3 Devious Steps to Write an Antagonist You Hate

by Guest Blogger | 80 comments

Today's guest post is by Reagan Colbert. Reagan is a Christian Fiction writer who also has a passion for poetry and songwriting. She lives for powerful words, proper grammar, and anything inspirational. She blogs at www.fiction4hisglory.com. She recently published her first book, The Hidden Soul, on Kindle.

As writers, we're supposed to be the characters. Not just write about them—be them. Become them. Breathe life into them. Take their side and win their argument, even when we don't agree with what they're fighting for.

In any good book there is conflict. Often, that conflict is between the characters. No matter how many characters you create, it all boils down to two: The Protagonist and the Antagonist. The stars of the show.

3 Devious Steps to Write an Antagonist You Hate

We write a lot about the protagonist, the one who really is the “star.” But I've noticed that not as much attention is devoted to the antagonist. In my own writing, I find it much more difficult to write about him than the protagonist. At times, I find it nearly impossible to relate to him and his beliefs, to be able to step into his shoes as I do with every other character.

But instead of running from this struggle, it's time to face it.

Let's talk about the antagonist.

Who Is the Antagonist?

In a word, he's the anti-protagonistYour main character has enough to worry about (if you've done it right) without someone getting in the way of what he's trying to accomplish. Enter Antagonist: the one whose job is to “antagonize” your main character in any way possible, whether he is deliberately trying to destroy him or is simply in the way.

Sometimes he is responsible for antagonizing the main character by merely existing.

Whatever his motives are (and if he's developed correctly, he has to have some kind of motive, however strange it may seem), he is in conflict with the protagonist, and is stopping him from accomplishing his goals.

How to Create Your Antagonist

We have to put as much effort, if not more, into creating the “enemy” as we do creating the main character. In order to do that, we have to break it down:

1. Figure Him Out

A quote by John Rogers reads:

You don't really understand an antagonist until you understand why he's a protagonist in his own version of the world.

The antagonist is just as passionate for his side as the protagonist, is every bit as confident in his beliefs, and views your protagonist as his antagonist. He has a reason for that, and you need to find that reason.

2. Give Him a Story

How much backstory have you created for your main character? You need just as much for your antagonist, if not more. He can be even more complex than the main character, because, told from the protagonist's side of the story, the antagonist's motives aren't (at least at first) going to make as much sense as the protagonist's own motives do.

He needs to be well-developed, and needs to have enough “screen time” to create conflict. The readers need to know a lot before they decide if they love or hate him.

3. Identify With Him

This is where my brakes screech. In all of my books (those published and those not), the protagonist is me. Whether it's a Roman soldier escaping the legions or a paralyzed twenty-two-year-old in modern times, there is always something about them that reflects back to me. I always have no trouble identifying with them.

Then the antagonist comes in. In the novel I'm writing, I created the antagonist as not only the anti-protagonist, but also the anti-me. He's not only their “enemy”—he's mine.

And now I'm supposed to identify with him?

Identifying with a character is so much more complicated then it might at first seem. You not only have to write about them—you have to become them, step into their shoes, and take their side.

My book has a message, and it has an argument. My protagonist is on my side, and my antagonist is against us. He says and does things that, if done in real life, would make my blood boil. And since I live and breathe my books, it did, even as I wrote it. I hated what he did, and I wanted to do anything but write about him.

Then I realized something.

That's good.

It's not only good—it's exactly what I'm going for. Because if I hate him, then my readers will too. If he makes me angry (and I'm the one who wrote it!), then he'll definitely make my readers feel the same.

The truth is, we're more than just writers. We're actors, and just like any other actor, we're playing a part in a movie. The only difference is, we're playing all the characters! And that means that we need to set aside how we would feel in real life in order to identify with the character that we are playing.

So I do just that. I step into his shoes. I make his argument. I believe what he believes, understand why he does what he does. And for the briefest moment in time, I agree with him, just so I can see what it's like.

When you identify with your antagonist, you're not going against your beliefs. You're actually validating them. You're not turning your back on your message by identifying with the antagonist; you're using him to prove your point. Because that small experience of siding with the “enemy” will be so worth it when you can turn around and devote a scene, paragraph, chapter, or even the entire book to proving him wrong.

That is a special kind of satisfaction only a writer could experience, because only a writer can so passionately act out every character in a story, side with some, hate others, and fight, in a sense, with themselves.

