All the prompts this month are designed to stand alone or support your novel habit! Use them to spark standalone stories or to unstick your work-in-progress.
Just because it’s short doesn’t mean a story can’t be complex.
Write a story in which the protagonist and antagonist are two sides of the same coin.
- One way to stop a story from spiraling out of control is to keep it to a single central issue. A great way to do that is to make sure your protagonist and their opponent care about the same things with similar intensity but want different outcomes.
- The best piece of advice I ever got about a villain/antagonist was this: the villain shows the reader exactly what your protagonist could become if she took one more step across the line. Imagine if Captain America punched anyone who got in his way: grannies, little kids, dogs…you’d feel pretty differently about him wouldn’t you? [1. Have you watched The Boys on Amazon Prime? Totally goes there…] It’s the fact that he protects the weak and fights the mighty that makes him a hero. One of the best baddies in the Star Trek universe is Khan: a character who is, like Kirk, fiercely protective of his crew. The difference? Khan will happily walk over the dead bodies of innocents to keep his crew safe. Kirk, the hero, isn’t capable of going that far.
- Remember that, to each character, the actions they plan to take make total sense and are entirely morally justifiable…within their belief system. If you need a visual image for this, remember your Dr Seuss: The North-Going Zax and the South-Going Zax stand nose-to-nose for years, while the world goes on around them, both sure of their rightness about the same issue.
- In a story like this, you can build up to the issue for most of the story and leave your characters at the climax, or you can enter the story after the initial issue explodes and explore the protagonist and antagonist’s battle to put the pieces of the world back together again, in the shape that makes most sense to each. (Remember for ‘explode’ and ‘battle’ you could substitute ‘reveal’ and ‘manipulate’ or ‘argue’, in an office drama or family saga.)
You can read more tips on workmen with protagonists in this post (contains an Antagonist’s Cheat Sheet) and this post about Your Villain As A Mirror, which has some great comments showing you how other people used this idea in stories.
If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.
So what did you come up with?
Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!