Your Antagonist

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Ohgodaspider

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If your story has an Antagonist, who are they and what drives them?

Also, do you feel the some YA authors feel the need to "explain" why the Antagonist is "evil/bad". I've always thought that the antagonistic forces in a YA novel are so...elementary. Why do they need to be explained, can't something simply exist because it is a force of evil, so to speak.

As for my antagonist, he's an 1100 year old Demi-God recently freed by his followers from a subterranean prison. He is driven by his hatred of man-kind and his desire to rule over them as a God.
 

KateSmash

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Antagonists aren't always villains. And antagonists aren't always evil. A good antagonist should be at odds with the protagonist. It's about opposition - which just means that they stand in the protagonist's way, even if just idealistically. (Actually, I find antagonists more compelling when they had motivations beyond hatred or anger or evil or megalomania.)

For example, there are several antagonists in my "for fun" wip. The first is the MC's father. He basically wants to build a legacy through his children and is absolutely irked that the MC won't play ball. For him, it's all about control. Then there's the MC's older sister. For them it's a simple matter of being polar opposites. MC and her sister kind of envy each other because they have what the other one lacks. And, finally, there's the alien space pirate slaver captain who wants to use MC as blackmail against her father because ... well, humanity is icky and imperialistic and it's mostly about revenge.
 

Ohgodaspider

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I hear you. There are a few antagonists in my WIP but there is the main one, which I mentioned in my OP.
 

Stiger05

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Just curious but how do you have a story without an antagonist? I'm not saying the antagonist has to be a person, necessarily, but there needs to be some force that opposes the protagonist or else what is the book about? Boiled down to its basic elements a story is about what the protagonist wants and the thing that is standing in their way (and what they'll do to obtain it). Without those elements you end up with a protagonist just standing around navel gazing.

The antagonist in my WIP isn't a villain. In fact, he thinks he's doing what's right and believes his actions will help people. His opinion of what's right just differs from my MC's. He's driven by a desire to do his job and be successful, but doing so involves hurting innocent people.
 

savagelilies

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A good way to think of an antagonist is, like others said above me, someone who is in opposition to your protagonist. They are not necessarily evil or villainous, simply in opposition. And, in the antagonists' mind, they are the protagonist. That's the best way of thinking about an antagonist, IMO.
 

Ohgodaspider

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I tend to agree, the antagonists for me believe that what they do will help people. However, it does involve first; killing off many other people who are working against them (including the MC)
 

eparadysz

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A good way to think of an antagonist is, like others said above me, someone who is in opposition to your protagonist. They are not necessarily evil or villainous, simply in opposition. And, in the antagonists' mind, they are the protagonist. That's the best way of thinking about an antagonist, IMO.

Yes. Everyone is the hero of his/her own story.

Also, it doesn't even have to be a person. In my WIP, the FMC is fighting the impending mental breakdown of the MMC (magic related, not a real mental illness). He and others get in her way to stop her from putting herself in danger, but none of the characters want to hurt anyone.

Remains to be seen how well it works.
 

Becca C.

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My antagonist is the much-older cousin of the LI. He's a major control freak, super condescending, blunt and has absolutely no problem speaking his mind, even if what comes out is downright verbally abusive. He wants his cousin (the eighteen-year-old King of England) to abdicate, making him king, not only because he wants the power and control, but because he thinks it'll be better for the country to have an older person on the throne. He thinks the young king is too irresponsible and doesn't take the job seriously (he's wrong; he definitely takes it seriously).

In his mind, he's acting on behalf of his country and in defence of his family's traditions. He also, in a sick, twisted way, thinks he's helping his cousin by pointing out his every flaw and trying to show him how unsuited he is to being king.

Of course, he's wrong, and he just sounds like a control freak douchebag. But that's not how he thinks he comes off. It's true, everyone is the protagonist in their own mind.
 

bickazer

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I've always had a problem making my antagonists believable and compelling, but in the project I'm outlining I think I finally had a breakthrough. Thinking of the antagonist as the protagonist of his own tale has been really, really helpful - I've been thinking of events through his eyes, giving him an intricate backstory and complex, somewhat sympathetic motives for his actions, and for the first time I think I'm just as interested in the antagonist as I am in the protagonist. I believe that will show once I start writing.

Of course, it helps that he's intended to be a deeply sympathetic character, more of an Anti-Villain or Well-Intentioned Extremist Driven Mad By The Revelation in TV Tropes terms XD. Apparently I can't do true antagonists.
 

missouridalton

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My current work has two antagonists. There's the actual physical one, who lurks in the shadows, and the conceptual one which is the war raging around her. There's a lot to be said for a conceptual antagonist. It's almost man vs. nature, but not quite. I like how it's turned out though.
 

missesdash

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My favorite antagonist will always be the protagonist themselves. After that I strongly prefer family members. Makes for really good conflict.
 

