What is a False Antagonist? (4 Traits of a False Antagonist)

In this post, let's briefly go over what is a false antagonist.

What is the difference between antagonist and false antagonist?

An antagonist is always necessary for a story to succeed, but, in contrast to what is commonly believed, they are not always as easy to identify or understand. Nevertheless, the false antagonist is a device that is frequently employed in many movies and is typically one of the most successful ways to surprise the audience.

One of its most prevalent forms is the false ally. This character initially appears friendly to the protagonist or even unimportant to the plot before eventually revealing himself as the brains behind the entire scheme. One of the most obvious examples is Hans from the movie Frozen.

In other situations, the villain might be a character with a double identity, someone who is forced to act a certain way, or even someone who acts innocently while causing a catastrophe. One of the most obvious cases is Te Fiti in Moana.

In other stories, the antagonist initially appears to be very obvious, but it turns out that he is only the primary antagonist; instead, a much more powerful person is the one in charge. Again, David and Max from The Lost Boys provide a crystal-clear illustration.

An ally frequently aids the protagonist in defeating the antagonist for self-serving reasons. When the villain is defeated or at his most vulnerable, he seizes the chance to turn on his ally and profit. Burke from Alien is an obvious example.

One of the least common but most unexpected is when an ostensible foe is the protagonist's constant supporter, acting as a hidden help. One of the most glaring examples is Severus Snape from Harry Potter.

Even within these categories, there are numerous variations, some of which the reader is probably already familiar with.


What is a False Antagonist? (4 Traits of a False Antagonist)

False antagonists are so uncommon that we don't have a lot of material to work with when creating a strong one. Fortunately, if you decide to use a false protagonist in your next story, I have some suggestions for you to try out.

Make them interesting, but non-active

One thing that makes a good fake villain is that they don't try to do anything bad. They might cause trouble, but they don't take part in the action.

In Megamind, our fake bad guy initially went after Metro Man, but after he finally beat the superhero that stood in his way, he changed his mind. His boredom made it easy for him to be a villain in name only since he had no reason to be a bad guy without Metro Man. This made his journey to becoming a hero interesting.

Kim Possible is another story like this. Dr. Drakken is the main bad guy behind all the plans to take over the world, but Shego does most of the work. Shego was the one who went up against Kim and did her work directly for the win. Dr. Drakken talked a lot but didn't do much. This made Shego the real bad guy out of the two of them.

People don't understand them.

This tip goes with the false antagonist's "anti-hero" side. Give your character a backstory that shows why the rest of society thinks of them as bad guys.

Megamind wanted to be like the other kids at school, so he tried to be like them. But how he tried to fit in wasn't socially acceptable, so people turned away from him and became evil.

The fake bad guy saves the story.

Why doesn't the bad guy save the day instead of the good guy? Again, this is something that an anti-hero would do.

And there are many different ways to make this happen. One way to do this is to give your main character a bad trait, like being a coward. Then, have your villain save the day by having the courage to stop them from carrying out their plan.

Ten times worse than the real bad guy.

Your false antagonist is the same as your anti-hero. If your bad guy has some less-than-stellar qualities, he or she must face something worse for the reader to like them again.

So, the real bad guy in the story has to be bad. Even worse than the bad guy. Make your bad guy look like a kitten compared to the real bad guy.

It's not hard to make your villain the main character. But it does help if you take the time to develop your characters and give them more depth.

It also gives us a chance to change things that can't be changed. To give them the chance to change their ways and join the good side. Sometimes, the false antagonist is just a way for the writer to get rid of the smaller bad guys so that the bigger win can happen.

No matter what, I hope some of you take a chance on your villains and turn them into the heroes and anti-heroes we all know and love.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.


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