Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the newly released The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
Stories are strongest when there are multiple characters working against the main character. In the Harry Potter series, Harry isn't just up against Voldemort, but Snape and Draco and others as well. In The Hunger Games, Katniss is pitted against 23 other tributes, but also President Snow.
These antagonists have goals of their own that get in the way of the main character, and their goal tends to boil down to one of two things:
1. The same goal as the main character.
In Pride and Prejudice, Caroline Bingley wants Mr. Darcy for herself and has pitted herself against Elizabeth. They can't both marry him.
In the movie Cars, Lightning McQueen wants to win the Piston Cup. But so does his rival, Chick Hicks. Another antagonist in the story is Doc Hudson, who wants Lightning out of Radiator Springs almost as badly as Lightning does.
In Replication by Jill Williamson, Martyr and Abby are against cloning and want to expose the lab. But Dr. Kane is desperate to continue creating clones and needs to keep his lab a secret.
In Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, Claudia is trying to get Finn out of the prison while Queen Sia is trying to keep him in.
Secret option # 3 - A combination of the two
Going back to the Pride and Prejudice example, Caroline also wants something that's the opposite of Elizabeth. Elizabeth wants her sister and Mr. Bingley to be married because she sees they're truly in love with each other. Caroline, however, wants her brother to marry Georgiana Darcy and finds ways to keep Jane and Mr. Bingley apart.
One of my favorite experiences as a reader is when new information about an antagonist is brought forward, and we see that in times when we thought the antagonist was working against the main character, they were actually working for them. J. K. Rowling is masterful at this in the Harry Potter series, and this is also done well in Pride and Prejudice. For the first half of the book, Mr. Darcy plays the role of antagonist and Mr. Wickham the hero. When new information is brought forward, they switch roles.
Pick an antagonist from your story and examine their goals. What does victory look like to them? Is it the same or the opposite as what victory looks like to your main character?