Three Tips for Writing A Well-rounded Antagonist
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Besides the protagonist, the most important character in your story is your antagonist. Your antagonist pushes the plot and your protagonist forward, challenges your protagonist, and creates much needed conflict and tension in your story. But it’s crucial to write a well-rounded antagonist and not just a mustache twirling mad man all in black.
So how do we write three-dimensional antagonists and not caricatures? With these three tips.
- Spend as much time on the antagonist as you do on the protagonist. First and foremost your antagonist is a character and needs to be fully formed as a character. This means taking the time to understand your antagonist’s motivations, past history, and everything that’s made him who he is today. Develop his backstory in order to get to know your antagonist and flesh him out as a person. What issues does he have? Determine his flaws and vulnerabilities that make him human and relatable to your readers. What’s his greatest fear? What’s his ultimate goal that motivates him? Make him relatable. A bad guy we can relate to is the most chilling bad guy of all. You can download a character template here: Character Chart Template (from Annie Neugebauer)
- Make them evenly matched. Your antagonist and protagonist need to be close in both powers and in their vulnerabilities. If either has insurmountable power than how would the other ever beat them? It takes all the tension and suspense out of your story if they’re not close in abilities.
Think from their POV. The antagonist is the hero in his own story and that’s important to keep in mind. Your antagonist has a code of conduct he follows so understand his motivations and the justifications he uses for his actions. Keep their side of the story in mind as you write and don’t be afraid to present things from his side in your story.
Those are a few quick tips to explore in order to write a three-dimensional antagonist. They should help you add complexity to your antagonist and your story. What tricks do you have for writing memorable antagonists? Comment below and happy writing.
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