moment of death).  In the Norse form as Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld (past / present / future, Maiden / Matron / Crone)
  • The 3 Furies: the Erinyes, Zeus’ goddesses of vengeance
  • Nemesis, the goddess of Divine Retribution
  • Memory and Justice are both women in Greek myth.  Don’t cross them.
  • Jason against his wife Medea, one of the truly horrific women in all of literature.
  • And Sygny of Norse Mythology is scary in her vengeance.

The ancients understood much about women:  We remember everything, and we let go of nothing.  Read the stories of Medea and Sygny, and tremble.

 

 

 

Yet strong women are heroic as well.

Their heroism is often more courageous than men’s since they go against the tide of what culture—and weak men—want them to be.

Strong Women as Alphas

This ruler’s competitive side sets her apart from other strong women.

Positive Side :: the Queen Negative Side :: the Bitch
Influences and Unifies

Intimidates (emotional and intellectual) and Manipulates

Brings people together to work for a common good Focuses on $$ and appearance
Finds and promotes people’s strengths Goals are always selfish

Strong Women as Betas

Much like the male version of the Beta, the female Beta as a strong woman will quietly challenge a bad leader.  She is a seeker.  She will not waver from a primary goal, although she is willing to alter her goal to achieve a better one.

Positive:  Counselor Negative: Courtier
Trouble-shooter Ego-stroker for the Bitch
Supports a leader she can respect and who can implement a viable plan Survives by being a toadie and unites with the Bitch to create a front against the world
Sees difficulties approaching and to the attention of the more competitive Queen Jealously guards her position and never analyzes the Leader;  just takes actions, sometimes on her own, to achieve what the Leader wants

Strong Women as Gammas

The Gamma strong women are Destroyers of the Status Quo.

Positive: Non-Conformist Negative: Little Miss Independent
Rebel with a Cause Rebel for no Cause
Knows the reason that the status quo doesn’t work and seeks a new way, a new perspective Claims her individuality above all else—but that individuality is usually associated with a Clique outside her current sphere
Seeks the flaws in the established system and is often viewed as Quirky or an Isolate Craves attention as much as the Bitch does but uses a different method.  The 1st Goth or the 1st Emo, she is always the 1st to Do and always the first onto the new fad.

 

Strong Women as Deltas

Both versions of the Delta are caregivers.  Strong women see a need for change through those who are in need.  They find a need that needs an initiative to fulfill it, and both can inspire others to aid them in fulfilling their goals.
Positive: Visionary Negative: Missionary
Like Mother Theresa, sets up an initiative to respond to a need. Gloms onto an initiative then attempts to claim it as her own
Her contagious enthusiasm lures others to help her. A holier-than-thou attitude drives her crusade and may drive others away.
Throughout her work, she continues to see others in need—even those working with her—and responds to issues they have. Whether crusading for medical marijuana or the local Angel food drive, she either manipulates through guilt or actively commands others to help.

Chinese Art Techniques

What are the four Chinese Art Techniques doing in a discussion of strong women who are Bright Lights and Hot Messes?

The Art Techniques show the development of strong teams.
See the centering leader, its follower on the right, the opposing stroke on the far left, and the harmonizing fourth to the immediate left of the centering leader?

Actually, the four Art Techniques tell us about leaders and team building.

Ch’i:  the lead stroke.  This first one starts the work and establishes the goal and orientation.  Alpha, Queen.

Ch’eng: the following stroke.  The second supports and reinforces the leader’s intention.  Beta, Counselor.

Ch’uan: the advocate,  opposing  direction.  The third is a “how-about-trying-this-for-a-change person to introduce variation and diversity.  Gamma, Rebel.

Ho: the unifier, the stroke that brings the first three into harmony.  The unifier brings all members of a team into agreement, usually by finding common ground upon which to build consensus.  Delta, Visionary.

