While I’m out running around, I wanted to re-run an updated version of a post I originally wrote back in March 2012, when I had finished the final big re-write of the book. It’s about Chapter 16 in Something Other than God — the chapter where I encounter my antagonist.
. . .
When I sat down to write this final draft of my book, I thought I knew a lot about story. My bookshelves jammed with tomes about the craft of storytelling were a testament to how much I’d learned about the subject over the past few years.
As I set out to tell my tale, I was confident that I had all the necessary pieces in place. Protagonist? That one’s easy. Check. Central conflict? Check. Initiating incident? Check. Theme? Check.
I started writing. Then, a couple chapters in, something dawned on me:
What about the antagonist?
Every story has an antagonist. It can be as obvious as a supervillian or as subtle as personality quirk, but there is always a force that opposes the protagonist. In fact, if you don’t have an antagonist, you don’t have a story. So I figured that there must be one, but couldn’t pinpoint what it was.
I didn’t come up with anything. Eventually I figured it must be the evil, broadly defined, since evil always tries to keep us away from God.
Then one Saturday morning I sat down to work on the book. It was time to start talking about those first stirrings of desire for God. I’d already recounted why I came to believe in some kind of Creator on an intellectual level, and now it was time to explain how my heart got into it. Before I started writing, I asked myself a question that would change the course of the book; it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that it changed the course of my life.
I simply wondered:
At this point in my life, was there anything I wanted more than God?
Based on that prompt, I started writing. And the memories came like a downpour.
I could hardly type fast enough to keep up with the thoughts. I wrote and wrote, churning out an almost inhuman words-per-minute rate as I told the story of a time I encountered something that I desired so deeply that I wanted it more than I wanted God. I’ve rarely had an easier writing assignment than describing the ways in which this thing lured me, what I found so wonderful about it, the reasons I thought it would make my life complete.
When I was done, I took my hands away from the keyboard, looked back at what I had just written. With a chill, I realized that I had just encountered my antagonist.
I didn’t understand my own story until I understood that my antagonist was something more than the general workings of evil. It was something very specific that I wanted out of life, a goal that I desired to achieve with everything in my being. There’s nothing wrong with setting goals and aiming to reach them, of course; what made this particular goal the antagonist was that I wanted it more than I wanted anything else — even God.
After I finished the chapter, which would end up being Chapter 16 in the final book, it occurred to me that I’m still living a story…which must mean that I have a new antagonist to face down in my life today.
And if I ever want to live a truly great story, I must find out what it is.
New here? Come say hi on Twitter at @jenfulwiler!