Difference between Protagonist, Antagonist and Contagonist

During the week, when I normally have little to no internet access, I found myself with a few minutes to spare and someone else’s computer to use. My website was offline (refer to My Domain Name Expired!) and I was feeling rather…cut off from the writing world. I guess this was the reason I typed a random writing related question into the search engine. Anyway, I found myself on a blog that was talking about the protagonist and contagonist in her work in progress.

Contagonist!? Never heard of it. How could that be so after all these years of writing and research? I was a little baffled, but the blog I was reading gave the impression that these two character types were almost the same…but not quite.

My few minutes came to an end, but I had questions rolling around in my mind that needed answers, so I quickly sent a question to a writer’s group I belong to: What is the difference between a protagonist and contagonist?

I was pleased to see, by the replies that came back, that I was not the only person who has never heard of the second one. But someone kindly shared a link that gives excellent examples and I discovered that what I thought to be correct was, in fact, wrong.

All writers should know what a protagonist is. It’s usually the main character of the story (but not always) who is having the problem. We usually pair the protagonist with the antagonist – the person who will do anything in their power to stop the main character solving the problem.

So where does the contagonist fit in? That’s what I wanted to know. It seems that the contagonist is a character who tries to sway the protagonist off course. From what I can gather, the antagonist and contagonist are not usually “in it” together and whilst the antagonist will stop at nothing to get his/her own way, the contagonist is more likely to be someone having a particularly hard day. For me, the only way that I can make sense of having two types of characters that are against the protagonist is to make the contagonist a bit of a mystery where the reader is concerned. Whose side is this person on? Is this person really evil or just having problems of their own? I think the contagonist should be a character who can be swayed over to eventually leave the protagonist alone or to even help them, in the end, once offered a solution to their own troubles.

So now the protagonist has to deal with three things: 1) the problem, 2) the antagonist, and 3) the contagonist. Life is never easy…especially when you’re the main character of a book.

If you want to know more about these terms, go to the relevant post at Writer Unboxed: Antagonist & Contagonist. It gives some great examples.

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting. I’d never heard of the term before, but can certainly identify who those characters might be.
    .-= Benjamin Solah´s last blog ..Writing Update: Receiving Negative Feedback =-.

  2. Margie Whitten

    I’ve heard of contagonist for a few years. When I’m planning a story I always include one. Most of the time it gets knocked down in critique groups though. I still think the contagonist has a lot to offer.

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