noun: a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.
Me: Ethan, tell us a little about yourself.
Ethan: Oh, well…uh, I’m 34 years old. Married. I have two great kids, Robbie and Drew and I’m a sales rep for a fixture company.
Me: Fixture company?
Ethan: You know, faucets for your bathroom and kitchen and so forth. We are pretty high end. I handle commercial accounts. Hotels and office buildings and such. I have a huge account pending now with a resort developer. Huge.
Me: That’s great. And you work out of Cincinnati?
Ethan: Our home office is in St. Louis, but I work here, yeah.
Me: Well, as you know, I’m writing a novel and created your mom as my main character. You emerge as the antagonist and I wanted to get your view on that.
Ethan: Antagonist? Me? You’ve got to be kidding! I love my mom. I’ve done everything for her since Dad died. What gives you the right to call me an antagonist?
Me: Let’s look at what I have. You tell me if I’m right or wrong. First, your mother feels that you treat her like a child.
Ethan: What?! That’s ridiculous. I promised Dad I’d take care of her. But she’s been acting weird lately. I just want to make sure she’s okay, that’s all.
Me: What do you mean she’s been acting “weird?”
Ethan: You should know. She wants to go back to work for one thing. She doesn’t need the money. I don’t get it.
Me: She wants to feel productive. Needed.
Ethan: That’s what my wife says. But that’s not all. Mom started square dancing again.
Ethan: Think about it. It takes two to tango as they say. You have to have a partner. What if she meets someone?
Me: It’s been more than four years since your dad died. Would it be awful if she did meet a nice man?
Ethan: In this day and age? How can you tell if someone is nice? I don’t want her to meet some con artist preying on vulnerable women.
Me: Your mother is an intelligent woman. I know. I created her. I trust her to make good choices. As the antagonist, though, you are standing in her way. Why? What is it you hope to accomplish?
Ethan: You mean, like do I have an agenda? No! I just want to take care of her. I want her to be happy. Normal. She doesn’t need anyone else. She has me and my sister.
Me: You say you want to take care of her, but you can’t do it all. Remember on page eighteen when it snowed and you told her you were going to come over after work and bring her some stuff from the store that she needed but you forgot.
Ethan: Hey, read what you wrote. I would have come over early and shoveled her driveway but some neighbor did it for her. There was no big hurry. And as for the groceries, none of them were critical. I meant to pick the stuff up but I had one meeting after another and by the time I got in my car, I was on automatic pilot.
Me: You didn’t even call.
Ethan: Okay, so I was a little distracted. That’s one time. She wanted a garage door opener, right? I got it for her. She asks us over for dinner, right? We come.
Me: Sometimes. But she wants more. Needs more. You’re her son.
Ethan: She has a bunch of friends at church. A bunch of women in her Sunday school class. She gets out with them.
Me: Do you think you feel threatened by the idea of a man in your mom’s life.
Ethan: Not me. I don’t’ feel threatened. I just don’t want her to get mixed up with the wrong person.
Me: So what would the right person be like?
Ethan: I don’t know. I guess someone like Dad. And that’s th point. There really isn’t anyone out there like Dad.
Me: As the writer of this story, I think you are probably going to be making waves through most of it. Causing your mother to worry and fret and second guess herself. I think you need a change of heart.
Ethan: You’re the writer. If you want me to be different make it so.
Me: What would it take?
Ethan: To see things the way she does? I don’t know. About twenty years? Some life-changing experience?
Me: I’ll keep that in mind. Let’s change the subject.
Me: Let’s talk about your flaws.
Ethan: You are relentless!
Me: Poor choice of words. Flaws. Weaknesses. Actually, I read where the antagonist should have some of the same flaws we all have. Things that make you relatable.
Ethan: I guess Mom would say I’m addicted to sports. My wife, Cheryl, would say I’m a workaholic. Neither is true. My dad used to say whatever is your strength can also be your weakness. I do work hard. I provide for my family. I’m building us a future. And when I get home I like to unwind. Catch a game on television. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
Ethan: Hmm…I guess I get distracted so sometimes I’m not fully engaged. What do you say?
Me: Well, so far, I’d have to say I agree with all of you. You are distracted. Distracted with work. Distracted with sports. I think it’s a matter of getting your priorities straight. You simply can’t be all things to all people. Does your career come before your family?
Ethan: Of course not! And I don’t want to be considered an antagonist, either. So I’d appreciate it if you’d do a little creative work with that pen of yours and change things up a bit.
Me: Sorry, Ethan. Every story needs and antagonist. I do promise to try to make you interesting and relatable, though. I may even find a way to have you mellow a bit through it all. Show your tender side. Fair enough?
Me: Readers, What kinds of torment do you think Ethan may create for his mom? I have a few ideas in the works. More importantly, I hope you can see how an exercise like this can help you as a writer begin to get in the head of your antagonist. Comments welcome...no... comments desired!