1. JBean

    JBean Active Member

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    Do your MC *have* to have an opponent?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by JBean, Dec 4, 2023.

    I keep asking myself this question because I can't get away from it whenever I try to sit and start from scratch organizing my story. There is no clear opponent. It's not that kind of story- without delving into the story.
     
  2. w. bogart

    w. bogart Contributor Contributor Blogerator

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    Yes and no. There must be an opposing force to the MC. This doesn't have to be a person.
    This may help.
    Save the cat story genres
     
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  3. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Happy Wonderer Contributor Contest Winner 2022 Contest Winner 2023

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    It doesn't have to be man vs. man. It can be man vs. nature, or man vs. beast, or man vs. himself...
     
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  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    And if it leans more toward litfic, there really doesn't need to be any opponent at all.

    Remembering what I know about your story (@JBean), I'd say the narrator is the one telling the story, but the other guy (who's name I don't remember, sorry) is possibly the real main character, and is something like a James Dean rebel without a cause type, who is maybe his own opponent. Or maybe his own darker impulses are his nemeses. That would count as 'man vs himself', AKA internal conflict. And, while I don't know the full story, and I might be entirely wrong, it seemed like to some extent maybe the narrator also had a similar thing going on, struggling against his own inner impulses much the same way the other guy did, just not as wildly or as nobly maybe. Almost as if the other guy represented something inside of himself. But that's just my own (possiby wrong) take on it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2023
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  5. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Happy Wonderer Contributor Contest Winner 2022 Contest Winner 2023

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    Are you referring to my story about the pathological liar who had dissociative identity disorder? The main characters in the story were his three personalities. So, yes, definitely a case of man vs. himself.

    In any case, I think we agree, there needs to be some conflict in a story, but there's a lot of ways to draw that conflict.
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2023
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  6. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    No, I was talking about JBean's story. I discussed it with him quite a bit a few months ago in here. Sorry, I guess I made that confusing by responding directly to your post, and then talking to him.
     
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  7. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    As most of us know from experience, sometimes the universe is the antagonist and life itself your opponent.
     
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  8. trevorD

    trevorD Senior Member

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    Louanne, what about a love story of someone with split personality disorder where the two alts are in love with one another, lol? Geez, that's actually not a bad idea haha
     
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  9. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think both these points are key to what you're looking for. A character doesn't need an enemy to struggle.
     
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  10. JBean

    JBean Active Member

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    These are really great answers, thank you!! I have been away from my writing for a bit with graduation and taking my boards over the summer and unfortunately I suffered a great unexpected loss in September when my dad passed away-- all the while starting two new jobs and going through training and spending until end of Oct cleaning out my parents' house and stuff and then I had to have surgery on my foot recently after it started hurting about a month ago and it turned out there was still a fragment of glass in my foot from when I stepped on a broken bottle 32 years ago so.... it's been a little crazy. Hard to get focused on story world but now with my spare time as I sit home recovering and waiting for work I am trying to get back into my story again.

    I had purchased a story outlining program as aplace to help me organize stuff and upon attempting to start from step one on how to build my story from what I have it wanted me to write a premise and synopsis and include all the usual stuff (opponent, struggle, goals, etc) and found myself feeling pressure to invent a "villain" but the characters I have already, while the can be antagonistic, aren't the reason for things happening.

    Anyway, these were great suggestions and helps me in moving forward and over this hurdle.
     
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  11. JBean

    JBean Active Member

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    You are correct in all of the above, yes. Better question now is pinpointing what, specifically. The question of what is stopping my character from reaching their goal is so vague in a story like this where it's a bunch of circumstances intermixing.
     
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  12. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I remember reading about a conversation Kurt Vonnegut had with his father. The father said, "You know, none of your books has a villain in it." Kurt replied, "That's one of the things I learned in the army."
     
  13. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor Blogerator

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    I don't know, maybe self-destructive tendencies? A lack of concern for himself? Or maybe his constant need to move on before things get too serious?
     
  14. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yeah, like others have said, conflict comes in many forms. And the hero/villain paradigm is extremely boring. Come to think of it, so is the morally ambiguous, no good or bad guys thing, too. Like, ooh look, the bad guy has some redeeming qualities. And ooh, the good guy is actually kind of bad. I'm so confused, who should I root for?

