This is one of those scripts which defy convention as there does not seem to be a Nemesis figure anywhere in sight. No Bad Guys. No climactic Final Struggle. And yet, the story works wonderfully.

This is where it’s instructive to go back to basics and remember that a Nemesis is at its core an opposition dynamic. That is, anything or anyone who provides opposition for the Protagonist is, at that moment, acting as a Nemesis figure. So, for example, this scene:

12–15: Billi seeks out her father, hiding in his bedroom. She asks him what is wrong, assuming wrongfully that her parents were fighting and that he had been drinking again. Haiyan is fighting back tears. Billi is terrified by the silence and his emotional state, then demands to know what is going on. Her mother enters the room, and bluntly tells her that Nai Nai is dying of stage 4 lung cancer, and then drops the bombshells that not only does Nai Nai not know, the doctor only gives her another 3 months at best to live. Billi insists on calling her, when her father snaps out of his grief and dictates to Billi that the family has decided not to tell her, and that it was his idea to plan a fake wedding so the family will have an excuse to see her. The final blow is when her parents inform her that they all think that it is better that she not attend because she is unable to hide her emotions and betray the secret.

Billi’s parents are functioning as Nemesis figures because (A) they tell their daughter point blank that she can’t tell Nai Nai she is dying, even though that is Billi’s instinct and (B) they tell Billi she should not attend the event in China. That is providing opposition to Billi.

A few points:

  • Any character, no matter their primary function in a story, can don any character archetype ‘mask’ in any scene and/or in any subplot relationship. Thus in the scene above, Billi’s parents don the Nemesis mask, but that is not their primary function. At times, they don a Mentor mask to help Billi understand the Chinese culture related to those who are dying, but are not told of their terminal conditions. However, ultimately I think Billi’s father is a Trickster and her mother is an Attractor.
  • For much of the story, the Chinese tradition as enacted by Billi’s family in not telling Nai Nai her medical condition is itself a Nemesis dynamic. The characters are merely acting on behalf of the tradition.
  • While that tradition may function as a Nemesis dynamic for much of the story, by the end Billi accepts the choice not to tell Nai Nai. Indeed, she is actively complicit in sustaining the lie when she races to the hospital and help to alter her grandmother’s test results.

Frankly, I could make the argument that every one of Billi’s family of characters is an Attractor, as she comes to accept and embrace them all, each contributes to Billi’s emotional growth.

What are YOUR thoughts about the story’s characters?

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