Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Antagonist

I have my “what if” question, I know my protagonist, and I have my supporting cast now what? I have to bring in the big guns, my antagonist. For me, the best bad guy usually isn’t a guy at all. It’s a matter of circumstance. From a natural disaster to a dinosaur, those natural elements can be killers.

When your antagonist is an actual person, considering motives and circumstance is very important to draw the reader in. You don’t want your antagonist to be shallow. Let’s take a look at some famous ones and why I think they worked.
  • Darth Vader in Star Wars and Voldemort in Harry Potter—Both were originally viewed as just plain evil seeking world domination. We were thrown into the story in the middle and probably didn’t sympathize with the character. But, the world that was created allowed for other conflicts to keep the plot moving forward and keep it fun.
  • T-Rex in Jurassic Park and King Kong—these conflict characters do what they do. They were motivated by food and companionship, who doesn’t seek that? The enemy is not clear strung and in the end we question our own humanity.
  • Annie Wilkes in Misery and Norman Bates in Psycho--they could’ve been school mates. Evil was embedded in their character so well that they didn’t realize they needed a reality check, bad, leaving the reader/viewer so engrossed in their misconception of reality that it brought chills to our core. Mine anyway.
 As with the supporting cast, the bad guy has to influence the MC in one way or another.

Who is your favorite bad guy?


  1. bad guys are definitely fun, more so if they're well rounded tho that's harder to do. A few of my favs: Lyra's mother and that nasty monkey in The Golden Compass, the uncle in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, or even Snape in Harry Potter who is more of a red herring in hindsight but definitely an adversary and an interesting one to boot.

  2. I agree. Its better when there's a twist. For good or evil.

  3. I'm not sure who my favorite is, but I agree, they can't be shallow. They have to have their good reasons for doing what they are doing, which means knowing their back story.

  4. Ooh, how did I miss this yesterday? Great topic. Hmm...favorite bad guy...there are so many. I like the multi-facaded ones--good, but not good, but sometimes good. Can't remember the name of the movie but Ray Liotta played some psycho guy on a plane. He rocked in that movie and totally drew me in. He was nuts but sexy at the same time. (yeah, I married a bad boy.) S~

  5. Hi, Vry here,

    My favorite bad guy is John Travolta in the movie Face Off. He is soo awesome. Perhaps he's just plain wacko in the head because he doesn't hesitate to kill anything. But he is so cool in his evil cloak you can't help but laugh evilly with him.

  6. I agree Vry, and Nicholas Cage in that movie was freaky. I think its the eyes. Thanks for posting.


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