    Honestly, most books I read these days I'm rooting for a xenomorph to eat everyone in mid sentence. Or a nuclear weapon to end the story on page 30.
     
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  15. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    You may need to vet your reading list better. That sounds awful.
     
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  16. Not the Territory

    Not the Territory Contributor Contributor Contest Winner 2023

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    Lol. He also said he'll throw a book across the room after the first few words. And starting with the word 'the' is a potential deal-breaker.

    Either he's not in a receptive mental state or he awoke from the Matrix to realise a good number of esteemed/popular novels are not necessarily worth reading. We won't ever know.
     
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  17. JBean

    JBean Active Member

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    As I have been contemplating these things recently and thinking of books I have read (not many) it occurred to me that it almost seems like a scapegoat to have an obvious villain in a story like it takes all pressure of the character(s) from having any responsibility so long as poor them is overthrown by this bad character who ruins it! If I were trying to just write my story per se entirely around a typical plotline, it would be the easiest thing in the world to present Ben's wife as the villain who is getting in the way of he and Chris or Chris' family getting in the way of them. I have seen this happen in older movies that were adapted from a novel or a true story. What comes to mind in particular is Dog Day Afternoon with Al Pacino. I read the true story and they butchered it to make it palatable for a common movie goer audience at that time who weren't quite ready to handle a heterosexual leading man (in this Al Pacino) doing what he did (rob a bank) so his male lover can have a sex change operation. America would have a hard time understanding this and had to make his wife a fat, ugly, whiney bitch to explain why he would turn to a homosexual relationship, because he was so unhappy at home. In reality, and he lost a lot of creative rights to how his story was adapted to screenplay since he wrote it from jail) he was very angry about how the portrayed the wife in the movie and that he did not feel that way about her at all in real life and she was kind and beautiful. But it made it a cut and dry solution to make his home life miserable to explain his actions.

    I am reading Beaches which i have to admit, it isn't often I start reading a book that I actually enjoy. I love the movie and feel the story itself as well as the way it is told is kind of similar to what I am working on so I decided to read the book and see how it translates in text. I love it. It is so similar to my own style. Tell you what you need enough to put you in the story and feel what the characters are feeling and put you where they are without the need to spell out every detail! I digress.

    In the book, though, there are many differences. I don't know why they needed to change it so much when they made the movie... other than for what was described above, to make a clean cut and dry plotline. In the book the reason they stop talking is far more complicated but in the movie it was easy to have them have a nasty argument one day. It was also easier to explain why she gets a divorce and has a baby by herself than getting into the nitty gritty of her unhappy marriage and misunderstanding thinking her husband cheated on her with Ce Ce- so they made the husband having an affair with someone else and Bertie finds out. It's easy.

    If we were writing my story like this, it would be totally different, which is why I don't want to follow that format and pursued opinions on whether or not I necessarily need to have a villain or opponent. Ben's wife isn't a villain but she is the reason why Ben is divided about his feelings for Chris and for his family. He loves both and wants both but can't have both. Chris is more complex and can't get his shit together (which early on the story he admits to Ben Ben would never be able to keep up with him, because he parties hard). Rob Sinclair is still in development and pin pointing specifically where in the timeline he occurs I am struggling with still so I have, for now, set it aside until a clearer resolve comes to me. He could be considered a villain, he is, but he doesn't necessarily stop Ben, either. He is not in the way of their relationship, not directly anyway. But he is a villain for Chris because he feeds into Chris' self destructive tendencies and screws him up by luring him into this glamorous world and lavishing him with gifts and friends who know people who can bring him into the limelight but he becomes trapped in this same life that has made him, and breaks him, because it only can last as long as Chris is still young and beautiful and popular but Rob comes to fully support Chris and does not care about him as a person and he finds himself trapped in this abusive, toxic life and Ben can't save him because he can barely keep up with caring for his own family, despite how much he loves Chris and hates seeing this spiraling down.

    When the story opens years later Ben is single. I don't explain why, but he's never moved on and his daughter doesn't understand what really happened between her parents and why her father has never gotten into a new relationship. She's not opposition. She is also not a MC but the story opens and moves forward because of her discovery about her father's past and the things that went on when she was a baby. By the conclusion of the story there is (redemption?) closure and he had never been open with anyone about what happened and how he felt and spent years living in guilt and shame- both for having hurt his wife and family and knowing how he always felt about Chris and the life he led in secret on the side with him when he knew he should not, despite his multiple attempts to end it. At the same time he lives with the guilt that maybe if he hadn't been so flaky he could have been there for Chris and changed the outcome of his life which ends both very sadly but with an unexpectedly positive outcome at the end that he does not learn about until his daughter kicks him in the ass and makes him reopen the door and talk to Chris' niece.

