Guardian or Contagonist?

Question: If I understand correctly, the guardian and contagonist help the protagonist achieve his goal and tempt him away from it respectively. But what if the protagonist is pursuing a goal he shouldn't be pursuing?


I had an idea for a story about a smuggler whose gang is competing with a rival gang for territory. I came up with two characters to fill the guardian and contagonist roles: the gang leader who teaches the protagonist how to get ahead in the smuggling business, and the protagonist's friend who wants him to leave the gang and start living an honest life (which he eventually does). The problem is, I don't know which is which. When the protagonist's goal is inherently misguided and one he would be better off not trying to achieve, who is the guardian and who is the contagonist?

Answer: Generally speaking, the difference between the Guardian and the Contagonist is that the Contagonist argues for short-term gains. What's the easiest, most enjoyable, most profitable thing to do right now? The Guardian, on the other hand, is concerned with what's best in the long run or what's best for everybody (conscience). The Guardian thinks that achieving long-term gain is worth enduring short-term pain.

Assuming that the goal of your story is to create "an honest life," then it seems to me that the gang leader is the contagonist, pursuing his own contrary agenda that involves short-term profits. If the friend is looking at what's best in the long run (getting out of such a dangerous lifestyle) then he sounds like the Guardian -- and/or possibly the impact character.

The Protagonist may be on the wrong path in the beginning because he does not perceive things correctly. He may think his problem is a limited territory and that the way to solve best this problem is to beat his competition, but in fact the real problem is that his life of crime is ultimately not good for him or the community. So the real solution is not to beat his rivals but to find an honest way of earning a living.

Best of luck.

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