 Next Up

We continue our look at women and archetype with a contemplation of the difference between the Hero’s Journey and the Heroine’s Journey.

Following that our final discussion about Jung’s List of 12 Character Archetypes.  These are last but not least.  Protagonists (and heroes) can be these concluding four, as can antagonists.

Visit us in April to meet more Strong Women and then the Everyman Orphan, the Lover, the Innocent, and the Fool/Jester (sometimes called the Trickster).

~~M. A. Lee

Unheroic heroes are fascinating even as they disappoint the audience.

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” ~ Rudyard Kipling

The Warrior archetype surprises people looking for heroes.  We expect him (or her) to be a savior.  The warrior assaults problems with all intentions of winning.  And he never analyzes to determine when the moment of achievement actually occurs.  Or he never analyzes to determine when his pursuit turns in the wrong direction.  Boromir in the Lord of the Rings is a great example of the unthinking Warrior.

The Creator archetype also surprises us.  We expect creativity to help us progress.  Undisciplined creativity and innovation, however, merely create change that might hinder as much as help.

Frankenstein never considered the consequences of his creation.  He didn’t consider if he should bring man back to life, only if he could.

Both Warrior and Creator, however, will not anticipate that they can cause evil in their pursuit of good.  This is not the case with the Magician and the Sage.

These other two Unheroic Hero Archetypes in Jung’s List of 12 have a definite inclination toward evil.

The Alchemist / Magician Seeking Gold

The Magician

The Magician focuses on transformation.

He seeks change—whether that change is needed or not.  In this respect, the Magician is like the unthinking Warrior.  He wants change so much that he may destroy a good thing.

Yet transformative catalysts like these unheroic heroes do have great power.  They can achieve the nobler ideals through discipline focused on benefitting others.  The best traits of the magician:

  • Extremely long-sighted in viewing any project.
  • Remaining stalwart as old systems collapse.
  • Steadily guiding new systems into place.

The negative form of the Magician is the Machiavellian:  the ultimate manipulator.  Machiavellians can charm people as they deconstruct and reconstruct systems, whatever those systems may be.

The Machiavellian may also manipulate others into transforming processes without letting the disciples know the destruction that will occur—or more horrifically, convincing the disciples that such destruction is necessary to change and achieve a utopia.  This version of the unheroic hero becomes a seductive antagonist.

In their pursuit of changing lead to gold, Machiavellians may use up valuable resources that others depend upon.  When confronted, their argument will always be, “Look.  We’re going to get gold.  Just give it a little more time.”  And people starve as the process never quite works out.  But those people go to their doom blinded by the master manipulator, believing the dream.

Iron Man Attempts to Charm

The Magician in Film

The Magician will appear charming to those who do not have to deal with his day-to-day single-minded transformations.  Then the charmed spell is broken when people must cope with the consequences of this catalyst.

Iron Man presents the magician archetype across a series of films.

In the first film, he delights in his invention.  Then he must play back-up and finally catch-up as he deals with the consequences of his invention falling into the wrong hands.  He charms his world audience.  He has the talismatic charm that keeps the official military on his side.

Pepper, whom he loves, must deal with his focus on his transformations.  She loses patience as she realizes his charm does not change the consequences of his actions to the company and to their relationship.

Notice how carefully the writers have crafted Iron Man in the third film.  He must sacrifice his talismatic charms to rescue what is most important.  He tempers his transforming powers because he no longer needs those catalystic abilities.  And he is now satisfied with what he has achieved in life.

Un savant dans son cabinet, avec lecon de vanite :: Jacob van Spreeuwen, 1630

The Sage  

The Sage is a problematic hero.  Seeker of wisdom, he has a keen-edged blade that cuts the difference between truth and deceit, reality and artificiality, knowledge and stupidity.

Although they are unheroic heroes, the best sages become teachers.  True teachers will question the status quo, point out its flaws, and then guide toward a replacing perspective.

