I have settled down to write this blog post with a large, steaming mug of tea, so I must be anticipating it to be either lengthy, time consuming, or both. Bear with me on this.
Yesterday, a reader of my eBook, EVO Nation, shared her enjoyment in my development and portrayal of the main antagonist. Hence, why this blog post idea sprang to mind.
In truth, my antagonist was as much a surprise to me when I was writing it as it must be to the reader experiencing it for the first time. In previous posts, I have explained my lack of planning and outlining when it comes to my first draft, and how this can lead to surprising revelations even for me as the author. When I came to the logical conclusion that a certain character had the motivation and means to be my perfect (surprise) antagonist, I felt sick with betrayal, so I knew I was onto a winner.
Here are some of my ideas in regards to creating believable antagonists. After all, we all believe we’re good guys, right? Why would an antagonist believe any different?
Antagonists have facets of light and dark
An antagonist is still a human being. All of us have good traits and bad traits, the deciding factor is what we choose to act on, or at least finding a middle ground. A minor character in EVO Nation tells my protagonist exactly that~ “There are no such things as heroes and villains. You’re living in the black and white while the rest of us are in the shitty grey.” Remembering your antagonist is a person will aid in writing believable character traits and motives.
We all have a history
Life events and the choices we make contribute to the person we are today. Antagonists deserve a history too. In fact, they need a history; snippets of why they are the way they are. It helps the reader identify with them as a character, and again, gives them a much needed motive. In my opinion a person is not born bad, so never expect the reader to simply accept that character X is a bad man/woman because they won’t.
Develop the antagonist’s story arc
It is important to drip feed the reader tid-bits of information regarding your antagonist. If like mine, your antagonist is a surprise (plot twist), you still need to leave breadcrumbs. Going back to the points above- humans have bad and good traits, and we all have a history. The trick is in the writing. You want the reader to be surprised, but not surprised. It’s that easy and that hard. (Excuse me while I scoff to myself).
Could you write the story from the antagonist’s perspective?
A good trick to seeing if you have a well rounded, well thought out antagonist is to ask yourself if you could write the story from your antagonist’s point of view. Yes, the story narrative would take quite a different route and tone, but if you can, the chances are that you have a believable antagonist- congratulations.
I enjoy character building, and antagonists have a lot of character. Finding the balance in their light and dark is the trick that I’m still mastering. I’m interested in hearing any tips fellow authors may have for creating antagonists.
My tea is still warm, so I couldn’t have rambled for that long…
Written works are the property of K.J.Chapman