Know Your Antagonist

In order to identify with the unidentifiable, no matter who that may be in your story, you have to go undercover and figure out just why every character—good and bad—is the “protagonist of their own story.” Then, slip into actor mode, and bring those characters to life on the screen of your book.

And take the readers along for the ride.

PRACTICE

For fifteen minutes, become the antagonist: think of the antagonist from your current work in progress and write a scene from their perspective. As you write, step into their shoes and try to figure out why they are their own protagonist.

When you’re finished, share your practice in the comments. And if you share, remember to leave feedback for your fellow writers!

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80 Comments

  1. Antonio Sebastian

    Very good piece! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  2. Ryan

    “Writers are actors playing every part.” Couldn’t have said it better. Great post!

    Reply
    • Jason

      This remind me to goes back to the basis of writing a story. Get in the shoes of each character. Feels what they feels. Thanks for the great post!

    • Bruce Carroll

      Writing is improv, in which I get to play every part.

  3. Kiki Stamatiou

    Lady Veronica ran into the woods with a fire roaring in her heart. She hid in the tree es away from the kings knights who were assigned to escort her out of the palace. “Dominica, you may have returned to the palace and retained your memory. But, you haven’t seen the last of me,” she muttered to herself while picking and orange hanging from a nearby limb.

    The knights covered the area, scanning for the little girl. However, not one of them thought to look up in the trees. Then, again, there were too many of them. Finally, they gave up and headed back to the palace.

    Veronica jumped down from the tree, and ran towards the sorcerers lair where she ravaged the place in search of his book of spells. After her long search, she removed a book of incantations from the shelf, and fingered through it until she came across the perfect spell. “There must be something in this book about transporting to and from a place unseen. Maybe I can find the sorcerer, wherever he is, and he can help me destroy the goody goody Princess Dominica.”

    Admiring herself in her reflection bouncing back from the window, she shouted, “My skin is perfect from eating the oranges. But I’ve got to find a way to transform myself into the Princess Dominica. In turn, I can transform her into me. Doing so would definitely fool the king. Then again, it’s already been done in a story my mother read to me often from the time I was a toddler.”

    She examined the book of spells again, and came across a spell for a concoction contrived of frogs tongue, ginger root, orange extract, and goose pimples. Mixing the ingredients into the vile she thought to herself. This is the perfect means for me to maintin my physical beauty a bit longer. However, I don’t know exactly how long it will last.”

    Picking up the potion, she drank it. She grew into the size of an adult. Running to the mirror on the door of the broom closet, she admired her own beauty, ran out of the lair and headed back to the palace.

    Approaching the frontdoor of the palace, a result of moving undected by the guards, she knocked on the door. A servant answered. “The royal family isn’t here.”

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Wow, you really have a captivating plot here, and you made the life of the antagonist intriguing, while still showing her villainous reasoning. Very good!

    • Kiki Stamatiou

      Thank you so very much, Reagan Colbert. I appreciate your kind words. I find them most encouraging and am inspired to keep on writing. This story is the start to a bit of a longer piece. I’d like to make it into a childrens book of some kind combined with illustrations of my own creation. Again, thank you.

    • Reagan Colbert

      You’re welcome, Kiki! You’ve really got a great thing going here. Keep it up!

    • Gary G Little

      Kiki,

      Way to go in your capturing the antagonist. I fear I was not sure of her position as the antagonist, which indicates you succeeded.

      I did note the use of a repetitive phrase: “then again”. That phrase is not needed.

      “There were too many of them. They gave up and headed back to the palace.”

    • Kiki Stamatiou

      Thank you so much, Gary G Little. I’m gload you enjoyed my story.I appreciate your kind words.. Also, thank you for the helpful tips. I will definitely implement your suggestions into the piece when I go back and edit/proofread the piece.

  4. Warran

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I don’t think that writers can ever have too much information about how to write their two lead characters: protagonists/antagonists. I can only imagine what life is like for the writer of books such as “Silence of the Lambs”, as well as the works of Stephen King. One must truly have themselves deeply rooted in faith to stay sane to keep producing their works. In addition to being actors, writers are also everyone behind-the-scenes as well. In the end, with all of the roles writers must play, it’s no wonder writer’s block is so prominent! lol. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      I love how you added that, Warran, that the writers play behind-the-scenes as well. We’re the whole cast and crew, if you think about it. Love your points!

