Before getting on to the subject of antagonists, I just wanted to extend a word of thanks to Annie Neugebauer. She’s a great role model in how she posts so regularly on her blog. Last week, she told me she sets aside time each Monday to post something, whether on writing, her current works in progress, or some other topic. I’m going to follow her example and make sure to post something at least every Sunday evening, particularly if I haven’t written anything else that week.
Now, antagonists. I’ve been plugging away at Martha Alderson’s series on How to Plot a Novel, Memoir, etc., and am now on Step 13: Antagonists. The antagonists in a book could be the main character’s family, friends, even inanimate objects — anything that keeps the character from making progress toward achieving his or her goal. Internal antagonists are also important. For instance, the main character’s fears or doubts could be a key antagonist in a given work.
Martha’s view is that the protagonist has all the skills and abilities to achieve what she wants but either doesn’t know or realize this at the outset of the book. It’s through the interactions and struggles with the antagonists that these skills rise to the fore. The antagonists help the reader see who the main character really is because it is under tension or pressure that we truly start to reveal who we are.
The task for this step is to make a list of any antagonists for your main character and then to develop scenes that will show the main character grappling with his or her antagonists at various points in the plot.
The most interesting part of this video was how Martha closed it. She asked her viewers to write down a list of our own antagonists in our writing and creative life. Who or what most hinders or impedes us? This was really helpful and made me reflect on why I haven’t made more progress in drafting my book(s).
My own personal antagonists are self-doubt (can I really write a book?), which leads to both procrastination (putting off writing because I’m not sure it’ll be good) and distraction (straying off onto some other project to avoid working on a book since I’m not sure I can finish it).
None of these things characterize me at work, so I’ve decided to try to be more self-disciplined about writing at home and keep track of my writing time. For comparison, when I want to lose a few pounds, I write down how many minutes I’ve exercised on my calendar and note down what my weight is each day (and then calculate a weekly average). All this helps keep me on track toward my goal.
So I spent some time last week thinking about what my daily writing goals could be. I also worked on daily goals for other things, like household tasks and handyman-type projects around the house, and mapped out a little schedule for myself to give me more structure. At the close of each day, I’ve started jotting down in a little pocket notebook how much writing time and research time (for the Civil War book) I’ve done. This will let me see how much progress I am making toward my goal of completing a book and, ideally, will help me overcome my three antagonists that have been slowing me down.
Who are your antagonists?