My Own Worst Enemy

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By Linda Fry

Sometimes our enemy isn’t the Big Bad Wolf, or The Wicked Witch of the West, or Voldemort. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I’ve recently read three books that demonstrate how a character can sabotage themselves by remaining silent – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

In Speak, Melinda Sordino suffers in silence after being raped. Obviously, the real enemy in the story is Andy Evans, her rapist. However, how would things be different had she been able to speak up? She spends her entire ninth grade year tormented, exiled, and confused by her experience. Her friends turn their back on her. Her parents don’t understand her. Her teachers judge her. If only she had told someone the truth about the party during the summer, then she could have gotten help. Luckily, by the end of the book she finds her voice, saves a friend, and begins to heal.

Looking for Alaska is a very different kind of story. My focus for this blog is actually the secondary character named Alaska. She’s a wild, carefree girl with deep seeded issues. Alaska spends her entire life feeling guilty over her mother’s death and never getting the help she needs. Her tragic death wreaks havoc on the main character, Pudge. After a night of drinking, she freaks out and ends up in a car crash. Her friends are left to wonder if it was intentional or a horrific accident.

Lastly, Thirteen Reasons Why is about Hannah Baker’s postmortem revenge against her bullies. Again we have a story of a troubled girl, who never spoke up. Rumors spread about her, friends turn on her, and bullies descend on her, but she never stands up for herself. Instead she waits until after she commits suicide to speak out.

These stories cleverly use the characters faults as the antagonist. By doing so, they up the stakes and force the characters to overcome their own demons. These authors raise the question: How do I defeat the enemy, when I am the enemy? It is our job as writers to ask these kinds of questions and raise the stakes in our own manuscripts. I recommend reading all three. Villains aren’t always monsters.

*On a side note, if you are the victim of abuse, bullying, or tragedy, please speak up and get help. You’re not alone.

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