Wisdom, however, is problematic.  The Sage is an unheroic hero that we may admire but should not emulate.

  • What may be wise for the immediate future is not always wise for the long-term situation.
  • What may seem like wisdom, cast into a different form, becomes hidebound belief rather than wisdom.
  • Wisdom can have puzzling forms.  The Sage may become so impressed with cleverness that he must cast everything in a riddle.

The Sage may mentor the protagonist, but a good hero will judge whether or not to follow the Sage’s imparted wisdom.

The Warrior will not judge the validity of the wisdom, which is his weakness.  The Creator will try to twist the wisdom into a form that he can work with, thus twisting the truth from the wisdom.  The Magician may bypass the Sage entirely.

A negative Sage becomes robotic in her/his arrogant stance on the truth pedestal.  All those who do not meet the truth standard are criticized by the Robot with “Why can’t you see it?  It’s so clear.”

The negative Sage may also seem so rational as to appear cold and merciless.  With such a Sage, the heart will be missing.

As a writer, consider the problematic wisdom bulleted above.  All three can individually drive a conflict for a protagonist.  Sages, rather than perform as unheroic heroes, may elevate the story when they are presented as shapeshifters or shadows.

The Sage in Film

Leonard Nimoy’s Spock in the Star Trek series is the perfect example of the aloof Sage, filled with wisdom.

Nimoy’s Spock is beloved by many only because we fans caught glimpses of his angst.  He fought against his admiration for the intelligent yet emotionally driven humans that his society told him were fools.  His wisdom told him that the humans held the truth needed for the universe to remain progressive as opposed to regressive.

A truly tortured Sage is Bobby Goren of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.  The mind that so truly understood the psychological twists that produced criminals created a barrier between himself and what he wanted most in life.

Next Up

I’ve been discussing hero archetypes as if they could only be male—which is totally wrong.  Every aspect of archetype can have a masculine and a feminine and even both through a yin/yang dynamic.

In celebration of Spring and the rebirth of the land, on March 20 we discuss . . .

Women Leaders >> Bright Lights & Hot Messes

After our focus on women, giving them extra time, we will continue our expanded look at Jung’s List of 12 Character Archetypes.

~~ M. A. Lee

Have you ever created an unheroic hero?

The protagonist you started with has transformed from the original vision?  Or the protagonist will never achieve the goal your story needs him to achieve?  When this happens, your protagonist has turned into an unheroic hero.

Writing’s hard work, and if anything’s true about the process, it’s that fact that a good story is hard to find and even trickier to get on paper. ~~ Adam Johnson

Heroes of All Archetypes in the TV series The Walking Dead

The unheroic hero may twist and writhe within the parameters we set for our protagonist until his personality transforms.  Or the story may twist and writhe until it takes unintended directions.  Both of these situations can be creatively wonderful but frustratingly challenging.

Meet the first two of four Unheroic Heroes, courtesy of Carl Jung (who first developed the idea of character archetypes).

These archetypes might entice the writer in us to construct a story around them.  Nevertheless, that story will not become what we imagined when first we embarked on our manuscript.

These unheroic hero archetypes can become extremely rich for us writers when they turn to evil.

The Warrior as an Unheroic Hero

If ever an archetype was looking for the name ‘hero’, this one is it.

The Warrior is courageous in the face of insurmountable obstacles and stolidly tough against dragonish opponents.  He rides straight at the problem, attacks it, and usually wins.  Why isn’t he a hero archetype? 

What’s wrong?

Let me at ’em, the Warrior cries . . . Gimli in The Lord of the Rings

Plenty.

The Warrior doesn’t think;  he just drives in.

Protagonists must think about these three:

  • the dangers to themselves and others.
  • the consequences of their actions.
  • the vacuum that will be left when the leader dies.

The Warrior is too simple :: Problem?  I’ll knock it down.

