How to Create a Nemesis
- Create a matched pair. It takes two to form a “nemesis” relationship. Like a marriage of enemies, it’s a mutual partnership that both members participate in. The nemesis relationship will work best when you craft both characters together, letting them influence one another’s attributes rather than just creating one and then moving on to the other.
- Balance the two characters. What are the key attributes of each character? What are their personalities like? What are their goals? The two characters should be complementary in these respects – that is, they should fit each other like halves of a yin-yang symbol. Whatever the key aspects of one character might be, the other character should have either the same attributes, or precisely the opposite.
- Come up with a backstory. How did these nemeses get to where they are now? What was their first meeting? It’s often best if the two characters evolve into enemies over the course of the story. They may begin as friends, but split over some important personal, moral, or political issue; by the end of the story, they are nemeses instead of friends. In any event, the parallels and differences between the two characters should be highlighted by the story of how they came to be enemies.
When to Use a Nemesis
The nemesis is only a feature of creative writing, and plays no part in essays. However, the concept can still be useful when you’re writing creative non-fiction. That’s because creative non-fiction still has to have a good story structure and compelling characters. Even though the people and events are all real, you need to present them in a way that’s enjoyable to read. That means drawing on literary techniques like the nemesis.
In writing creative non-fiction, you may choose to focus on historical nemeses in the real world: for example, Churchill and Hitler (or Churchill and Gandhi); Cato and Julius Caesar; or Sheryl Leach and Caroll Spinney (the creators of Barney and Sesame Street respectively). If you do this, you can use some of the techniques above to shape the way you present the characters. It will always help to emphasize the way that they are matched or balanced – certain attributes are shared between them, while in other ways they’re exactly the opposite of each other.