    This is in a very large nutshell. It makes a lot of sense when I summarize it this way but then when i try to actually organize all these ideas I get overwhelmed! But there are absolutely antagonistic factors at play. This isn't Romeo and Juliet where the star crossed lovers want to run off into the sunset but their families say no. These are autonomous adults in the 1970s. Ben could absolutely separate from Marsha if he wants to go live in the city with Chris and see his kids on the weekend and shit. It's not like that wasn't an option. Chris would leave his life behind or try to and become a respectable over the hill washed up you know what who settles down and moves to the suburbs (which deep down he really longs for but knows himself well enough that he couldn't ever give up his habits and wouldn't want to hurt Ben).
     
  18. Seven Crowns

    Seven Crowns Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor Contest Winner 2022

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    man vs. inlaws
    man vs. DMV
    man vs. forum moderators

    they should expand that list, haha
     
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  19. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, the vetting failures led to the following:

    The "the" was a random vetting element since nothing else was working. And, yeah, probably the Matrix part in my case.
     
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  20. JBean

    JBean Active Member

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    Just curious if any further thoughts on this topic based on the summary I provided above?
     
  21. w. bogart

    w. bogart Contributor Contributor Blogerator

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    Looking at your summary, I can see man vs self. The MC and his inner termoil. Man vs society, in society nit accepting his relationship, actual or desired, with another man.

    As far as getting overwhelmed trying to organize all this. I would remind you of the old question, how do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
    Break things into smaller incident/events, and organize each individually.
     
  22. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    I think one thing to keep in mind is that there is often more than just one "opponent" facing a character. He could have an actual antagonist character (so-called villain of whatever) and in addition to man vs man he could still be battling himself or society or the elements or other things. Any combination could work suitable for the story. It could be all of them, some of them, but I think it's rarely just one of them. I mean a lot of characters have internal struggles (man vs self) in addition to a more tangible opponent or hurdle they are trying to overcome. I think the more of these you explore while writing your stories the more layers and complexities it can create.
     
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  23. w. bogart

    w. bogart Contributor Contributor Blogerator

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    @deadrats makes some very good points here.
    The best example of this i can think of is "Dune" by Frank Herbert. Every time i reread the book I discover new layers of complexity in the story. The many groups with their political agendas, which are easy to miss at first glance.
     
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  24. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody Book Witch Contributor

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    I've written:
    • girl vs mother ("i want my absent mother to like me")
    • man vs tree ("I'm gonna chop this tree down that's been part of my life for years")
    • woman vs society ("I'm going to take in this abandoned child and everyone is going to hate me for it")
    • girl vs fear ("I'm afraid of pigeons, but grandma is having me feed the pigeons with her")
    • boy vs family ("my family is so annoying and I cant stand them, but at the end of the world, there's no place i'd rather be than with them")
    doesn't have to be in-your-face/good vs evil/Harry v Voldemort. in my above stories, none of the characters are evil.

    I also think that it just comes naturally, just like we naturally have setbacks and opponents in real life. unless you are intentionally wanting to write a Good Vs Evil/ Hero's Journey story, you will naturally develop your character's opponent in whatever form they take Because, a main character typically has a problem and/or something troubling them. They typically have something holding them back from solving that problem. in my "man v tree" story, the character is old. he's lived a long life and seen many things and wants to die. his life is tied to this very old tree that has been there all of his life and he feels that he cannot let go/move on unless that tree topples too. Even in girl vs mother.... the girl is troubled because she doesn't have a mom. When her mom returns, she becomes the opponent the girl must face to solve her troubles.

    In my novels, I do have clear villains. characters who actively work to hurt the MC in whatever way they can (or at least make it harder for them to achieve their goals). but they also have other opponents that stand in their way much like my short stories: woman vs tradition.... woman vs. self..... woman vs spirituality.... woman vs love
     
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  25. royalbardofcanterlot

    royalbardofcanterlot New Member

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    Nah. You can have a story like Chopin's "The Awakening" where the opponent is restrictive social mores.
     
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