Confession time – I love Taylor Swift. Her newest album Reputation is a fiery thing. Several of the songs on the album have influenced original characters of mine and the album is overall very good writing music. I want to focus on one song in particular, “Look What You Made Me Do”.
This piece helped fuel my character Archer for page upon page as she went on an anti-hero rampage in my work in progress. This sets up the tension of the second half of the book. I love writing about strong women, strong women with vendettas. Their resentments often lead to them overcoming their fears and seizing the day, for good or for ill.
One of my favorite quotes is “before embarking on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.” I’m not sure who said that, but it stuck in my memory. These strong women often fall into these traps, going down swinging fighting to defeat the very demon they sought to destroy. My Nana always says that every solution beings different problems and that anger always leads to irrational actions. As my characters transform, they find that this is true. They often misstep and this leads to disaster. As in Shakespeare’s plays, the hero of the story is faced with a choice to make or a tragic flaw they must overcome that determines the final outcome of the play. Macbeth’s flaw is pride, Hamlet’s is indecision, Archer’s is wrath. If the main character is able to overcome their tragic flaw, they win most of the time. If not, they likely lose.
In “Look What You Made Me Do”, Taylor Swift says that she will be the actress starring in your bad dreams. It’s a common theme when I hold a grudge that I want the person I’m resentful against to become painfully aware of what they have done, either to me or someone close to me. Most of the time, that never happens. I never even get an apology. I would say that my tendency to become closed-minded and unwilling to take an easier road if it means my ways are even remotely compromised is my tragic flaw. This is why forgiveness and change are so difficult for me. I’m stubborn to a fault.
Sometimes, though, characters are given a redemption arc. Take Prince Zuko from Avatar: the Last Airbender, for example. He is set up to be the main villain of the show, but he ends up joining the good guys’ crew. They don’t trust him at first, but he proves himself. His fatal flaw that he eventually overcomes is his obsession with honor. His primary motivation at the beginning of the show is showing his father that he is worthy of love, and by the end, he realizes that he was wrong in doing so. It all depends on the choices a main character makes that determines their outcome. What choices can I make to better myself?
I take changing my ways as a defeat most of the time. I find that I am dragged kicking and screaming into any sort of life change and I will fight it to the death if necessary, even if it will make my life easier. Realizing that change isn’t a zero sum game and that sometimes I win if I lose is helpful. One of my major problems is that I don’t like to lose or feel like I’m being submissive. That’s just not me. It’s my way or the highway most times, even if the requests people make will actually help me. My ears are plugged with wax. I want people to listen to me, to be the actress in their bad dreams, to be loved even if I am feared. I know that’s not like that, but I do it anyway.
Archer, like Zuko, ends up with a redemption arc in the end. She stops fighting the things that are unnecessary to fight and realizes she was wrong. She ends up different, changed, but still strong. I want to be like that.
How do you feel about change? Can you think of more examples of change/redemption arcs? Let me know in the comments!