Eliot Ness and Al Capone.
Seinfeld and Newman.
Harvard and Yale.
Achilles and Hector.
Enemies is the wrong word for the phenomenon. It is not an enemy. It is a nemesis. There is a difference.
Nemeses could have at one point been friends. They have similar qualities. The things that make one great reside in the other in equal measure. Fate has put them at odds with each other. A situation has them at each other’s throats.
When Drizzt and Artemis meet together in the dark caverns under the mountain in the fantasy novel The Legacy they have come to wipe each other out. They are consumed with the idea, but have to join forces to fight their way free against a greater enemy and they are the perfect pairing of symmetry. They breathe as one. They fight as one. They are nemeses and it is a beautiful thing.
This is not a human construct. This is the way nature works. Watch a mongoose for three days and you will see a cunning, cute member of the weasel family. Walks strange. Funny, almost a clown. But the moment a cobra slithers into the room that mongoose becomes a different animal.
The nemesis relationship is a part of life I could talk about for years. My kids knew all about it when they were young. My wife has to hear about it all the time. It is a relationship I am obsessed with. I have been since high school because that was when I met mine.
In my blog I call him Glare. So let’s stick with that name. We are both writers. We are both charismatic leaders. He started a writers group in my high school my junior year. He had a collection of about six other kids enthralled with him. I was invited to that same writers group and fell in love with the group. I met a bunch of people who suddenly wanted to know me, people who had fallen through the cracks. The outcasts of the school. I was instantly friends with them. I got a ride home that day and, before they dropped me off, we stopped at Walmart. Me and Glare sat in the food court and waited while the others shopped. He sat across from me. I looked him in the eye.
He was brilliant. He was handsome. He had a smooth smile and he was very cool. Ice cold. I started talking about the group and said I was there to stay. I said that a lot of the people in that group were lost and needed a place to call home. I said he and I ought to make that place for them.
He smiled at me, a perfect, blissful smile and shook his head. “I have no interest in that,” he said. “You are not wanted. I don’t want you here. These are my people.”
And like that, I was a cobra, he a mongoose. I was Hector, he was Achilles. I was Ness and he looked at me with that Capone confidence and shook his head. He pointed his finger at me and said, “You don’t belong here.”
My answer was, “I’m not leaving.”
We divided the group up. He had his people. I had mine. I ran a smear campaign against him. He ran one against me. I was more charismatic to large groups. He had the ability to make one person feel like the center of the world. Physically there was no equality. He was deadly and could have killed me in a fight. He was dark and at one point planned it.
Glare and Jesse.
When I was writing Onslaught of Madness I drew on my relationship with Glare. I crafted my own nemesis pair and I set them at each other’s throats. Both are brilliant, both are deadly, both are great leaders, and both are trying to kill the other.
It is not easy to build this type of rivalry. If you do it right, the reader wants to see them at it all the time. The reader craves the conflict. “Just put them in the room,” the reader says. “Let me watch them stalk each other.” The reader wants to hear them talk, wants to watch them fight. The reader wants more. They always want more because these two characters bring out the very best in each other. They have to. If they give any less the other will destroy them.
Ness and Capone.
Scipio and Hannibal.
Glare and Jesse.
Peter Redfist and Rextur Cherlot.
They were born to fight each other. Crafted to kill and hunt one another. Come watch it play out in Onslaught of Madness. Come see the very best of them as they struggle to destroy and fight understand one another.