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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
Ally (and potentially the Love Interest)
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.
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 alliesbuttress 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.
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 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:
When faced with the reality of the fantasy, people will deny the reality and cling to the fantasy.
Then they willfully blind themselves.
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:
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/
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.
Sept. 10 will focus on the Enemies of Stage 6: Tests, Allies, and Enemies.
Enemies oppose the protagonist. Does that make them evil?
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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).