Sunday, April 1, 2012

A to Z Challenge: A is for Antagonist



Welcome to Day 1 of the A to Z Challenge

Many bloggers have chosen a theme for the A to Z.  My pledge since becoming a blogger is to post about writing, so for this event, I will being posting about what I've learned about writing a novel.

________

A is for antagonists:  a person who is opposed to, struggles against, or compete with another; an opponent, the adversary to the hero or protagonist:  (Dictionary.com)

The trick to creating a “good” antagonist is to NOT make him pure evil.  He should be believable and able to rationalize his actions.  Just like the protagonist, he should experience obstacles, setbacks, and doubts.  He should never have infinite resources, nor be easily deterred.  And he should have traits that contradict his actions.  Even better, the antagonist should be sympathetic in some relatable way. 

In my own novel, the antagonists, two Russian Mafia crime lords, hover mostly in the background.  They only come into the light a few times, but when they do, they are menacing and frightening simply because you don’t know entirely what they are capable of.  In the end, you find out they suffered the exact same loss as their nemesis, the protagonist, and that is what sets them on their course.  They may be bad guys, but they loved and lost, too.

So, what is your antagonist like?  

43 comments:

Sarah Pearson said...

I always try to make my antagonist at least think what he's doing is right, even if nobody else agrees :-)

Clare said...

Antagonist are key to any good novels, and your two Russian Mafia crime lords sound very interesting.

I love that they've experienced loss similar to the protagonist.

Angeline Trevena said...

Brilliant advice, so many times you come across the typical evil 'baddie' who's about as three dimensional as a cardboard cut-out.

Bish Denham said...

My antagonists are usually aspects of the MC. Or they are in the elements, the setting of the story.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Such good points about how to make a good antagonist. Thanks for sharing.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

My antagonist is my MC's brother-in-law - he's pretty awful but her sister loves him, so there's the issue.

Laura said...

Yeah - you're right. The pure evil 'baddy' is a fairly dull read.
Lx

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Antagonists need depth so they will be viewed as real people.
This will be a great series, Nancy!

Al Penwasser said...

My antagonist is a man who thinks putting shag carpet on a toilet is way swanky.
A theme? We were supposed to do a theme?
Crap.
Probably too late to write 26 posts on the colonic advantages of bran.
As I said...
crap.
And just imagine what that does to the matting on a piece of shag carpet.

Ciara said...

My antagonist is obsessed with enhancing herself and keeping control of the people.
Great A!

Wendy Tyler Ryan said...

Good post. Yes, you have to "love" to hate your bad guys. My son gave me heck for a killing a bad guy off in one of my novels. He said he like him too much.

Janna said...

Some of my favorite antagonists are not characters at all, but elements of nature. Sometimes it's an element of the protagonist's personality. Great A topic. Congrats on your upcoming release!

Suze said...

Like Janna's first sentence.

Kelley said...

This is SO important. We must feel something for the antagonist, or at least be able to understand what they want and why they want it. We should never define them as 'evil'. There's got to be more to them than that.

Jasmine Walt said...

In my opinion crafting your antagonist is almost more important than your protagonists because without him there's really no basis for the story! Great post, Nancy.

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

Great post on the antagonist. He or she needs motivation, that creates sympathy, even when we hate what they do.
Play off the Page

Donna K. Weaver said...

Great selection, Nancy! So many antagonists in real life think they're the heroes in their own stories. Now that makes for intriguing!

Heck, look at Snape!

Nicole said...

Good insights! I definitely think the best antagonists are the ones who walk right on the edge of evil...they're real and sympathetic enough to be super creepy!

Pearson Report said...

Hi Nancy - Great "A" topic! And a super question, which I see, from reading your comments...really got the discussion going.

I look forward to seeing what you have in store for B...


Jenny @ Pearson Report
Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Great post. I love how antagonists justify every bad thing they do - especially when they try to place the blame for their evil ways on the protagonist.

Kittie Howard said...

Great Challenge launch, Nancy. My antagonist is in the KKK and does their dirty stuff. He also collects stamps. *** I laughed when I read about tossing golf balls at the gators. Ahhh, youth. My sister, brother, and I used a long stick to stir up moccasins near a lake. When their mouths opened, we took turns trying to shoot in their mouths with a B-B gun, a totally stupid thing to do, even more so when my dad found out. We thought he wouldn't hear the B-B gun, ahhh, stupid us!

Texas Yellow Rose said...

Hi Nancy,

Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comments. Congrats to your Mom on her survivorship and to you for being published! The A-to-Z Challenge is already proving to be fun and exciting. :) I have quite a few posts already written, so at least I'm a bit ahead of the game. Nice to meet you and let's have fun!

Fairview said...

great theme. I'll definitely be back because I've a feeling I've got a lot to learn.

