Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Every Villain is a Metaphor for Resistance

By Steven Pressfield | Published: June 28, 2017

 

Darth Vader.

Compared to Resistance, this dude is a pussycat

Compared to Resistance, this dude is a pussycat

The Gorgon.

Medusa.

They and every other villain in myth and literature (and real life) are metaphors for Resistance.

Resistance is the universal and ultimate villain.

Consider how this monster was described in The War of Art.

 

1. Resistance is Internal.

 

It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.

 

  1. Resistance is Insidious.

 

Resistance has no conscience. [It] is always lying and always full of shit.

 

  1. Resistance is Implacable.

 

It cannot be reasoned with. It is an engine of destruction … implacable, intractable, indefatigable. Reduce it to a single cell and that cell will continue to attack.

 

  1. Resistance is Impersonal

 

It doesn’t know who you are and it doesn’t care. Resistance is a force of nature.

 

  1. Resistance plays for keeps.

 

Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. It aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being, our genius, our soul. When we fight Resistance, we are in a war to the death.

 

The reader or moviegoer doesn’t have to be aware of the concept of Resistance to feel its echoes in Freddy Krueger and Leatherface and the Zombie Apocalypse, not to mention our friends the Alien, the shark in Jaws, and the Terminator.

The human heart looks in Hannibal Lecter’s eyes and recognizes the ultimate nemesis within its own chambers.

Write a villain that is as evil as Resistance (and shares as many of its specific qualities as possible) and you will be more than halfway to penning something spectacular.

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

18 Responses to “Every Villain is a Metaphor for Resistance”

  1. June 28, 2017 at 6:22 am

    Oh, ouch, and oh my gosh yes, both at the same time. The notion of evil is not popular in this world, even though it’s increasingly obvious. Writing a character to represent the inherent evil of Resistance, the enemy of our eternal souls, is the ultimate villain. Writing a character that scary is scary to me, even though I get your point, Steven. I will never forget the point you’ve made in this post.

    • Mary Doyle
      June 28, 2017 at 6:42 am

      What Mia said (thanks Mia!). As always, thanks Steve!

  2. June 28, 2017 at 6:24 am

    For me, the RESISTANCE and the art of the “war WITHIN” in CONQUERING “IT” all needs to be in CAPITAL LETTERS being the villain within all genres and the DENIAL that it even EXITS.EXITED. :-)

  3. June 28, 2017 at 6:37 am

    “Fear is the mind killer.” ~ F. Herbert, Dune.

    I met three young men last night at a little restaurant in GDL. The establishment is a recent start-up and they gave a little talk about their experiences to an entrepreneurial group.

    The three friends graduated from San Diego, UCLA, and Santa Barbara with psychology, bio, and econ degrees.

    Their families all came to America a generation ago for “opportunity” and their same families all told them that they were crazy to leave behind America and their new college degrees to start a restaurant in Mexico.

    “You’ll be killed by drug dealers,” they were told.
    “You’ll fail and then your degree will be old and stale,” another was told.
    “You need a real job….”

    I was told the same thing about the drug cartels…

    They had a lot to say about Resistance and what I noticed about their enthusiasm was that moving past the negativity, the doubt, and the fear: a vista of possibility that was simply an unknown dream prior to the adventure opened up.

    I feel the same about being here. My life will never be the same. My work, my attitude, my resolution to fight Resistance…

    Sometimes you must get into the water with the shark.

  4. June 28, 2017 at 6:39 am

    I could not have said it better. I am fighting some serious resistance now with finishing a project. The War of Art is a great book and I feel like I need to read it again.

  5. Bill Denyer
    June 28, 2017 at 7:44 am

    I continue to learn so much from your posts. As a public school teacher, the challenge is how to best to adopt your wisdom to the fulfillment of writing standards in my school. Any advice?

    • June 28, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Maybe have your students read “The War of Art,” Bill? And then talk about it. Should be eye-opening to YOU as much as to them. (I’d love to hear what they had to say.)

  6. Tina Marlene Goodman
    June 28, 2017 at 11:38 am

    Every villain is a metaphor for Resistance. I believe that.
    Also, the villain and the hero are polar expressions of a single archetype.

  7. June 28, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Can there be a great story without a great villain, great Resistance? There cannot. Even God knows this, as evidenced by both books of the Bible. And it can actually be more fun getting into the dark corners of the villain’s mind than the hero’s, since the hero is often some part of what we wish we were, while the villain is something we would never dare be. Writing my villain, finding myself thinking “man, I hope people don’t read this and think I actually believe what this dude is saying,” was as much or more of a thrill than the hero’s journey!

  8. June 28, 2017 at 1:06 pm

    I’d add Commodus from Gladiator and King Joffrey from Game of Thrones to that list of “resistance” villains…especially Joffrey.

    The actor, Jack Gleeson, is a baby-faced 20-something, but every time I see a photo of him I feel a flicker of disgust, that’s how good his performance was.