  5. Rodgin K

    So very well put. I have a story that is basically this and I’ve been running into the very issue you’ve put forward. My anti-hero is so unlike me that I find my disgust for him hampering my desire to write him. It’s encouraging to hear I’m on the right track.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      You’re definitely on the right track! You just have to remember that by identifying with him, you’re validating your protagonist’s message. Keep it up! 🙂

    • I'm determined

      I am relieved that your antagonist is so unlike you!
      Well written – you’ve got he feel for this vindictive godling.

  6. Orloa Numera

    As it seems either I must be horribly mistaken and all grammar I was taught is wrong or the post itself is flawed. “[…] I find it much more difficult to write about him [the antagonist] then the protagonist.” A few days ago there was a post about the then/than difference but I did not look into it, felt as if my grammar is developed well enough to know that much; now it seems as if my whole feeling for the language is flawed as that always was something I was certain of knowing, unlike many other things.
    I actually would not bring this up if not the introduction of the guest blogger mentioned how important grammar is to her. Can anyone help settle this debate? The post clearly and unmistakably states “then” to be correct whereas my grammar knowledge assures me “than” is the right answer since we are comparing.

    Reply
    • Gary G Little

      Orloa,

      You are correct. The correct article should have been “than”. Then is related to time. Than is comparative. Removing either, can save an unneeded word.

    • Orloa Numera

      Dear Sir, alas I disagree with you. For me at least “then” is not a pointless word, more than “fluff” as you put it; “then” can be a strong word in fact if we only emphasize it correctly. Let’s look at an example, shall we?
      “First he sold the car, then he talked to his brother.” In this case the “then” clarifies the order in which the things happened as opposed to being “fluff.” Indeed, in many contexts “then” can be replaced by numerous different terms but it must not always be.

    • Gary G Little

      Yes but, the same thing can be said as:

      He sold the car. He talked to his brother.

      The timing and order of action is implied by the sentence structure.

    • Orloa Numera

      Indeeed, in your example the order is implied by the sentence structure but the focia is not on the order anymore.

    • Gary G Little

      Why would focia be significant? These are two independent actions, unless your story is dependent on the order. Nick and Nora Charles, proving someone did not do the evil deed by stressing that “He sold the car, then he talked to his brother.” “Then” might be needed to establish the timeline and the alibi. I have no doubt Dashel Hammit would find a more interesting way in establishing that critical timeline.

    • Orloa Numera

      Well, I don’t say it’s “fancy talk” but I do say that it works well.

    • Ken

      If a word is used in English there must be a reason for its existence. Those who try foolishly to re-write the English language, by saying; for instance, you should chop adjectives and adverbs mercilessly are just wrong (in the extreme.)

      For instance:
      “He watered the plants then fed the dog.”
      Can you really chop “then”?

    • Gary G Little

      Certainly can (deliberate use of adverb by the way),

      He watered the dog and fed the plants.

      Oops …

      He watered the plants and fed the dog.

      Or

      He watered the plants. He fed the dog.

      “Then” is not needed.

    • Ken

      Thanks for responding, Gary.
      OK then, “He fed the (carnivorous) plants (with) the dog.
      I find this idea stimulating. Change some sentence bits and see if it gives you ideas.
      Interesting creative technique.

    • Reagan Colbert

      Orola, thanks for bringing this to my attention. I am always very particular about my grammar, but in a piece this long, even I can overlook a typo every now and then. That’s why I always make sure to have at least 2 other people look over my work (for instance, the book I wrote), before I publish it.
      However, as a grammar-freak, I take full responsibility for the typo, and I am impressed that you noticed it. You’re 100% right about the than/then difference.

    • Ken

      I know the words ‘there’ and ‘their’ intimately, but when in the flow, I sometimes confuse them. I would never confuse them while writing consciously, but when in the power of the Muse, things go astray. Some crazy aberration from childhood, I suppose, that is not amenable to any treatment except editing.

    • Alice Sudlow

      Orloa, thank you for catching that! You’re right; it should be “than,” not “then.” Trust your instincts—it sounds like you have a keen eye for grammar and a good sense of the rules. The error’s now been corrected.

    • Orloa Numera

      It is less of a keen eye for grammar than more of a perfectionist’s attitude after he spent countless hours learning a tertiary language when his primary language is not seldom regarded as one of the hardest to learn.

