A to Z Challenge 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

A to Z - Antagonist

Hello everyone and welcome back to another round of the A to Z Challenge.  I couldn't think of a better way to get back to regular blogging than being a part of this fun month-long exercise.  I just can't resist the challenge of coming up with a whole month's worth of posts based on the alphabet.

Today's post is about a story's antagonist.  This is the "bad guy", the opposition in a story.  It's what strives to keep the main character from accomplishing their goal.  And just like fleshing out our main character is important, making the antagonist as three dimensional and real as possible is also integral to a great story.

In my current WiP, this is something I've been giving a great deal of thought lately.  I've started my story over and as I work to improve it on this second go 'round, I realize that the first time I created my antagonist, I made him to simplistic;  I wrote him as the quintessential "bad guy".  As I am adding more depth to his character however, I've discovered that he isn't truly evil.  He believes what he is doing is right and the MC is getting in the way of that.  He believes in the purpose he fulfills within the society.  It's debatable of course whether what he is doing and how he's doing it is the right way, but he's not inherently or patently evil.

In the end, this type of dissection of my antagonist is going to make my story that much more believable.  For one thing, I am able to accurately portray reasons why the antagonist chooses to be the obstacle to all my MC's goals.  I'm able to personalize the story and let the reader truly see this living, breathing character.  I will also hopefully create a lasting impression on the reader that makes this antagonist memorable - whether they like or "hate" the character when all is said and done.

Just to be clear, an antagonist doesn't necessarily have to be a person.  Sometimes the thing that keeps your MC from making headway isn't one single person.  For example, if your story is about a climber scaling Mt. Everest, your antagonist could be the mountain itself.  If your MC is trying to break out of a societal norm and overcome, the antagonist could be the society itself (i.e. not one person in particular) that keeps blocking their advances.   Regardless of who or what the antagonist is however, we need to make sure we can identify that entity and bring it to life on the page.

Before I go, I want to give a huge thanks to everyone who contributes and is a part of organizing the A to Z Challenge.  It's a really cool thing you guys do every year and it helps drag individuals like myself back to our respective blogs.

How do you go about crafting and refining the antagonists in your story?


Mia Hayson said...

Great post!

I often give up on making an antagonist a person and stick with obstacles because I really am too prone to making a person really bad and then redeeming them and then we've lost the antag again!


Rick Daley said...

I'm working around my antogonist's motives in my WIP, so he's less caricature and more sympathetic (but still loathsome).

Eric said...

Mia - That's understandable, but you should keep trying. I'm learning that as I make the antagonist more of a real person, I become more able to understand and describe their motivations, personality, etc. And in the end, the writing does improve. So stick with it and I'm sure you'll like the end result.

Rick - Sounds good. That's the difficulty sometimes, making the antagonist somebody you really don't want to like while still keeping them realistic.

Lynda Schmeichel said...

Hi, I am also participating in the A to Z Writing Challenge. I am looking forward to reading more of your work throughout this month.

Eric said...

Lynda - Thanks. Good luck with the challenge. I'm headed to your page to see what you've contributed today!

Julia Phillips Smith said...

I'm a massive fan of the gray character, so my 'villains' tend to be sympathetic and more antiheroes. Having said that, of course, I have written truly despicable characters in my dark fantasy. They're actually more the personifications of an entire corrupt society, though.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

And sometimes the main character can be his own worst enemy!
They say the villain needs to be as complex and interesting as the hero. Sometimes even more.
Glad you're back into blogging with the Challenge!

Eric said...

I like the grey areas also. It makes for some great deep thoughts. I do like writing truly evil characters as well though. Thanks for stopping by.

Eric said...

Great point, Alex. You are right; without a great villain, you can't really have a memorable conflict. Thanks, and thanks for stopping by.