marycatelli (marycatelli) wrote,
marycatelli
marycatelli

Agonistes and Agony -- or how rough should his life be anyway

Agonistes just means "the struggler" -- hence both the protagonist, and the antagonist.  But then again, it is the root of "agony," and there's a reason for it.  So hard should it be for the hero and villain personally?

Not just in the difficulty of the events of the story, like Jeeves wrestling with the complications that arise in the course of carrying out his plans, such as Bertie's changing his mind or the other characters behaving erratically, but with perfect cool. 

Jeeves manages it with superhuman deftness and no personal involvement, which does not really arose sympathy for him.  Since he's always acting on the behalf of other more helpless characters, he nevertheless gets the reader on his side.  Except the one story where Wodehouse told it from Jeeves's POV.  He needed motives, he got them, and it did not work well.  Which is the way lack of suffering works.  There comes a day when you just want Wile E. Coyote to get that stupid Roadrunner and have a good solid meal, because he suffers and the Roadrunner doesn't.

Which is the balancing act with how they suffer.  Making the hero suffer not at all, no matter how much you like him, means he doesn't get the sympathy, so most heroes should suffer.  A lot.  It's not just that the task before them is difficult, it's that it's of great personal importance to him, and hits them right in their weakest spots.  Asking who would suffer most in a given plot is a good way to flesh out your character.

Villains are a trade-off.  Some villains you want as cold masterminds or more forces of nature than human; some you want rather sympathetic.  This is not just a question of who suffers, but how clearly we know it.  POV tricks can shift it one way or the other.

Which characters have you seen suffering in ways that make good stories?

Part of bittercon 
Tags: bittercon, character arc, plotting, point of view, sympathy
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