  7. Samantha Melgar

    Taikyū’s hand lingered on his face, inching near his eyes as he looked in the mirror. He was feeling the texture of his strange mask, curious. ‘why am I different, I see everyone acting all the same, why not me?’ He thought. ‘Am I insane or are they?’ Taikyū grinned in excitement but than it faded as quick as it appeared. “What is my propose of living as a god? Nobody needs me, they don’t know I exist at all. Even my own father and mother casted me aside like garbage, banished me away from everyone but you Emerald, my faithful loyal subject.” He mumbled, glancing at Emerald who was smiling behind him. Ever since Taikyū’s banishment took place, he has been wearing his sweater and staying distance from everyone else by being his room all the time. He absentmindedly tugged down the sleeves of his sweater, he was getting nervous now. “Of course, you chosen me to help you in your time of need, I am grateful.” Enerald answered back cheerfully. Taikyū felt angered, ” are you only happy because I granted you immortality or because you actually want to serve me.” Emerald stood there in shook and stuttered to get his words over. Taikyū growled as he punched the mirror, shattering glass everywhere. ” let me pick it up for you master.” Emerald said, alreadying bending to pick up the broken pieces on the floor.
    Taikyū’s eyes threaten to spill tears, ” why do people hate me, answer honestly.” He asked. His servent sighed, ” they are scared of you master, mostly your face and the cruel way you serve punishments here.” Taikyū took off his mask, “Emerald…. In all my time here, did anyone actually enjoyed being with me, even for a few seconds?” He softly whispered, afraid of the answer. Emerald’s silence and expression was enough, ” get out now!” His master screamed. Emerald hurried off from the bedroom, worried. Taiykū walked to his window, “in order to take revenge, I must attack and murder all who stand in the way of my family. My seven brothers will of course be last, they are the least important, my mother who stood there as my banishment took place is second, but the first man to die shall be Father Time, the man I hate the most.”

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      This is one antagonizing antagonist, and you really illustrated his inner emotional turmoil. This is a really deep and well thought-out character. Well done!

    • Samantha Melgar

      Thank you so much, I’ve always done a good job at antagonists a little better than the protagonist for some reason, I can just relate to them.

  8. Vincent

    Good points that I need to pay attention to. My years of removing unnecessary words from documents is a terrible habit to overcome.The type of lengthy, though necessary descriptions of fiction are the antagonist of writing an analysis of the documents I once read and wrote. So my enemy has become my friend, well trying to anyway. I am healing the wounds of the words. hahaha. Thanks for the article. My brief encounter is between the two antagonists, it is without editing and will probably not take place in my next book, but it is still early and the story has a few different ways to go possibly. ::::::

    “Ah Victor, you have
    arrived, excellent.”

    “What did you expect Rudolph?”

    “For you to run and hide like the rabbit you have always
    been. Nervous and scared with a keen sense for survival.” This is a code
    between the two of them that it is unsafe to speak. The two of them grew up in
    the GDR, Democratic Republic of Germany where everyone spied on each other and
    trust was a luxury for those who were on the other side of the border to the
    west. “Maybe we should go for a walk before supper to build up our appetite.”

    “Excellent idea Rudolph, I can use the exercise.”

    They depart their office heading for the English Garden and
    stop to watch a football (soccer) match. It is perfect as there are a lot of
    people and they are noisy.

    “We need to get rid of Gordon. I do not want him in Albania
    when we perform the coronation and the opening of the gates.”

    “I don’t understand Rudolph, it will be easier to just use
    him as a side dish for the event.” Victor is envisioning him and Rudolph
    standing there in their robes as the gates are opened, greeted with
    unfathomable gratitude and showered earthly wealth. It has been promised them
    for years now and they have finally gotten everything they need to collect on
    the promise.

    “I have known Gordon for 20 years now and he is almost like
    a son to me. I know it makes me vulnerable, but you have only yourself heard
    this just now, soon there will be no one who can betray me or you for that
    matter.”

    “Rudolph, never once have I used your obvious affection for
    Gordon against you, why would I do so now? We have manipulated Gordon all these
    years and you have protected him from getting his hands dirty, yes?”

    Rudolph moves his head slowly up and down, thinking that he
    betrayed himself all these years. He never realized that it was that obvious to
    everyone else. “You are right, once again my friend. We will let Gordon come to
    Albania. I will let him see for himself that which he has helped create, then I
    will crush him myself. I cannot have any vulnerability after the coronation.”

    “There is my friend that I know so well. Don’t worry you
    will be too busy to notice his absence and nothing a dalliance will not cure.”

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Wow, this is the definition of an antagonist – or antagonists, as it seems. Great job of showing it from their POV. It makes me take sides against them and for Gordon, but at the same time is intriguing, and makes me want to know more of their story. Awesome!

