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.

 

Defining a Character

A good writer wants autonomous characters. That is, each character acts of their own, not as puppets that the writer controls. Characters should not be props within a story, but real beings. They have desires and knowledge. They are alive in all senses of the word. They have complex lives and intense emotions.

Your task is to imagine a character that might fit well in a story you are contemplating writing. Give her a name, age and residence. Then fill in these blanks:

  1. She would never consider doing/thinking/saying ________________________
  2. He knew this about his father, but not that _____________________________
  3. Her most prominent ambition is _____________________________________
  4. He would prefer to ___________________ over ________________________
  5. In terms of politics, she votes for ____________________________________
  6. He dislikes _________________________so intensely that he _____________
  7. His favorite recreational activity is ___________________________________
  8. Every day he drives to/buys/eats _____________________________________
  9. Her greatest fear is ________________________________________________
  10. She yearns to ____________________________________________________

Which of these appeals to you? Write a story in which at least one of these traits comes to fruition.

Have fun with this one.

Complex Characters

When creating a character a good place to begin is to create backstory. Include the basics such as complete name (if named after someone or if name has significance to family), age (incidents at birth, toddlerhood, teen years), occupation (something he enjoys or hates?), marital status (looking? Engaged? Committed? Divorced?) and residence (city, state, country, type of dwelling, owned or rented or leased, living with someone and relationship to others in the house).

Wow! That’s a lot of information, most of which you will never use. As detailed at that is, however, it will not create the type of complex character that interests readers. Complexity often comes through a weaving together of villain and protagonist, a melding of relationships and story.

We might meet the villain first, see him doing something rather ordinary such as cooking a meal or carrying a load of lumber at work. He might be a grouch or overly pleasant, a sycophant or misogynist. Now we don’t like him as much. In fact, he is grating on our sensibilities.

Your task is to have your character come up against the villain for the first time. Is there friction? Or do they bond over drinks? Remember that there must be tension, so does something happen that angers the villain or terrifies the protagonist? Make it interesting so that your character becomes a complex individual.

Have fun with this one.