Why The Antagonist is Important

In this post, we briefly go over why the antagonist is important.

The antagonist is the embodiment of an idea that The Hero, or protagonist, is at odds with. Many times the antagonist is a person, other times the antagonist is a force of nature or an oppressive aspect of culture.

What is an antagonist?

The antagonist is the opposing force against the protagonist. In every story, there must be a conflict and the antagonist is the force that produces that conflict.

The plot is the story of how the protagonist overcomes the conflict and confronts the antagonist.

The antagonist can be anyone, even the same person as the protagonist. A popular example of this is Tyler Durden and The Narrator in Fight Club.

The antagonist does not have to be a person. Antagonists can also be other forces of nature, such as disease, economy, politics, etc.

In most cases, the antagonist is the embodiment of a concept that The Hero opposes and is fighting against. This is why you see dichotomy so much in stories; dark vs light, rich vs poor, nature vs technology, and so on.

There must be an antagonist in every novel. Indeed, it does not necessarily have to be someone physical or present, but antagonism is something that every novel needs. If the character has a conflict, someone, or something, has to be putting obstacles in his way so that he doesn't overcome his conflict and reach his goal.

Does the antagonist always have to be the bad guy?

No, the antagonist does not necessarily need to have bad intentions, but his goal is contrary to that of the protagonist.

For example, imagine a rivalry between two athletes who are friends, there is no bad one, but they are each others' antagonists because only one can achieve victory.

Or imagine a mother who prevents her son from making her own decisions and moves away from what she wants, but she does it thinking that it is the best or because she does not know how to do things in another way.

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Why The Antagonist is Important & Why Their Goal Matters

The antagonist's mission is clear: to put the protagonist through difficulties. But not just any difficulties, they must be obstacles to his goal. The antagonist's motivation for causing problems for the protagonist, or his goal, does not have to be malicious.

How to Design a Good Antagonist

The antagonist is just as important as the protagonist, and their goals and motivations must make sense for why they do what they do.

A good way to achieve this is to create flawed characters. If your antagonist has flaws, your protagonist can exploit them to her advantage. You can also exploit them so that the reader empathizes with the antagonist and has doubts about whether the antagonist should be punished for the sake of good.

Creating a good antagonist who is difficult to defeat and complex on a psychological level will enrich the plot while engaging the audience on a much deeper level.

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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