We’re going to talk about antagonists today. Before we get to that, I’d like to just explain last week a bit. I got a new job and was called in for my first day of work unexpectedly and on the same day I have been writing my blog posts. It threw my entire week off a bit due to training. So thank you for checking in with me this week for our regular writing post.
Lets get right into antagonists with a definition:
Antagonist: is a character or a group of characters which stand in opposition to the protagonist or the main character.
So this person, or thing – it doesn’t have to be another human being, just gives the protagonist grief. They give our main character problems to solve and, in part, give us a reason to root for our hero. This character is a foil of the main character of the story = they’ll contrast each other. As I stated above, the antagonist can be a thing as well. It can be the environment, mental illness, an internal struggle (think Hamlet by William Shakespeare), an animal, etc.
As for how to write a good antagonist I’ve got two links from Writer’s Digest and Fiction University that are really good and helpful – so make sure you check them out. I will do a fairly brief summary of the main points here:
- Antagonists are people too. They have flaws, family, loved ones, good traits and bad. They follow the same formula as a protagonist in a lot of ways. They’ll probably need a backstory for your readers so they know why they act the way they do. It also makes them interesting.
- Make them appeal to your audience in some way. Your antagonist should not be entirely evil. Have them have a redeemable quality. Make them seem more human. I personally love the villains that are doing all the wrong things, but for a good reason. An example of this would be Magneto from X-Men. He wants to save all of his kind of people, but he advocates for the eradication of the non-mutant population (and for good reasons there as non-mutants are trying to kill the mutants). You understand what he is trying to do and can even root for him in some degree, but he also does a lot of things that you don’t agree with especially when contrasted with Xavier’s way of trying to find an understanding and piece between the two species. The only time it would be acceptable to have a totally evil character would be in some sort of slasher/thriller type story/movie – even then it’s more interesting if they have some sort of redeeming quality.
- They have a reason to act. Just like a protagonist they need to have a reason for their actions. They won’t do something for the sake of doing something. For example, Loki doesn’t come to earth in the Avengers just because he wants to. He wants to be a king, which he has a bit of a claim to and taking over other would make Thor royally mad and upset.
- Avoid cliches. Who the antagonist is = like war, corporation, or disease. They’ve been done – a lot. If you do use them make it unique and new.
- Make your antagonist worthy enough of going up against you protagonist. If they don’t challenge your protagonist at all then they are not a good antagonist. They should be as cunning, strong, or whatever as your protagonist. They have to challenge them and their ideas or ideals. See below for the best example ever:
That’s it for the time being. I hope this has been helpful. We’ll be talking about false antagonists on Thursday this week. You will be getting your regularly scheduled posting this week. Don’t forget to tune in for that!