    • Vincent

      Thanks

    • I'm determined

      Ouch. I think I don’t like your egotistical antagonist. Congratulations, you’ve got his arrogance so clearly. Just don’t let him anywhere near me!

    • Vincent

      Thanks, he gets worse

  9. LaCresha Lawson

    Okay. I think I got this one.Thanks!

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Glad you liked it! You’ve got this! 🙂

  10. LilianGardner

    This is the most difficult part of a story for me to master. I just am not able to create a believable, hateful, mean character, and I know it detracts punch from my manuscript.
    Thanks for your post, Reagan. I’ve decided to download your book to learn how to create an ‘awful’ antagonist.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Thanks, Lilian, but I want to let you know: this book is not the one I was referencing in the article – that was the novel I’ve been working on for a few years, and where I draw my ‘experience’ from.
      In “The Hidden Soul”, the ‘antagonist’ is the protagonist’s own situation – he is, in a sense, battling himself. I decided to try that deeper kind of conflict, and it seems to have worked.
      The real antagonist himself comes in later in the series (I’m writing book #2 now), so if you want to download it to familiarize yourself with the characters, go ahead! I’m so glad you liked the article, and I hope it will help you with your antagonist problem!

    • LilianGardner

      our novel sounds interesting and complicated. I love a complicated story, so I’ll download your book. I’m sure it’ll help me.

    • Reagan Colbert

      Thank you, Lilian! I hope you like it!

  11. Meral

    It is not easy to write about protagonist or antagonist, one should have good imagination. Imaginations take us to that level, where we can think and pen as an antagonist or protagonist.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Exactly, Meral! Imagination is the key that helps us write any story about any character. It is what makes us writers 🙂

    • Meral

      Reagan! I am lacking this imagination part in my writing, i tried alot to overcome it but in vain. Can you suggest me how to overcome it

    • Reagan Colbert

      Well, you want to do it and have tried to despite feeling like you don’t have the imagination for it. That’s the first step. From my experience, the only way is to become a part of your story, and literally transport yourself to that world. Depending on what aspect you have the most trouble imagining (characters, setting, etc.), I can give you some advice. Do you find yourself ‘carried away’ with books that you read?

    • Meral

      Actually i am unable to build connections between my thoughts and words. I always feel a gap while pening my thoughts into words. I cannot write more than a paragraph.Further, reading other’s novels, i dont feel the same problem, i transported to writer’s world and imaginations they wanted to build.

    • Reagan Colbert

      I felt the same thing when I first started writing, but you have an idea and a love for stories, I believe that if you keep practicing (especially on TWP) and learning and absorbing everything you read, you’ll be able to follow the patterns and eventually write the way you want to.
      Have you ever tried recording yourself ‘acting out’ the scenes in your story, then playing it back and listening to it? I’ve done that a few times, and sometimes that helps you to get into the story as if it was somebody else’s. Then you could try writing from there.
      Just remember to always keep practicing, even if you think your words are horrible.

    • Meral

      Yeah, i have tried few times, recording, playing and listening. In start, i was shy, but practice has reduced my shyness. I am really thankful to you for showing concern and giving wonderful advices. Reagan! Can you share your email id so that i can get better guidance.

    • Reagan Colbert

      I have had the same problem, Meral, but I know you can overcome anything if you’re meant to do it.
      I’m so glad to be able to give you advice. If you want to read more about what I think when it comes to writing, you can go to my blog (linked at the top of the post), and read it. I hope I’ll be able to give you some guidance!
      (P.S., if you still have questions after reading the posts, my email is on the contact page of the blog)
      So glad I could help!

    • Meral

      Yeah i have subscribed and alos guide me for improving my vocabulary and sentence structure

    • I'm determined

      Even to speaking aloud your dialogue – that really brings your words into focus, to accept or change as you need. Keep trying, you’ll get there.

    • I'm determined

      Your connections between thoughts and words are where your difficulty lies. Think feelings, instead. Sense the feelings in the words. Then you’ll get the connections.

    • Meral

      Thanks for the advice. I will work on it and discuss with you if i’ll any difficulty

  12. Stella

    All he ever wanted to do was play baseball.

    ‘Son. You’ve got talent! How would you like to play for the Amber Beach Earthquakes?’ That line should have been directed to him. Yet it was not he, Riley Griffin, who had trained from young to become a baseball star, who heard it. The scout was talking to an untrained, ignorant caveman instead.

    Koda turned to him confusedly. ‘Would I like that?’

