(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?