Revising Leah

June 6, 2008

An Apology for Heather

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:25 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

Leah quickly discovers that David already has a girlfriend: a girl in their history class named Heather. Heather provides an element of antagonism for Leah in a couple of ways. First, she is a competitor for David’s attention. Leah, who is already at a loss about how to attract David, is forced to sit and watch as David and Heather’s relationship develops. Heather doesn’t seem to be aware of Leah’s interest in David at all, or if she is, she doesn’t consider Leah to be a significant threat. Second, Heather makes fun of Leah from time to time, though sometimes Leah isn’t even aware that Heather is taunting her.

Given the underlying antagonism between these two characters, it would be easy for me or for the reader to simply identify Heather as a villain in the story. But I don’t like tagging any of my characters as a “villain” because in the real world, people are more complicated than that. We are all, in a sense, the protagonists of our own “life stories,” and while we may act antagonistically towards others (whether intentionally or not) I don’t think anyone thinks of himself or herself as a villain or a “bad guy.” We prefer to see events from our own perspective; we rationalize and justify the actions we take, even if they cause harm to others. People in the real world are never all good or all bad, so why should characters in a novel be all good or all bad? For me, the most boring character in a story is going to be the character who is completely evil, without any redeeming qualities whatsoever. This does not describe Heather, if only because David likes her. Although Leah (and the reader) may have trouble seeing it, there must be something good about her; otherwise, a guy like David wouldn’t bother with her.

So I would define “protagonist” as simply the main character of the story. I’d rather not use words like “hero” or “good guy”. The antagonist, therefore, is simply someone who causes trouble for the protagonist, not necessarily because of any evil intent, but merely through the act of living as the protagonist of her own story. So Heather is not a villain, but she is an antagonist. And I imagine if I were to rewrite the story of Leah from Heather’s perspective — that is, make Heather the protagonist — then perhaps that would transform Leah into an antagonist.


1 Comment »

  1. […] jmreep @ 10:45 am Tags: character, daughters, fiction, Leah, mothers, novels, shyness, writing A few posts back, I wrote about the possibility that Heather, the girl who competes with Leah for David’s […]

    Pingback by Mrs. Nells « Revising Leah — July 28, 2008 @ 10:45 am

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