Friday, April 1, 2011

A to Z: (A)ntagonist

Today's letter is the letter A! As promised when I joined the A to Z Challenge, all these posts will be about writing. Today's topic is about the antagonist.

In liturature, the antagonist is described as anyone or anything that tries to prevent the protagonist from their goals. With that said, what kind of antagonists are there?

Most articles you read say this is a person (the bad guy), but it could be anything. Some examples could include a cliff, a herd of wildabeasts, a relative with good intentions, a storm, the news, or even the protagonist themself. The point is, if it gets in the way of the protagonist's (your MC) goals, it is considered a antagonist. Easy, right!

Generally the antagonist(s) is broken down into four groups: Character, Society, Nature, and Self. For Character you'll find your antagonist in the nemisis, the friend giving bad advice, and the evil stepmother. They are very obvious examples of the antagonist and will provide the most conflict and distraction. Society is a great antagonist and follows closely with the group Self. Society also works well when writing a historical romance as women were under such social contraints compared to today. Nature is anything you would find in the wild (a fallen tree, an animal, storm, etc.) that could throw your MC for a loop. And Self is the battle within. The desire to do something other than what is needed from embarassment or the inability due to physical limitations.

Something else to consider with your antagonist is that this is not always a bad person. Think of it in regards to your main character (the protagonist) being an evil genius. Come up with a list of antagonists for him or her. The cops? A superhero? The economic recession? These all work against him/her, therefore being considered an antagonist.

The last thing I would like to leave with you for this post is this: a good antagonist will make or break a story. You want riveting and interesting? Invest in your antagonist as much as you do your protagonist. Also remember that the best antagonists (in regard to the bad guys) don't think that what they are doing is wrong. You wouldn't question the tornado for it to tell you, "Oh, I popped down here simply because I felt like screwing with this guy." Just something to think about.


  1. "Something else to consider with your antagonist is that this is not always a bad person."

    That's a good point to remember.
    Brianna @ Pocketful of Playdough

  2. Ah yes, the antagonist. Good idea for the first post in the challenge. I try to remember sometimes, when doing a person antagonist in particular, that if the story was switched to their viewpoint then they could be the hero. Works some of the time since they are often an obstacle in the path of the stories hero. I do like to read books where the antagonist is well developed but the story has to be really well done for me to feel tension if the author tries to keep the reader in limbo a bit over the real antagonist of the story.

  3. Excellent choice for "A". Well done!

  4. I like intelligent antagonists, and - like Dawn said - it's a good exercise to try and tell the story from their point of view.

    I've noticed that with interesting characters, that version of the story is just as good, sometimes even better.

    Thanks for posting this!

  5. I give you an 'A for your post. I love writing the 'bad guy.'

  6. Oh, a writing post for every letter will definitely be a challenge! Good luck!

  7. @Brianna- I'm glad you liked it.

    @Dawn- That's a good point. It would be interesting to try and decide who you should be rooting for, too.

    @Susan- Thanks.

    @K.C.- Very true, and you're welcome.

    @Susan/Kelly- Thank you, and I love the bad guy, too. They're usually my favorite main characters.

    @Hanna- Thanks. I hope I can manage to get in every letter.

  8. These will be motivational posts from you, I believe. A multidimensional antagonist can really drive a story to success. Great post and questions for reflection. Thanks.

  9. Great start to the challenge. I love writing the antagonists... I've even done a self-antagonist which was fun.

  10. Awesome "A" post!! I'm not a writer myself, so I live vicariously through other writers.
    I'm a new follower and hope you check out my A to Z Challenge in photography at :
    Kathy at Oak Lawn Images

  11. Great job! Your post reminds me that I'm at the point in my story where some antagonist should become more obvious! This will help me!

  12. @septembermom- I hope you continue to enjoy them. I appreciate the comment!

    @Cheree- That sounds like fun and very interesting.

    @Oak Lawn Lady- The only day I have for checking other blogs is Sundays, so I'll be over there with some comments tomorrow!

    @Fourth Grade Teacher- Glad I could help!

  13. I am doing research for my university thesis, thanks for your great points, now I am acting on a sudden impulse.

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