  9. June 28, 2017 at 5:45 pm

    Yes! I give a little talk at the Passover Seder where I credit Steven Pressfield (I even called you my “Rebbe,” Steven, and include your idea of the Yetzer Harah as Resistance.) where I say that Pharaoh is Resistance. At the Passover Seder, you are supposed to imagine yourself as if you are a slave in Egypt and I say that’s hard to do! And did they really want to leave? They were slaves for 400+ years. Generations! This was the only life they knew. How would they eat? Where would they sleep? Who is this Moses fellow? Does he really speak with God? There was probably some comfort in their lives. And then I say we can feel like slaves in Egypt because we are all a slave to something. Let’s say we’re at a job we hate but don’t think we can leave. Or can’t find time to get that novel going, etc. And every time our boss makes us want to quit, or we decide that today is the day to get to the next chapter, Pharaoh (Resistance) says “NO! I will not let your people go!” Or today, Resistances says: “No, you have responsibilities, or no talent, or no time, etc.” And nine times out of nine plagues, Pharaoh says: NO. Then, after the 10th plague, he softens his heart and says OK: The Children of Israel, the slaves, can leave Egypt.The Jews quickly packed up everything and didn’t even have time to let the bread they were baking, rise (that’s why we eat Matza) and were on their way… OR today, we decide to quit our job or spend all night on that novel… but sure enough, the Resistance (Pharaoh) changed his mind and chased after the slaves to bring them back… But miracles of miracles, the sea parted, the Resistance drowned, and they were on their way to the Promised Land (some 10 Commandments and 40 years later) – There was more to it, but there you go! Resistance is the Villain! (PS Steven – the Orthodox rabbi loved it!)

  10. June 28, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    The Old Testament has an interesting version of the Villain indicated here.
    But before I introduce him, I need to point out that the concept of ‘evil’ is alien to the Old Testament or Torah. Today’s concept of ‘evil’ is an abstract philosophical term that was introduced with the New Testament. The Torah tells only of ‘concrete evils’, like plagues and natural disasters – ‘Acts of God’ ;-).
    The Old Testament villain is known under the name Satan. Satan means literally ‘adversary’ or ‘opposer’. He is what Steven calls ‘resistance’.
    Resistance is absolutely necessary to existence. Without forms and their natural resistance to change, the universe would be just a great mush.
    Satan deals with people in two ways: a) he creates accidents or causes losses like in Jobs story (external) and b) he tempts us, e.g. to bend rules (internal). In both cases, we end up in a challenging situation. That’s why Satan is said to be Job’s quality tester.
    In the East, Satan is known as Karma – the law of action and response. What goes around, comes around. As you sow, so you reap. Satan, as a ‘law’, is void of any morality, he is impartial. You do the wrong thing, you reap the repercussions. You miss the goal by an inch, you miss the goal. And no prayer can save you from that.
    Satan has two interesting titles, which aren’t, on a second look, what they seem. The first is the ‘Father of Lies’. This hints at the deeper purpose of adversity. Adversity is not there to give us a difficult time, but to challenge and test us. Adversity is the only thing that gets us out of our comfort zone so we learn and evolve. That’s why every story begins with an Inciting Incident. No adversity – no story. Hence, the Adversary is a Blesser in Disguise. And this is true for resistance too. That seemingly evil force of resistance is the enabler of success. The very same force that resists us during our creative and formative work will maintain our success once the work is complete. Only when we learn the formative secrets of our craft that seem to oppose us in the beginning, can we write stories that work.
    The other title is the ‘Slanderer’. The world we live in does not only appear adverse, but also ‘separative’. We feel separated from other people, success, wishes, our higher self, the Creator, you name it. This ‘sense of separation’ is a delusion too. Behind the multitude that surrounds us is a unity and this unity is what every hero strives to discover.
    That unity works behind and through the law of adversity and thereby guides us towards fulfillment. The forces of adversity and redemption are not two separate forces, but two expressions of one force. The hero and villain are two sides of one archetype.
    Where am I getting with this? We need to keep this in mind when we create villains and monsters in our stories. They should not stand as ‘absolute evil persons or forces’. We have a history of believing in the absurdity of evil and committing atrocities in its name. As it seems, the collective consciousness has almost freed itself from the spell of ‘absolute evil’. Evil is dead and we writers, the heralds of the future, should by no means prolong the existence of this nasty verisimilitude.

  11. rioriam
    June 29, 2017 at 2:38 am

    loosing the felling of resistance is the only way to get our talent like war can have only two outcomes either to dead or survive and i prefer to be dead in the war between me and resistance. rather than leaving with it.

    When we fight Resistance, we are in a war to the death.

  12. June 29, 2017 at 9:25 am

    Great piece, Steven. Thanks.

  13. Larry Pass
    June 29, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I’ve pondered Steve’s idea of Resistance for a while, and I have to be a dissenting voice. I just don’t believe in the Devil, no matter what name you give him, nor do I believe that it is ultimately a healthy worldview to posit such a being.

  14. June 29, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    Although I’m not traditionally religious, I finally understand the concept of demons. Resistance is a constantly changing, constantly adapting demon with many different disguises. The demon of “I don’t have enough time”. The demon of “I’m not well enough/strong enough/smart enough”.

    And most recently “This story is not in alignment with my ethical principles”. That one was a beauty, and took me about a week to kill.

    I am killing them though, one by one, like a sharp shooter in an old western smashing beer bottles from a thousand paces.

    Thank you, Steven Pressfield. Giving the demon a name makes killing it so much easier.

  15. jack lewis
    June 30, 2017 at 5:44 am

    “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.”

  16. Tyerone Johnson
    July 1, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    What Mr. Pressfield terms resistance in regards to villains is why they’re called antagonists, because they work against the hero. Moreover, if you take the Jungian view of psychology then all villians are just the hero’s shadow, that is a projection of the hero’s psyche and represent all the things they secretly want. But that’s just my two cents.

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