Who Is Your Main Antagonist?
writing fiction, writers are forced to consider the protagonist
and his or her agenda. We need to ask what our hero's goals are
and where they want to end up as people.
usually, there is an antagonist whose desire to thwart the hero's goals
is at least as strong, if not stronger than the hero's.
But what about writers themselves? Who is their main antagonist?
Alas - usually themselves.
it comes to writing, there's that little guy inside your head who wants
to criticize - endlessly. His voice reminds you constantly that you
have no special talent, that your writing is average at best, and that
you should never, ever show your work to anyone because, well, it's
Helpful little fella. And to think, he lives inside of us!
the inner critic is a necessary part of the writing process. If we
couldn't silence the little rascal, we'd never write anything. Indeed
many writers get stuck on page one because they can't ignore the
nagging doubts the inner critic has no qualms about repeating and
reinforcing every time they sit down and write.
Much of my teaching is
about dealing with your internal critic because I think, especially for
the first draft, it's not very helpful. The inner critic's job comes
later, after the main thrust of the story is down - from beginning to
one of the main problems with the inner critic is that he stops you
from finishing anything. I know many writers who never finish anything
because the critic takes over their thinking before they get anywhere
near the end of their stories or pieces. Not good.
Disastrous in fact.
It gets worse.
even after you've completed your work, polished it, worked hard and let
yourself believe you have created something of value, the critic is
have the submission envelope in your hand, ready. But he's waiting by
the door, arms folded, foot tapping, looking at you with that nasty
smug expression, saying, "You've not actually going to send that out are you?"
And you're forced to wonder:
Just how embarrassing would it be to send this out?
Just how bad is my writing?
What will people think of it?
What will people think of me?
None of which is helpful to you - or your potential career.
there's hope. Because the fact is, it doesn't matter how far you get,
that inner critic never goes away. So while you can consult with him on
technical issues and listen to his advice sometimes, you really just
have to shut him up, lock him away in the shed, when the time comes to
You need to develop a brave and cavalier attitude towards your work once it's done. Get it out there.
What's the worse that can happen?
get rejected. So what? Join the ranks of the writer. We all get
rejected all the time, for all the wrong reasons - and only
occasionally for the right ones!
remember a story from the music business (one of my favorite sources of
anecdotes) about Marianne Faithful. She was a pop star in the sixties
and had a fling with Mick Jagger if memory serves. Well, at one point
she was making a comeback single with the Pet Shop Boys and got very
angry with herself during the vocal take.
At one point she started crying, beating herself up for being less than perfect. At which point Neil Tennant said to her, "Hey Marianne, get it together, it's only a song."
And there's a lesson here I think. Because if you think about it, your submission is only a story.
You might attach all kinds of significance to it but, really, it's just
another bunch of words that, if you never send them out, are not going
to be read - or missed - anyway.
So again, what's the worst that can happen?
you get rejected, write some more. Send them out instead. Any
successful writer will tell you that the more you send out the more
lucky you seem to get. And better probably, simply because you will not
Look at Matthew Reilly.
a writer with awesome self-belief. Here's a guy that, despite being
serially rejected, self-published his work because he was convinced
there was a huge market for his extraordinarily basic writing. (Sorry,
Matthew, nothing personal. I'm actually a big fan.)
And you know what?
was right. He's now a best selling author, big time. And all of his
faults and inadequacies as a writer have become his trademark, his
genius if you will.
say the same about JK Rowling (behind closed doors of course) - and
dare I say, many other billion-dollar phenomena.
You don't have to be superb anymore. You don't have to be literary. You just have to be out there.
You have to catch the tide of popularity - and find your own fans.
They're out there. Waiting for you.
You just gotta believe it.