An antagonist is the fuel that keeps the story going for the rest of the characters, including the protagonist. It is an antagonist who comes in between the protagonist and his or her goals and thus creates the conflict of the story. But many writers often mistake the antagonist to be a stereotyped monster – someone who is only an embodiment of evil. Hence more often than not, the antagonist ends up becoming a fake and cheesy character that actually has no character than to plot evil. And this is not a fair reflection of an antagonist. Following are five tips that will help you construct a meaningful antagonistic character for your story.
1. Give him/her a background
A good writer will never let his/her antagonist just be a personification of evil, without any backstory. It is important for the antagonist to have a backstory as much as it is important for the protagonist. The backstory of the antagonist will give the chance for development of this particular character. And yes, a good writer will always let his/her antagonist develop along with the plot of the story.
2. They are real people too
An antagonist needs to be a believable character. An antagonist also will have logic behind all his/her actions (at least in his/her own head). They are not just horribly evil people. They are also human with a story of their own. And hence just like real humans, antagonists should also feel all the emotions – happiness, depression, fear, anxiety, jealousy, shame etc.
3. Make them interesting
It is always way more pleasurable when an antagonist is an interesting character, with loads of grey areas. An antagonist need not be purely a dark character. He or she can very well be a normal person whose interest conflicts with that of the protagonist. Hence giving an antagonist interesting qualities and quirks will just lend a completely different level of brilliance to your story.
4. Not necessarily a villain, but has a tragic flaw
All villains are antagonists, but all antagonists are not villains. A villain is a stereotyped character in a story that has no other intention, except to knowingly challenge the protagonist or the hero of the plot at every possible step. But an antagonist does not necessarily need to do that. Your antagonist can very well be a helpless person whom fate has brought him/her into the path of the protagonist and the antagonist had no role to play in that. Such antagonists often win the heart of the readers faster than the protagonist. And your antagonist needs to have a tragic flaw too. It can be anything – excessive anger, nervousness, arrogance, not being able to make choices at the right time or not having faith in his/her own self.
5. But make them powerful
Yes, at the end of the day, an antagonist needs to be powerful and intimidating. Over-powerful is bad exaggeration. Extreme weakness is boring. A good antagonist needs to be a realistically powerful character. Someone who is strong willed, able minded, justified yet is defeated by one tragic flaw in their character. They should be a sufficient and logical threat to your protagonist, a real challenge.
Editor’s Note: This article was first published in January 2015.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/215888_10150217537488939_1231540_n.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Abhinanda Banerjee is a full-time freelance writer and stage actor. She’s an avid reader, culinary enthusiast, and lover of everything about the sixties.