Aggravating our Protagonist’s Weaknesses

Our house has been The House of Plague since the end of January. My preschooler has had 2 colds and a double ear infection. She shared both the colds with me and one with her father as well. So it’s been a bad month all around, health-wise.

My daughter’s double ear infection severely impacted her hearing. She has profound hearing loss in one ear anyway, and the infection in the normal ear (then another in the bad ear) really hit her hearing hard. Lots of “what?” and simply not reacting to what we’re saying because she doesn’t hear us.

Additionally, I lost my voice, and once I regained it I couldn’t talk loudly without coughing violently. So communication became difficult (thankfully we know some sign language!). I couldn’t talk and she couldn’t hear. It was like some sort of comedy of errors.

Which made me wonder about my characters. Of course, when we create friends and allies for our protagonist, we usually concentrate on providing our protagonist with people who “fill in the gaps”—people who strengthen him by having the skills or knowledge he lacks. Thus, with their help, he can grow into who he needs to be to finish his character arc.

But wouldn’t it be interesting to have a friend or ally who enhances our protagonist’s weaknesses instead? A protagonist who doesn’t hear well can be hampered by a friend who cannot speak, for instance. Or someone who is lazy can be enabled by a friend who is afraid of confrontation. Not every friend or ally could do this, of course, or the protagonist would probably fail the “quest”. But having one or two who hinder even as they try to help can add some tension and conflict to what might otherwise be “chummy” scenes with the protagonist and allies.

So next time I think about the allies I have surrounding my protagonist, I’ll think about having some that bring out the worst in him, as well as the best. Someone who complicates rather than facilitates. It should bring more depth and realism to the story and the relationships.

It will be fun to try.

How about you? Do you add people who aggravate a weakness to your protagonist’s circle of friends?

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