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Thread: Thoughts on developing an antagonist?

  1. #31
    Member Chris Stevenson's Avatar
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    I understand your question and I think I might have some of the answer to it. I wrote about creating a believable antag in my blog and used an example. You can check it out here in Guerrilla Warfare for Writers:

    https://guerrillawarfareforwriters.b...ntagonist.html
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  2. #32
    Quote Originally Posted by ArrowInTheBowOfTheLord View Post
    But they are so fun.

    Seriously, though--antagonists who just happen to be antagonists because of the circumstances do work for some stories, but I personally like, in reading and writing, bad bad guys. They may genuinely believe that what they are doing is right, but the lies they believe lead them into evil. Alternately, they are aware that they are evil, but don't care (or maybe that's their goal).

    Also, I agree it's useful to think of a villain as the "protagonist of their own story." It helps you understand why they do what they do and avoids a villain that's bad for no reason. Hellraiser pulled this off well. The "monster" (Frank) had clear motivations but was still clearly evil.
    Some of this might be genre. Fantasy, for instance, tends to involve more stark contrasts between good and evil. Although I was under the impression that has been changing, I guess there's always going to be a market for traditional 'Sauron' bad guys. A lot of horror certainly is about pushing the limits of depravity. Again, I believe that's changing.

    Anyway, so you can have *your* antagonist be whatever. The important thing is simply to say they don't have to be anything EXCEPT an adversary to your protagonist. Beyond that, pick from the buffet. Personally, I seldom get excited about extreme-evil types of characters. There's only so many ways you can rape a corpse or eat a baby or burn a village down, you know?
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  3. #33
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    I was going to say that some of the most interesting characters that i love from any fiction can be people i know little about or, people that i know their entire back story. depends how much mystery you want to add to a character or how much you want people to empathise with or be antagonised by.
    i think that characters actions or more important that back story, but whatever keeps people turning the page i guess.

  4. #34
    I guess there's always going to be a market for traditional 'Sauron' bad guys
    I'd argue that Sauron isn't really a character per se. He's more of a mythological force of evil. Don't take this as a criticism of Tolkien, I've read Lord of the Rings six times. But Saruman is a character. He has personality and motivations. Sauron does not.
    There's only so many ways you can rape a corpse or eat a baby or burn a village down, you know?
    I'd have to disagree with this, especially the idea that an 'extreme-evil' character has to rape a corpse or eat a baby. It's about the mythological/spiritual core of what evil actually is. Eating a baby is just a proxy for that core idea. Sometimes a serpent encircling the sun is far creepier than any gore porn.
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  5. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by BornForBurning View Post
    I'd argue that Sauron isn't really a character per se. He's more of a mythological force of evil. Don't take this as a criticism of Tolkien, I've read Lord of the Rings six times. But Saruman is a character. He has personality and motivations. Sauron does not.
    Semantics. Not sure where the line is drawn between a very simple character and a 'force of evil' but even if we accept Sauron is not a character then surely you agree he is an antagonist, right? Because that's the point of the thread. Whether you think he is a character or not is irrelevant.

    Essentially Tolkien, who was a well-known Bible Thumper, created Sauron as a somewhat lazy (by his standards) stand-in for The Devil. And my point is, is I don't think most modern fiction should be going down that route with antagonists. I think most readers are rather fatigued by it.

    Quote Originally Posted by BornForBurning View Post
    I'd have to disagree with this, especially the idea that an 'extreme-evil' character has to rape a corpse or eat a baby. It's about the mythological/spiritual core of what evil actually is. Eating a baby is just a proxy for that core idea. Sometimes a serpent encircling the sun is far creepier than any gore porn.
    My point was to give examples of the kind of tired horses that are still consistently flogged by authors hoping to stir controversy.

    Look, three hundred years ago, you could simply write a story with a character who burns a church and have that character be viewed as shockingly evil. Since then, and in the last 100 years in particular, the western world has become increasingly tolerant as far as levels of depravity. To the point I would say there is very little left that is shocking in terms of evil acts. I suppose baby eating is still upsetting, but not much else.

    Now maybe I'm just untalented but I personally find it very difficult to write an Extreme Evil character, because I'm not really sure what that character would do. It seems that just having them do really bad things would be insufficient, because there really isn't that much, is there?

    In literature, incest isn't considered particularly shocking anymore. Theft is normal. Nobody cares about blasphemy or apostasy whatsoever. Rape is still unpleasant, but is extremely common as a plot device and often redeemable so hardly qualifies enough on its own. Murder is always 'bad' but is all over the place and nobody cares about the simple act of one character killing another...so no, evil acts? Evil acts don't hardly exist in terms of shock value.

    So how to we 'write evil'? I think it's about putting those acts in a context that actually brings out the emotional stakes. Murder isn't considered terribly shocking, but murdering somebody who loves you and who you love in a story that eloquently captures the emotions...that's different. Even if the method of murder is nothing particularly barbaric.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  6. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Evil acts don't hardly exist in terms of shock value.

    So how to we 'write evil'? I think it's about putting those acts in a context that actually brings out the emotional stakes. Murder isn't considered terribly shocking, but murdering somebody who loves you and who you love in a story that eloquently captures the emotions...that's different. Even if the method of murder is nothing particularly barbaric.
    Right, it's about capturing the emotional/spiritual core of the evil, not just the external act. If modern readers aren't shocked or disgusted by evil, authors have the power to maneuver language, characters, and scenes in such a way to show evil for what it is.
    "So long is the way to the unknown, long is the way we have come. . ." ~ Turisas, Five Hundred and One

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