Direct Opposition–Part II

In this series, I’m discussing the array of possible villains at our disposal. Here’s the list:
Concealed villains
Visible villains
Enemies
Antagonists
Opponents

Previously, I provided an example of how to bungle conflict using a concealed villain.

This time, I want to look at handling visible villains.

Wilbur Writer, fuming over having been chided so publicly in my prior post, has tweaked his story’s scenario as follows:

Peter Protagonist, determined to seek adventure, has enlisted in the Planetary Patrol. As soon as he’s completed basic training, he’ll be shipped off to a rebellious colony world to suppress an uprising.

Velma Visible, Peter’s mother, believes in galactic peace and worries about the safety of her only son. (Motivation) She leads a protest march through town, carrying a placard that reads, Moms Against Enlistment. She argues with his recruitment officer–thereby embarrassing Peter. She throws a hissy fit when Peter leaves for boot camp.

“There!” Wilbur declares with satisfaction. “Velma is right out in the open. She’s causing trouble. I have a good story premise now.”

Not so fast, Wilbur!

Let’s look at this example again. Do we have direct opposition between Peter and Velma?

Not quite. Velma’s certainly making her presence known. She’s raising a ruckus, but what happens to her when Peter ships out?

What carries the conflict through the other 215 pages of Wilbur’s story?

Once again, Wilbur has chosen oblique opposition over direct. The result may be anger, but Wilbur doesn’t even have Peter and Velma arguing face to face. Instead, he’s got Velma leading a march, Velma confronting the recruitment officer, and Velma crying and yelling instead of bidding her son farewell.

Oh, Wilbur, Wilbur, Wilbur, what are we going to do with you?

First, we’ll correct the obvious problems by looking at Peter’s goal, then positioning Velma directly against it.

A.) If Peter is determined to join up, then Velma should be equally determined that he won’t do it.

B.) If Peter has enlisted before his mom finds out and she heads to the recruitment office to rescind Peter’s enlistment, Peter will do his best to stop her from going.

C.) If Peter is in line to board the ship, then Velma should be throwing herself bodily in front of him, physically trying to stop him.

Even so, these corrections will help Wilbur only until Peter Protagonist boards his ship. The rest of the story still lacks a central antagonist.

“Don’t worry,” Wilbur cries with sudden inspiration. “I’ll introduce lots of enemies that will confront Peter. Wait and see!”

I see already the pitfalls that lie ahead of Wilbur. Do you?

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