    Would he like that? Would he like that? No, Koda would not like that. He, Riley, would like that. It was what he was meant to do. It was what he had trained for, with every fibre of his being, since he was a toddler. He could still remember every ball he had missed, every bat he had swung until there were blisters on his fingers, every mock and jeer he had endured from his classmates who thought it hilarious that the Brainiac and whiz kid thought he could play baseball.

    ‘Like it? Koda, you’d love it!’ He took his friend aside, away from the scout’s curious gaze. ‘Listen, I know everything to know about baseball. With your…skills, and my knowledge, we’d own them!’ Skills, a fancy term to describe what he privately thought was nothing more than brute strength. But if Riley couldn’t play in the big leagues himself, he was damn well going to make sure Koda did.

    The caveman smiled. And Riley knew his dreams of becoming a baseball star were finally one step closer to reality.

    *

    ‘Kendall’s picked up a monster attack. Let’s go.’

    The other Rangers were streaming out. Didn’t they understand he and Koda had a big game tomorrow?

    Shelby stopped and turned expectantly. Realising that he and Koda weren’t following. ‘Well…?’

    This was why he, Riley, had never made it to the top. Because all his life, he had been surrounded by people who didn’t believe in him, people who thought he should prioritise his studies, or his work on the farm, or going to fight monsters above his dreams of playing baseball. And he, ever the obedient son, had obeyed. Well, he’d had enough of letting others decide his dreams.

    ‘You guys go ahead. Me and Koda have a game to train for.’

    She stepped up in front of him. Making a sarcastic ‘Knock knock, anyone home?’ gesture at his forehead. ‘Hello? Did you hear me? Kendall’s picked up a monster attacking the city. Don’t you think that’s just a tiny bit more important than you and Koda’s baseball game?’

    And he’d thought Shelby was the smart one in the group. Even she didn’t understand. She, of all people. She, who’d grown up with a father who wanted her to go into business, when all she’d ever wanted to do was dig for dinosaurs. He, Riley, had encouraged her to follow her dream into paleontology. And here she was, returning the favour by crushing his?

    ‘Kendall’s picked up alien DNA. Not a monster attack. It could be nothing.’

    Shelby was never one to hide her anger. ‘Or it could be something.’

    ‘Well if it is, just call us!’ He held up his communicator. ‘We’ll be there in a flash. But until then, Koda and I have a game to train for. Come on, Koda.’

    The caveman looked from him, to Shelby, the latter rigid with rage. ‘I…we play baseball?’

    ‘Yes.’ There was steel in his voice. Ignoring the plea he saw in the caveman’s eyes. And slowly, reluctantly, Koda walked over to him, and followed Riley out of the base.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Makes me want to know more about his motives, and the story overall. Excellent!

    • Stella

      Hi Reagan, thanks for your comment! I’m really encouraged that you liked it.

      Do you mind if I ask what you think his motives are, and what the overall story is about, based on what you’ve read? I’m trying to improve on showing not telling. Thanks for your comment and the great prompt today!

    • Reagan Colbert

      He seems to me like someone driven by his baseball passion, and even willing to live through his ‘caveman’ friend just to achieve his goal. He is certainly a man on a mission, and even if the world falls apart, he is going to keep doing what he’s doing.
      The story itself has me a little puzzled, but that is also what intrigues me. Is the ‘monster’ physical, or does it have something to do with her paleontology? It seemed like a colossal plot twist to me, going from baseball to monsters. That’s what makes me want to know more of the before and after.

  13. Gary G Little

    I can trace my heritage all the way back to the nineteenth century in this valley nestled among the Ozark mountains. For a hundred years our numbers have been reduced. It began with the passage of the twenty ninth amendment and the complete separation of the church and the state. Many called it the freedom FROM religion amendment.

    I remember the day my grandfather was told that he could no longer teach his Science of Creation class at the High School. He moved it to the Baptist church, but not being in the school system, enrollment declined.

    Arthur Henderson built the Arkansas River Computer company, and the area prospered. New people, godless people, all working for ARC, moved into the valley. Henderson became a community leader. He pulled farmers out of the spiral of ’56, guaranteed their debt, financed new crops and never foreclosed.

    My grandfather named Arthur Henderson the anti-Christ, turning the good Christian people of this Ozark valley away from the one true God and His Son. The churches slowly died, replaced by humanism. Mongrel races, non-Aryian flooded into our pure community. Mixed marriages, heathen homosexual unions, debauched and putrified the area.

