Made in America

How to Develop an Antagonist

They are the people you love to hate. They are the people that oppose and struggle against others. Essentially, they are the exact opposite of the main character. They’re the antagonists in a story.

While many think a protagonist is the most important part of your story, the antagonist holds just as much, if not more, importance to how your plot plays out before your readers’ eyes.

The entire purpose of an antagonist is to act as a roadblock that inhibits the main character from reaching his or her goal. More times than not, the antagonist is represented as a villain or someone who has evil intentions. But it’s important to note that the antagonist doesn’t have to be evil. In fact, the antagonist can add comedic relief to your plot as well.

If you’re looking to develop an antagonist in your story, check out these three tips to get you started.

What’s the goal?

Just like you would for your protagonist, you want to go in with a game plan and have a goal in mind for your antagonist. What are they working toward? How are their actions going to lead them to their overall goal? The goal of your antagonist can be something humorous, or it can take a dark and twisted turn that directly conflicts with your main character’s ambition. Whatever route you choose, make sure that you solidify a plan and stick to it, as a strong antagonist is trying to achieve something for their own benefit. What’s your antagonist’s goal?

What’s the motivation?

Working from the previous point, every goal needs a motivating force. Just like if you wanted to lose weight (your goal), your motivation could be your summer vacation or a big upcoming event. The same goes for developing your antagonist. What is the motivating force that’ll help them work toward their goal? Antagonists are commonly motivated by deep-rooted emotions of anger, jealousy, or greed, or even a power struggle. Whichever driving force you choose, make sure that this emotion remains clear in your antagonist’s actions from start to finish. The presence of the motivation is essential in creating a cohesive struggle between your main character and antagonist.

What are they hiding?

Your antagonist isn’t dumb. In fact, they have the street smarts and the book smarts to potentially outwit your main character. It’s this characteristic that makes them interesting and keeps your readers on the edge of their seats trying their hardest to anticipate their next move. Your antagonist isn’t going to fall for the obvious. Their motivation and their goal are in sync and in direct contention with the main character’s own unique drivers. The antagonist grows and changes to stay a step ahead of their nemesis, so developing both storylines in tandem will help you carry out your character-driven storyline.

So, as you work to develop the antagonist in your story, keep these three tips in mind so that you can create a character that your readers will love to hate.

Copyright Dorrance Publishing, 2017

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