Honor and Discipline.  Compassion and Mercy.  Morality and Ethics.  These are the nobler ideals of the protagonist, and the Warrior lacks them.  Thus, he is an unheroic hero, for internal conflict is necessary.  Without internal conflict, our readers will not cheer when the hero overcomes obstacles.

The Warrior makes an excellent Ally for Leader Heroes, as we discussed in the previous two blogs:  “Oh Men!” parts 1 and 2.

The positive Warrior becomes the Tool when he acts as little more than an automaton.  As writers, we can point the Tool at anything, wind him up, and let him go, a wind-up soldier who never questions.

His actions are a series of achievements, notches on his swordbelt.  He doesn’t care how he wins, just that he wins.  When he reports in to his leader, he doesn’t expect praise;  he wants the next assignment.

Warrior William Wallace and Beta Ruler Robert the Bruce

The Warrior in Film

A story with a Warrior will have little angst.

William Wallace in Braveheart sacrifices himself in pursuit of his goal.  He has no middle ground, not for himself and not for anyone around him.  Those who seek the middle ground are beneath him.

The angst resides with the Beta character of Robert the Bruce.  It is his decision to attack the English army at the end of the film that makes us shout “Yes!”  Without the Warrior Wallace, the Bruce would never have decided to attack.  The Warrior Wallace’s sacrifice drives the Bruce to refuse continued capitulation.

Gimli in The Lord of the Rings is another example of a classic Warrior archetype.  Gimli is always focused on defeating the enemy.  He doesn’t consider any repercussions;  he just heads for the battle.

When the great battle at Minas Tirith ends, Gimli prods Aragorn not to release the Dead Men of Dunharrow from their curse.  He sees only that they can be kept in thrall to defeat more and more enemies.  Aragorn proves his mettle as a heroic leader by freeing them.  He knows that “power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” (the first Baron Acton).

The Creator as an Unheroic Hero

If a Destroyer/Rebel is a hero leader, why is the Creator Archetype considered an unheroic hero?

After all, we need imagination and innovation.  We need vision and idealism.  This defines the Creator.  Why is he unheroic?

The Creator often lacks the self-discipline needed to stay with one task and not be distracted by shiny new ideas.

The Creator flies from any thought of being static—just as the Destroyer does.  Yet we need a protagonist who knows when to change and when to hold fast, a dichotomy that causes the necessary angst that a protagonist requires.

The negative form of the Creator is the Dreamer who never takes action.

Imagination is necessary, but too many flights of fancy can overwhelm plans.  The Creator can juggle multiple projects, but anything that loses its sparkly newness will be dropped by the Dreamer.  And both forms of this unheroic hero will not be concerned with ethics and other people in their pursuit of the new.

What ethical considerations drive the need to create new life? None. I dreamed it; I will do it. ~~ This is the problem when the unheroic hero Gene Wilder portrays Frankenstein.

The Creator-Dreamer loves the new and blingy, yet the daily grind will have this character archetype looking for a new road—and nothing is more challenging than a relationship.  (What a Beast!)

The Creator in Film

A story with a Creator-Dreamer may never have an end.

John Hammond in Jurassic Park is the classic Creator.  He had the wealth to pursue his dream.  He had the wealth to direct people to turn his dream into reality.  Yet notice that he does not know what to do when his dream falls apart.

Frankenstein in any film iteration, including the wonderful Gene Wilder’s comic take, is also a Creator, driven by new ideas to improve the world.  Yet he has to keep improving it—and improving it >> until they can dance a duet of Putting on the Ritz.

Only a dreamer Creator would not anticipate any problems with his monster creation.  Is that fire?!

Coming Up

The next two Unheroic Heroes are the Magician and the Sage.  See us on March 10 for a new perspective on these two Character Archetypes.

Also in March, we take a look at “Bright Lights and Hot Messes”, women as leaders.  Your female protagonists will use different methods to control your story.

Until then, enjoy the writing!

~~ M. A. Lee