Antagonists and Other Bad Characters Introduction
I am launching a new mini-series. As you can see from the title it is about the characters we love to hate. I am going to discuss what I put into my bad boys and girls, how I feel about writing them and their place in my work. This series is likely to be disorganized. I apologize in advance for any jumping around. I will try to stay on topic, but you know how it can go. (Hi. At the bottom are links to the other posts in this series you may wish to check out.)
Obviously the Antagonist (Ant.) is a central character to a story. He/She/It gives the Protagonist (Prot.) something to triumph over. Whether it be a force of nature, a dark wizard or the neighborhood bully the Antagonist presents a roadblock for the character. The Ant. prevents the Prot. from growing or moving forward. This could be through direct conflict i.e. the Dark Wizard imprisons the Prot. while laughing maniacally, or perhaps a flood that causes the river to overflow its banks and may wash away the farm.
These are straightforward blockades in the Prot. road of life. Tangible problems that the Prot. needs to work through so that at the end of the story he/she/it can wipe the sweat off their brow (or dungeon muck), breathe a sigh of relief and move forward toward their desired goals.
That is the full frontal version if you will of what an Ant. looks like. It is clear and easily defined. It is like the villains in a b-rated horror movie. You know the axe wielding psycho in a penguin suit is the bad guy and that he is not interested in sharing his feelings, unless they are about his axe.
I think in storytelling that a subtler approach to the Ant. adds elements that entice a reader. It is my desire for these characters to be charismatic in their own way, such that it draws a reader in and they can almost see things from the Ant’s point of view. Even better is if the reader shudders and backs away realizing that they were THIS close to buying into the Ant.’s plan or worldview. This of course depends on the Ant. being something that could not be called a natural disaster because largely speaking tornadoes do not plot their own course.
As with standard character development an Ant. should have traits defined. However where in a typical character especially the Prot. I like to stick at least two flaws, I think the Ant. should have one or two redeeming qualities SOMETIMES. Depends on the kind of Ant. that is being created.
There are two kinds in my mind: Redeemable and non-redeemable. The distinction is fairly obvious right? The dark wizard who wants to see all the world burn for his own amusement versus the bully who is himself bullied/abused. The wizard is not going to care about anything beyond destroying everything. The bully could be redeemed through enlightenment and positive growth, generally brought on by conflict with the Prot..
Another setup I like to explore is major/minor Ant. in the same story. Usually if I do this the major Ant. is less overt and by comparison more evil. The minor Ant. has a better chance of being redeemable too because he is weaker than the main Ant. or because he is being coerced into his negative actions.
Through this series I am going to look at the following topics:
- Major/minor Antagonists in the same story, variations and uses.
- Redeeming an Antagonist, why, how.
- Doing something unexpected with the Antagonist. Yes he needs to go from point A to point C, but maybe he stops at point Q first.
- Defining behavior and not deviating from it, getting into the warped mind of the villain.
I hope that your curiosity is piqued and that you will drop by to read the rest of the series. If you are not following the blog, I recommend clicking the follow button on the right hand side, add the RSS feed to your feed reader or follow me on Twitter.