Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A little more on antagonists

After going through my out-of-control inbox, I discovered several of you had asked me questions about antagonists ... and I completely spaced answering them. I'm so sorry!

One writer e-mailed me and asked, "My protagonist and antagonist basically have the same line of compulsion and driving flaw, but they manifest it in completely different ways! Is that something that can work? Or something that has to be changed?"

Oh yes. Not only can that work, it can be wonderful. Particularly if your antagonist is someone who your main character feels they have nothing in common with. Someone who makes them crazy, or maybe who they even hate. And then - gasp! - to discover they actually have something in common??? This can create a fabulous turning point in the story.

Actually, a wonderful character-building exercise could be determining something your main character and your main antagonist have in common.

Another writer asked, "Do you think that it's important to single out a character who is the antagonist? Or is it ok for the antagonist to be an idea?"

There's probably some phenomenal work of literature that opposes me on this, but I think your antagonist needs to be a person rather than something abstract. Simply because an idea doesn't really do much. It doesn't sabotage your main character, spread rumors, or get that job that your main character totally deserved.

The antagonist role is certainly one that's shared. Heck, every character may oppose your main character at some point, and therefore be an antagonist of sorts. But I think it works best to have someone chosen as the main antagonist, as the one who's actively doing things to get in your characters way.

If you guys have writing questions you'd like answered, please send me an e-mail, and I'll hopefully be more on top of it than I was this last time. Shame on me.

One last thing I want to draw your attention to, and that's the "Write Now" tab at the top of your screen. I'm keeping a running list of the posts I'm doing for the writing process series. I thought that had potential to be a good resource for you guys. And also to help keep me on track!

Have a fabulous Wednesday, everyone!


  1. I think that an idea can be an antagonist in a way, but usually if you dig a little deeper there is a person associated with that idea. Even if they aren't a main character, even if they are dead or don't have direct interaction with your main character. (Not sure if this is making sense) I think if you get to the "meat" of the idea so to speak you will find a particular character that can sort of symbolize this idea and be the one that creates the problem even it's an internal struggle for your protagonist.

    That felt like a bunch of nonsense...hope it makes a little sense.

  2. My "idea" antagonist is the trouble MC has with relationships (family and friends mainly) and my "person" antagonist shows up and causes problems with romantic relationships. If the "idea" wasn't there, the problems my person causes wouldn't be as large... I'm probably just analyzing this too much! I do tend to do that.

    Thank you again, Mrs. Morril for doing this! It has been so helpful!

  3. That's a great "definition" of an antagonist - one who is actively doing things to get in your characters way.

    Thanks for sharing this!


  4. Tessa, thanks for Tweeting it :)

    Jordan, I think Nicole put it well. Having a character symbolize the idea, embody the idea, can accomplish what you're trying to do. From what you said above, it sounds like you're on the right track!