Components of a Good Antagonist

You’ve created an awesome protagonist, someone the readers will identify with, root for, cry over and stay with for the duration of the story. The problem is that, without an antagonist, there is no tension. No challenges for the protagonist to overcome.

Come up with an antagonist who is equal in stature with your protagonist. Both have to have interesting backstories. Both must face challenges. Both have worlds around them. What makes the story move is when the stories and challenges intersect.

Just as your protagonist has skills and weaknesses, so does your antagonist. While the readers want your protagonist to be stronger of the two, there has to be enough resistance to make the protagonist work at winning.

Your task is to create an antagonist who is a good match for you character. This individual must be strong enough, talented enough, smart enough to be almost an equal to your character. Someone who will give your character a run for his money. Someone who will resist, who will fight, who will not go down easily.

Put them in a scene in which they will duke it out verbally, or physically if that is your wish. But however the battle occurs, it must be one in which readers will be fascinated by the story and read until the final word. In other words, the two characters must present a complicated relationship that, at the end, allows the protagonist to stand in the spotlight after facing a good fight.

Have fun with this one.

 

A Time When You got Lost

Imagine that you are driving to an unfamiliar place before GPS appeared on your phone. You’ve got a map and so far, everything has gone fine. The exit appeared when you expected it to, the street to turn right on showed up within blocks. But after the left turn, you are not where you were supposed to be.

Instead of office buildings, you are in a housing development where junk litters every yard and groups of young men laze about porch steps. A drunk stumbles down the street, weaving in and out of a row of old cars parked along the curb.

You don’t know what went wrong.

Your task is to tell that story. Your readers will want to be with you, from when you happily left home until that feeling of being lost washes over you.

It’s important to include emotions, for without them, there is no story. We want to feel your happiness, satisfaction, then fear. We want to be with you as you navigate your way out of the mess.

Have fun with this one.

Writing From Experience

Another technique to use when you can’t think of a story to tell, is to write from a specific incident in your life.

For example, write about the time you were betrayed by another. This could have taken place when you were a child, or when you were in high school, or even as an older adult. You want to choose something that had an impact on who you are today.

If you are not writing about yourself, but rather a character in your story, choose an occurrence in her life that would have a comparable impact.

Your task is to first create a list of events that you might be able to write about. For example:

  1. Your first experience in deep water.
  2. The first time someone asked you out and the date that followed.
  3. Your first pet. This can be your initial reaction to it, your feelings over time, how devastating it was when it died.
  4. The time when you met someone who later became important in your life.

Once you have created your list, or working from the one above, write the story. Try to include as many details as you can, making sure that you tickle the senses. If you are writing about yourself, but you really wanted to use the details in a fictional story, then rewrite those parts that change the point of view.

Have fun with this one.

A Special Birthday

Think back in time to a birthday that was unique in some way. Perhaps it was your first party and Timmy Pearson ate so much cake that he barfed all over your Mom’s favorite throw rug.

Maybe it wasn’t your party, but your best friend’s when you were both teenagers. Someone brought a pint of vodka and dumped it in the punch. Everyone got drunk and silly. There was lots of close dancing, kissing and serious making-out.

Maybe your party was ruined when your Uncle Joe showed up, being the bully and braggart that he was, and stole your thunder by making it all about him.

Think of the stories you can tell!

Your task is to write about a special day that either you remember happening to you, or one that you want your character to experience. Details are important, so include foods eaten, drinks consumed, behaviors exhibited.

Dialogue is important so that personalities and interactions rise forth.

Your reader wants to be in the moment, to feel as if they are in the room, seeing and experiencing everything as your character does.

Reread, looking for details that make the story jump.

Have fun with this one.

Being an Outsider

Do you remember what it feels like to not belong? How alone it is to stand by yourself on the playground or sit by yourself in the lunchroom while happy people swirl about? Close your eyes and bring up those memories.

What if you were never on the outside? Then imagine that you are right now. You have no one to talk with at work and at home. No one to go places with, no one to share a meal or see a movie or to call when you are frightened.

Those are the emotions that bring us to tears, to self-doubt as to our worthiness.

Your task is to write a story in which either you or your character are outside of the group. Emotions are key. The reader needs to feel what the character is feeling, see how alone the character is and understand how very isolating that is.

Details are important. Sights, sounds, tastes. Imagine eating lunch by yourself and how your egg sandwich tastes.  Think of your clothing. Does it match in terms of styles, cut, color or is it old-fashioned…and how does that make you feel?

Someone is organizing an outing. People are talking about choices of things to do and see. But not with you. How does that make you feel?

Write a heart-wrenching story that will touch your readers.

Have fun with this one.

A Time When You Had no Voice

Many of our memories come from times that hurt us or made us cry. Not having a voice is one. Don’t think about when laryngitis stole your voice, but when someone chided you or told you to be quiet.

The first time might have been when you were quite young. For example, a teacher called on you to answer a question and then didn’t like your response. How did that make you feel?

Maybe it occurred at home. You used words that angered your parent and were disciplined in response. What was your reaction? Did you quit talking? Or continue to speak your mind even though it caused more criticism to come your way?

Your task is to describe that time in your life when you were silenced, for whatever reason. Place yourself in the setting, then describe it in such a way that your readers will know where you are and what you are doing.

You can write from your memories or create a scenario when something similar happened to your protagonist. The important thing is to evoke those emotions that arose. The reader needs to feel the pain, the hurt, the frustration, the anger.

Reread. If those feelings do not come forth, then add details to enhance the experience.

Have fun with this one.

Keeping a Journal

Many writers find it helpful to carry a journal around so as to be able to record things they see, feel, hear, taste, sense.

In terms of images, one way to accomplish this is to stop periodically and observe. List in phrases everything that comes to mind. Notice textures, colors, designs, sounds and contrasts. For example, the sun is shining but it is pouring!

At this time it is not important to analyze your observations, but to record them.

Your task is to take a walk at least once a week. You can cover the same territory every time or seek out different places. As you walk, stop and write. What colors are the leaves, if there are any? What noise does the wind make? Birds? Is there water trickling or rushing?

Next go online and bring up images that correspond to your recordings. Save them in a special file.

When you look at the images, what emotions rise to the surface? Contentment or unease? Why? Is there an incident in your past that relates?

Write a scene using at least three of the images you have saved. Reread looking for details and emotions.

Have fun with this one.