Monday, April 9, 2012

Guestpost: Balancing Act: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys

“Balancing Act: Good Guys vs. Bad Guys” by Jackie Gamber, author of REDHEART and SELA, Books One and Two of the Leland Dragon Series

Whose story is it, anyway? 

More than a simple question (and a permutation of the title of a hit comedy show), it’s a tough and necessary decision a writer makes. The answer is the basis to the balancing act of protagonist versus antagonist, the good guy see to the bad guy saw. 

Because once we discover whose story it is, we then discover what this protagonist really wants. And it’s the antagonist’s job to do whatever it can to keep our protagonist from getting it. 

Since Aristotle, storytellers have been using conflict to keep readers (or listeners) interested in a tale from opening sentence to “The End”. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, or Q, as his pseudonym, has been credited with classifying conflict into the seven basics from whence all story plots emerge: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Himself, Man vs. God, Man vs. Machine, Man vs. Society, and Man vs. Destiny. 

And like the drive-up restaurant, Sonic, with its flavor additives and fizzy beverages that add up to over 300,000 drinking options, mix up the conflict against the whole of the human race to choose from, and you get story-o-rama. 

Good guys. Bad guys. Galore. 

And don’t even get me started on stories that make the bad guy the protagonist. Or the ones where the good guy really isn’t much of a shining example. Or the ones where the bad guy really does do bad stuff, but is so empathetically written, we end up rooting for him! 

Man is complicated. So are our stories. 

But in the most basic sense of things, when we realize who’s story is being told, we settle in for that character to get a lot of stage time. Or, page time. The most satisfying ending is the one where we see his or her conflict resolved, one way or another. Sometimes the antagonist is conquered. Sometimes, not. But dealing with that conflict, in the end, is the entire reason we’ve read as far as we have, so we’d better get what we’re looking for! 

As a balance, each story needs an antagonist, that opposite force, that’s as resistant as needs be. Make him too squishy, and he yields too soon. Make him impossible to beat, and then we’ve got no real reason to keep reading. 

Keep that see-saw tipping a little one way, and then another, just a bit. Don’t flatten it out equally and leave it there. Boring! Don’t let one seat hit the ground, just yet. Waggle that thing, win a little for this side, win a little for that side, and readers will not only stay for the whole show, we’ll start it over and read it again! 

And again. And again. 

The best of these examples can exist in any genre, any plot, any language. We can have aliens, or college professors, or cheating husbands or detectives. Remember, we’ve got the whole of the human race to create characters from. 

And we’ve got the whole of the human race to read from. Mix it up a bit, and look for stories you’d never normally try. Authors you’ve never heard of. Find the conflict, find the heart of the book. 

And give yourself a chance to find someone new to root for. 


Peace was fleeting. Vorham Riddess, Venur of Esra Province, covets the crystal ore buried deep in Leland's mountains. His latest device to obtain it: land by marriage to a Leland maiden. But that's not all.

Among Dragonkind, old threats haunt Mount Gore, and shadows loom in the thoughts of the Red who restored life to land and love. A dragon hunter, scarred from countless battles, discovers he can yet suffer more wounds.

In the midst of it all, Sela Redheart is lost, driven from her home with only her old uncle to watch over her. As the dragon-born child of Kallon, the leader of Leland's Dragon Council, she is trapped in human form with no understanding of how she transformed, or how to turn back.

Wanderers seek a home, schemes begin to unfurl, and all is at risk as magic and murder, marriage and mystery strangle the heart of Esra. A struggle for power far older and deeper than anyone realizes will leave no human or dragon unaffected.

In a world where magic is born of feeling, where the love between a girl and a dragon was once transformative, what power dwells in the heart of young Sela?

About the Author: Jackie Gamber is the award-winning author of “Redheart” and “Sela”, Books One and Two of the Leland Dragon Series, now available! For more information about Jackie and her mosaic mind, visit

And meet Jackie elsewhere on the world wide web at: 


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