Zoombie

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Just curious but how do you have a story without an antagonist?

I'm having fun with this. In my series, my MC hangs her hatred on various hats: The leader of the rebels she has been conscripted to fight, the general who bungled the command of the army she is in...but in the end, she comes to realize that they're both really not the bad guy.

There is no bag guy. There's just the inexorable forces of realpolitik and the uncaring pressure of geopolitical design, decided by lots of people with huge amounts of power and ruthless worldviews...who may even be right, considering how dangerous the world is.

That's the idea I'm going for, at least.
 

LadyA

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My antagonist is the much-older cousin of the LI. He's a major control freak, super condescending, blunt and has absolutely no problem speaking his mind, even if what comes out is downright verbally abusive. He wants his cousin (the eighteen-year-old King of England) to abdicate, making him king, not only because he wants the power and control, but because he thinks it'll be better for the country to have an older person on the throne. He thinks the young king is too irresponsible and doesn't take the job seriously (he's wrong; he definitely takes it seriously).

In his mind, he's acting on behalf of his country and in defence of his family's traditions. He also, in a sick, twisted way, thinks he's helping his cousin by pointing out his every flaw and trying to show him how unsuited he is to being king.

Of course, he's wrong, and he just sounds like a control freak douchebag. But that's not how he thinks he comes off. It's true, everyone is the protagonist in their own mind.

How much do I want to read this book? A LOT. :)

My favorite antagonist will always be the protagonist themselves. After that I strongly prefer family members. Makes for really good conflict.

Yays, [I sort of] have this! The protag of The Brightest Fell is so totally his own worst enemy it's unbelievable. But it's because he's a good person inside that he ends up destroying himself - his conscience destroys him - if that makes sense?
 

The_Ink_Goddess

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Just curious but how do you have a story without an antagonist? I'm not saying the antagonist has to be a person, necessarily, but there needs to be some force that opposes the protagonist or else what is the book about? Boiled down to its basic elements a story is about what the protagonist wants and the thing that is standing in their way (and what they'll do to obtain it). Without those elements you end up with a protagonist just standing around navel gazing.

The antagonist in my WIP isn't a villain. In fact, he thinks he's doing what's right and believes his actions will help people. His opinion of what's right just differs from my MC's. He's driven by a desire to do his job and be successful, but doing so involves hurting innocent people.

Hmmm. Surely a story that is the MC vs. themselves wouldn't necessarily have an antagonist?

Also, if you have a novel like missesdash suggests, where the antagonist is the protaganist, surely you don't technically have an antagonist?
 

Stiger05

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Hmmm. Surely a story that is the MC vs. themselves wouldn't necessarily have an antagonist?

Also, if you have a novel like missesdash suggests, where the antagonist is the protaganist, surely you don't technically have an antagonist?


But even in the situations missesdash and Zoombie named, there is an antagonist, right? Either man versus self, or man versus the world. Who/whatever is on the other side of that versus is the antagonist. Take the movie "A Beautiful Mind" for example. John Nash was the protagonist and the antagonist of the story since it was his own mind he battled. That's my way of looking at it anyway. Is there something I'm missing?
 

ex_machina

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But even in the situations missesdash and Zoombie named, there is an antagonist, right? Either man versus self, or man versus the world. Who/whatever is on the other side of that versus is the antagonist. Take the movie "A Beautiful Mind" for example. John Nash was the protagonist and the antagonist of the story since it was his own mind he battled. That's my way of looking at it anyway. Is there something I'm missing?


No, you have a valid point. Good or evil aside, the 'equal and opposite reaction' to your hero's 'action' is, technically, the antagonist. I think we just tend to personify it a lot more than any other literary device.
 

Viklit

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in the antagonists' mind, they are the protagonist.

Yes, completely. I have just been looking at this in my current WIP. I have an antagonist who is a government/control figure - they want to keep the status quo and my protagonist is acting up against it. I worry that I need more of a drive for them, that I let them become too much of an elemental force. i.e. it's their job so that's why they do it.

As I rewrite, I will look at this.

Do you think there needs to be a personal element to the opposition?
 

Maxinquaye

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For me, it helps to think of 'antagonism' as a force, not a person. If you think "the antagonist" you're almost personifying the lever that antagonism is. It can be anything: the MC herself, the world, nature, magic, whatever. The only requirement of antagonism is that it stands in the way of the MC, and that it's not easily overcome.

And to the OP. Yes, the antagonist certainly does not need to be evil or bad or hateful. You can have an antagonism that is all about boundless love and caring for the MC. All that is required is that it is a force opposing the MC.
 

