I was all set to talk about looking to the future tonight, and then we had tragedy strike our home today. For several years now, we have been a 2-kitty household. Yesterday, our male cat, Dean, was not acting himself. He seemed to feel better this morning, but in the afternoon he declined quickly and passed at about 4pm today. We’ll miss him forever, for sure. He was a consummate gentleman, the most handsome kitty ever, and the sweetest, most cuddly kitty I’ve ever known. Run through those fields with your puppy brother Jasper – I’m sure he missed you! You’ll be in our hearts forever, sweet Dean-o.
So, let’s spend some time talking about heroes. Have you stopped to think what it is, exactly, that makes a hero? Are all your protagonists heroes? Or do you just think of them as the “hero of the story” in your mind, regardless of the role they play?
Heroes come in many shapes and sizes. They don’t have to be the big, strong man who wields a sword and faces all comers without fear and with copious amounts of violence. A hero can be anyone who shows courage, who is able to put aside their own fears for the sake of others, and who may put their own life on the line for what they consider to be right. After all, those are all heroic traits, yes?
But…what about the villain? The antagonist of our little tale? Doesn’t he or she or they do all those “heroic” things, too? We are, after all, the hero of our own tale, and history usually records the deeds of the victors. Even the “bad guy” of our tale thinks that they are on the side of the right, and are prepared to lay down their life in defense of their beliefs.
So, how do you discern between the two? What makes the protagonist the hero and the antagonist the villain? Is it only a matter of perspective? It’s a question that requires thought, in my opinion, and that can fall on either side of the line. It’s my thought that yes, it is a matter of perspective; I could just as easily write a tale that paints my antagonist as a protagonist, as I am writing the tale that is making a hero out of my protagonist. It all depends on the story that you’re setting out to tell, and as the creator, whose side you choose to land on in the end.
As a thought exercise, have you considered how you would write your story if the roles were switched, and you were telling the story from the perspective of your now-antagonist, and had to paint them as the hero of the tale you’re telling? How would you go about it? How would you turn a villain into a hero?
Give it some thought – I’d love to hear what you think, and whether or not you’ve done that sort of thought exercise in order to better get to know your antagonist. I think that it’s an exercise that is integral in the creation of our stories. If we’re not sympathetic to our antagonists, we will create villains that are one-dimensional and cardboard. You want a good villain? Make that villain into a hero.
Hope you are having a better Sunday than we’re having at Marcum Manor, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend to come!