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Antagonists and Other Bad Characters pt 4

December 14, 2011

Greetings! Today the fourth post in the Antagonist and Other Bad Characters series (one, two, three) we will examine my theory on creating a character and how to create a compelling one several traits should be introduced.

First a refresher on my character philosophy. I read somewhere on the internet that to create a character with some depth several flaws should be given to them. This appeared to coincide with a book on writing short stories, as their character sheet had a section for habits and vices. Ok, for protagonist or minor characters I general add two flaws to them. Gives them a bit more depth, bit more realistic.

Why wouldn’t I do the same (but opposite) for the antagonist? Shouldn’t I pick a pair of virtues or good traits to make them more believable?

Sub-antagonists almost always have a good quality or two. It allows them to be a little bit relatable. It also allows them to be redeemable. It is the ‘in’ to their conversion. Without something to appeal to, a sense of decency, they could not be reached.

The main antagonist may or may not have decent qualities. It comes down to the type of villain/antagonist he is. Look at the Emperor from Star Wars (again, I know, I know.) Not a decent quality in him, unless you count subjugating the entire galaxy under one rule (his.) The same can be said of several of my villains. They are by and large entities that must be defeated, not converted. However, in my short story The Homeless Ghosts of Calcutta the antagonists (namely the ghosts) vary in degrees of ‘goodness’. Some are purely malevolent, others are sweet but deceiving. The story might be a bad example since it is a collective of antagonists rather than a single entity.

Regardless, Hannibal Lecter is a good example of a main antagonist with some good qualities. Upon closer examination though, we need to ask: Who benefits from his actions based on those qualities? For instance when Clarice first meets him, and the inmate next door is brazenly crude, Hannibal extracts a reprisal against him. Sure her honor is defended, but at what cost? (I am of course referring to Silence of the Lambs – the movie. Because I have not read the books.) I think though the point is made right?

When a villain appears to help someone out, better look twice and see who actually benefitted from that. Take my character Raj and the Petni (a young woman ghost, unlucky in love in their mortal life.) Yes the ghost is pleasant to look at and she beckons him with a kind smile. However, perhaps that sweetness that is a lure only to entrap the victim. Raj certain would not be helped by any kind of dalliance with a Petni!

Where does this leave us? With the following notions I think:

1. The main antagonist can have some good qualities, but do not look for him/her/it to use them for anyone’s benefit except themselves.

2. Sub antagonists can have good qualities, and use them to benefit others. It does make them weaker and more susceptible to being converted away from their cause.

Well we are down to just a couple more topics to consider.

  1. 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.
  2. Defining behavior and not deviating from it, getting into the warped mind of the villain.

Until next time, thanks for stopping in and checking out the post! Keep excellent everyone.



From → Antagonists, Writing

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