Monday, July 11, 2011

Hello Antagonist. I love you.

Here is something I have been pondering lately:  
What makes a great antagonist?

In books, we come across so many different forms of bad guy.  An angry, half-alive wizard.  A jealous and hungry vampire.  A government set to watch its children kill each other for entertainment.  

Sometimes the antagonist is even the very protagonist we are rooting for: that inner struggle to find the answer, to change, to do what is right.  To self-destruct or to admit to a forgotten crime.

Whatever form the antagonist takes, you just can't have a story without one.  It is what drives the story.  What causes the MC to make decisions.  What forms the conflict and propells the climax.  Without the bad guy, the good guy will lose its flair.  The story will be dead.  It just won't be worth it.

We need our antagonists.

So, how do you create the right bad guy?  How can you ensure that the antagonist gives enough drive to the MC to keep the story moving and strong?  

This is honestly something I am trying to fully figure out.  So, I decided to scour the net for tips and advice.  Isn't that why it's there?  Google, my friend...

Here you go, my quick montage:
  • Make your antagonist tough.   Tough, but not too tough.  Indestructible, but with an end in sight.  Make him strong, make him awesome.
  • Hold a grudge.  Your antagonist needs hate your protagonist.  Anger, loss, jealousy, desire... One way or another, there has to be tension there.
  • Make a weakness.  I'm sorry, but your antagonist can't be super human.  Just like Superman, there has to be some form of Kryponite.  Whatever it is, let the weakness exist.
  • Set a goal.  Why is your antagonist out to end the story?  Make it good.  Make it count.
  • Avoid clichés.  Dimension, dimension, dimension.  Give him a history.  A past.  Feelings.  Motivation.  Bad guys are great, bad guys with a past are even better.

And my personal tip?
Love your Antagonist.

If you hate him from the get-go, you won't write him well.  You will avoid him.  You will only paint him bad, and never add that much needed depth that makes the reader go "Oh, that's why I hate him!"

We love bad boys.  Admit it.  Every person, at some point or another, has felt that pull to the bad boy.  There is something about a person bent on ending the world and stealing away everything that is good that is just oh-so-alluring.  It can be scary.  And because of that scary pull, you create all the bad things that could possibly happen in your head.

You create a story.

Love your antagonist.  Embrace him.  Don't scare him off; invite him over for dinner.  Let yourself fall in love with this bad boy, so when he ruins the story your heart is literally broken and all hope is lost.

I love the antagonists.  Disregarding how much I might adore the MC, I am always drawn to the antagonist.  I crave to know what he will do next.  I ponder the coming twists.  I fear the climax.  I always want more.  Why?  Because I love the antagonist.

Yes.  Love your antagonist.
As you walk away today to madly type out your amazing MS, remember to say:
"Hello [enter antagonist's name here].  I love you."

- Here is a great exercise I came across that I plan to do:
Write from your Antagonist's POV.  Just an exercise.  Dive into his head, and let his thoughts take you over.  I bet the outcome will be not only devastating, but amazing.  Forget about typos or story lines or awesomeness.  Just let the antagonist take over.  Dive in.  Who knows what you will discover.  
I can't wait to let my bad guy lead!

So, do you love your antagonist?  Who are your favorite bad guys?
What are your tips for writing the best evil doer?  Do tell!


~Valen~ said...

I agree with you completely! especially about giving your villan a back story. they should have a rich, enthralling history, that allows you to understand why they do what they do. even if 95% of that history doesn't make an appearance in the book, at least you know it and that knowledge will show when your write about your baddie. they should have a reason for what they are doing, even if they seemily have no reason at all. the more developed the character is for a writer, the more the character's personality will show in the writing. i LOVE all of my antagonist in my stories. evey character has a family history - even, their great grandparents have names and history and though no one will know most of the characters history but me, it just makes them so much realer and complex when i'm writing about them.

my favorite villian(s) . . . Ms. Coulter of His Dark Materials is wicked! Voldy is king! Circe of the Gemma Doyle Trilogy is brilliant! Every baddie in the Abarat Series by Clive Barker is awesome!

Anonymous said...

I once loved my antagonist so much it was obsessive. My crush started coming out into my writing and my MC disagreed. That was the last of that! ;) In one WiP I love my antagonist. In another. . . well, I need to work on them. Great tips!

Trisha said...

I'm formulating an antagonist (or two) for my NaNo novel this year...and I want to make him awesome. I just haven't figured out his entire story yet.


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