Hello, writers. I ran across the following writing prompt on the interwebz the other day:
Write about the things your antagonist can't speak about.Well, it struck me as more interesting than most of the Tonight's Challenges I've been able to think of lately, so I thought I'd write a nice little diary about antagonists.
Thing is, I'm never conscious of having any antagonists in my stories. So I thought, well, the “antagonist” is whatever obstacle the protagonist is up against, right? My protagonists tend to be struggling against stuff like societal restrictions, The System, or their own self-doubt.
A quick google showed me that no, those things don't count as antagonists. An antagonist is a person. (Or, at least, a being with some attributes of a person. Human, demon, talking rabbit, opinionated waterfowl, something of this sort.)
So my next thought was that conflict with the antagonist doesn't actually have to be the main conflict of the story.
And this I think is correct. But while googling around, I met two characters I'd never heard of, though no doubt some of you frighteningly-educated types have.
They are the deuteragonistand the tritagonist. Apparently they come from Greek drama. And Greek acting troupes actually had three principal actors who would always play these three main roles. The tritagonist was most like an antagonist.
According to wikipedia, the deuteragonist
...is the second most important character... The deuteragonist may switch from being with or against the protagonist depending on the deuteragonist's own conflict/plot.(If you now have Old Deuteronomy from CATS running through your head, I apologize.)
As for the tritagonist, wikipedia says that s/he
...may act as the instigator or cause of the sufferings of the protagonist. Despite being the least sympathetic character of the drama, he occasions the situations by which pity and sympathy for the protagonist are excited.Now I am not so sure about this. It reminds me slightly of a very old writing book I read as a teenager which averred that a story always consisted of two people trying to reach a resolution and a third person trying to prevent them from doing so. Since I couldn't think of a single example of this in anything I'd read, I just disregarded that bit of reductionism.
But I guess this is something slightly different. It's formulaic, yes. But it's so loose that I wonder if it might be worth playing around with.
Write a brief scene containing a protagonist, a deuteragonist, and a tritagonist. Set it in/at one of the following places:Try to limit yourself to 150 words.
- a diner
- a Greyhound
- the workshop/living room/mountain fastness of the sinister and usually-off-screen Froop, mighty magical mentor of Togwogmagog
- a street in 18th century London, New York or Paris
- the North Pole
Or, if you'd prefer a different challenge:Write about the things your antagonist can't speak about.
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