Over the next few posts, we will examine the importance of building the characters who will carry your novel’s storyline. (Short stories may not have all these characters due to the length and focus of the storyline.)
There are FOUR-character types (the Protagonist, the Antagonist, the Love Interest, and Other Characters) who will populate the place you create in your novel.
In my last blog post, I discussed the Protagonist and their importance, but today, we look at the story goals of the Antagonist.
While the plot is driven by the goal of the Protagonist, the Antagonist is there to put obstacles in their path. The Antagonist’s primary purpose is to create conflict in your story – without conflict, there is no plot.
Creating a strong Antagonist is vital to your story – they are just as crucial as your Protagonist. They are there to try to prevent your Protagonist from reaching their story goal.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you build your Antagonist:
Most Antagonists are viewed as villains or bad people. However, quite often, these characters are not evil or even harmful. They are merely the opposition to the actions of the Protagonist. If the roles were reversed, the Protagonist could become the Antagonist. All that matters is the conflict.
All Antagonists need a face. The root of the word is Greek, and the meaning is opponent, competitor, or rival. The best Antagonists are people, rather than a force of nature (earthquake, flood, storm, etc.,) a group (gang or big company,) or a general life condition such as an illness or poverty or corruption. When your Protagonist is fighting the system, your Antagonist represents that system or company. (Think Mr. Smith in the Matrix, or Mr. Potter in It’s a Wonderful Life.) Good disaster stories feature a human antagonist who tries to stop the heroes.
Your Antagonist shapes your Protagonist. They are equal in strength – if not more potent, and this character must have the resources to fight a good fight. Create a character who has a solid reason to oppose the Protagonist’s goal. It should be just as logical and robust as your Protagonist’s goal.
Quite often, the Antagonist is already someone in the life of the Protagonist. It could be their spouse, a boss, or a business colleague. There are other connections to the Protagonist besides their conflict. Your Antagonist could be someone from the past, a mutual acquaintance, or someone who shared an event in the past.
Remember that the Antagonist believes in their actions. The motivation must be valid, along with justified events. It is important to NOT create an Antagonist who merely exists in your story to obstruct the Protagonist – the result is a shallow and stereotypical character.
Stay tuned. Over the next few days, we will look at the other types of Characters.