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Every protagonist has a character arc, the particular way they mature and develop in response to tension in their story. Inevitably, situations arise that challenge the protagonist’s perspective or demand skills they don’t yet possess. After all, if the character already possessed the necessary skills or a broader perspective, there would be no challenge or conflict in the story. The degree to which the protagonist embraces this challenge, or tries to avoid it, determines who they become, for better or for worse.
Similarly, we are the ever-evolving protagonists of our own lives, with the power to choose how to respond to what happens to us. Of course, when we’re mired in a personal conflict, it can be difficult to step outside our emotionally charged stories to identify the personal growth opportunities being presented. So here are a few tips for doing so:
Once you’ve described your current chapter, continue using the third-person voice to explore the desired character traits that might be strengthened through interaction with the antagonist. Antagonists often expose our vulnerabilities, the areas in our psyche where we haven’t historically felt so strong. But they also push us to marshal our strengths. Ask yourself:
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Kim Schneiderman, LCSW, MSW, is the author of Step Out of Your Story.
She counsels in private practice and guest lectures at venues including New York University.
She also writes a biweekly advice column for Metro newspapers and blogs for Psychology Today.
Visit her online at www.stepoutofyourstory.com.