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.

 

The Issue with Changing our Minds

Picture a person who has opinions, but then, after listening to someone with different ones, changes her mind. What feelings does that incite in you? Do you think she’s awesome for taking into consideration what others say?

Or do negative connotations come to mind? For example, what does it mean to be wishy-washy or a flip-flopper?

Your task is to place a character in a situation where his opinion on a given subject is revealed, then challenged. Perhaps one of the best ways to establish this is through dialogue rather than narrative.

In what types of social situations do people discuss issues that might create tension between opposing beliefs? That’s where your character needs to be.

Make sure that the discussion gets heated. Readers would get bored if your character isn’t passionate or doesn’t get agitated when challenged. Perhaps think about how you react. That might be a good starting point for your story.

Have fun with this one.

Significant Objects in Your Life

When we were growing up someone gave my mom a cookie jar that was in the shape of a monk. We called him Friar Tuck, as in Robin Hood. My mom would store cookies in there, but because it was not airtight, the cookies quickly became stale.

When we moved from Ohio to California in 1964, the jar came with us, one of the few items that made the trip. The jar sat proudly on my parent’s countertop no matter where they lived. When my dad passed away a few years ago, Friar Tuck was still there.

The jar represented all the moves, all the changes in my family’s life. Marriages, grandchildren, moves. Eventually the deaths of both of my parents.

Your task is to think of something that represents your life. It could be an object, a traditional food item, or a journey that the family made together over a period of years.

Perhaps the objects no longer exist, the food no longer prepared and the trip no longer taken, but the memories linger. The memories don’t have to be positive. It could be that every time you think of your sister’s special spaghetti it dredges up images of arguments, hurtful words tossed about like candy.

Write the story behind that object. Allow it to reveal events in your past that add up to a longstanding story about your relationship.

Have fun with this one.

A Danger to Others

We all have an Uncle Joe whose eyesight is failing, uses a walker, has trouble remembering, and yet still drives. He’s a danger to himself and others, but refuses to give up his car keys for fear of losing his independence. What do we do in this situation?

There are no easy answers. You can hide the keys when he’s in the bathroom, call the DMV and report him as a dangerous driver or call the police when he goes out to drive. Joe will hate you for the rest of his life. So might his wife, kids, grandkids, neighbors and anyone else who is on his side.

Your task is to conjure up a character who should not be driving and someone who confronts this person. To get ideas, do a little research online. Come up with at least three different scenarios and possible outcomes. Choose the one that presents the most conflict, for remember, conflict creates tension and tension makes stories interesting.

As you write, look for ways to insert conflict. Joe does not give up on the first attempt. He might become guarded and hide the keys in the freezer. In fact, he might not relinquish the keys until he’s had an accident or almost ran over a small child!

Reread, looking to see where you can add details that invite the reader to buy into the story.

Have fun with this one.

Shake Things Up

You’ve written your story. The protagonist is complete. She faces her fears and wins. Love conquers all. Business is good. The house is purchased and the yards tended.

What more does your story need?

How about bringing in a new character? If your character is a happy-go-lucky fellow, then make the new character a dour, oft-depressed individual.

Say your protagonist is a moody teen, then give him an optimistic classmate who just moved into the school.

Putting together diametrically opposed characters adds tension. They won’t always agree and so will sometimes argue…or ignore each other. Such conflict forces the protagonist to face her innermost fears. It creates turmoil and upsets the story details, often adding interest for the reader.

Your task is to take a piece that you’ve completed. Develop a character that is opposite to your protagonist in at least one major way. Insert that new character into the story in a time and place that surprises the reader. Finish the story, making sure that the new character maintains a place of importance.

At the end the new character can walk away…or the two characters can become lifelong friends. It’s up to what helps the tension in the story.

Have fun with this one.