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Digital Subscriptions > Writing Magazine > June 2016 > Celebrating Shakespeare: Beyond the Bard

Celebrating Shakespeare: Beyond the Bard

The world’s greatest writer shows us how to handle heroes, says Jan Moran Neil

Last month we looked at using Shakespeare’s plots as a springboard for our own story ideas: the ‘something that happens’, the ‘what is at stake’ and the ‘race against time’. All these ingredients are essential when building an exciting plot. But at the core of all great stories a writer needs a great central protagonist. In his tragedies, Shakespeare’s protagonists are anti-heroes as a result of their vital flaw. It’s a main element that will bring the anti-hero crashing down to the boxing ring floor. That vital flaw also provides plenty of inner and outer conflict. It’s the monster that the central protagonist wrestles with. From that vital flaw, problems and secrets multiply. The anti-hero will want to achieve certain ends but will have to overcome inner and outer monsters to do so. Shakespeare also makes his anti-heroes likeable so that as a viewing audience we identify with them, travel with them and ultimately learn from their mistakes. They are never antagonists for whom we feel no sympathy. The antagonist can come in the form of other satellite characters but the vital flaw will always be the main contributor to that essential conflict which underpins the story line.

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Handling heroes: Learn from the Bard New series: An insider's view of publishing Written your book? We'll help you sell it! How to: • Write better features • Sell and re-sell your writing overseas • Create a screenplay from your novel Pen pushers: Ideas and exercises to inspire your writing Star interview: Scandalous historian Halle Rubenhold WIN! A 6-day Arvon writer's retreat worth £600

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