    When I took on the mantle of leadership I knew I had to do something. We barely had a membership of ten thousand across all churches in the central states. We had to leave this godless planet. Our hope and salvation appeared one Christmas Day, in the spot where the Star of Bethlehem once shown. Built by the corporation that had killed the remainder of the faithful in the Ozarks, it seemed fitting it would be the Heaven and base for a new revival. A crusade across the stars. We would take the Edinburgh, and make it God’s Holy Chariot.

    Reply
    • Rodgin K

      That, sir, was brilliant. Knowing they are the bad guys doesn’t make them any less sympathetic. I’m trying to find something you should work on to give you and there isn’t anything I can find. Not even nitpicking stuff.

      Very nice.

    • I'm determined

      A typo, sorry, the Star of Bethlehem once shown/shone. But the story – great – you’ve got the resentment against the Arkansas River Company, the new (non-church) people set up and (in this guy’s mind) vilified. Can you add the rationale for his resentment against ARC helping the farmers to grow viable crops so that the people could have enough food to eat, to prosper? Aside from that bit of nit-picking, yes, you have resentment, bigotry, all sorts of bias in a self-justifying mode for this antagonist.
      Mind you, I hope he comes a cropper!

    • Gary G Little

      Thank for the spelling correction. I should have pointed out that ARC moving in, elevated the area from poverty stricken, to prosperous. It was prosperity, and hope that led to the abandonment of an archaic belief system.

    • Reagan Colbert

      I truly had a hard time telling if this was your protagonist or your antagonist, and that, I believe, is good. You have so much depth in this character that it makes him interesting, relatable, and someone you could even side with.

    • Ken

      This is very good, Gary. I need to use this technique more. I suppose a protagonist and an antagonist might swap roles, depending on how they are presented and the audience.

      This is a very good presentation of the principle. In one discussion, when I was arguing an antagonist might have (or should have) some good points, I think my finding a picture of Hitler stroking Bambi (a small deer) clinched it 🙂
      Well done!

  14. I'm determined

    Okay. My Trilogy (possibly known as The Italian Stallion) starts with the stand alone novel Hold This!

    The antagonist is the father of my main character’s husband.
    He works his dastardly deeds long distance, through his henchmen. And he is
    really mean, vicious, vindictive. I mean, here he is, the world is his oyster.
    Man I’ve got it made. The wife is a beautiful woman, of an English family even
    though she/we live here in Melbourne, Australia. Not bad for the scion of a Sicilian
    drug lord, eh? She works the night shift, while I take care of the kid. My son.
    He looks like me even, although his colouring is not as intense as mine.

    Regardless, I don’t let him cramp my style. I lock him in the wardrobe each night so I can go out, strut my stuff, ride those beauties I find. I make sure the kid knows he’s to keep his trap shut, not tell his Mum.

    So you can see how I’ve got it both ways. She’s out working, earns enough to keep us going, while I use my money for my pleasure.

    Only, the fat got spilled in the fire, so to speak. The kid, seems he was moping about at school. His teacher stuck her nose in, phoned the wife during school time, while I was at work. Done me in good and proper! She had my gear packed ready for when I got home from work. Had to be the day I brought the Big Nose home to show how well I had it made, didn’t it?

    We walked in the door, and the next moment bags are flying at us. And packed in scruffy shopping bags, too. She couldn’t use my beautiful Italian leather suitcases, could she? No, she stuffed my things into plastic bags, some of which had started to rip.

    I was out on my ear. In a manner of speaking. Called on one of my birds to spend the night. She –the wife – tells me that I was finished, she knew about my birds, she knew about the way I shoved the brat into the wardrobe, even.

    I’d question whether she’d played false with me where the brat’s concerned, I mean, he’s so wimpy. So not the son of an Italian Stallion. But get him standing in front of the mirror beside me and any fool could see the boy is mine.

    He’s grown up now. My guys have been keeping tabs on him. I’ve stayed out of sight but not out of mind, I’m sure of that. He’s worked hard, got to be almost top dog in some snotty nosed accountancy firm. I’d considered taking him into my firm. I could use his skills. I need an accountant I can trust to help keep my smuggling, my
    drug industry, plus my prostitution racket balanced.

    But I heard him speak at some seminar. It was obvious that he was a failure, that his Mum had got her hooks into my boy, and reared him to think like her.

    But there’s more than one way to snare an eagle. I’ve got plans. He thinks he’s going into partnership with that snooty nosed firm? He’s got another think coming. And that wonderful marriage of his? Just wait until my son finds it all falling down around him.

    No one gets the best of me!

