Wednesday Night Writing Exercise: The Creation of Enemies

This week, I decided to play with my old exercise on determining a character’s ideal enemy. I’m still not sure why the long-term pseudo-recurring enemy holds as much interest for me as the love interest might for another designer of characters, but still—as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing like a good nemesis.

For sorcerer, unarmed specialist, and generally hyper/mostly innocent Ruby, I envisioned clashes that would mostly take the form of actual fighting: while a match of tactics would also work well for Ruby, I can’t see her wanting to sustain an interaction that would involve significant numbers of people being killed every time they clash. Her opponent would need to be her equal hand to hand, and show intelligence as well as martial skill; if said opponent was not a sorcerer, they would probably need some way to counteract the magic at Ruby’s disposal.

For egotistical ferret familiar Shizuyo, on the other hand, the conflict would almost have to take the form of mind games and overall social manipulation, probably requiring a great deal of indirect maneuvering due to Shizuyo’s communication limitations. I could see two possibilities for this: the more realistic of the two would be another disproportionately effective familiar, who would have approximately the same limitations, while the one that Shizuyo would consider more fitting of her condition would be a considerably larger and more powerful opponent limited by other factors to mind games—perhaps remote from the situation. (In this latter case they wouldn’t be equal in ability, but as long as the opponent is willing to prolong the contest, and Shizuyo is willing to assume that she will win next time and/or scores occasional victories due to being underestimated or to having a territorial advantage, the dynamic is likely to remain.)

Kestrel the demon hunter, on the other hand, defied the dynamic this exercise expects entirely. Due to her emphases, any conflict she could sustain long-term would almost have to be physical in nature, but Kes’s approach to physical combat comes in two speeds: sparring and the attempt to obliterate the opponent in as immediate a manner as possible. (This has caused some problems in-game, with a PC who wanted to try his own martial strength against Kes’s and couldn’t understand why she flatly refused to fight at her full capacity.) For a prolonged enmity, Kestrel’s opponent would need to be both very sturdy and highly effective at exiting individual conflicts when at a disadvantage—or possibly immortal and prone to recreating itself/being recreated, which given the local metaphysics could indicate a demon, but as Kes can work around that little detail, it’s a lot harder to find a reason why the overall conflict would be prolonged by anything but the enemy’s ability to escape.

1 comment

  1. UZ says:

    Would it be helpful to separate enemy from context here? I see several notes on context above (like “does not like the consequences of tactical conflict”) so my question would be… is an ideal enemy one with whom you have the most fruitful conflict from a dramatic standpoint? Or is an ideal enemy one who is the biggest threat?

    I remember suggesting once for a story that a werewolf’s villainous opposite number should be a beach volleyball player because werewolves do not play beach volleyball. I recognize in retrospect that this was an unfair generalization. But, to this day, I have not seen a villainous beach volleyball player so I still think this was a good idea, given a slightly different explanation.

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