Blogging from A to Z badgeToday marks the beginning of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. During April, I will be posting on each letter of the alphabet. As with last year’s challenge, I have no particular theme. Maybe it’s the Random in me that prefers to let the day’s letter inspire a word that inspires the post.

It all started with the word antagonist. Given my interest in reading, writing, storytelling, and improv, I naturally thought of an antagonist’s role in a story. However, when I looked up the definition, I remembered from exercise physiology that antagonist also refers to a muscle that opposes the agonist or prime mover.

One thing I’ve noticed in exploring words is that one word leads to another. Antagonist led to agonist led to protagonist led to agony.

Of course these words are related. According to Miriam-Webster.com, An agonist is “one that is engaged in a struggle.” An antagonist is “one that contends with or opposes another.”

So, an antagonist is meaningless without an agonist or other to oppose. Conversely, an agonist is also meaningless without something to struggle against.

At first glance, I wondered why the word protagonist is necessary if we already have agonist. The answer lies in the “prot” prefix, which refers to the first, or primary. So a protagonist is a special form of agonist.

Investigating these words helped to enrich my understanding of the protagonist and antagonist in writing. For example, the words share roots with the word agony. In my own writing, I sometimes find myself being too easy on the protagonist. Yet, in a story worth telling, the main character will likely go through some agony along the way.

Another insight comes from the fact that the antagonist muscle serves to limit and control the agonist. The two are paired, intimately connected. (The reference to limits and control also makes me think of frames, a topic in last year’s A to Z Challenge.)

Have you ever looked into words you thought you knew well and discovered something new?


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Agonist (Day 1 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge)
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18 thoughts on “Agonist (Day 1 of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge)

  • 04-01-2013 at 4:46 am
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    Your explanation makes a lot of sense, I used to read the dictionary a lot back in Germany it is amazing the history behind some words. Of course I have forgotten most of them now…

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    • 04-01-2013 at 3:40 pm
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      So you’re from Germany? I’m 3/4 German. My mom was born in Schweinfurt.

      Thank you for your comment. I too find the history of words fascinating, and often surprising.

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  • 04-01-2013 at 5:04 am
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    Great post. I remember learning these definitions in middle school and thinking, “Who cares what the main characters are called?” I just wanted to read. But now, as a writer, it’s hard to understand why I wasn’t more interested.

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    • 04-01-2013 at 3:58 pm
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      I was the same. In fact, I don’t remember caring much about grammar in school, but now I find it pretty interesting.

      Thanks for stopping by. Good to “see” you again!

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  • 04-01-2013 at 8:45 am
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    Love words and their origins….word games, crosswords, scrabble, words with friends,all FUN.

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    • 04-01-2013 at 4:04 pm
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      I know, right? Playing with words IS fun!

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    • 04-01-2013 at 4:12 pm
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      Thanks for stopping by, Jamie!

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    • 04-01-2013 at 4:16 pm
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      Thanks!

      I’m curious to see what I come up with for “B” myself!

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  • 04-01-2013 at 5:49 pm
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    I like the unpredictable nature of where this challenge will take you… I expect I will learn a lot, if today’s post is any indication of things to come! I enjoyed your post!

    🙂

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    • 04-01-2013 at 6:04 pm
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      Hi, good to see you again!

      Thanks for the comment. I sometimes wonder if my theme-lessness is a turn-off, but at least some people seem to be okay with it!

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  • 04-01-2013 at 9:20 pm
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    Very interesting. I am intrigued by the symbiotic relationship between protagonist and antagonist. I find that some authors are really good at crafting a good protagonist that we can love, while others are really good at creating antagonists we love to hate. The really good ones can mix the two together so well we can love reading the story.

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

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    • 04-01-2013 at 9:33 pm
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      Hi, thanks for your comment! Funny, I remember the word “symbiosis” coming to mind as I wrote the post, but I don’t think it made it into the final draft. Yet, you filled the word in for me!

      I do admire those authors who can create strong protagonists AND antagonists in the way you describe. It might be interesting to re-read something I’ve loved in the past with an eye towards seeing how the protagonist and antagonist connect with each other.

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    • 04-01-2013 at 10:01 pm
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      Wow, thank you so much!

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  • 04-01-2013 at 11:04 pm
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    I have discovered something new about a word I thought I was familiar with, which is always fun, but I can’t think of an example. By the way, I saw on your profile you’re in Bend? My grandma lived in Sisters, so I spent time in Sisters, Bend and Redmond. I miss it out there.

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse

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    • 04-02-2013 at 12:43 am
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      Yes, I just moved to Bend in February. I haven’t explored much yet, but it seems like a nice area. I haven’t checked out Sisters yet, but several people from the improv group I’m playing with live out there, so I figure it’s just a matter of time before I visit.

      Reply

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