“Your protagonist must never act in a way that lowers her status below that of the antagonist.”
I read this line in the July/August Writer’s Digest, in an article titled “Raise YourCharacters Above the Status Quo” by Steven James. A great article, by the way, but what do you think about that statement?
Status, as described in this article, is a character’s need or attempt at having a dominant role in social interactions. Body language, dialogue, and, of course, behavior illustrate status. Interesting characters undergo shifts in status and a protagonist must have areas of weakness or low status to be multi-faceted. That makes sense, right?
However, as the quote seems to be saying, a protagonist shouldn’t be submissive to an antagonist. Hmmm . . . interesting. Because readers would have more respect and affection for characters that show strength and courage and confidence? Okay. But must a protagonist always be heroic when confronted with the antagonist? I mean, Harry Potter got his butt kicked more than once by Lord Voldemort and his minions. Just sayin’. However, Harry did maintain his strength and dignity and confidence through the worst of circumstances, didn’t he? I never considered him wimpy when up against Voldemort. Did you?
Do you agree that a protagonist must never act in a way that lowers her status below that of the antagonist? I'd love to hear your thoughts as I think about this.