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Wow, you have a very deep character here, one that is easily the protagonist of his own story. I felt captivated to his telling of the story, while recognizing his antagonizing deeds and hating them. Great practice!

    • I'm determined

      Wow, Reagan, I’ve just scanned your file in Disqus – you are prolific! (Must look at mine.) My antagonist as protagonist in his own story? Perhaps in a diary, a journal format. In the third book, he really comes a cropper. But I’m fairly sure that I’ve got him surviving , albeit it prison. Food for thought there. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Reagan Colbert

      Thanks – so glad you liked the article!

  15. I'm determined

    Your antagonist – in the same way as your protagonist – needs to have a reason for doing what he’s decided on doing. A rational reason – at least to him. So often, the negative reasons – revenge, derision, lust for gain, lust to pull the other down because how dare he try to be better than me, when I’m quite happy being mediocre at what I’m doing? Why should I have to put in more effort just to show that I’m the top dog? And it’s so much fun, undercutting the other person.
    Illogical, but hey, that’s in his nature.

    Reply
  16. Ken

    Good article! This is something I forget to do. In any story there are (usually) several characters, each with their own story. Although the story might be told exclusively from one character’s point of view, the other characters’ stories (mostly untold) are part of the story too. The various characters’ stories impact on each other to make the story.
    I need to remember to write a story (in synopsis) from all the significant characters’ points of view so I can express them more realistically.

    For instance, we might be told the sleuth’s story, but the whole makes sense through the bad guy’s story, which we might reveal at the end.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      That’s a good example, Ken! What looks like a mystery from one POV makes complete sense from the other. That’s why it’s so important to know every side intricately as the writer.
      Very good point, and I’m so glad you liked the article!

  17. Gail Wofford Cartee

    White apple blossoms sweetly cover the mocking bird nest. A white cat swishes his tail beneath the tree. He makes no sound, only cocks his head to listen to the chicks peeping for their parents. Slowly turning himself in the direction of the sound, his green eyes search the branches for the bottom of a brown nest. A pounce places him on the trunk of the apple tree, eyes still on the nest of sprawling twigs. Quickly, nimbly sliding up the tree to the branch just below his object of prey, he crouches on the branch, his long tail dangling.Only the tip twitches. Now his entire body squirms as he creeps along the branch, placing himself directly beneath the baby birds. Eyes focused on the nest, unaware of the male mocking bird swooping in, not into the nest, but onto the head of the white cat. The startled cat regains his balance, focusing again on the nest. Like dive bombers in the midst of the heat of war, both birds now relentlessly pound the cat. Hissing and swatting at the birds, he loses his footing, only to regain it with his front two paws. As his back legs reach the limb again, he uses them to force his jump into the bottom of the twigs. The nest dangles in the branches as the chicks tumble to the ground. The parent birds continue to pound the cat as he too, tumbles out of the tree only to land on his feet over the baby birds. Grasping a baby in his teeth, he makes a run for shelter beneath the porch. He watches, tearing the tasty baby bird with his sharp teeth, as the parents land beside their two remaining babies sprawling lifeless on the ground.

    Reply
  18. Violet Azure

    Amazing article.
    I was wonder what you thought about an antagonist who is right. During the whole book the protagonist thinks that he/she is doing the right thing, but in the end the antagonist is doing what is best.

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      That would be a serious plot twist, and if done right, it’s something that could be pulled off. I actually like the sound of it. 🙂

  19. Jessie Davis Nekut

    Important as this task is, I found it to be exceedingly difficult. I got about a page in and as usual I found speed bumps all along the way. Like C.S. Lewis stated in regards to Screwtape Letters, it is unpleasant and dangerous to think too much as a villain. I do agree with you, however, that flat characters make for a flat, uninteresting story. I realized awhile ago that my “bad guys” were a bit too “just plain bad” without any reasons or back story. I’m working on my first book, and have been at it for years…..Life pulls me away, I go a long time in between with no writing, but the characters nag at my mind all the time, and have now become obsessions in a way. Thank you for the tips which, I am SURE, will make for a more in-depth and interesting reading when all is laid down. 🙂 Kudos to you!

    Reply
    • Reagan Colbert

      Thanks you, Jessie. I’ve never heard of that C.S.Lewis quote before, and I agree, it can be unpleasant, especially when you believe in (and obsess over) the ‘good guys’. That’s why I use the stance of creating them to validate the protagonist, and the message of your book. I hope that this post will help you with your antagonists, and your overall story. 🙂

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