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When an individual is kept in a situation of inferiority, the fact is that he does become inferior. ~ Simone de Beauvoir

It is an important task for any character to manage their areas of inferiority. It is the essence of many stories, the classic coming of age tale. It is often said that we learn more from the mistakes and limitations in our lives. This may not always be the case, but there is plenty to be gleaned from the process of overcoming obstacles, even those that exist only in the mind.

What is the point of a story if the protagonist never changes? There is no arc, everything is going well. Since no one seems to do anything, the protagonist does, not for any particular reason. Not even boredom leads to action because they are never bored. Everything is just great. There is no purpose because everything is sunshine and roses (without thorns of course because that might lead to something somewhat dramatic).

Conflict drives the plot of stories, no matter their length, and conflict arises in connection with the weakness of the protagonist and the presented superiority of the antagonist. The climax centers on revealing of the antagonist’s true sense of worth, that of being a zero, nothing, insignificant. At the same time the protagonist discovers their inner strength or ability to get others to join in their cause. They see that they are equal to the tasks and conflict they have yet to face. Confidence springs forth and the reader is assured that all will end relatively well.

Why is it that we love reading these plot lines, these tales of overcoming? It feels good to see others face down their problems and come out better on the other side. It is OK for some battles to be lost, as that can be an opportunity for growth, both of the character and the plot. If kept to long in an situation of inferiority though, the writing loses interest. No one can stand for too long a hero who lacks the courage to fight their way out of the life they have been dealt.

A character has flaws to make them human (or humanlike). There is a drive to move from inferior to superior. It is easy to identify with and when the reader can see a part of themselves in a character, it’s magic. Perfect heroes are boring. Slaying the dragon is all well and good, but slaying the ego, now that anyone can get behind.