Every story has two central elements: a protagonist and an antagonist. Most writers will focus more on creating an awesome protagonist, but a strong antagonist is just as important. Consider Voldemort, Darth Vader, Professor Moriarty, or Hannibal Lecter. Their names are synonymous with the stories they are associated with, and if you want to write good fiction, you need to put in the same kind of effort as the authors behind these memorable characters did. Read on as we discuss some important tips that can help you write a complex antagonist and how you can benefit from fiction editing services.
1. Don’t Make Them One-Dimensional
An antagonist is the manifestation of all things evil in your story. However, this doesn’t mean they need to be one-dimensional. Yes, they are evil. But what else? What are their motivations? What’s the underlying philosophy or personal history that drives their actions? Were they always evil, or did something happen that drove them to the dark side?
If we consider the example of Lord Voldemort, we see that he was the product of a loveless marriage and was abandoned at an orphanage where he was unable to form any meaningful human connections. Rowling describes Voldemort as being incapable of love because he never received love in his childhood or later on in life.
As a result, he is the polar opposite of his rival, Harry. Incidentally, Rowling establishes Harry as an orphan also, who was mistreated by his immediate family. However, he chooses to love and seeks to form relationships that enrich his life. In comparison, Voldemort isolates himself and believes himself to be superior. He only wants power and is willing to do anything for it.
Both sets of reactions are human, and that’s essentially the key to writing a good antagonist. You need to humanize the antagonist such that the reader can see them as a full-fledged character and not a one-dimensional element in your story that likes to blow stuff up.
2. Give Your Antagonist a Goal
Every memorable antagonist has some kind of goal. This goal could be world domination, wiping out the planet, or simply making the protagonist suffer. Once again, you can also describe why they want to achieve this. Why do they desire annihilation? What’s in it for them? Money? Power? Fame? Or something else? Every person wants something, and figuring out what your antagonist wants can help you shape out the path that they take to achieve their goal. It helps you establish the basic premise of the story and create a compelling character arc that can lead to an exciting climax.
3. Make the Antagonist Powerful and Impossible to Defeat
A good antagonist is one that has power over other characters. They should inspire fear among mere mortals who understand that this is not a person you should mess with. Consider the example of Darth Vader. The Sith Lord was originally a Jedi Knight but went to the dark side and became the most formidable foe in the Galactic Empire.
People were terrified of him because it didn’t matter how skilled his opponent was. The Sith Lord always had the upper hand and was able to emerge triumphant in every situation. He was indomitable, unfeeling, and ruthlessly efficient. The Star Wars trilogy establishes his superiority through several compelling sequences where he is able to crush the Rebel Alliance.
Simply put, if people aren’t afraid of your villain, well then… he’s not really a villain, is he?
4. Build a Connection Between the Antagonist and Protagonist
Harry and Voldemort, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, Batman and the Joker… every good story has a powerful dynamic between the antagonist and the protagonist. It is usually the most central relationship that drives the entire story. The villain should effectively define your hero and vice versa here. He should be a vital part of who the hero is.
In the case of Harry and Voldemort, the two were tied by a prophecy that led Voldemort to kill Harry’s parents. In doing so, Voldemort effectively created the boy who would eventually defeat him. We see this connection play out through the course of the 7 books in the series and become increasingly complex. On Harry’s part, he is able to understand Voldemort more and more deeply over the years and uses that knowledge to win against him.
Wrapping It Up
A powerful antagonist is a relatable character with a unique set of motivations and a complex relationship with the protagonist. We recommend revisiting some of your favorite antagonists in literature and breaking them down before you start to create your own antagonist.
If you need help, you can reach out to the team at Edit911. We offer fiction editing services and can help you refine your novel. Besides fiction book editing services, our editors also provide consultancy services for fiction and non-fiction writers. Get in touch with us today to learn more!