Thursday, 24 April 2014

Antagonists and Villains



Hey all,

Sorry for the slightly late post, but I was totally dying last night. I figure that you’d get a better read if I waited a little bit longer to put up what I’d written. I suppose it’s still technically Thursday too, so I think I’m allowed to get away with it this time.

From what I’ve found, antagonists, villains, bad-guys, whatever you want to call them, come in all shapes and sizes and personalities. Some are evil, some are just people, and sometimes they’re actually the good guy in the long run. The most distinctive feature of the antagonist is that they are someone or something that is in opposition to the main characters. I know this should be obvious, as that’s the definition of an antagonist, but there are plenty of times where I forget that. I have created characters that I’d intended to work opposite to the protagonists, but in the long run their personalities end up pushing them into being allies, and vice versa. On occasion this does work out with very cool results (happened to some degree in my new Dreamstate book), but mostly it just means that I have to come up with something new.

Once you get the more basic elements of the antagonist down (how they’re trying to stop/ interfere with your characters) then you get to do the fun stuff. This is the point where you can give a back story to your villain, you get to explain why they’re doing this rather than just committing random acts of chaos; unless that’s a hallmark of your villain. This is also the point where you get to decide what the character looks like and what they’re named. I always like to give meaning to the name of my characters, as well as their physical appearance. It can be a pretty throwaway decision with very little bearing on the end result of the story, but I like those little flourishes. Scars, clothes, magic powers, spaceships, anything that is to be connected with the characters can help tell their story. I personally like to figure this all out right at the start because there have been times where I’m halfway through the story and I realize that I need something new. The problem being is that now I have to go back and rewrite (or at the very least sneak in) snippets of whatever is it I’m putting in so it doesn’t appear as if the character pulls something out of thin air. I like to avoid the whole deus ex machina whenever possible—it makes me cranky as a reader and I can only assume it does the same to other folk as well.

I think the biggest thing is that a villain should never be a flat character. They become incredibly boring when they’re evil for the sake of evil with no reason whatsoever. Even giving those villains a more developed boss to work for tends to make them pop a little bit. Treat them like any other character in your book that you plan on interacting with for more than a few lines. Give them lives, reason, purpose, and all the traits necessary to push them past the Snidely Whiplash mustache twisting stereotypes.

-Trevor

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