Anyway, when I first attempted to write a novel there was something missing. Couldn't figure it out but the ending was very dissatisfying. Why? I had no antagonist!!! lol

L.G.Smith said...

My antagonist is the ex lover. Makes things complicated when the stuff hits the fan. :)

L.G.Smith said...

My antagonist is the ex lover. Makes things complicated when the stuff hits the fan. :)

Empty Nest Insider said...

I really like Al's antagonist! There's nothing better than a man on a mission, and all the better if he's handy with a plunger! Sorry for being so silly on April Fool's Day! I love your theme Nancy, and I can't wait to read more! Julie

Robin Weeks said...

Such good points. I hate it when the bad guy is evil for evil's sake. So unrealistic.

Lynda R Young said...

Love your theme for the A-Z challenge. Antagonists are always difficult to write because of that temptation to make them pure evil.

prerna pickett said...

I completely agree. I love complex three dimensional antagonists.

jamieayres said...

My antagonist at the beginning seems like the stereotypical cheerleader, but by page 50 you learn her history & she becomes by protagonist's bff. The protag's mom is also an antagonist & of course every protagonist can even be their own worst enemy! Can't wait to read more of your posts! If you're interested, check out my blog for a chance to win an Easter Basket full of books giveaway:) ~Cheers

Jo said...

I read a Twitter Q&A with Robert Carlisle a couple weeks ago (he plays Rumpelstiltskin on Once Upon A Time), and someone asked him if the character was good or bad, that they couldn't figure out what side of the line he fell on.

Mr Carlisle's response was "I don't think any character should be so easily unlayered as plain good or bad. He has layers that are both."

I liked that.

Jo
In Which We Start Anew

Heather M. Gardner said...

My antagonist has something to prove.

Great post with some great information.

Thank you.

HMG

Sylvia Ney said...

I bet Russian Mafia make great antagonists! New follower here. I’m enjoying reading my fellow “A to Z”ers. I look forward to visiting again.

Sylvia
http://www.writinginwonderland.blogspot.com/

SarahGermaine7 said...

Hi Nancy! I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for coming by and visiting my blog today. I look forward to reading all of your posts about writing. I've always loved to write, but have never been much good at story-telling. I'm much better at term papers and analyzing things!

I also read your post below about visiting colleges in AZ with your son. As a Lumberjack Alumni I would strongly suggest NAU. It's an amazing place to go to college! ASU and UofA are both great schools as well. Hopefully you all enjoy visiting us!

SarahGermaine7 said...

Hi Nancy! I just wanted to stop by and say thank you for coming by and visiting my blog today. I look forward to reading all of your posts about writing. I've always loved to write, but have never been much good at story-telling. I'm much better at term papers and analyzing things!

I also read your post below about visiting colleges in AZ with your son. As a Lumberjack Alumni I would strongly suggest NAU. It's an amazing place to go to college! ASU and UofA are both great schools as well. Hopefully you all enjoy visiting us!

Donna B. McNicol said...

Great start to the A to Z challenge...I'm going to enjoy your posts.

Melodie Wright said...

My antagonists are generally murderers. They are so useful...*evil cackle*

Chuck said...

Nancy, my antagonist is my 6-year old Boston terrier, Caesar. Since I am not a writer by trade, that is the best I can come up with. Although I would love to be focused enough to write like many I have met on the blogosphere. Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier and I look forward to your daily posts...who knows they may inspire me to do more than just desire to write.

SweetMarie83 said...

I definitely like antagonists who are believable and even relatable. Nobody is all good or all bad, right? I really enjoy the ones you love to hate, or even the ones you end up sympathizing with for whatever reason, even though you know you probably shouldn't. Great post, and it's fantastic to meet you! :-)

Laura Barnes said...

My antagonist isn't really evil, but she can take away the things most precious to my protag. Hmm, I wonder if she's not evil enough...

Nicky Wells said...

What a great post! I can't wait to meet your antagonists, Nancy! As for mine... well, he's kind of the anti-fiance. He's a nice enough guy with some loveable, adorable and kind traits. But on the whole, he's just a bit too anal, too clinical, too klutzy for my heroine. He does some really dim things! I tried to make him annoying with just the right amount of redeeming features. Does it work... you tell me!! :-) Looking forward to "B"!

Joylene said...

I have a Russian Mafia boss in one of my books. Gads! We must be related. I love the old guy. He's rotten to the core but he adores his grandchildren.

Antagonists can also be places, things, creatures. Love it.

Kirsten said...

I was skittish about writing bad guys and it showed because my antagonist didn't really come to life until the revision of my story. Then, one day, he pulled out this top hat, and once I looked inside his whole story came tumbling out. My story hasn't been the same since. I love writing him, he has great lines, and comes up with some nasty tricks to play on my characters.
Everything you said is true. He is the hero of his own story, but made some bad choices and hurt the wrong people.
I'm looking forward to this A-Z series!