In his book “A million miles in a thousand years” Don Miller distils the essence of a good story as “a character that wants something and overcomes conflict to get it”. In the previous class we focused on creating a strong character (a character that knows what he/she wants). Now to write this character into a good story he/she needs to overcome some kind of conflict to get what he/she wants. In her article, “A Story structure for change and growth”, (click here to download article) Petro Janse van Vuuren identifies 4 essential characters that make up a good story. The first is the protagonist (hero/main character) of the story – the character that wants something. The second is the antagonist (nemesis/villain). The antagonist is in direct conflict of the protagonist and doesn’t want the protagonist to get what they want. A third character is the mentor (guide/guardian angel). The mentor helps and guides the protagonist to get what they want. The last character is the contagonist (obstacle/ tempter). The role of the contagonist is to distract the protagonist from achieving what he/she really wants. The contagonist is not in direct conflict with the protagonist like the antagonist. The contagonist tests the protagonist, to see if he/she is worthy of getting what he/she wants.
In Monday night’s class we played a new game that I made up based on these 4 characters. I call this game “The 4 roles game”. In the game 4 players are each given one of the 4 different characters. Three scenes are played. The first scene is between the protagonist and the mentor. In this scene what the protagonist wants must be clearly defined. In the next scene the protagonist meets the contagonist, who tries to distract the protagonist from achieving his/her goal. In the last scene the protagonist faces the antagonist and must overcome him/her to get what he/she wants. Here is an example from last night’s class. Ruan played a dancer who wanted to win the Olympic dance medal. Luci played the mentor who taught him to dance from his heart. In the next scene Ruan is distracted by his girlfriend (contagonist) played by Minki who wants him to copy other dance styles in his dancing. In the last scene Ruan is faced with his arch nemesis (antagonist) Juan-Philip, 3 times dance world champion played by Olaf. In order to beat him Ruan remembers the words of his mentor, reminding him to dance from his heart. His own authentic dance style overwhelms Juan-Philip and he wins the Olympic dance medal. WOW, what a beautiful story, made up right there on the spot because everyone knew what role they had to play.
So what role are you playing in your own life? Are you the hero? Or are you your own antagonist, preventing yourself from getting what you really want? Or are you the hero but find yourself lured and occupied by the distractions of a contagonist in your life? Or don’t you know what you really want so you are not really living a good story? Are you experiencing life as a series of random events? (If you want to read more about knowing what you want read my previous blog “what do you really want?”)
You are the author of your own life story and you have the power to cast the other roles in your life. Think of someone who you have cast as an antagonist in your life. Maybe you want to quit your job and start your own business but your father or your husband doesn’t want you to for whatever reason. You can cast them as an antagonist who is preventing you from getting what you want. However you can cast them as a contagonist who is helping you to know if you are ready for this big step. Or you can even cast them as a mentor that is guiding you to make an informed decision. The way you cast them will determine how you will react towards them and the influence they will have on you. In this story the antagonist isn’t really your father or your husband. The real antagonist is being stuck in a job that is not allowing you to live out your passion.
Understanding that all 4 roles are essential for a good story will help you to recognize and accept conflict, temptation and support in your life so that you can be the hero of your own life story and get what you really want out of life.
If you want to know more about how to become the hero of your own life story attend our Personal Success Story workshop.