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May 2011

Protagonists vs. Antagonists

I wanted to write about something I've thought about many times as I work my way through writing my book. That is: one must be careful not to make the antagonists more fun and interesting than the protagonists. Why? Because if they are, you're writing the wrong story. And I've sometimes worried about this.

I guess my main example/concern is that my protagonists (the good guys) almost never make me laugh. That's not to say they don't say funny things, and they certainly do make each other laugh in the story. But when I read their scenes, I don't laugh. I fret, cringe, sigh, empathize, and cheer...but never laugh.

On the other hand, I have scenes with my antagonists (two of them, especially) whose bicker-bantering will actually make me honest-to-god el-oh-el, even though I am the one who put the words in their mouths! I always consider that a good thing - that no matter how many times I read a funny scene between my two , it will at least make me chuckle. It's meant to. They are funny people, especially when they're stressed and taking it out on each other.

But they are also wicked people with few redeeming qualities. For this reason, I find that although they make me laugh, I would never turn my back on them. Share a whiskey at some seedy bar? Sure. But I wouldn't take my eyes off my drink, give them my phone number or, heaven forbid, my address. And I think that's why even though I love my villains, I don't root for them. It's also why even though my heros don't make me say "you so funny!", I love them as well and enjoy writing their scenes the most. They aren't comediens, but they triumph in the face of conflict and adversary, and not just between themselves and the antagonists but also between each other. They don't make me laugh. Instead, they make me wish I was them. They are who I should aspire to be.

I hope for my someday readers, they will do the same. Laughs are fun, but triumph is inspiration.