Q & A: Can a Hero Also Be His Own Nemesis?

Q: After reading your “Conflict #4: The Nemesis” article and considering the “coming of age/personal development” story I’m writing, you have me wondering what you would think about the central character also being his own nemesis (i.e., as in a person being their own worst enemy), as this better fits your guidance that the nemesis must be an individual. Otherwise, it seems I’m left with making the nemesis as (i.e., blaming) parents, the system, society?

A: It isn’t possible, by my definitions of the character categories, for someone to be his own Nemesis. A Nemesis is the character who most stands in the way of the hero achieving his VISIBLE goal. And it is physically impossible for someone to actively pursue a goal and actively stop himself simultaneously. More importantly, the purpose of the categories is to make certain your story is rich enough, has enough conflict, and that the characters are recognizable and behave in a somewhat consistent manner.

Also, a NEMESIS cannot be a group or collective noun or some quality of life – that will just confuse the issue more, and one of the goals with my categories is to keep things simple.

HOWEVER, this does not mean you’re wrong about a character being his or her own worst enemy. That is what the inner journey is all about: the inner conflict between the hero being safe but unfulfilled in his identity, or going after what he wants but being emotionally afraid. We often stop ourselves from going after what we truly want or need because it’s simply too scary. In that way, we are our own “worst enemies.”

Hope that helps.

– Michael