View Full Version : Equalizing The Forces Of Opposition

Home - Discussion Forums - News - Reviews - Interviews

New reviews, interviews and news

New in the Discussion Forum

August 12th, 2005, 08:17 AM

I'm attempting my first novel and am currently in the process of writing profiles of my main protagonist, confidant and antagonist.

The problem I have is that the protagonist and antagonist are not evenly matched. I'm writing one of those stories where the protagonist (great character but an average guy) inadvertently becomes caught up in a sinister plot and in the process makes an enemy with a corrupt, high ranking and powerful government official. The only way to resolve his dilema is to accomplish that what the antagonist must prevent him from doing at all costs.

What do i do? The conflict between the 2 is unequal. Do I need to change the protagonist to become more the equal of the antagonist?



August 12th, 2005, 08:51 AM
Great character/avarage guy would most likely have few enemies and get quite a bit of support on account of being likable.

Powerful/high-ranking people, otoh, usually have plenty of opponents.

What you could do is build up the social environment in such a way that has the powerful politician slowly lose control. Your protagonist may stir up a hornets nest with his naivity; he may be used by opponents; he may rouse pangs of consciounsness among the politician's followers (or perhaps even within the politician himself?).

The uneven match set up works better if your character isn't a champion for a cause, but someone who gets caught up in a mire and tries to get out of it alive. All the decicive actions would be done by other people, but your character functions as a catalyst without whom nothing would have happened.

August 12th, 2005, 10:19 AM
Uneven contests happen alot.

We start off with Corrupt Politician and Joe Everyman.

Corrupt politician does a handshake deal with Evil Corporation to sell them an area. This area happens to contain the home of Joe Everyman. Joe Everyman discovering he's about to be forced out of his home for an expensive redevelopment finds himself helpless against the combined forces of Corrupt Politician and Evil Corporation. So what does he do?

Why Joe Everyman stands up to them, seeking to unravel how this has happened. He finds other homeowners about to lose their homes as well and maybe a Plucky Lawyer who despite being small potatoes individually, as a group they can take on Corrupt Politician and the Evil Corporation while Justice is on their side.

Or you can do a twist. Maybe the Corporation isn't evil, just misunderstood. It's actually going to help the area by building that redevelopment and it's Corrupt Politician who's seizing up all the available property and squeezing the homeowners who won't sell. Think "Other People's Money" with Danny DeVito. People that Joe Everyman think is on his side are betraying him and it's the CEO who looks with pity down on Joe Everyman, knowing the forces arrayed against him and Joe's insistance it's the CEO's fault.

Besides, everyone likes an underdog.

August 12th, 2005, 11:42 AM
Heros are generally underdogs to some extent, after all, what's the challenge in defeating someone less powerful than you...that's just bullying.

People often find hidden strengths and depth when faced with adversity, it's this that they use to overcome the adversity. Many of the hero myths reflect this. So your "normal guy" is a hero waiting to happen. What is his strength? To unite people as Expendale suggests? Will his rage turn him into a wrathful vigilante, Batman style?

Also, everyone has their weakness. Your hero's best bet is to find his enemie's weakness. The arrogance of the powerful can lead them to believe they have none. Find his achilles heal...

So no, you don't need to change the protagonist, just develop him.

Why don't you tell us a little more about him? Prehaps we can help identify his hidden strengths...

August 12th, 2005, 01:05 PM

many thanks for your replies, they are very helpful.

to blob. without boring you to death with all the details my protagonist is a loveable rouge type of character who, although possessing a good heart, is narrow minded, likes to live within the confines of his own security bubble and doesn't like responsibilities. He's 38 going on 25, is good looking, is financially comfortable, has no problem with women and lives for his social life. he's not interested in serious relationships of children. The main strength of the protagonist is that he is very resourceful and loves his family.

naturally i want him to turn out to be an open, responsible character by the end of the story.

the problem at the beginning of story is that his (law abiding, married, children) brother has committed suicide, leaving my protagonist grieving and turning to drugs and drink which ar.e steering him to an early grave

once again, thanks for your replies

hope this helps


August 14th, 2005, 11:36 AM
I think you've just described Hugh Grant in About a Boy;)

You character sounds quite independent, which probably means he's quite strong headed, stubborn even. It's unlikely he's ever been challenged by his limitations. Maybe because of this he would arrogantly square up to the antagonist. My guess is that in this process he would discover his weaknesses initially and in the process identify his strengths.

If he's well off, then he's probably successful, a career guy who works long hours. He must be quite intelligent; maybe it's this that saves him. His rage at his brother's death is probably the driving force that will catalyse his personal epiphany. Grief is a powerful motivator, and it's likely that he will project his rage on the antagonist that in the process will allow him to free himself of the burden of the drugs that he uses to stifle his grief. Part of his epiphany is this process.

His independentness and self-destructive nature are likely what amounts to his strategic strength. If he is, as you say, a family man, the desire to protect those he loves will be a prime motivator. Your plot device maybe to provoke this family instinct by placing them in harms way - this provocation would then motivate you character so act rage fuelled retribution.

So I guess the equalizer is your characters rage and his lack of care for his personal safety.

Hope I've interpreted your character well and that this helps. Good luck with your novel.