Apprentice Wordsmith A Writer's Blog

Using Real Life -- Antagonists

“There are some people that are like Slinkies. They serve no useful purpose in life, but it gives you a warm feeling when you push them down the stairs.” – Unknown

We all know somebody like this. They can be a real thorn in your side, too. One thorn in my side is named Micah.

Micah goes to my church. We were in the same Sunday School class in high school. He is also a notorious flirt. He has tried to win my attention for years now, and his efforts have annoyed me immensely. Primarily because a) he will not take the hint that I am not interested, and b) since he has Down Syndrome, I have to wrestle with the social pressure to be nice to him.

My mind returned to Micah as my family and I pulled into church one recent Sunday. I don’t really know why. I hadn’t seen him in months. With the memories came all of the old emotions: frustration, anger, even hatred. I was shocked by their reappearance. These weren’t the kind of emotions I should be carrying into a worship service. I tried to suppress them, but with limited success.

Then something weird yet cool happened during the sermon. I was inspired and imagined a scenario that my fictional heroes could face in a fantasy setting.

A shade is haunting a temple, menacing the worshipers and distracting the clergy from their religious duties. By the time the heroes arrive in town, the clergy have tried everything they know and it has all failed. They are at their wits’ end and beg the heroes to help.

I do not doubt that the shade and the scenario were inspired by my experiences with Micah and the emotions attached to it. Was there divine influence as well? I’ll leave that for you to decide. Regardless, this process showed me that creating art can be an emotional release valve, a channel to direct them in a productive rather than destructive direction. It’s cliche because it’s true.

Before I wrap this post up, I’d like to give you a writing exercise:

Identify someone you are currently in conflict with. Think about why you are in conflict with this person – what they are trying to accomplish, what you are trying to accomplish, and what you wish this person would do. Use these answers to develop a scenario where your protagonist confronts an antagonist with similar motives. You can stage it so that the protagonist can air their grievances and maybe even come to terms with the antagonist. Or the protagonist could simply punch the antagonist in the face. Your story, your call.

How has real life inspired your writing? Share your experiences in the comments.

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