A is for Antagonist #atozchallenge

(Last year I signed up for the 2012 Blogging from A to Z April Challenge. I met some great writers, so I thought I’d do it again this year too. Basically, you write a blog post every day in April except Sundays, going through the alphabet.)

Day A of the 2013 Blogging from A to Z April challenge. Today’s topic: antagonists.

A couple years ago I wrote a short story, “The Kindness of Strangers,” which appeared in the The Indiana Horror Anthology 2011. Basically it was about a girl who wanted to get revenge on her ex-boyfriend, and she was helped by an evil paranormal antagonist, Alec.

Usually I write about a character once, and that’s it; I have very few recurring characters.  But Alec stuck with me, and when I started a story about a guy driving through the Midwest causing trouble just for the fun of it, I realized that guy was Alec.  The story is mostly written, except for the end, and I’ve been stuck on it for quite awhile.  This past weekend, the story unstuck itself.

I realized that I’d been looking at Alec all wrong.  Yes, he’s the antagonist.  Yes, he’s an unsympathetic d-bag whom readers will probably want to suffer for his crimes.  But he’s more than that; he has a back story, and motivation, and a goal.

I read somewhere recently that every character is the star of his or her own story, and antagonists are no exception.  Great antagonists are ones who could be us except for the (subjectively?) bad choices they’ve made.  They’re trying to reach their goals as best they can, skewed by their moral perceptions and backgrounds.  And my Alec is no exception.  In order to connect, in order for an antagonist to be memorable, I think a big part of it is just getting to know the antagonist as well as the protagonist.

Who’s your favorite antagonist, and why? Do you prefer nuanced villains or one-dimensional bad guys, and why?


  1. Black and white characters are dull. I like my villains to be at least a little morally ambiguous. I think even good guys are potential villains so I prefer the lines a bit blurry.

  2. Interesting post. Gives me something to think about.
    Laura @ The Sweet Simple Things

  3. Hello.

    I, too, have learned that antagonists believe they are the heroes of their own stories. Though flawed to an extreme, they believe what they’re doing is right. Of course, you also have the complete sociopaths, but I digress.

    I took a workshop on Creating Great Villains and I surprised myself when I found myself liking the sleazeball I created. I’m definitely more intrigued if an antagonist isn’t your cookie-cutter, mustache-twirling baddie. I want depth. I want to know why he’s like that.

    Some recent villains that come to mind:

    Heath Ledger’s protrayal of The Joker
    Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock

    I think, in recent reads, my favorite antagonist is Severus Snape. Though, later he’s revealed to be SPOILERS haha Well, let’s just say he’s what’s known as a contagonist (a term I recently learned). I definitely enjoy multi-faceted characters, regardless of their role in a story. Else, why put them in there?

    Happy blog hopping,

    Tonette dela Luna
    Blog: Textploits of the Writerly Persuasion – http://tonettedelaluna.wordpress.com/
    Twitter: http://twitter.com/TonettedelaLuna
    FB: https://www.facebook.com/TonettedelaLuna

  4. I love a great antagonist! I also though, love a story where everyone ends up happy (boring, I know!) and I really enjoy it when an antagonist has a change of heart and through some twist in the tale becomes a good guy! But not until the end…gotta have some angst in the meaty middle of the book!

  5. Totally agree with you on that. The bad guy is just as important as the good guy. In my story I blog snippets from on Sunday, I have a few chapters from the killers point of view. The more fleshed out the antagonist is, the more impact it has on the protagonist’s story line.

  6. A story with a funny, witty, evil, yet trying to do the right thing for himself sort of Antagonist is my favorite. I would equate my idea to Damon (vampire on The Vampire Diaries), generally an asshole, but he has a few redeeming qualities and that’s why we love him.

    Another example is William H. Macy’s character on Shameless. Now he does not have any redeeming qualities that I can think of and he is clearly an asshole out only for himself, but I love him, his complete lack of compassion and his life’s goal of only looking out for himself seems to appeal to me…..

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