Saturday, April 23, 2016

How to Write an Awesome Antagonist

Write Awesome Antagonists
I've been working on my April NaNoWriMo, and I've started questioning how I would continue to reach my word count goals. I was also struggling with finding ways to bring in more scenes with my antagonist. So I decided that I would write a backstory for him. And as I thought about what the backstory should be, I suddenly realized that I was not writing a backstory, but I was basically starting a whole new story with my antagonist as the hero.

For your next novel, think about it this way: you are not writing one story, but two.

 Give Your Antagonist His Own Story

I've always believed that the antagonist should be treated just the same as the main character, but when I thought of the antagonist's story as something unrelated to the main story, a whole new realm of possibilities opened up. I had loads of ideas and suddenly the character became very real, and something very different from what I had originally envisioned. But in a good way, because there had really been no characterization there before.

The important part of this is to make sure that he is treated as the hero of his story.

We are the hero of our own story

Make His Story Compelling

Just like the main story, the antagonist's story should be well thought out and developed. If you view your story from the perspective of your antagonist, it should still make sense. But even more than that, if you took away your main story, your antagonist's story should be able to stand on its own.

So doesn't it make sense to treat your antagonist's story as an entirely separate entity?  If you look at his story alone, he should have just as clear a goal as your protagonist does and his plot line should be clear and easy to follow.

Make Your Antagonist Likable

  1. Make him the hero. Treat your antagonist the same as you would the hero of your story. Develop the character just as fully. Take a look at my post on Protagonists for some ideas if you don't know where to start with that.
  2. Give him good traits as well as negative ones. Make him someone the reader can relate to instead of some shadowy figure or a purely evil cliche. Thinking about him as the hero of his story gives a better perspective of how it is he could display positive traits. 
  3. Sympathize with him. Show the reader why he does what he does, and why it is that he thinks he is doing the right thing. Because no one ever does anything that they personally believe is wrong. Even if he's doing the most horrible things, how does he justify it in his own mind? Find ways to make the reader sympathize, and maybe even convince them why all those evil things actually could been seen as doing good.

So the next time you approach a story, think about it this way, you are not writing one story, but two. Because your story should not be just about your protagonist, but your antagonist as well. Sometimes the antagonist is more compelling than the intended main character.

What do you think? Who are some of your favorite antagonists, and what is it about them that makes you love to hate them so much?

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