13. What About The Antagonist?
I hate villains! What about you? A good villain is a nasty villain, but in a lot of books, most villains are pretty wishy-washy. I did the same thing myself in the first of my Southern Lands series.
Writers concentrate so much on heroes and their supporting cast, they often neglect to do a similar job with the antagonist. The antagonist is the person who gets under the skin of your protagonist and nearly drives them to fail. This is where the infamous battles between good and evil take place.
But let’s wind back a little, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Why do books need antagonists? One word, conflict. A novel without conflict is like salt without pepper. And one of the best ways to achieve conflict is to have a really nasty antagonist to set against your protagonist.
So, there you have it, lecture over. Well, not quite. You also need to ask yourself, what makes an excellent antagonist? The better the antagonist, the better your protagonist will appear. The antagonist always needs to be one step ahead of the hero, keeping them constantly off-guard and threatening them at every turn. Of course, depending on the type of book you’re writing, the antagonist may not have direct contact with your hero. And that’s okay, too. The antagonist may be an evil emperor, but what they do, affects what your hero is attempting.
In just the same way you need to flesh out your protagonist in detail, you also need to do the same thing with your antagonist. Make them real. Make them nasty. Make them memorable. It will make your protagonist’s journey all the more heartfelt.
Oh, I suddenly remembered, you’re reading this article from the perspective you already have a day job and writing is something you don’t really need advice on. Just disregard everything I’ve said so far. Make your antagonist whatever you want. Your day job pays the bills and you don’t need to become a successful author. The hero is way more exciting anyway. The fact they beat all the bad guys in the end is all that matters. The fact the plot gets a bit boring in the middle, because no one is actively working against them, doesn’t matter, does it?
Personally, I love creating nasty antagonists. Not only are they fun to write, they’re fun to read. And if you let them do nasty things, they naturally put barriers to success in front of your protagonist. So, if you’re looking for extra plot ideas and more oomph in your story, write in a great antagonist.