Monthly Archives: November 2013

The Key to a Great Story – Redeemable Antagonists

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Anyone can be a redeemable antagonist for a time, even the best of friends.

Anyone can be a redeemable antagonist for a time, even the best of friends.

As I said in my previous post antagonists are sometimes the most complex of characters and I really wasn’t kidding. I’ll be devoting a couple of blog posts to these characters because they are so complex. This post will be about antagonists that can be redeemable in the eyes of the reader and possibly also as part of their character development. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series offer great examples of characters that on occasion are antagonists but are written to be forgiven by the other characters and the audience.

The easiest type of redeemable antagonists to understand are those who are only temporarily antagonising the protagonist. Examples of such characters include best friends and family who are companions of the protagonist who are undergoing the same stresses at the protagonist but are reacting to them differently. The very best examples of these redeemable antagonists are Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger at various points in the Harry Potter Series.

How writers should approach these types of antagonists who disrupt intentionally or unintentionally with the protagonists actions or feelings is to remember that everybody is different. Humans react differently to situations differently. Some characters might want to charge into action while others might which stop for a few vital moments to think about what they are doing. These sorts of antagonists might only fall into this category for a chapter or two, but the key is to make sure that they are reacting for a good reason and their actions are understandable to the audience and to the protagonists for them to be able to forgive them eventually.

One of these ways a character might act like this is because they have a stubborn personality and they aren’t willing to admit that they are wrong. Ron and Hermione are both known to have stubborn opinions. For example Hermione is so determined that she is always right that at first Harry and Ron aren’t even friends with her. In the Goblet of Fire Ron is unwilling to accept that Harry didn’t put his name in to become a contestant in the tournament, and it isn’t until the first task when Ron comes around to accept that Harry didn’t.

Fear is another good reason for not cooperating when a protagonist really needs them to do so. Poor Neville in the first book nearly gets Harry and friends in trouble when he knocks over a suit of armour. Fear is emotion that an audience can understand better than being stubborn. While we all have our stubborn moments, we are all familiar with the instinct to survive. Being unwilling to participate because of fear is understandable, and overcoming it can make for great character development. I can honestly say I would never be as developed as Ron Weasley; there is no way on this good earth I would have entered the Forbidden Forest looking for spiders

Another type of redeemable antagonist is those characters who are simply doing their jobs. They might be an authority figure whose job it is to keep order. The protagonist might not be able to forgive their actions, but in the reader’s mind if the character is simply doing their job, then they might be able to forgive them their actions, unless they are extreme, by the end of the story. If their actions in doing their job are extreme then they don’t fall into the category of redeemable protagonists.

Professor Mcgonagall’s punishment of her own students and House, in the first Harry Potter book when they are caught out of bed might seem quite harsh, but in all fairness Harry and Hermione were breaking the rules (sneaking out a dragon is high up on that list of rules I would suspect). Rules do exist for a reason, and being out of the dormitories at night is not an unreasonable rule to have in place. Both the reader and Harry understand and agree with her actions.

Sometimes characters though set out to be an antagonist but end up redeemable in the end. Draco Malfoy and Harry Potter come to an understanding, but Draco in my eyes while redeemable is a different type of antagonist. He is what I call a Puppet Antagonist, but that is a topic for another post.

So sometimes in your writing any of your characters can become a redeemable antagonist for a while. You just have to make sure that the reasons why they have found themselves in this characters category are both understandable to the audience. They might be doing their jobs or they just might need to find some courage, but either way they can still be characters that the audience love, they just might be a bit irritated with them for a while. To me, that makes your writing and your story more real.

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Being Offended

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Think before you react. (Not to just this post by the way; to everything)

Druid Life

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.” Stephen Fry.

There are things we should all be offended by, because they are innately offensive: Injustice, cruelty, inequality of opportunity, abuses of power and system.  We should be offended by people who refuse to listen to reason, ignore the evidence, act based on blind prejudice and who are driven by hate or destructive levels of greed. All too often we seem, collectively, to let this stuff pass us by in preference for taking offence over minor perceived slights.

The thing that has driven me most round the bend in the last…

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No to NaNoWriMo

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I love this post. I know a lot of people love NaNoWriMo, but I am not one of them and this post sums up a lot of reasons why I don’t.

Druid Life

In January, everyone should try and choreograph a ballet. In March we should all write an opera, and in June everyone should paint a fresco. Sounds ludicrous, doesn’t it? And yet the idea that everyone could write a novel in November gets a good deal more acceptance. Why do we assume that, while these other forms would require skills, knowledge and practice beyond most people’s experience, anyone can write a book? It drives me round the bend.

Getting people to explore their creativity is something I’ve always considered important, but I think that should begin with a respect for whatever form you are working in. To start by assuming the form is easy, requires no study, research or insight, is to set yourself up to fail. I don’t think that benefits anyone. So, here are a few counterarguments.

Fifty thousand words is not really a book; that’s rather short. Seventy…

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Book Review: The Radleys by Matt Haig

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The Radleys by Matt Haig is a book about vampires. I hold my hands up and admit I am not the biggest fan of books about vampires. I’ve read Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris; I enjoyed the Sookie Stackhouse books for a while but paranormal romance just doesn’t grip me.

However, The Radleys is not a paranormal romance. It is a family-based, supernatural, drama and it is fantastic breath of fresh air for vampires literature. The only unusual thing about this middle class family who live in a typical English village is the fact that they are vampires.

The two teenage children in the book only just learn what they really are after their parents kept their true nature a secret from them. It is only when one of them discovered a taste for blood by accident that all of the family’s tightly guarded secrets begin spilling out like a torrent of blood.

Many of the inner torments the characters have to deal with revolve around this secret, which has been kept for so long, but in many ways their feelings are akin to the problems of everyday humans. Not fitting in at school. Dealing with unwanted attention from a boy. Dealing with lustful fantasies about a neighbour. Regretting and trying to forget past mistakes. Teenage crushes. You know normal stuff.

It is this realism, which makes the story a great deal more believable. That might be an unusual request for a fantasy book, they aren’t supposed to be real, they are meant to be supernatural. For me as a reader though, I want to be able to relate to the characters in some way. What they are, what they are doing, and how the people around them react is absolutely crucial to making a story readable. I sympathised with the characters at times. I got irritated with but understood their inability to overcome their crippling feelings and take action. I felt as if the end had a proper and natural resolution.

I would highly recommend The Radleys to anybody looking to read a great book, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to read a fantasy book about vampires sans the paranormal romance.