6 Questions to Ask Your Antagonist
6 Questions to Ask Your Antagonist
Every good story needs someone your readers can love to hate. Your antagonist will readily fit the bill, if you do it right. The more you know about your antagonist, the easier it will be to pit them opposite your hero and heroine as a formidable challenger. Now is the time to explore your antagonist’s. internal identity. Here are six questions to answer while writing the overview of your antagonist character.
Who controls your antagonist?
Is your antagonist just a bad guy or is your antagonist working for a bad guy? This little detail helps to add humanity to your character. If the idea is that there is someone more powerful, more dangerous than your antagonist/challenger working through your visible villain there is an added level of disruption. Who is the puppet-master? Why are they pulling your challenger’s strings?
Ask yourself who controls your antagonist and your answer will determine the strength of your antagonist. What you learn here will build the foundation for your bad guy. It will translate as an unfolding back-story for your readers. Knowing your serial killer is actually a trained mercenary going after marks who endangered his family is very different from knowing he just enjoys killing people.
Most of us want a reason to like the antagonist in the story. The answers to this question can give your readers something they can use to redeem your antagonist, even if he/she hurts your hero and heroine.
What is it your antagonist wants?
Your antagonists has a motive, and it is your job to find it. Follow them down the rabbit hole to discover what they want versus what it seems they want. There is room to go deep here. Explore his reasons for being bad or displaying bad behavior. Push for more than a surface answer of wealth, fame, or getting the lover. Those things are part of the story, but they aren’t all of your challenger’s story. Here is you chance to ask for all of it.
The answer may surprise you. It could, in fact, reroute the character arch you were taking with your antagonist. That is okay. Your writing should shake you up a bit. If it doesn’t challenge you, then it won’t challenge anyone else. The same applies to plot twists and other surprises. Don’t be afraid if knowing your antagonist true motives causes you to shift directions. It is much easier to work within the flow of the story than it is to work against the flow of your story. Especially when your antagonist is helping to drive your plot.
Why does your antagonist want this thing?
Just as you have a why for wanting to be an accomplished author. Your antagonist has a why for whatever he/she is chasing. Finding your challenger’s why, is discovering his/her hidden purpose. The layers to your antagonist’s motivations continue to grow here.
The answer to this question is similar to when we asked what your hero was trying to prove. Your anatagonist has some proving of their own. There is not a significant difference in the two questions. So, if it is easier for you to ask yourself what your anatagonists is tryign to prove then do so. The primary reason for the separation in question is to seperate your character.
Your hero is who you want to redeem. Your antagonist only has redeeming qualities. Still, you want to know what drives your antagonists to follow through on whatever his/ her plan is to disrupt your hero/heroine’s arch.
Where will following their arc lead the antagonist?
Your hero and heroine are not the only characters who will grow and develop. Your antagonist has his/her own arc. To answer this question, you will consider that growth. The smallest change in your challenger’s process will alter their ending. So take their arc as seriously as you would the hero and heroine.
Don’t be afraid to add another layer of internal conflict or heighten the personal stakes for your characters. Find a weakness that changes the primary perspective of your character, and then react accordingly. You can even tighten loosen the reigns on your antagonist to see just how wild he/she gets. Remember, your challenger is your champions rival. It is okay if they are more fearless, ruthless, or even have a greater chance at success than your champion. What matters is that you know this as you are writing.
Whatever choices you make with your antagonist’s arc will change them in some way. Be sure you stick to what would be their true reactions to your upsets. Also remember to have a plan to expose their growth and move them along.
How does going after the thing your antagonists most wants end?
Is this the part where they get what they’ve always wanted? Are they humbled by the experience of the pursuit? What ending does your challenger’s forward movement come too? Here is where you put your most probable ending
You hero and heroine’s endings will come into play here. In most cases your antagonist is the loser. They are the ones left without what they wanted most due to their actions or the actions of your her\ and heroine. Bad guys finish last here. You have to decide if that means your antagonist doesn’t get any of what he/she wanted or some portion.
Whatever your challenger’s end, be sure to remember your genre’s rules. Know what your readers want to see happen to your antagonist, and then decide how that works with your story. Tweak both the rules and your story accordingly.
What are some difficulties you face when profiling your antagonist/challenger? Comment below.