Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Importance of the Antagonist...

It seems to me that we spend most of our time considering the hero.
  • Journey
  • Growth
  • Goals
  • Conflict
  • Etc.
 But what about the ANTAGONIST?

"A hero is only as strong as the antagonist."
~ Janette Rallison

I don't know about you, but I think that's true. The villain tests the heroes abilities and worthiness. Overcoming the villain is usually the main goal of the story. If that task isn't a HUGE challenge... if the antagonist isn't a scary S.O.B, then our heroes status doesn't grow or show like we want AND need it too.

That being said, the villain/shadow/antagonist doesn't necessarily have to be a person. It depends on your book or your genre, but the person/object/event that the hero fights against needs to be great enough to show the true strength of your character as they fight to overcome it.
One thing I think is important to remember is that the villain needs a story too. (This mostly relates to a "person" villain.) But they need to have goals, and motivation too. Give them a little back story so we know their motives and why they are so evil, or why they create such a conflict with the hero.

What do you think? Do you think the antagonist needs this kind of attention in a story? Do you like to use a person, object or event as the main conflict of your story?

33 comments:

Annalisa Crawford said...

Thinking of my current WIP, I've made the bad guy my main character, so he has a lot of back-story. The good guy is in a coma!

Kyra Lennon said...

I definitely think the antagonist needs attention, but I also think there is a very delicate line to walk when choosing what to reveal. If you end up showing too much, and give away too many of his weaknesses, you may end up with an antagonist people feel sorry for which potentially could weaken the "bad guy" factor.

Cristina said...

I think an antagonist deserves lots of attention. And he shouldn't be just a BAD guy. He should have motivations and reasons for what he does. In his reality he is doing what he thinks is right, and if you can show a little of that, then you've just made him/her just as real as the MC and added depth to your story.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Most of my antagonists haven't been people, but my third book will have a few!

Rob-bear said...

A point well raised. I do remember a story about the destruction of the ship Titanic, when the iceberg was cast in the role of antagonist. That was a piece well written.

Talli Roland said...

Hmm, usually the antagonist in my stories has to do with an internal conflict of sorts. That conflict may manifest itself in several people the protag needs to triumph over in the end!

Clare said...

I love a well done antagonist, but I agree with Kyra. Sometimes you can reveal too much and soften a villain. It's a thin line to walk; you have to make them human and believable, while justifying their action, without ruining their character.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

I read somewhere that the antagonist thinks he is the hero of his own story. When I think of it like that, it really makes a difference in how I write the "bad guy" - he has goals and motivations and fears, too. The reader still won't like him but the reader might understand the bad guy and his actions, which leads (hopefully!) to complex and layered characters and storytelling.

Goku shrestha said...

well for me , rather than being the sole antagonist i think every person has both good and bad sides . well some are exception !

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I'm writing an interior antagonist, aka man vs self. It's funny because the ideas I have for other books tend to have this conflict as well. Now I'm wondering if I could even write an antagonist! :)

Peaches Ledwidge said...

Echoing Madeline's response.

Joshua said...

My environment is my antagonist. At least, in this one it is.

Cassie Mae said...

Ooh, I like this post. I like the bad guys :D

But, yeah, I don't really write bad guys, lol. My MC's antagonist is herself. :)

prerna pickett said...

very true. I'm reworking my manuscript to give the antagonist more depth, no more she's bad for the sake of being bad.

Rachel said...

I freakin LOVE the bad guys over the good guys.....(My entire novel is about a how a girl falls in love with the bad guy at school and becomes sassy/kind of evil herself) I think antagonists have so much more layers to them than good guys. ALthough LOL in real life I *am* a good guy I promise :-P Great post, leigh!

Michael Offutt, Tebow Cult Initiate said...

I love a strong antagonist in a story. It makes things so much more fun.

Hope Roberson said...

Excellent choice of villains! I'm gonna hear Uncle Scar and the Joker in my head all day ;) Maybe that's a good thing, hopefully they'll help amp up the evil badness of my antagonists :)

WHY SO SERIOUS?

Cortney Pearson said...

I definitely think the antagonist needs attention too! The Joker was seriously sooooo well done, it's insane!!

Lara Schiffbauer said...

This go 'round of novel writing, I made up biographies for the male/female protags and the antagonist. It's amazing how much more real he is to me before I've even started writing the book, than the last novel's antagonist was. This was a great post, and something to always remember. We need strong antagonists to push the hero into the corner so he can come out fighting.

Emily R. King said...

I agree. If the antagonist doesn't push the protagonist to be stronger (mentally, if not physically), he/she isn't as believable.

Annmarie Pipa said...

I always look for the story behind the villain.

elizabeth seckman said...

You're totally right. A villain without a back story would be flat and boring.

Iain said...

What a great post!
My villain has a complete back story which has been partly revealed in my current WIP, but has more room for revelations about her past when she re-appears in the next one.
I love reading posts like this one. It's like a little check list to help me stay on track and not to forget something important :o)

Nicole said...

Yup, totally agree! I like my villains smart and creepy, so I'm always wondering whether they might actually be one step ahead of the good guys.

Trisha said...

I love complex villains.

Susanna Leonard Hill said...

It totally depends on the story - I've used them all! :) But I agree - a complex villain is much better than straight evil!

Tracy said...

I definitely am drawn to an antagonist "with a story." (So that's how I write mine, of course.) :)

I have to admit, in my currect WIP, my antagonist is my favorite character. It's fun being a little bad... heheh.

(Found you via inkPageant.)

Lisa Regan said...

You make such excellent points. Too often I think that antagonists are cardboard cutouts. I like a more complex antagonist--like you're saying, flesh them out!

Leslie S. Rose said...

I love a multi-dimensional antagonist that allows us to build some empathy while we hate them.

Nari said...

You are so right - an antagonist needs to be well written and have enough of a story to them, so that they are not just a cardboard-cutout villain.
I disagree somewhat with Lyra - I think sympathising with the antagonist can sometimes be the best part - you hate them for making you empathise, you hate them but you understand, you are torn between the hero and the villain, I think it makes it far more interesting. Especially if at times you hate the hero.
Nari X

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I totally have that same quote from Janette in my LDStorymaker notes :)

Julia King said...

Antagonists are somewhat fun to write. However, I do feel terrible for what I have them do.

Antagonists need to have depth, otherwise they aren't believable.

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