How does one get to a position of power as a writer (or in relationships or Life as a matter of fact)?
As has been covered in earlier articles, there are seven distinct phases through which a person moves on the way to success in anything. One starts by being unaware of an urge which is nevertheless powerfully present, so much so that, unless it is acknowledged, it might reach explosive proportions. One may seek to distract oneself from it with various activities; some never recognise it and suffer and perhaps even perish because of that ignorance. For a writer, this is a need to write. In Life, this can be any number of things.
Realising that one is, or should be, a writer doesn’t necessarily mean that circumstances, logistics, and the thousand other factors in any environment will permit writing to occur. One is still ‘in orbit’ around one’s existing life, still caught in that gravitational pull, the ‘event horizon’ of prevailing patterns. Only if those patterns change, and a window of opportunity opens up, or one acts decisively to change them, does one move up to being able to sit down and write. Usually that brief window closes all too soon.
One has to act to make a change in one’s routines and priorities, in order to progress beyond this stage. If that action occurs, and Time is freed up, something may get done. But to make the most of that change one would need to maximise the volume of writing done, not wasting time on re-writing or self-editing, but aiming for a viable amount of work in a short space of time. That initial writing can help one to progress further, lending competence and momentum.
But here one is still an ‘emerging writer’. In Life too, if a person reaches a point where they have developed momentum, where forward motion is occurring, this can stall unless an overall goal or aim or target is established. Prior to this point motion was dependent upon the gravitational pull of routines and habits and old patterns, but now a person is out in the void, freed up from those influences but potentially free-floating. In these circumstances, one can fall prey to the first powerful source of pressure one encounters. Think of adolescence: moving on from the comfortable routines of childhood, a person can become a victim of other opinion leaders. In the case of writing, instead of developing one’s own voice, one can fall under the sway of another and never find a true individuality.
But how is a genuine, individual goal established? Because with that, a person is truly powerful.
The mysterious truth is that important goals are often found in relation to their opposites. Thus one may feel passionate about saving humanity from something - what that ‘something’ is, is the key.
For writers putting together a story, one of the very first things that they must do if they hope to be successful is to find or create a centre of gravity, a core vacuum, something which creates a pull just like the prior patterns of one’s life created a pull on one’s lifestyle. In Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice and the many tales we have looked at in earlier articles - as well as the many stories that we have not examined - this core vacuum is embodied by an antagonist.
Instead of concentrating on the story’s hero, a protagonist, as one is often advised to do in writing guides, a successful story grows rapidly into a full-blown tale if one gives some thought first to one’s villain or antagonist. A writer can use his or her own life as a model, whatever an individual’s experience may have been: an antagonist is normally unaware of an urge which is nevertheless powerfully present, so much so that, unless it is acknowledged, it might destroy them. Antagonists seek to distract themselves from these things with various, usually world-conquering activities; most antagonists in fiction never recognise what is really happening and suffer and perhaps even perish because of that ignorance.
What about the protagonist? This is the character who is very much like the antagonist in many ways - except that he or she is aware. A protagonist moves in a story much like a writer moves into writing - grabbing opportunities, developing momentum, moving forward effectively despite setbacks, and in the end coming face to face with that empty core which the antagonist has not acknowledged. That’s what defines the ‘hero’ of a story: they face the core, whereas their opponent is blind to it.
Some stories almost unravel when looked at in this way. Star Wars is all about how Luke Skywalker can see the void within his father whereas the Emperor cannot; The Lord of the Rings is about how Gandalf and Frodo can see the flaw in Sauron’s plans while Sauron himself cannot, despite being personified as an Eye. Villains are all of the same ilk: whether we talk about the Lady Catherine de Bergh in Pride and Prejudice, or Bob Ewell in To Kill a Mockingbird, or, in Tragedies and Ironies, Macbeth and Lear, they are all unable to perceive that which the protagonist or at least the audience can perceive. And that is their downfall, in every case.
So it must be - because these things are immutable laws which follow the way Life itself goes.
There's much more about this in the book How Stories Really Work and in other materials on the website.