Windcutter

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Just curious but how do you have a story without an antagonist? I'm not saying the antagonist has to be a person, necessarily, but there needs to be some force that opposes the protagonist or else what is the book about? Boiled down to its basic elements a story is about what the protagonist wants and the thing that is standing in their way (and what they'll do to obtain it). Without those elements you end up with a protagonist just standing around navel gazing.
By having an element of mystery in the plot. ^__^ For example, I have a story in which the MC is looking for the person who, let's put it this way for the sake of simplicity, put a spell on her. This person is the primary antagonist of the whole trilogy but his personality never becomes clear in the first book, he's this shady secret figure heading a shady secret organization. His actual personality is a big surprise.
 

Pagebreaker

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My primary antagonist is actually not a bad person. She is what I call a realist. Her attitude is not what I think the reader will endear to, however also there is nothing evil about her.

I think we can sometimes rubber stamp, or make an antagonist a cliche'. Instead, I think the antagonist has to be interesting, have a human innocent, or even weak part about them. The reader will resent and feel for them at the same time.
 

Viklit

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I have a question: how often does the main antagonist become the love interest? Do they necessarily have to be separate?

I ask because I am throwing around a new idea, where my main character is driven by grief, perhaps not doing the right thing, and the antagonist would be trying to stop her - and become a love interest by the end. A good idea, or better to separate out the antagonist?
 

KateSmash

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It works. In Kody Keplinger's Shut Out, the ultimate LI spends most of the time as an antagonist. Kind of made their UST that much more juicy and one of the better YA relationships I've read. Probably because I like a good bit of conflict between characters.

I haven't seen anyone do it with a villain (other than as a third side of a love triangle where you know it's just forced and not going to happen). It's a notion I've toyed with a few times. Not that that's what you're doing (you're antagonist sounds like a stand up dude.) I'm just musing.
 

Lhipenwhe

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Looking at this thread, I realized that it's difficult for me to pin one person down as an antagonist. There's an organization that's trying to use/recruit her and has few scruples, but they're not explicitly her enemies. She's hostile to, and comes into conflict with another group, but they oppose only because she's on their enemies side. Near the end an actual enemy emerges to challenge her, but it's not driven by opposition to her so much as fulfilling its purpose. So I guess I don't have an antagonist. :Shrug:

Man. I come up with some weird crap when I'm not thinking.
 

eternalised

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Fun thread :)

My current WIP has a lot of antagonists. It's a sequel, and there are three interwoven storylines which each have a protagonist and antagonist.

- MC1 tumbles into an alternate reality, and meets one of the antagonists there. I tried to make the readers feel compassion toward him: he's been stuck in this dimension for millennia, and it's not a pleasant dimension either. He's an "accidental" antagonist. To have his own wish fulfilled, of freedom, and of life somewhere else, he'll have to hurt a lot of people.

- MC2 is actually the main antagonist of the story, but she has her own reasons for that. After being betrayed by someone she loved dearly, she took revenge. Now, she's feeling conflicted about it, but there's no way back. She'll have to face the consequences of her actions. Most people will start reading this strongly disliking MC2 based on what happened in the previous book, but my intention by the end of this one is to make them feel conflicted about it as well.

There's also another antagonist introduced in this storyline, but one who's role isn't completely clear yet. As the author, I feel a lot of conflicting emotions toward this antagonist. He tries not to do the wrong thing, but is forced to do so even if he wants to or not. In the end, he wants the same thing we all do - to love, and to be loved - but because of what he is, he can never have that. He's willing to go through great lengths to achieve it though.

- MC3 is the one trying to balance both MC1 and MC2 and basically the entire world. The enemy she fights is a lot more "abstract". The dimension MC1 is in, and our dimension, are collapsing. Demons roam the earth, all hell breaks loose, etc. This is the antagonist of this storyline. It's conceptual and abstract, but fun.

My goal is to switch around the perspective. From the first book, people will come in disliking MC2 and rooting for MC1. At least, that's what I hope. :) Then during this book, I hope they can start to root for MC2, the antagonist of the first book, as well.

So basically we have:
- MC1 vs. MC2
- MC1 vs. antagonist in hell dimension
- MC2 vs. antagonist in our dimension
- MC2 vs. MC2 (she's her own worst enemy).
- MC3 vs. apocalypse-like events

I love writing this book :)
 

flarue

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I've always had a problem making my antagonists believable and compelling, but in the project I'm outlining I think I finally had a breakthrough. Thinking of the antagonist as the protagonist of his own tale has been really, really helpful - I've been thinking of events through his eyes, giving him an intricate backstory and complex, somewhat sympathetic motives for his actions, and for the first time I think I'm just as interested in the antagonist as I am in the protagonist. I believe that will show once I start writing.

Of course, it helps that he's intended to be a deeply sympathetic character, more of an Anti-Villain or Well-Intentioned Extremist Driven Mad By The Revelation in TV Tropes terms XD. Apparently I can't do true antagonists.


That's a great idea. I think I might have to write a few alternate scenes of the story in my antagonist's POV just to get a better grasp on who he is. :)
 

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