Monday, November 9, 2009

Strong Protag, sure. What about the antag?

Every where I go I read the following: Create a strong, well-defined protagonist. Well, what about the antagonist? Do you need to worry about making he/she well-defined, strong, likable? I say YES! In my last novel the mountains, weather, and the animals were my antagonist. So I didn't think much about whether the antag was well done or not. I knew it was, just because it was the out of doors. I mean they're lost in the Blue Ridge mountains.

But with my new WIP, I have discovered a secret. Not really a secret, most of you have probably thought about this. The antag needs to be just as well-defined as the protag. Sometimes even more. I am making the antagonist in my new story a man that NO ONE would ever suspect of committing the deed. And I think it's making a GREAT read. I'm excited to tear into it every day. I'm writing a mystery. The mystery isn't MG either. It's YA and centers around a murder.

So how are you dealing with your ULTIMATE bad guy or girl? Weigh in, I want to read your thoughts on this.

16 comments:

  1. Okay, fine, now I know who did it??? Gee, take all the fun out of me reading the novel and trying to figure out who done it! : )

    I agree! The antag, when the antag is not the protag (internal vs. external, and all that jazz), must be just as defined. I think every character, even the peripheral ones need great definition, but not so much as the protag/antag.

    Even if I'm going to hate a character, I want that character defined, vibrant, leaping off the page at me. I want characters I can relate to on some level, even if that level is hate.

    Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. OMG! I don't think I have ever despised a fictional character more than I despised her. J.K. Rowling wrote that character so well, made her deeds so evil and mean, that I couldn't help but hate that character. She also made her fall from grace quite wonderful as well.

    So, yes, the antag needs to shine as brightly as the protag.

    S

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  2. I agree and I love antagonists that you love to hate. :) My current WIP has a group of antagonists, but the one closest to the protag is her mentor. *evil eyebrow wiggle*

    Great post, good reminder!!!

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  3. Scott, well it's obvious that nature is the culprit in Seventy Two Hours. But in my YA mystery there are a couple of guys you would never suspect. Which one? You'll have to buy the book to find out. :)

    I love characters that we love to hate. They're what makes it so much fun. :)

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  4. Kristi, hmm, I can't wait to read it. Is that the one I read a little of? It sounds exciting. Aren't the bad guys FUN to write? :)

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  5. This is one area I struggle w/ as a writer. I know that my protag needs to be evil but how do you do that w/out sounding cliche at times? well, some do it well, but I'm still working on it....

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  6. One thing that really developed my antagonist was to do an author to character interview. Ask the antagonist questions about his childhood, etc. and let him answer first-person. This is a great exercise and leads to lots of usable stuff that you learn when you let them talk to you in thier own voice. Happy writing!

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  7. Sounds like an interesting story. I always worry I'm going to make my antagonist too interesting and readers will cheer for her/him instead of the protagonist. But that hasn't happened yet, so I guess I should stop worrying!

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  8. With the antagonist I try to have him want what the protagonist wants, or at least want something similar. He may have a twisted way of trying to get what he wants, he may be dysfunctional or angry or just scared. I try to make him complex.

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  9. Yep, the antag is just as important. Funny, though, our WIP's sound a little alike. :)

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  10. Woo hoo! A YA story with an unsuspected antagonist. I'm excited!

    Often my antagonist is either the protagonist himself, or outside circumstances. It makes for a challenge sometimes but it's also simpler in a way. If the antagonist is conflict and you already have conflict in your story, then you just have to boost it up some and really give your characters a hard time and some major internal struggles and you've made progress.

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  11. We work so hard on the protagonist that sometimes we forget that the antagonist needs to have a character arc as well.

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  12. I love a good villain. In fact, I often think of Much Ado about Nothing where I was really rooting for the villain, Don John, just because he was doing it for no reason other than being a villain and he was pissy. Quote: "Though I cannot be said to be a flattering, honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain." I LOVE IT! I love me a good villain. I think it's really important for you to know why the villain is behaving as he/she/it is--just as much as the protagonist.

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  13. I heard somewhere the protagonist derives his strength from that of the antagonist to match it. I try to keep this in mind!
    have fun!

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  14. I'm dealing with an old geezer that is determined to have his own way. My story is just opening up to start hearing his side of things.

    Great post!

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  15. I love messing with my antagonist's life. I want the reader to feel sorry for them. Then it's always harder to hate them. ;) Great post.

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