How to Develop an Antagonist Character

What is an antagonist?

In simple terms, the antagonist is the character in a story, a novel or in a literary work that creates resistance or hostility – often towards your main character (protagonist).  He or she is usually adversarial (but not necessarily) or is competing or struggling with another character.  It is this character that allows the story to gain excitement, create fun and also create a page turner for your reader.

How do I develop an antagonist character?

man in a hoodAn antagonist character can come from any source.  Much like the protagonist in a story, this character can be developed as a result of someone you know; friends, family, acquaintances or strangers.  The antagonist character can come from people at your work place or can be developed from drawing into your own inner experiences.

The idea behind the antagonist is to impede or block your main character from reaching his or her goal.  In many cases the antagonist is a villain and evil but not always.  Antagonists are many times depicted in a negative way but they can sometimes be funny characters.  You can create humor showing your antagonist resisting your main character.

Just like the protagonist, your antagonist should also have a goal.  The same rules apply.  The goal can be over the top, it can be silly, it can be violent or it can be crazy but remember to create a goal that will be in conflict with your main character.  Usually the best stories come together when the antagonist is in direct conflict with the protagonist.

It is important for your antagonist to have a motivation.  Clearly understand and define the motivation.  It could be that your antagonist is jealous, angry, has a compulsion, is greedy or simply wants power.  Whichever one you chose you need to ensure that one exists.

In addition, make sure that your antagonist has a fighting chance over your protagonist.  It makes the story more plausible and interesting.  It is just as important to understand and develop your antagonist’s fighting methods to help carry the story through.  Just as with your protagonist, your antagonist should have more than one dimension.  No one likes to read about a shallow character.  The more dimensions you give your characters the better your story will read.  The main point is to block the protagonist’s progress.  It doesn’t have to be evil or crazy or frightening but it should impede the goal or progress in some way.

As with your protagonist, strive to make your antagonist interesting.  Create an emotional connection with your character.  The emotional connection (for the reader) will most likely be a dislike or aversion to your antagonist.  Also, remember to make the antagonist’s goals realistic as the antagonist can win over your protagonist.

It is important to show your antagonist’s modus operandi.  This simply means that you need to show how your character operates in life.  You must ensure that logic follows through for your character.  What makes him “tick” or how does he solve situations?  Is he always a negative person?  Does he always break the rules or is it just when it comes to the protagonist?  These are all the things that need to be defined for your antagonist to make him or her real.  This will allow your reader to become invested in the story.

Your antagonist’s character can develop through the story just as your protagonist but make sure you know where that development is going.

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