“Talk not to me of blasphemy, man,” Captain Ahab says to Starbuck, his first mate, on the quarterdeck of The Pequod. “I’d strike the sun if it insulted me.”
What are the dramatic functions of antagonism? Who is your antagonist? A gold-hoarding dragon? A whale, inscrutable and white, who’s made off with your leg? A cologned in-law?
Glove slaps, insults, rumors whispered, manipulations in the shadows: as readers, we love antagonists. They’re our troublemakers, our two-faced backstabbers, our paradoxes. And—paradoxically—the antagonist’s elaborate design of lies oftentimes delivers truth. Amidst the infection, characters struggle to maintain order. They verbalize what they believe, what is right. They explain their moral codes, announce their desires, and reveal how they conceive of the reality around them. Antagonists show us that the stable systems we cherish are networks of delicate lies. They weaponize falsehood to reveal the truth. Even Iago, king of crooks, delivers the most truthful line in all of Othello—“I am not what I am.”
“Truth,” Ahab says to Starbuck a moment later, “has no confines.”
In this workshop, we will craft complex networks of antagonism that send our characters to toil in unconfined truth. We will focus on conniving, plotting, needful relationships. To complicate and illuminate these topics, workshop participants will bring their interests and ideas for new fiction.
Nick Almeida’s writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Pleiades, American Literary Review, The Southeast Review, Waxwing, Mid-American Review, and elsewhere. He is a PhD candidate at University of Houston and holds an MFA from The Michener Center for Writers. His chapbook, Masterplans, is the grand prize winner of The Masters Review’s inaugural Chapbook Contest in Fiction, selected by judge Steve Almond, and will be available this fall.