Writing a Worthy Antagonist

I read that my blogger-buddy, Angela Ackerman, is holding court over on Query Tracker, dispensing great info about villains, so I thought I’d throw in my two cents’ worth about antagonists in fiction.

Writing Tip for Today: How can you be sure your novel’s main antagonist is a worthy opponent?

  • Make Villains Complex. One mistake novelists make is not fleshing-out their antagonists with the same depth as the protagonist. Your antagonist should be fully-formed–with weaknesses of course, but also with a few less problematic characteristics. The trick is to make the antagonist’s flaws outweigh the virtues. This ensures that your protagonist will command more sympathy from the reader than the villain.
  • Check for Stereotypes. Don’t give your antagonist a toothpick to chew on! I laugh, because this is exactly what Linc, my antagonist in The Fence My Father Built, did. Keep sappy old melodramas in mind, and avoid the obvious: big black moustaches, beady eyes, wringing hands.
  • Give Antagonists an Arc. If your antagonist is a person (as opposed to a force of nature or an alien), map out that character’s story arc. This person does not grow or find redemption over the course of the story, but rather has an inverse arc: At first the antagonist wins, but as the story progresses, the character loses more and more as he/she gives in to a darker nature.

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About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

2 comments on “Writing a Worthy Antagonist

  1. Linda, Thank you for hitting me with concise fact of what my current antagonist is missing. The arc! Now that you’ve given this great advice, it seems so obvious to me. Why does THAT happen? ;o) Thanks for another great post!

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