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What a Contagonist actually is and how this character can absolutely transform your story and its conflict to engage readers so they'll be hooked to your storytelling.
What Is A Contagonist, anyway?
Each Main/Secondary Character you write should have an equal opposite to help balance and create conflict
Therefore, a “Contagonist” defined by Dramatica is: “The character that balances the Guardian (mentor archetype). If Protagonist and Antagonist can archetypally be thought of as “Good” VS “Evil”, the Contagonist is “Temptation” to the Guardian’s “Conscious”. Basically, the Contagonist isn’t the main opposition to the Protagonist like the Antagonist is. It’s the mirrored foil to the Mentor-Type character. The Contagonist doesn’t want to necessarily stop or prevent the Protagonist from their main story goal or motivation. They’re goals are to merely mess shit up for the protagonist in the process of doing their own thing.
A Contagonist is NOT the Antagonist
So why is the mentor-character important to the contagonist?
ARCS, ARCS, ARCS!!!
Character Arcs, to be specific. A Contagonist character Arc has limitless potential. Why? Because of the mere fact nobody knows precisely where they stand. Whichever direction you decide to turn this character is ultimately believable as long as you do the right things throughout to get them there in the end. Don’t just be lazy and completely change their directions and motivations. Make their arcs a natural transition that flows with the story itself.
One of my favorite examples of a well written Contagonist is Vegita from Dragonball Z. Despite this being an anime reference, the character as a whole has one of the biggest and most profound character arcs I’ve ever seen. While at the same time, the character completely staying true to himself 100% of the time.
One reason Vegita makes a kill Contagonist because he’s Extremely flawed. Flawed characters are golden gooses for Contagonists.
So, if you’ve never watched the original anime, Vegita comes to Earth as one of the last remaining Saiyans, a extinct warrior race. They’re trained from birth to be vicious and cruel. Vegita has an ego and self-image that has been shaped by his own perception of himself and those around him who fear him tremendously. Goku, another surviving Saiyan and the show’s Protagonist, shatters Vegita’s self image again and again.
Though it seems like Vegita is the show’s primary Antagonist, this isn’t so. Once Goku defeats Vegita in Vegita’s first and only battle loss up to that point, they reunite to join forces against a new dangerous enemy.
Creating Dramatic change in your contagonist is crucial to ther success as a contagonist
Think of how a contagonist can change and make your story a better one
Give your novel a run-down to see if you have a Contagonist or not. Whichever you find, improve upon that. Give your novel depth and uncertainty by throwing this literal wrench in the story.
If written properly, your Contagonist could easily become one of your most interesting and loved characters because of their unique “grey” situation.
No character should be all good or bad, every good writer knows this. Readers want this-so simply give the people what they’ve asked for.