Tag: protagonist

protagonist

My Protagonist Hereby Resolves…

 The Missdemeanors hope 2019 is a kinder, better year than 2018. We believe that in a world where you can be anything, you should be kind. We also believe our characters should resolve to make some changes in the new year:MicheleSabrina Salter resolves to find her mother whether she is dead or alive. TraceeAgnes Luthi is going to finally learn how to play mah jong RobinEmma Quinn resolves not to swear so damn much. (Resolutions are made to be broken, right?) CateLiza Cole resolves to take her medicine regularly. SusanMaggie Dove resolves to be a better aunt, lose two pounds, and be more ferocious. Or ferocious at all. AlisonAbish Taylor resolves to get some sleep (preferably daily!) and to forgive her father. AlexiaGethsemane Brown resolves to switch to a whiskey that’s less expensive than Bushmills 21, win the All-County Orchestra competition again, not lose her temper when someone calls her “Sissy,” and improve her brogue. 

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In fiction as in life

 Yesterday, I posted about authors getting into shape. That got me thinking about the physical fitness habits of fictional characters. “Person versus nature” is a classic literary theme. A character engaged in an outdoor activity like backpacking, skiing, or trekking might find themselves combating nature’s fury in the form of a landslide, earthquake, or avalanche. A character might undergo physical training as preparation for battle against their antagonist. Even if you’re not a fan of sports films or boxing, when someone says, “Rocky,” you imagine Sylvester Stallone’s triumphant run up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Dr. Strange” features several scenes of Benedict Cumberbatch enduring physical as well as magical training. Superheroes require physical toughness to fight the forces of evil. Two my favorite movies, “Stripes” and “Private Benjamin,” present the rigors of military physical fitness as both a literal antagonist to overcome and as metaphorical antagonist for the characters’ battles against themselves and others who are betting on them to fail. Christine Sneed, one of the authors interviewed for the article, “How the bookish stay in shape,” (William Hageman, Chicago Tribune, November 11, 2015) includes college athletes and distance runners as characters in her novels. Author Philip Brewer […]

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Next Stop: Dysfunction Junction

  One of my favorite TV series is “Midsomer Murders,” the British cozy-cum-police procedural set in small town England, now in its twentieth season. Other, newer favorites include “The Brokenwood Mysteries,” a darker cozy-cum-police procedural set in small town New Zealand, and “Hinterlands,” so dark it’s actually Scandi-noir masquerading as village fare, set in small town Wales. All three shows share commonalities. They focus on police investigation of crimes in rural areas with adjusted per capita murder rates that rival Chicago’s. The biggest difference between the three is the degree of dysfunction in the main characters. Midsomer’s DCI Barnaby is an ordinary guy, a well-adjusted everyman with a well-adjusted wife and daughter. His home life is ordinary, if not outright idyllic. The drama and trauma occur on the job. Brokenwood’s DSS Shepherd, on the other hand, is a man with a complicated past that includes several ex-wives and at least one dead one. You get the sense he’s experienced a lot of unhappiness in a life accented by the show’s country/alt rock soundtrack. Hinterland’s (the darkest of the shows) DCI Mathias makes Kurt Wallander look like the president of the pep club in comparison. Devastated by the death of one of […]

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Don't Mess with Mother Nature

 I spent the weekend the way I imagine most of the rest of the country spent it—watching or reading about the horror unfolding in Houston and other parts of Texas hit by Hurricane Harvey. Unprecedented flooding, hundreds of highways closed, cutting off escape, untold numbers of people trapped or displaced, billions of dollars in damage. Images and stories of destruction reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina. Nature kicking humankind in the ass, reminding us it’s more powerful than our built environment, telling us our high-tech gizmos can’t save us. Forcing us to rely on human ingenuity and grit. Nature as antagonist is a common theme in stories. Movies like Volcano and Twister tell viewers upfront who—or what—the hero will have to overcome to save herself, her friends, the neighborhood, the planet. Every good story gives the hero a worthy antagonist is the mantra you learn in writing workshops and guidebooks. But an antagonist—the force that opposes the protagonist, the obstacle between the hero and her goal—doesn’t have to be human. Wo/man can face opposition from technology, society, animals, surroundings, weather. The force of weather can turn an otherwise mundane, familiar, bucolic setting into a strange, terrifying, menacing hell. Greater Los Angeles becomes a […]

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The Non-Feel Good Novel

One of my favorite novelists is Herman Koch because he makes me consistently uncomfortable. The first book I read from Koch was The Dinner. The novel’s POV protagonist, Paul Lohman, starts off as a pretty likable guy. He has some issues, a few stray thoughts that would give most people pause, but doesn’t everyone? Who hasn’t thought something that they would never say aloud? Who hasn’t laughed at a friend’s off-color joke?   As the story goes on, however, it becomes clear that Paul’s naughty thoughts are much more than one-offs. By the book’s end, I felt a bit guilty that I had liked Paul at the start. That guilt made the story stick with me even though the ending wasn’t one to revel in and the characters weren’t people whom I would ever cheer for in real life. I like my good characters with a healthy dose of bad. To me, that makes them complicated, and complexity makes people human. I’m not alone. How could Breaking Bad have been so successful if plenty of people weren’t willing to root for Walter White? Still, not everyone feels this way. When I wrote The Widower’s Wife, some readers didn’t like the fact that my main character, Ana, contemplates […]

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Recent Posts

First pages.
  • February 13, 2019
First lines.
  • February 12, 2019
Lots of counting in writing
  • February 11, 2019
How Do You Even Brand?
  • February 8, 2019
Left Coast Party
  • February 7, 2019
The Power of Yes
  • February 5, 2019
Embracing My Brand
  • February 4, 2019
How to Deal with Change
  • February 1, 2019

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