Sunday, October 08, 2006

Shadow Selves

Tell me if this is how it works for you, too...

A story doesn't come together for me until I know and love my villian, or as I like to call him or her, the antagonist.

I'm in the character bio stage of a new story. After one rather spectacular stumble last year, I leared not to start writing a story until I know my characters inside and out. I have a three-page questionnaire that I complete on all of the major players, but the one that brings it all together is the antagonist. If I don't love him or her, and I mean in a "love thy enemy" sort of way, then the story almost always falls apart on me.

In my mind the antagonist is not only the heroine's shadow self; she is also my shadow self. You've probably also read that the antagonist is really the heroine of his or her own story. But I have to feel true kinship with my bad girl, just as I do with my heroine to get them to talk to me.
For example in In Between Men, one of Isa's defining qualities is her kindness. Even though she hates her ex-husband, even though the very thought of him arouses murderous impulses, she would never bad mouth him in front of her son. And trust me in that book, Carlos (her ex) gives her many reasons to. But where Isa is kind, he is cruel. Where she puts others first; he is selfish.

You get the idea. And while Carlos is one bad hombre, I not only understood him; I've been in his shoes. I've acted out on my anger. I've said things I shouldn't have said. The same goes with my new antagonist. But she's even closer to me; she's the darker side of my teenaged self. In some ways, she will help me forgive myself for some of the things I said and did. In other ways, she'll fulfill the fantasies I had against some of the not-so-nice girls I went to high school with.

Either way, I can't wait to see what will happen once I get to the actual writing.

Heh heh heh.


P.S. This was inspired by Pema Chodron's book, Start Where You Are.

1 comment:

Sandra D said...


I read and reread what you wrote in this blog about teenage years.

You don't have to redeem yourself for anything...your end result is a beautiful person and very talented author..and very much loved friend.