Sunday 15 October 2017

Creating well rounded antagonists

Photo Credit: Sue Eves
This post came about in a roundabout way and it was all Meg Rosoff's fault. She asked a question relating to the Harvey Weinstein business and then brought up an interview with the CIA operative that I also remember and it started those cogs whirring.

It made me think about writing, in particular, about antagonists. There is nothing worse than a weak, unbelievable and flat antagonist. It just ruins a story. They need to be fully rounded and as characters. You, as the writer, need to understand them and their motivation, just as much as your main character. The interview that Meg referred to was the interview with former CIA Officer, Amaryllis Fox, where she highlights that all the 'bad guys' do in fact think from their perspective they are the good guys. They don't think they are doing anything wrong.This is something you need to think about when you are writing your antagonists. You need to walk a few miles in your antagonist's shoes to see how they view the world so you are aware why they make the decisions they are.

Another great example of this, which Philip Ardargh also highlighted in the same Meg Rosoff thread, is this comedy sketch by Mitchell and Webb. It is done for a laugh but it makes quite a serious point.

I am not suggesting that you make your antagonists likeable but it is about making them believable. It is allowing the reader to understand why they do what they do. The chances are we will have all come across characters like them. We will have met that bully at some point in our lives. We will have met a Malfoy at school. I was certainly bullied at school and knew people just like him plus several of the people I came across in my life rung true with the characters in Sophia Bennett's books. That is what is so great about books, so often you can relate the stories to your life. They can help you to understand what is going on with your life and also realise that you are not on your own. There are others out there going through the same thing.

This is why it is so important to get those antagonists right. When you are creating your antagonist's bio you need to think beyond what they look like. You need to think what drives them? What do they believe? What has happened to make them feel like this? What are their political views? Are they being controlled? If so, why and how? Are they being bullied themselves? What is happening at home? Could that explain their behaviour? Are they hurting? Look beyond the two dimensional. Write a letter from your antagonist to you as the writer introducing him/her/them/itself so you can get right under their skin. A lot of this may never get into the story but it will add depth to your writing because you won't need to think about them when writing. You will know exactly how they will react in any given situation. Make sure you understand your antagonist and their purpose in your story. Most importantly though enjoy creating them.

I have picked this song today because I am really angry about a certain American President's behaviour and comments relating to LGBT communities. How dare he incite hatred. Thank you, Greenday for saying what I think of him.


  1. Excellent post. I need to reconsider my antagonists from a different perspective now. Quite helpful. Thank you, Ness.

  2. Really pleased you have found it useful