Today, we’re talking about false antagonists, which are pretty similar to false protagonists. Without further preamble, let’s get into it.
Let’s start off with a definition (as per usual):
False Antagonist: is a character who seems to be the bad guy, but either disappears or turns out that they are the protagonist of the story.
(Disclaimer: can often be referred to as/argued that they are an anti-hero. View my post about Heroes and Anti-Heroes for more information on anti-heroes.)
My favorite example of a false protagonist would probably be from the kids movie, Megamind, starring Will Ferrell. Megamind tells his story as to why he became a villain – and then the hero of the city he was trying to overthrow. Even though the story is about him, we cannot really sympathize with him for his actions – kidnapping, attempted murder, chaos, etc. However, when the protagonist is dispensed with Megamind takes over as being the good guy – or protagonist. Megamind at the end becomes the true hero of his town despite getting to that point in a roundabout way.
Another good example of a false antagonist would be the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. The beast is seen as being the one that is in the wrong for keeping Belle locked up in his palace, but when Gaston shows his true colors we see that the beast is not really the bad guy we thought him to be.
So how do we write compelling false antagonists? Here are my tips:
- Have them play a compelling but passive role as the villain. In Kim Possible, I found Shego to be the more daunting villain between her and Dr. Drakken. Drakken talked a lot of big game about how he was going to take over the world, but when it came down to the wire, Shego was always the one who did all the heavy lifting.
- Have them be misunderstood. Megamind just wanted to fit in, but his actions were construed as being evil or malicious.
- Have them save they day. Instead of the protagonist being the hero, your antagonist can be the hero instead. You could even have it where you have a protagonist become the antagonist and the antagonist become the protagonist.
- If they’re perceived as being the big evil, make the actual big evil be ten times worse than them. They don’t need to be the only evil in the story. There can always be something bigger and badder than the antagonist. Make the antagonist look like a kitten next to your real evil character.
Those are my tips for you. I actually could not find a lot of literature for this type of character, so if any one has any other suggestions to add to this list please comment below and let me know!
Until next week!